Confidence one stitch at a time

COSTA MESA — The girls sat in silence on the floor and in chairs, scrutinizing nine different dresses made in 30 minutes using only tissue paper and pushpins.

Lined along one of the room's glass walls, the group of nine, ranging in age from 8 to 12, cast their anonymous ballots for the best dress.

Though they weren't exactly secret ballots.

"How do you spell your name?" whispered Chloe Parsel, 8, to the girl sitting next to her, Kiley Grier, 12.

Tuesday morning's competition, which was more fun than contest, was just one activity at a weeklong session of Fashion Camp OC in the OC Mart Mix.

The summer camp hosts different sessions for kids, teens and college-age students interested in learning about the fashion industry — from draping and design, to fashion shows and photo shoots.

For the recent activity, the girls were asked to sketch, then create, their dream dresses.

The task was meant to give the girls confidence in their own creative abilities, said camp founder Erin Bianchi.

Emaan Ashras, 10, followed her instincts. Although her initial sketch was strapless, her creation transformed into a black one-shoulder dress with a red belt above the waist.

"I don't really go with what I draw," Emaan said. "I change it up when I'm doing it because I get more ideas."

As a child, Bianchi said she was like the girls who attend her camp. She spent her summers in her closet sketching, but she lacked confidence.

That's why the camp is all about showing off their style, she said, by deconstructing men's T-shirts, creating a toilet paper dress and doing a surprise photo shoot where the students are the models for a magazine spread.

"It's really important to reaffirm their ideas," Bianchi said.

The girls also model their creations for their families during a fashion show — complete with pink carpet — on the last day.

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