Live Body Fashion

A multi-workshop symposium on innovation through inclusivity. Hosted by Columbia College Chicago's Department of Fashion Studies.


About the Symposium

Colbey Reid, Chair, Fashion Studies

Listening in on a patternmaking and construction class one day, I heard a faculty member explain a standard technique to their students and follow it up with a common disclaimer: "but when you're working with a live body, you may have to modify the standard." At first, I laughed: what else but a live body would they be working with?! And why is there a standard that applies only to exceptional circumstances?! But of course, I knew what they meant: if you aren't working with a mannequin or dress form (or digital software). In fact, fashion often does not start with a live body.
But the phrase that caught my ear could also mean other things, like: when you're working with a living human person and not a culturally-determined, historically specific idealized image. Or: when you're working with a human body that's going to move around in the world and not just be in a photograph.  Or simply, to frame it a little differently: when you're working with the infinite varieties presented by living human bodies, fashion's "standard" often doesn't work—and as we all know, it is also sometimes experienced as actively shaming, punishing, disciplining, and exclusionary. 
The shaming version of fashion is definitely not what we're trying to teach at Columbia. But what does that mean? What, in other words, does it mean to make, merchandise, retail, market and celebrate fashion that engages with rather than denies the existence of (most people's) bodies? That, broadly speaking, is what this week is about.


Symposium Schedule

August 14, 15, 17, and 18, 2023

Monday, August 14


10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

New Embodiments in Fashion

Room: 618 South Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor, Room 207

Facilitators: Deb Christel and Ben Barry, co-editors of Fashion Education: The Systemic Revolution

Description: New Embodiments in Fashion, a workshop with Deb Christel and Ben Barry, co-editors of Fashion Education: The Systemic Revolution. Barry is on The Vogue Business inaugural “100 Innovators” list and is Dean and Associate Professor of Equity and Inclusion in the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Deb Christel is the founder, President, and CEO of Kade & Vos, a size-inclusive online women's clothing company. This workshop will introduce a range of body-centric approaches to teaching fashion product development, merchandising, styling, and design.

The workshop is appropriate for all faculty and staff.


1 p.m. - 2 p.m.

Break for Lunch (BYO)



2 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Size Inclusivity: A Primer

Room: 618 South Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor,  Room 207

Facilitator: Deb Christel, co-editor of Fashion Education: The Systemic Revolution

Description: Size Inclusivity: A Primer, a workshop with Deb Christel. This workshop will draw from Deb's work as a scholar, activist, and entrepreneur. Deb describes this work on her LinkedIn page like this:

I am passionate about creating equality for women in the fashion industry. For me, that starts with data driven decisions and not assumptions. This has led me to create Kade & Vos, a size inclusive, online women's clothing company. I believe weight bias and stigma are at the root of many issues in our world and my approach to business and design stems from a place of love and compassion. The solution to clothing that fits well is not weight loss or changing the body, it is changing the clothing. 
The workshop is appropriate for everyone. 


Tuesday, August 15


10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Hands-On Plus-Size Patternmaking and Draping Workshop

Room: 623 South Wabash, 7th Floor, Room 701

Facilitator: Deb Christel, co-editor of Fashion Education: The Systemic Revolution

Description: This workshop is appropriate for product developers and designers only.


Book Club Discussions

Room: 618 South Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor, Room 207

Description: An opportunity to discuss a chapter or two from Deb and Ben's book, Fashion Education: The Systemic RevolutionWe will provide a book for everyone on Monday and make several rooms available and comfortable; we will also suggest which chapters to read so that everyone is on the same page! 

This workshop is appropriate for individuals who arent makers.


1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Department Meeting and Catered Lunch* 

Room: 618 South Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor, Room 207

*Note: The meeting is for Columbia full-time and part-time faculty; industry and school visitors can also still order a catered lunch.


2 p.m. - 5 p.m.

New Embodinments in Fashion Retail Panel Discussion

Room: 618 South Michigan Ave, 2nd Floor

Panelists: Jimmy Zollo, Joe & Bella; Kate VanAsten, Wulfka; Korri Burton-Universe, Uncommon Closet; Simone Tobias @simonetobiasswimwear; Jae Rice, Brave Space Alliance. Moderater: Amber McCulloch.

Description: New Embodiments in Fashion Retail Panel Discussion.

This panel is appropriate for everyone.


Wednesday, August 16


NO WORKSHOPS - Please attend the all-college retreat (required for full-time faculty; optional for part-time faculty)


Thursday, August 17


NO MORNING WORKSHOPS - Please attend the Student Success meeting and, if desired, enjoy their catered lunch before reconvening for the symposium as described below (full-time faculty only)



2 p.m. – 5 p.m.

How to Talk About Disability With Anyone--And Why

618 S. Michigan Ave., 5th Floor, Room 516

Room: 618 South Michigan Ave., 5th Floor,  Room 516 

Facilitator: Estela Lugo

Description: How To Talk About Disability With AnyoneAnd Why, a workshop with Estela Lugo. Estela was diagnosed with a progressive neuropathy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT), at four years old. She is a graduate of FIT with a Bachelors degree in Interior Design. Today, her professional background in design, marketing, trend forecasting, and creative direction brings an unexpected approach to connecting the disability community to wellness, empowerment, and health. Estela co-teaches inclusive and adaptive design at the Fashion Institute of Technology for their Design for Social Impact program. 

This workshop is appropriate for everyone.


Friday, August 18


10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Using 3D Software to Teach Inclusive Design: An Introduction to Browzwear

Room: 623 South Wabash, 7th Floor, Room 715

Facilitator:  Reyes Witt, Columbia College Chicago

Description: Using 3D Software to Teach Inclusive Design: An Introduction to Browzwear, a workshop with Reyes Witt. Reyes is a Practitioner in Residence at Columbia College Chicago; she came to us in 2022 with over twenty years of experience in product design management and continues to consult in this space. Reyes teaches 3D technology to aid in rapid digital prototyping and speed-to-market strategy for Adaptive Fashion, Size Inclusion, and Gender Fluidity. She will begin this workshop with a case study on adaptive fashion, drawn from her own class on Fashion Design Solutions, which was featured on WBEZ Chicago in January 2023. Participants will then learn Browzwear basics themselves and complete a short design assignment in the software. 

This workshop is appropriate for product developmers and designers, though everyone may enjoy the first part.


Curve Styling

Room: 618 South Michigan Ave, 8th Floor, Room 801B 

Facilitator: Natalie Craig, Columbia College Chicago

Description: Inclusive Styling Masterclass, with Natalie Craig. Natalie teaches at Columbia College Chicago in the Business and Entrepreneurship department and is a "Chicago plus size lifestyle creator" and social media influencer. This workshop will address Natalie's work as a stylist and influencer.

This workshop is appropriate for everyone.


1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Break for Lunch (BYO)



2 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Critical Response Process

Room: 1306 South Michigan Ave., Room 104

Facilitator: Liza Gonzales, Columbia College Chicago

Description: Critical Response Process, a workshop with Lisa Gonzales. Lisa is the Chair of the Dance department Columbia, where she also has taught courses in Choreography, Improvisation, Contemporary Technique and Experiential Anatomy.  She has been described as a performer of “stunning power and nuance” by the New York Times and remains professionally devoted to the practices of performing, improvising, choreographing and teaching. This workshop will teach us a critique method that might be suitable for us in Fashion Studies, called Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. Working with this critique process has really increased consciousness in the dance field around the difference between imposing an aesthetic opinion rather than supporting the maker’s voice and intentions for their work, which is itself often a way of inadvertently expressing racial and cultural biases and imposing them on others. Critical Response Process is a facilitated four-step method that emphasizes the values of dialogue and inquiry and the opportunity for artists to exercise a degree of control in the criticism directed at their work. 

This workshop is appropriate for everyone as a way of thinking about the role of bias in how we deliver feedback to others. 


4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Syllabus Workshop

Room: 1306 South Michigan Ave., Room 104

Facilitator: N/A

Description:  We will end with a discussion of ideas, concerns, and plans for Fall 2023 syllabi, class experiences, and assignments based on everyones learnings and takeaways from the symposium. 

This workshop is for everyone!