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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

Emalea Rooke looks ahead to her future of fashion

Emalea Rooke wearing one of her boldly put together outfits.

With tornado sirens blaring, people panicking, and phones buzzing with the threat of impending doom, senior Emalea Rooke went to grab her fashion homework to sketch dresses—not just any kind of dresses, but tornado-themed dresses.

During her summer fashion design course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Emalea and her friends were interrupted while cooking pizza bagels by a loud buzz alerting them that they were in the center of the predicted tornado zone. While most people would rush to grab their prized possessions or personal belongings, Emalea instead grabbed her homework.

“I went to SAIC for the fashion design course and I was there for two weeks, and we were staying in the dorms in center Chicago right off the river,” Emalea said. “One thing that I never heard about Chicago is that it has tornadoes. Surprise!  I had just started getting close to the friend group that I had found there, and we were in the dorms making pizza bagels in the communal kitchen, and our phones got an alert that there was a really powerful tornado that was heading straight toward us. It had a triangle radar shape to show where the danger zone was. And we were smack dab in the middle of it, and what I did was I grabbed my, of all things, I grabbed my fashion homework, and I sat in the stairwell on the 15th floor. And I was sitting there with my fashion homework and doodling tornado dresses on the paper. And it was just a really fun experience and just so terrifying at the same time.”

I was sitting there with my fashion homework and doodling tornado dresses on the paper. And it was just a really fun experience and just so terrifying at the same time.

— Emalea Rooke

Emalea can’t recall when she first decided what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, but at some point, it became clear to her that fashion was her future. From mismatched paper dolls to real designs in fashion classes, she’s turned her hobby and love for styling into a future career. 

“Ever since I was little, I used to make paper costumes out of construction paper, and I’ve always been interested in making my clothes so extravagant and rambunctious, and they never matched,” Emalea said. “So ever since I was young I’ve always had an interest in fashion, costumes, and things like that. As far as actually being aware of that being what I like to do, though I didn’t notice until recently.”

Although Emalea loves the unique styling of her own fashion, her main focus for the future is in costume design and styling. Along with her pursuit of design outside of school, she’s found a home in the FHC costume department after her help this year on the play The Curious Savage, where she took a role in styling and outfit coordination.

For the play, Emalea drew inspiration from one of her favorite costume designers, Alexandria Byrne, who worked on Elizabeth: The Golden Age and used carefully placed color coordination to represent the character’s emotions and internal struggles. Emalea took inspiration from this and spent time curating outfits that directly influence how the audience feels about the scenes and play as a whole, even if they don’t realize it.

“As far as like designing it, what I did was read about the characters,” Emalea said. “I did some research. I found colors that I thought matched their personalities and I assigned all the characters a color. So if you watched the play, you might not have noticed, but those that may have watched it closely might have noticed that a lot of the characters wore the same colors. That was for a reason.”

After the play, Emalea took a more central role in the design and costume head of the musical: The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee. Contrary to most plays and musicals, this one requires each person to form a costume out of their own closet and imagination to make a cohesive look individual to how they portray the roles. Without as much of a necessity for color coordination and sewing, Emalea took over quick changes and the behind-the-set work that happens during the play.

Quick changes are the short intervals between scenes when characters have to quickly change costumes for their next scene. This is typically a stressful experience for both cast and crew, so Emalea’s role is to prepare the outfits, arrange them, and send them back on stage looking presentable in less than minutes. Both the play and musical required vastly different sets of skills that Emalea was prepared for when she got to take on the leadership role in the costume department.

“So even though there wasn’t any costume design in the musical, I still had to approve all the costumes to make sure that they seemed like the character’s vibes and that they matched the costume,” Emalea said, “and I still had to troubleshoot and try to figure out how to make sure that everything went smoothly with the costumes. So it was a lot of time management and a little bit of stress, but it was still really, really fun and very enjoyable.”

Emalea doesn’t just design outfits; she also creates and tweaks them. For the musical, she had to alter baby clothes to fit a much smaller doll in only 20 minutes. She also had to resew buttons, patch holes, and reshape skirts to put the finishing touches on everything that makes the end product cohesive and put together. She also sews for fun, though for both herself and her friends.

“I’ve made bags, and I’ve made my dog’s clothes, but they hate to wear them, and they bury them. I also fixed my friend’s winter fest dress this year,” Emalea said. “She was like, ‘Hey, my dress is fraying, and the seam doesn’t look good, and I want it to be fixed.’ So I grabbed her dress and gave it back to her a day later. I fixed the neckline, which was really frayed, and I made sure that it had mesh, which is so hard to sew. So that was stressful, but it was also a great learning experience, and luckily, my friend said it didn’t matter if I destroyed it, which took some pressure off.”

Emalea had always seen herself as someone who had no clue what exactly she wanted to do with her life, but through her friendships and her communities in FHC and outside, she discovered that her love and passion for styling, design, and fashion had been right in front of her all along and she never would’ve realized it without all of these experiences. Even through hard or stressful times, she was able to look past the obstacles and make a future out of her love.

“It is so worth it to put in the effort to explore areas that are related to what you’re thinking might be something you want to pursue,” Emalea said. “I would’ve never known to major in costume design or fashion design if I hadn’t chosen to join theater or if I hadn’t chosen to go to that fashion design class. Those experiences were what helped me really realize how perfect of a fit it was for me. So, just patience with myself and making sure that I actually put in the effort to explore my interests was so, so important. And also understanding that just because it stressed me out didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. I would never change everything that I’ve done. I would never change spending three hours in the middle of the night fixing my friend’s dress because she wanted me to fix it. Or worrying about costumes because it’s all worth it.”

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About the Contributor
Addie Woltil
Addie Woltil, Copy Editor
Addie Woltil is a sophomore entering her second year writing for The Central Trend. She is excited about another year of writing on staff and more to come. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the mall, and watching overrated reality TV shows. She loves ending her day in room 139 and can't wait for what's next. Favorite fruit: Mango Favorite TV show: How I Met Your Mother Favorite day of the year: July 24th

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