A Passion For Fashion

Alexandra Realmuto, Editor

Two days before her application to Cornell University was due, SBHS senior Alexis McMurry gathered together the things necessary for her submission: transcripts, SAT test scores, personal essays, list of extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and a pile of clothes. It’s an unusual addition to the traditional college entry submissions, but not if you want to study fashion design.

 “I have been hand sewing wash clothes with my grandma since I was five years old,” said Alexis McMurray. “I always loved it.”

She comes from a family of crafters. Her grandmother sews and her grandfather is a potter. When she was little, she started off hand sewing washcloths with her grandmother. This turned into drawing and sewing dresses with her grandmother.

McMurray, who has a weighted GPA of 5.2 and is in the top 10% of her class, is a typical candidate for the Ivy League school in upstate New York, what’s not typical is a student earning a spot at the prestigious university through her sewing hobby.

When she was ten, her mother bought her a sewing machine for Hanukkah and from there, her hobby turned into a passion. During the pandemic McMurray developed her hobby into a business, selling altered vintage pieces she thrifted along with the occasional handmade items.

For her Cornell application, she had to submit all the usual essentials, but on top of that, she had to submit five essays along with an art portfolio that included sketches of clothing designs and a few finished pieces. Her most meaningful piece for her was entitled “The Insecurity Security Jacket,” a patchwork jacket with each square highlighting her friend’s biggest insecurities about themselves. 

“My friends told me what they were most insecure about and they were mainly physical things about themselves,” said McMurray.

Then, using inspiration from a TikTok of a girl painting different squares on a jacket, McMurray pieced together her jacket by creating patches displaying her friend’s insecurities, writing words like acne, stomach, my neck accompanied by a representative line drawing. 

The senior applied to six colleges for fashion design including University of Florida, Florida State University, Columbia College of Chicago, Fashion Institute of Technology, Cornell University, and the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York City. She decided to apply early decision to Cornell, meaning her acceptance was binding, because they offered prestige and financial aid. 

 Most prospective students equate Cornell with Veterinary Medicine or Hotel Administration, but in 2017 the college was ranked 45th in the Global Fashion Ranking. The prestigious Ivy League accepts approximately 10% of students who apply each year. Students who graduate from Cornell with a degree in fashion design are usually able to find jobs immediately out of school in government research or businesses, and some even start their own clothing labels. That’s McMurray’s goal. 

“I want to start my own business as a fashion designer, I’ll definitely have to start out as an intern though, ” she said. 

Her love for fashion is accompanied by the need to push herself through her core classes. Her school day does not end at 2:40pm as her cabinet positions in clubs such as Math Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, and Plastic Free Mermaids begin. To top it off, McMurray has also been a cheerleader for all four years of high school.

“I have always pushed myself to take the hardest classes so I can learn or else I won’t feel academically stimulated,” she said.

All of her hard work left the SBHS senior accomplished with her family and friends feeling proud.

“I’m grateful it all came together in the end,” said McMurray. “Even though I felt like I could get in due to my major I was still super nervous.”