CSU student, Cameron Utter, designs dress for local children’s book author

Claire Oliver

A small office space with one wall covered in children’s books and whimsical objects like tea tins and old clocks seems like the perfect workspace for author Natasha Wing. She sits down, wearing her purple princess dress designed by Cameron Utter, a Colorado State University student studying design. 

Utter has a unique style and taste. His passion for design started when he was in middle school, drawing and designing clothes for his favorite model. 

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“It started when I used to hand make doll clothes for my stuffed mermaid Pearl,” Utter said. “I brought the doll clothes to class one day, and one of my teachers said, ‘You should go into fashion design.’ I thought about it. I registered for a class, and from there, I fell in love with fashion.”

Recently, Utter designed a dress for Wing by using characters from her new book, “Bagel in Love.” 

“I got the idea to ask a CSU student, because I wanted to involve someone from the community to use it as a fun little project for them to do,” Wing said.

“I got the idea to ask a CSU student, because I wanted to involve someone from the community to use it as a fun little project for them to do.” – Natasha Wing  

Cameron Utter sketching. (Photo courtesy of Natasha Wing)

Wing was directed to Professor Kevin Kissell, a design teacher at CSU, who recommended Utter for the job. Kissell has had a large impact on Utter and inspired him to keep pushing and striving for perfection with each of his designs. 

“I love critic; sometimes I am sad that (my designs) aren’t perfect yet, but I am glad Professor Kissell has an opinion about them,” Utter said.  “The critic helped me make something like this dress and seems marketable to me, and some of my designs are too high fashion to be marketable.  They would just be too expensive.” 

The connection between Utter and Wing seemed well formed. The pair just clicked during the project. They worked together to select the style and color of the dress. 

“We narrowed it down to the three colors,” Wing said. “We got rid of white, because my hair is white. And also I’m going to be wearing it around children, and I didn’t want it to get dirty… The blue was really pretty, but since most of my school visits would happen in the winter, spring and maybe the fall, we decided that a darker color would be better. And (the purple) actually shows up a lot in the book. So I was gravitating more towards (the purple) one.”  

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  • (Photo courtesy of Natasha Wing)

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The main characters sit on the front of the skirt. Bagel is twirling Cupcake around, while the other character’s who pick on them in the book rest on the side panels of the skirt. On the back is the final scene where, Bagel proposes to Cupcake. 

Wing and Utter are also very similar in the fact that they both deviated from normal career paths and are now pursuing their dreams. Wing began working in advertising when she realized her passion for children’s books. So on a whim, she quit working and published her first book within six months. 

“I thought this is going to be a piece of cake; it wasn’t, but by that time I was hooked, and I knew that I wanted to do it and it fit my mentality,” Wing said. “I like the innocent age of kids where the light bulbs are starting to go off in their heads, and they kind of get things,” Wing said. 

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Roxanne Storlie, who graduated from CSU in 2001, helped to create the embroidery around the edge of the dress. The designs were completed by Utter, but Storlie stitched the characters onto each panel of the skirt.

Cameron Utter, a junior apparel and merchandising major, holds the sketches he used to make a custom dress for children’s book author Natasha Wing. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

“By the end of the project, he understood what the mechanics are,” Storlie said. “You don’t really deal with outsourcing and the business side of design in school. You sort of have to go out and freelance or get hired by a company. The designing part he’s got down. And the sewing part he’s got down, so it’s just a matter of graduating and making his mark on the world.”

Storlie teaches sewing and embroidery at different fabric shops around Fort Collins. She has also worked on the theatre side of design, designing costumes for the local OpenStage Theatre Company.

The finished product is a detailed dress that swoops out just like a dress from fairytale. Utter was nervous at first to take on this project, but with encouragement from both Wing and Kissell, he managed to create a beautiful and functional art piece. 

“I just began to think I can do this, and it turned out wonderfully as you can see,” Utter said. 

One key aspect of apparel design is to make things marketable and affordable. Cameron designs pieces that act more like art ware. Each piece is inspired by things like music, dance, politics and other types of pop culture. 

“All of these are my best effort; they are my children … my designs are so original, and so intense and so personal to me,” Utter said.   

Natasha Wing’s website:natashawing.com

Collegian reporter Claire Oliver can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @claire_oliver21.