Students style for thrift-store chic

Posted on March 21, 2019

Students with styled mannequin at Bargain Box thrift store.
Students in CARS' Visual Merchandising and Product Presentation class had 30 minutes to style a mannequin in spring fashion using clothing and accessories at local second-hand retailer Bargain Box.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, one of Greensboro’s most popular boutique thrift stores was transformed into the Spartan version of “Project Runway.” Students in the Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) at UNC Greensboro took over the Bargain Box, where they had 30 minutes to style a mannequin with clothing and accessories in the store.  

The project, Speed Styling and Application, is the third hands-on experience that is part of the RCS 363 Visual Merchandising and Product Presentation class.

“I spent almost 30 years in industry,” said Anne Mitchell Wood, a CARS lecturer and internship director. “It’s important to me that students are not just doing projects in the classroom but are working on projects that have a real-world impact.”  

CARS students sort through racks at Bargain Basement to find a spring ensemble for the Speed Styling project. Future fashion merchandisers and designers must think about line, form, color, and texture when styling.

After a brief introduction from Bargain Box manager Randall Ariail, students worked in pairs to quickly style their chosen mannequin. Each group was then given five minutes to describe their ensembles to the class and the store manager, considering the target market, current fashion trends, and the elements and principles of design – line, color, form, and texture.   

The group with the best ensemble – determined by Ariail – received 50 points. Other teams were awarded points based on the completeness and presentation of their ensembles.

CARS students had 30 minutes to find clothing and accessories and five minutes to present their ensemble to classmates and the Bargain Box manager.

“It’s different than when you’re reading a textbook,” said Kayla Crawford, a sophomore CARS major. “In this class, you get to go out in the community. It gives you an outlook for what you will do when you graduate.”

Crawford plans to work in marketing and merchandising for a lifestyle brand like Gap or Target. Merchandisers need to learn the importance of trends and color scheme and understand lines and texture, she added.

Earlier in the semester, Wood took students to Reconsidered Goods, a nonprofit that takes donated materials and puts them into the hands of artists, makers, teachers, and kids for reuse. The third project assignment will be at Target. Students are also learning a 3D store design software called Visual Retailing (or, MockShop).

Bargain Box is a nonprofit founded by the Junior League of Greensboro in 1935. It is the League’s largest ongoing fundraiser, and since its opening the store provided nearly $3 million for community projects.

Wood said she’s had success with community partnerships, and many projects lead to student internships.

“Students are very respectful,” said Wood. “So they like to have us back.”

CARS sophomore Kayla Crawford (left) plans to work in marketing and merchandising for a lifestyle brand after graduation. Students worked in pairs for the Speed Styling challenge at Bargain Box.


Story by Elizabeth L. Harrison, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications


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