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Fashion speaks

A fashion twist is bringing more than just style to students. A USF graduate student has created fashion with a message to change the way students think.

Performance artist Ellen Mueller recieved a $5,000 graduate student challenge grant and with it, she’s been studying attitudes toward sustainability and fanaticism with four team members. On Saturday, Mueller is presenting her research through a fashion show at 8 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom.

“Sustainability, Fanaticism, and Fashion at USF!” will display a clothing line that is tailored to fit the opinions of USF students who were gathered through an online survey. Students were asked about their attitudes of fanaticism as they relate to sustainability, Mueller said.

“Some of it is related to sustainability and going green,” Mueller said. “We asked questions like, ‘Are you comfortable with changing your daily habits?’ and others were, ‘How far would you go with that?’ (They varied from) very mundane all the way up to very extreme.”

The fashion show will make students aware of how fashion can help display messages that they believe in, Mueller said.

“Fifty percent of the people who took the survey are comfortable with civil disobedience, and others were not, so we created T-shirts in regards to what messages people are comfortable with,” she said.

One example is a T-shirt that shows a bald eagle wearing a Styrofoam hat, which is supposed to depict that 60 percent of those surveyed feel the U.S. government should do something about sustainability, Mueller said.

“One way we might do that is by having the government cultivate a flock of Styrofoam-seeking eagles that steal Styrofoam out of the hands of unsuspecting bystanders,” she said.

Mueller collaborated with Phil McCollam, a graphic design instructor at USF St. Petersburg, to visually interpret different student opinions on hats, shirts and pins that correlate with the research.

Lauren Raley, a junior majoring in relational communication who will model in the fashion show, said sustainability is about more than the environment.

“Sustainability means, for me, being a self-aware person: having that support, not just with your mind, body and soul connected, but with other people,” Raley said, “and creating yourself so you are a more autonomous and interdependent person. It’s important to be independent, but it’s more important to be interdependent.”

There will be 30 different pieces featured in the fashion show. They will be available for purchase afterwards at

Prices for the gear range from $1.50 for buttons to $45 for one of the more expensive jackets, Mueller said. Some of the clothing designs have very obvious messages, while others are more subtle and placed in more discreet locations – like on a pocket.

Admission for the show is free, and refreshments will be provided. A complete catalog of the apparel will also be available.

For more information about “Sustainability, Fanaticism, and Fashion at USF!” and Mueller’s other works, visit