Lifetime Love of Clothing Design and Creation Leads to Career and Honors | Verve Valley


During a visit to Italy in 1996, Carolyn Schactler wanted to take a closer look at an elaborate 15th-century garment on display in a museum in Florence. Pushing past the velvet cords that surrounded her, she scrutinized her organ folds.

“I did it pretty much right,” she said of the long rounded pleats that look like organ pipes. Schactler had incorporated organ pleats into the back of a long coat she had designed and made.

Her coat, which she titled Fifteenth Century Rainbows, won the Best in Show award at the International Textile and Apparel Association competition in 1995. It was one of many national and international clothing design awards that Schactler received during the 28 years she was professor of clothing design at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

The coat also caught the attention of a supporter of the Yakima Valley Museum, who questioned whether Schactler could donate it to auction at the museum’s annual Red Into Black fundraiser. But a closer examination of the garment convinced museum officials that it would not be enough. Schactler’s art deserved its own exhibition.

“Putting a piece like this in our auction wouldn’t do it justice,” said Susan Duffin, director of development and museum board relations.

Carolyn Schactler Couture, which opens on May 9 in the Gilbert Family Gallery, will showcase 15th-century rainbows and 19 other Schactler outfits on dress forms, as well as 21 life-size photos of other Schactler creations .

Eleven of the models on display will stand on motorized platforms and spin slowly, like life-size music box ballerinas. This will provide visitors with a comprehensive overview of Schactler’s designs, many of which are equally elaborate – if not more – on the back.

Heath Lambe, the museum’s curator, and Schactler will begin building the six-month exhibit in April, after an exhibition of Bill Brennen paintings closes in March. Although Lambe and Schactler designed the layout, they have already changed it and will continue to adjust it as late as necessary.

“There is a lot of preparation for this show,” Schactler said.

Over the years, she has created clothes and accessories of astonishing complexity inspired by centuries of fashion. The exhibition will showcase his original creations, but Schactler has also made reproductions of outfits from around the world, from ancient to modern.

Everything happens without a single sketch. “I do it in my head. It’s still the way I did it, ”she said.

Haute couture tea towels

Born in Utah, Schactler started sewing in second grade. By this time, his parents, Leo and Ila Fife Campbell, had moved their family to Pullman so that his father could earn a doctorate.

His parents were excellent designers and his mother was very creative, Schactler said. Her mother, who graduated from Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University) with a degree in home economics, began mending tea towels with her daughter. By the time Schactler was in high school, she was making clothes for her mother, but didn’t see it as a full-time career.

“Sewing was just something I did,” she said.

Also a musician, dancer and synchronized swimmer, Schactler wanted to major in physical education at Washington State University. After a senior advisor curtly dismissed it: “Young women don’t do these things at this university,” Schactler pursued a music education degree.

There she met fellow WSU student and musician John R. “Dick” Schactler, a Yakima native and trumpet virtuoso. They married in 1948 and obtained music degrees in 1949. He was a music teacher in the Selah School District for two years before earning a Masters degree from the famous Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and to return to Washington.

Dick has led award-winning groups at Grandview, Mount Tahoma, and Eisenhower high schools. While at Grandview in the 1950s, Carolyn coached the school’s synchronized swimming team, known at the time as the Water Ballet. She had participated in this sport at the WSU.

“It was really fun,” said Schactler, a petite woman who wore a jacket of her own design and a sewing machine pendant on a long silver chain. Another day it was a scissor charm.

After two years in Tahoma, the Schactlers returned to Yakima for good in 1963. Dick played in the Yakima Valley Community Band for over 60 years and led the group from 1987 to 2007. He was principal trumpet of the Symphony Orchestra. of Yakima for over 40 years and Carolyn played the violin.

Carolyn conducted the Yakima Youth Orchestra for two years and taught private and summer school classes, as well as many substitute teachers. When the couple’s six children graduated from high school, she began to think more about her own future. She did not want to teach music and had replaced a professor of clothing design at what was then Yakima Valley Community College.

“I did whatever (his kids) wore, whatever Dick wore,” Schactler said. “They didn’t want to hire me because I didn’t have a master’s degree.

In 1976, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in home economics and home economics education at Central, Schactler obtained a master’s degree in clothing design there. She had found what – and where – she wanted to teach. The university hired her as a professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences after national research, and “I have never looked back,” she said.

A field teacher

In addition to his love for creating his own designs, Schactler has collected vintage clothing. She donated her personal collection of over 300 garments and accessories to the WSU Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles. The articles date from around 1840 to 1970, notes a 2005 college magazine article.

“I miss it,” said Schactler, a self-described fashion history enthusiast.

A few dozen of these items are replicas designed and made by Schactler for educational purposes.

“I didn’t use slides. I used clothes. They loved it, ”she said of her students. “If they were small enough, I would let them wear it.”

While a professor in the Garment Design Program at Central, Schactler taught Garment Construction, Sewing Design, Sewing and Pattern Writing, Draping and Fitting, Design Principles, History costumes and fashion. She retired at age 77 in 2004.

For much of known human existence, men have dressed as meticulously as women, Schactler said.

“Men were the peacocks of the species,” she said.

That started to change in the mid-19th century, around the same time a few daring women started testing the predecessor of pants – bifurcated skirts, also known as bloomers.

Men’s clothing has changed to the point of being “boring” today, she said. At the same time, women gradually freed themselves from clothes and underwear that constrained them, such as corsets, and designs that required someone to help them dress.

“It was a very slow process,” Schactler said. “Women kind of perked up in the mid-1800s.”

Her designs are inspired by ancient Egyptians and Macedonians, medieval royalty, the Edwardian period, fashionable 1960s silhouettes and more.

For example, a multi-colored coat with removable sleeves is inspired by the Renaissance era when the sleeves were buttoned or tied with laces.

“There are wonderful things about all time periods,” Schactler said.

While the pieces in the Yakima Valley Museum’s vast textile collection are not as historic as some of its inspirations, they include dresses that date from around 1810, noted Mike Siebol, curator of the collections. The oldest piece of couture ordered is a coat dating from around 1890 by Frederick Worth of London.

Along with the story, Schactler appreciates the creations of indigenous cultures around the world, such as the indigenous dress of the Tsonga women of South Africa, where she taught and studied on sabbatical.

Several of Schactler’s pieces were inspired by his time as an exchange professor at Matsue College and Matsue University, Japan, including a kimono with a highly detailed scene of a building, garden, and of cherry blossoms.

Fashion should also be fun. Schactler designed a short dress made entirely of men’s ties. A cream-colored wedding suit suitable for a second wedding has a short skirt with removable train and a modern type of top hat.

Still pondering what to wear at her show’s opening reception, Schactler has plenty of options and enough time to pick out something – hopefully her own design – that reflects what she loves. in fashion.

“I like things that are very beautiful, that have a good flow and the colors are beautiful,” she said.

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