Featured artist: Helen Ives

When junior Helen Ives goes thrifting, she hauls two shopping carts: one for DIY pieces she’ll use for her latest costuming job and one for herself. She races through the store, yanking from the racks floral tees from the 99 cent kids section, second-hand mom jeans and accessories to embroider her own designs onto. Ending up with two towering mounds of clothing, the rapid purging process begins as she tosses items left and right, eliminating garments based on the question, “could I make something out of this?”

Ives is a resident costume designer for the high school’s drama society. She always knew she wanted to be a part of drama, but she wasn’t sure about performing long Shakespearean soliloquies. Instead, she gravitated more towards the production side of the show. Naturally, costuming is the perfect job for Ives, who is known for her striking fashion sense and innate eye for styling.

Ives’s first introduction to fashion was in 8th grade during the rise of the thrifting era. When she realized that wearing dresses everyday wasn’t considered cool, she initially discovered thrift stores in a plain attempt to conform.

In search of items that could be found at Forever 21, she scoured the racks for leggings and crop tops that would help her assimilate into the rest of the middle school population. Ives does not remember these days fondly.

“I would wear what the societal middle school constraints deemed appropriate,” Ives said. “When I think about that a full body cringe and convulsion comes over me.”

But eventually, thrifting opened Ives up to a world of bright colors and vintage clothing, with people who celebrate their individuality. This revelation helped her find her own style and personality.

“I finally started discovering communities of fashion,” Ives said. “It was almost like a breath of fresh air, discovering what I like to wear and completely embracing that. It totally changed my high school experience.”

The effect of these thrifting influences is a style that blends seemingly contrasting types of clothing. Ives calls it “grandma chic.” Like many of Ives’s peers, her English teacher Keira Flynn-Carson complimented her individuality.

“There is an artfulness and boldness, but also an exuberance in the clothes she wears,” Flynn-Carson said. “There’s something that is deeply old in her, and there’s also something so playful and modern and experimental about her.”

Ives’s personal style is infused into each costume she works on. She offers items from her own closet to actors and draws heavily from thrift store attire. She incorporates her knowledge of fashion into her work, utilizing different colors to create a psychological effect on the audience. Other students, including Grace Thompson, a friend of Ives who has acted in many of the plays she has costumed, commented on her diligence.

“There will be little hints and special details incorporated into the costumes, and it makes everything so much better,” Thompson said.

Flynn-Carson said that Ives is successful because she accepts duality, a rare trait in high schoolers.

“I think that she is in touch with opposite aspects of herself,” Flynn-Carson said. “She’s deeply mature in her skills and in her work ethic. But she’s really in touch with a sense of play that she brings to her work.”

Thompson said that any production Ives is part of benefits from her rare combination of qualities.

“She’ll be very playful and energetic and just nice to be around,” Thompson said. “But when there’s a job to be done, she sticks with it. Everything she does, she puts one hundred percent. She takes the entire play to a whole new level. I don’t know if we’ve had a costumer like her ever before.”