UC Davis Today

a student designs a dress

Designing for heart health

They study at the nexus of culture, science, technology and creativity — designing the clothes we wear and the furniture we use, the spaces where we live and the exhibitions that we visit, and myriad forms of visual communication.

They are students in the UC Davis Department of Design, the only professionally oriented, design-driven undergraduate and graduate program in the University of California system.

And every February, for National Heart Month, UC Davis students create stunning gowns as part of the national Red Dress project, reminding women to protect their heart health.

The design department has produced a Red Dress collection annually for the last three years, with the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program commissioning each of the collections — and unveiling them at the Women’s Heart Care Education and Awareness Forum for Community Leaders in Sacramento.  Eight students presented their dresses at this year’s forum, held Friday (Feb. 3).

“As design shapes our daily lives and social experiences, we encourage the integration of social issues and other life factors in creative practice,” said lecturer Adele Zhang, who mentors the Red Dress designers, upper division fashion and textile majors. “The Red Dress project perfectly lands on this aspect of design.”

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute sponsors the Red Dress project, which is the centerpiece of the institute’s Heart Truth campaign — described as a personal and urgent wake-up call to women about their risk of heart disease.

“Involving students helps more women — including women in their 20s — have those important conversations and realize that prevention today can add years to their lives,” said UC Davis cardiologist Amparo Villablanca, director of the Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program.

(Charlotte Pong sews a special train for her dress, “Fragile Heart.” The paper train is made of 100 origami hearts signed by people affected by heart disease. Photo by Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

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