The ballroom at Brigham Young University's Wilkinson Center was transformed recently into a fashion showroom - runway, spotlights and an array of spring fashions - as 23 top design students unveiled their collections.

The spectacular event culminated months of illustrating, designing and sewing. Student designers stayed up nights modifying seams, hemlines and making other adjustments so their clothes would fit the models as well as meet BYU's dress standards.The students were judged in three areas - illustrations, fashion lines and garment construction. The judges: Robert Abajian, senior vice president of Liz Claiborne Inc.; local fashion designer Janet Preece; and myself.

Although design majors at BYU are required to take three fashion illustration classes, that apparently was not enough time for most of them to develop the flair of design. As a result, illustrations were generally weak. But, let's face it, it's a rarity to find a student talented in all three areas.

The award for the best illustrations went to Jori Jordan, whose drawings were simple yet reflected the design and mood she wanted to convey. And a couple by Karen Schell captured relaxed styles and a professional approach to fashion illustration.

The actual judging took place during dress rehearsal on the night before the show. Judges were asked to evaluate fashions in terms of best use of color, fabric and innovation. Capturing those awards were Jordan (color), Schell (fabric) and Jennifer Montgomery (innovation). The best overall collection went to Sonya Gustafson-Bates for "Crystal Couture," an imaginative, colorful line of skiwear. Alisa Kirkham won the award for the best wedding dress; Ardenia Erlandsen won the best costume award for her Swedish ensembles.

Other visually exciting collections in the show that triggered instantaneous applause were Karlin Kedin's "Variations on a Theme," Jeanine Lesher's "Opposite Ends of the Spectrum" and Montgomery's "A Wave of Fantasy."

In Traci Peterson's "Why Not?" collection, male models paraded along the runway with black tuxedo tops and coats, but no trousers. Before you ask, "Is there a new BYU's dress code?" let me explain. These students wore skirts that looked like a cross between a short lava lava and a Scottish kilt.

Fortunately, all problems were ironed out during dress rehearsal and all the wrinkles were ironed out before the show on March 8. The show proceeded without a hitch.

Many people other than the design students were also responsible for the show's success - including faculty adviser Michelle Hyde, show coordinator Samantha Williamson and design liaison Douglas Tilton.

And we can't overlook over 24 other committee members who coordinated wardrobe, staging, set design, graphics, dinner, awards, judging, etc.

In preparation for the show, Hyde taught a modeling class to about 30 male and female students. Thanks to her expertise, the students appeared confident as they paraded up and down the runway.

These students also modeled Liz Claiborne's Spring Collection, under the supervision of Abajian. While on campus, the designer spoke to clothing and textile classes.

Show coordinators said that over 1,500 tickets were sold, making it the largest-attended BYU fashion show to date. It was co-sponsored by BYU's Student Association and the clothing and textiles department.