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Library mixes fashion contest, ugly sweaters

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 21, 2015

This year’s version of Sterling Heights’ “Project Runway” amateur fashion contest will focus less on style and more on absurdity according to organizers at the Sterling Heights Public Library.

The library will hold its “Project Runway: Ugly Sweater Edition” Dec. 29.

According to Jason Groth, library public relations and programs coordinator, the event’s timing with the end of the year was intentional.

“At the end of the year, a lot of kids are off for the break coming up, and we wanted them to have a fun activity they could do while they were off on the break,” Groth said.

Public services librarian Barbara Van Havermaat said the latest contest theme of ugly Christmas sweaters follows the trend of parties in which people purposefully buy unsightly sweaters to wear ironically.

So this time, organizers said, the goal is for individual contestants to turn a blank sweater into something that looks crazy, goofy or weird. Van Havermaat said designers will have to model their sweater creations, and the entries will be judged on creativity.

“They can rip off the arms. They can turn it into a vest,” she said. “They can just do whatever they want to do.”

In order to do that, contestants will be encouraged to bring along a bag of supplies and decorations. Van Havermaat said she also imagines that people could bring in blinking LED lights that poke out of the sweater’s threads.

Van Havermaat said the created sweaters’ themes should incorporate some sort of Christmas or holiday element, but outside inspirations are also encouraged.

“They can do silly things with them,” she said. “People put dinosaurs on them. They’ve got Stormtroopers and Darth Vaders. They put Easter bunnies on it. The stranger, the better.”

Also new this time is the extension of the age range to 13 and up. Although the library’s last “Project Runway” in the summer was extended to age 22, this will be the first time that adults of any age can try their hand at fashion, Van Havermaat said.

Although everyone will win a small prize, the contestants who rank the highest will win gift cards, she added.

The Sterling Heights Public Library, 40255 Dodge Park Road in Sterling Heights, will host “Project Runway: Ugly Sweater Edition” at 2 p.m. Dec. 29. Admission is free. The library is urging contestants to register in advance, as walk-ins will only be accepted if not enough people register. Learn more by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2665.