Lecturer hopes Purple Dress Project will get people talking about Crohn’s

Ashley Hasty knows Crohn’s disease isn’t a commonly discussed illness; nobody, as she puts it, “wants to talk about their bowels.”

But the lecturer in IU’s Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, is trying to change that with her Purple Dress Project. Conceived in 2011 after her struggle with the disease forced multiple emergency room visits and colon surgery, she wears a purple dress every day during April to draw attention to the disease and those who suffer from it.

Purple dresses

Students in F408 Draping created 10 purple dresses for IU lecturer Ashley Hasty to wear for Crohn’s Diease Awareness Month.

April is Crohn’s Disease Awareness Month, and the campaign’s signature color is purple. The disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that can cause fatigue, stomach pain and difficulty with bowel movements, among other symptoms. There is no cure, and the disease is often marked by periods of improvement followed by flare-ups of symptoms.

“The Purple Dress Project is my way of finding meaning and purpose in such a traumatic experience,” said Hasty, who is currently in remission. “I realized that talking about Crohn’s was going to be difficult, so I created this project as a conversation starter and a way to raise awareness about the disease in a more glamorous way.”

This year, she worked with students in fellow IU professor Deb Christiansen’s F408 draping course to create 10 new purple dresses for her to wear this month.

The assignment merged two of IU junior Samantha Ivancich’s loves: the art of dress and helping others.

“One of my goals after college is to take my designs and bring awareness to various causes I am passionate about, and ultimately be successful enough to financially support awareness projects in my own business,” the fashion design and apparel merchandising major said. “I’m excited to be part of something bigger while also being exposed to a real-world client experience.”

Hasty said she gave the students a few tips to help with their designs: Their dress needs to be versatile enough to wear in a variety of settings and particularly adjustable in its fit at the waist, since people with Crohn’s disease can gain or lose weight depending on whether they are in remission or suffering from a flare-up.

In its third year, Hasty said she has raised more than $5,000 for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America through her Purple Dress Project. That’s a figure she hopes to top this year, thanks to her very own couture collection.

Tags: , , , ,