Virtual Shows and Creative Growth: MTSU Fashion During COVID-19


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Photos by Ethan Pickering / Assistant Lifestyles Editor

The fashion world is notorious for its fast pace and ever-evolving grandeur. But the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a long-lasting wrench into the multi-billion dollar industry. 

The TXMD Spring Runway Show was one of the most highly coveted events for Middle Tennessee State University’s Textile and Merchandising Department. What was supposed to be an exciting event last spring– filled with models strutting on catwalks and an opportunity for seniors to show off all their hard work– had been cancelled due to the pandemic. 

This spring, the department has decided to capitalize on the pandemic and televise the fashion show in a virtual format. 

So, what’s going to make this show different from the rest?

Adapting to virtual fashion

For starters, it’s the first time in MTSU history that the fashion show will be conducted virtually.

“It’s definitely going to allow for a lot more creativity,” says Jordan Johnson, a fashion student and member of the show’s Finance Committee. 

This year’s fashion show will have no live audience; instead, it will be filmed by TrueBlue TV and televised for everyone to tune in.

“Because the show is virtual, the filming aspect of the show is brand new to us, and it allows for a cleaner and seamless final product,” Johnson says.  “I think this will allow the show to reach a much broader audience, and it also makes the show what we like to call ‘evergreen,’ meaning that the show can be viewed forever.”

Johnson adds that another benefit of the show is that senior designers can add the fashion show footage to their portfolios and have a long-lasting visual representation of their work.

Additionally, this adaptation to virtuality has allowed for greater creative advancements with the show’s visionary aspects– including the technical abilities of the runway models and the 11 senior designers who put the outfits together for presentation. 

Since the show will not be live this year, the models will have more time to change and more time to prepare before each filmed segment. The designers can also work at their own pace when preparing their projects. 

Johnson also discusses the different creative ways in which the fashion show will be shot this year. 

“We are excited about the use of an LED screen to project images behind the models of the element the designer is portraying in their design, as well as offering extra opportunities for sponsorship promotion.”

This year’s theme for the fashion show is the elements: earth, water, air and fire. The theme is fitting, after a year of the pandemic that has forced several companies, industries and individuals to pause and confront their relationship with the earth’s elements. 

Those in charge of acquiring the venue for the show have brainstormed ways the show could be be filmed differently to set it apart from previous shows– some ideas include abandoning the runway altogether and adopting a more engaging way for models to show off seniors’ designs. 

This has been a semester-long project for the seniors in the fashion department, and it is a major factor in their final grade, putting a lot on the line for the success of the show.

“We have accomplished a lot of the initial tasks of putting the show together, but it will be something that takes constant work and attention up until the day the show airs on TrueBlue TV,” Johnson says. “We started off with the initial concept for the show, and from there we developed the sponsorship packet, determined the layout for the runway and how the show will be filmed, and now we are finalizing the schedule of the filming days.”

The seniors will have a chance to boost their image as designers since the fashion show this year will have a much larger audience reach than years before due to the free online access that the virtual show will offer. 

“The main purpose of the runway show is to allow the senior designers an opportunity to show the collections they have been working on for the last two semesters and allow merchandising majors field experience in producing a runway show,” Jordan says.

Working with COVID-19 

“I think the biggest obstacle is probably going to be keeping the models and designers apart. We have to make sure that we keep within the COVID guidelines, because President McPhee has put a lot of guidelines to make this possible,” Johnson says. 

Everyone in the fashion world has had to adapt and familiarize themselves with COVID-19 safety precautions, and MTSU’s fashion show will be no exception to this. Masks and social distancing precautions will be enforced when the models are backstage getting ready, but the models will not be required to wear a mask on the runway.

Additionally, only 35 people will be allowed in the building during filming. With this in mind, only four designers and one model per designer will be granted access to the set, as well as members of the TrueBlue TV production team.

The designers and models will share one backstage area to prepare their presentations.

There are four separate committees that have been assembled in order to make the show successful: the Promotion and Finance Committee, the Production Committee, the Model Committee, and the Garment Committee. MTSU students make up these committees, and they are wholly responsible for the production of their own fashion show. 

In early March, students from the Production Committee and the Promotion and Finance Committee met at a venue to discuss the show’s creative layout. 

Students from the show’s Production Committee met at Miller Education Center with TrueBlue TV.

The show will be filmed at the Miller Education Center in a wide-open atrium paneled with large windows and a white staircase. 

“It’s happening little by little, but it’s coming along,” says Johnson regarding their multiple stages of progress.

Planning for the show has been hectic too, according to Johnson. 

“We are kind of scrambling right now to get everything in place for the filming date. We are also working really hard to get the funding for the show,” Johnson says. “The filming and production aspect is a bit more expensive than the show has been in the past, so that is a new obstacle we have encountered.”

The most nerve-wracking element for the students?

Nobody has ever conducted a virtual fashion show at MTSU before. 

“I am nervous about the show working out the way we have envisioned it, because everything is hypothetical right now, and this is the first time anyone has done the show this way.”

However, despite the unique obstacles they are facing, Johnson and every other student working on this project are still incredibly hopeful for the show’s outcome.

The show is set to be filmed on April 13 and April 14.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Ashley Barrientos, email

For more updates, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life

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