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From 4-H to fashion

Clarissa Hoffman sees 4-H experience as career opportunity

Clarissa Hoffman of Creston pins together a pattern made of muslin cloth in class at Iowa State University, where she studies fashion merchandising and design. Hoffman attributes her 4-H experience for helping her carve a pathway to a career in fashion.
Clarissa Hoffman of Creston pins together a pattern made of muslin cloth in class at Iowa State University, where she studies fashion merchandising and design. Hoffman attributes her 4-H experience for helping her carve a pathway to a career in fashion.

Every year, national 4-H week sees millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni come together to celebrate youth development opportunities offered by 4-H. This year’s national 4-H week theme is “Opportunity4All.”

Clarissa Hoffman, 19, of Creston, is one former Highland Highlights 4-Her who continues to build on the 4-H experience of her youth.

“4-H not only sparked my interest in fashion, but it made me recognize that I could go into it as a career,” said Hoffman.

After graduating CCHS in 2018, Hoffman enrolled at Iowa State University, where she currently studies apparel merchandising and design and is working on a minor in entrepreneurship.

“My hope is to work in the fashion industry in some aspect,” Hoffman said. “I would eventually love to start my own business where I use fashion to help people feel confident within themselves. Fashion is what kind of helped me be confident within myself and I want to share that with others.”

Hoffman said the 4-H experience helped her transition to a university much easier as the amount of networking she did in 4-H had already connected her to fellow classmates and alumni of the ISU fashion program.

“I already had met these people that were doing the same thing I was in other counties,” she said.

Hoffman joined 4-H in fifth grade, but remembers her parents, Rob and Pam Hoffman, being very hesitant about enrolling her.

“They didn’t really understand that 4-H was more than livestock and things like that,” said Hoffman. “But they started asking questions and my mom started realizing how much I wanted to be a part of 4-H.”

Her mother’s thoughts changed after she found out there were fashion and communications project areas and shared that information with her daughter.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God.’ I love fashion, I love putting together outfits, so I just started doing that and that resparked my interest in it. ... I had always loved clothes and being creative with my wardrobe,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman said that not many people in her club were interested in 4-H, but they were interested in hearing about her projects, like the “$15 challenge.”

“It’s super cool because you get to go to consignment stores and garage sales and I was able to apply the elements and principles of design (while putting together an outfit) as I was also learning how to budget,” she said.

Hoffman’s inspiration for the $15 challenge came from current trends of the time, which included “popcorn” shirts and denim skirts.

“I was then able to go through my mom’s accessories and collect some accessories that complimented the colors and threw the outfit together with the colors and shapes I used with the accessories,” said Hoffman. “That was a very fun look that I put together when I was younger and it was one way that sparked my interest – finding things that blend together and either go with current trends or finding something super fun to express yourself through your wardrobe.”

Hoffman said what she likes most about fashion is that it doesn’t have to be what others wear.

“It’s a way to express yourself,” she said.

Hoffman said, like fashion, 4-H is a program that allows youth to explore their own interests and develop talents, skills and confidence.

“If you don’t find a project area in 4-H that you are interested in, you can pretty much make one up,” said Hoffman. “What people don’t understand is that 4-H isn’t just about agriculture and livestock. You can do leadership stuff ... you can help people in your community, you can do fashion. There’s broadcasting, communication ... .”

Hoffman said 4-H can also teach participants about what they value in life.

“Sometimes projects are hard, but you are really interested in doing them, so you can learn patience through that and a lot of life skills,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how much you accomplish and win in 4-H ... it’s all about the learning experience.”

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