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University News | Fashion and Apparel Merchandising

UCM Student Creations Contribute to Bra Couture@ KC’s Efforts to Assist Individuals Whose Lives are Impacted by Cancer

By Jeff Murphy, May 4, 2023


Mo the Mule, the University of Central Missouri’s mascot, escorted UCM Mathematics faculty member Angela Gai Gilbert, Lee’s Summit, on the runway at Bra Couture® KC.  She was wearing a creation by Fashion and Apparel Merchandising students and faculty that fetched $7,000 at  the event auction to help individuals with cancer.

WARRENSBURG, MO – An opportunity to showcase their creativity for an important cause, faculty and students in the University of Central Missouri Fashion and Apparel Merchandising program raised thousands of dollars to support uninsured and underinsured cancer patients through their participation in the 2023 Bra Couture® KC charity auction.

Bra Couture® KC began its annual auctions in 2010, and this year raised more than $500,000 in donations for individuals in the Kansas City area who are struggling to pay expenses associated with their illness. The organization strives to provide life-empowering services to those in need throughout the metropolitan area in partnership with the University of Kansas Cancer Center. Through the generosity of individuals who attend the annual fashion show and auction, the program sponsores are able to provide items such as wigs, compression sleeves and prosthetics, which are sometimes not covered by insurance. This is in addition to making possible funds for gas, food and rent for people who have cancer and lose work due to this serious health condition. Bra Couture® took place on April 21 at the Kansas City Downtown Airport, and was the organizations’ largest fundraiser of the year.

For the past 10 consecutive years, UCM’s Fashion and Apparel Merchandising program and students and faculty in the Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Education programs have participated in the event by creating and submitting entries that are sold during the auction. For the first time since becoming involved in the program, UCM participants created a university-themed bra, in addition to other items that appeared on the runway.

Angela Gai Gilbert, a Mathematics faculty member at UCM and former Warrensburg resident who now resides in Lee’s Summit, modeled the UCM bra ensemble while being escorted by Mo the Mule, the university’s mascot. The bra and jacket worn by Gilbert was created by Fashion students Esthela Garcia, junior from Kansas City, Kansas, and Nikaylah Gadson, sophomore from Blue Springs, along with Associate Professor and Program Coordinator Melissa Abner. The team worked together and members individually placed stones and studs to create university logos while also incorporating into their design fabrics from the UCM Fashion Shop. This sparkling garment along with a donated package sold for $7,000 at the auction.

Lindsey Dobson, a junior Fashion student from Pleasant Hill, also created a bra that appeared on the runway. Her leather bra and cape featured hand-drawn and jeweled flames, along with a bike chain necklace and gear head piece, a creation that dazzled the audience while worn by a motorcycle enthusiast. In order to get her design to the Bra Couture® stage, Dobson submitted sketches and her entry was chosen from a group of many other submissions, including those from professional designers in the merto area.

While Abner has consistently led student teams to Bra Couture® KC, this year’s event offered a first-time opportunity for her to add a hands-on touch to the an entry as part of the group that sumitted the UCM-themed design.
“I have personally mentored student designs, but never helped design myself. Having something on the runway that I actually helped conceive and create was really cool,” Abner said. “I tend to let the students create while I assist, but this made me want to design more myself again.”

Abner said one of the most rewarding aspects of this experience came from meeting Gilbert. The UCM team formed a friendship with her while developing a creation that they hoped would make her  "feel and look amazing” as a design model.

“As always, my favorite part is seeing students watch their work on the runway – their faces just light up and it is the best feeling,” Abner added. “It was also fun to see Angela absolutely shine and rock the runway with Mo in her outfit that we made. She did an amazing job.”

Abner said members of the campus design team were given VIP tickets to the event, which also made it possible to meet some of the players and staff within the Chiefs football and Royals baseball organizations who attended and support this program.

“The student designers also brought family members and got to experience the event with them. Many of them had not been to an event like this before, so it was very nice of the Bra Couture board to offer that experience,” Abner said. “It is one that none of us will forget.” 

Bra Couture® KC has served more than 12,000 cancer patients since its inception, thanks to the generosity of individuals who have contributed more than $3 million in support through events such as the one in which UCM annually participates. Learn more about Bra CoutureKC® by visiting its website.  

UCM’s Fashion and Apparel Merchandising program is accredited by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS). More information about opportunities for students is available on the program's website or by contacting Abner at or 660-543-8724. Learn m ore about the Bachelor of Science in Education – Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Education program  online or by contacting Krystle Gremaud, assistant instructor, at 660-543-4647 or


University of Central Missouri Fashion and Apparel Merchandising students, from left, Lindsey Dobson, a junior from Pleasant Hill, and Esthela Garcia, junior from Kansas City, Kansas, contributed their design skills to creations that help support 2023 Bra Couture® KC.



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