CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A class at the U of I is offering designers a chance to experience high fashion from a distance.

“Here was a lot of interest in using virtual reality for a lot of different uses.”

One way is right in Professor Chiara Vencenzi’s fashion illustration class.

“That idea that you can design in this new medium is exciting,” says Jim Wentworth, who is the Associate Director for Educational Innovation at the U of I.

Students taking the class are learning in another dimension. They’ve recently designed beautiful evening gowns with a new approach – using a virtual palette and brushes to design on a mannequin.

It can be challenging at first, but it’s basically like drawing in the air.

“The software is really pretty amazing. It’s fun just to make strokes in the air with a with a controller. At first, they were in awe. And then they realized, ‘oh, we have to actually create something with this.’ So, they stepped up to that challenge of, ‘Oh, what can I do with this?'” says Wentworth.

He says this is a way students can learn and create freely.

“For many students, it was the first time trying to create anything in virtual reality. This is just a great experience to show them tat this is a tool that’s out there – that they’ll probably encounter someday in the future.”

Although the virtual reality lab has been open for 3 years now, Professor Vincenzi is the first to use it in this way.

“Virtual reality allows this opportunity for really experiential and immersive learning. So, we see a lot of potential for it in the future,” says Wentworth.