When Taylor Benigni ’15 was in high school, she loved her fashion courses so much she took one as a senior that wouldn’t count toward the credits she needed to graduate, but she just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It was that kind of passion for fashion that prompted her teacher to suggest Benigni study fashion merchandising in college, and that’s exactly what she’s doing now.
“I heard great things about the fashion program at Immaculata,” said Benigni, “and I loved the small-school feel of IU. Because of the size of the classes, you have a different kind of relationship with your professors. Everyone seemed so close, so much like family.”
Family is important to Benigni, who says that spending time with hers whenever she can is a top priority. Her 16-year-old sister Karlee and 13-year-old brother Zac “like me to take them places, such as the movies or to the park to shoot some hoops, or to visit our cousins.” Even Benigni’s part-time job at Warwick Jewelers in Exton, PA allows her some extra family bonding since her mother works there, as well.
Benigni’s life, however, is about to get busier as she enters her junior year in the fall. With minors in marketing and entrepreneurship, she plans to complete two different internships, and she will be a leader of the Fashion Group. “The Fashion Group organizes all of the program activities, whatever we want the fashion students to be involved in, and we’re in charge of setting up the annual fashion show. Freshman and sophomore years were tough, but I have a lot to look forward to as a junior and senior.”
One of the things Benigni is especially looking forward to is studying abroad in her senior year. “It will be either Paris or Milan. I spoke to one student who went to Paris and he said it changed his life, but I’ve heard amazing things about both destinations, so that’s definitely on my to-do list. My mom even jokes that she wants to go, too.”
Benigni credits her mother’s put-together sense of style with influencing her own ability to “kind of throw on whatever and it works,” though her mother takes no credit for her daughter’s sewing chops. “My mother cannot sew, but I found out that my great-grandfather was a tailor, and he used to make clothes for me when I was little, so I guess I inherited his ‘sewing genes.’”
For hands-on sewing instruction, Benigni insists that Sister Denise Mollica, IHM, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences, is the best, hands down. “Sister Denise has tons of patience with the students. She is always there to help us, even outside of class. And she is the sweetest, calmest person. When I accidentally ripped a huge hole in the back of my dress, I was in tears, but she kept telling me it was okay and we could fix it. I was so upset, but she was right. We made it work.”
Learning how to make it work in spite of challenges will come in handy for Benigni whose professional goal is to someday own her own boutique, a dream that arises from the entrepreneurial spirit she gets from her parents, who run their own auto repair business—dad works on the cars and mom takes care of the paperwork.
“I love accessories—purses, jewelry—you name it, so my boutique will feature plenty of those kinds of items. But right out of school I’d like to work for a large fashion company and eventually become a manager, to get a feel for it.”
Though Benigni does not have one favorite designer, she admits to having been “obsessed with anything Juicy Couture or Coach.” But as she’s grown, her tastes have expanded so that now she’s “learned to like a lot of different things.”
Benigni has also learned that the camera likes her, and she is featured in a variety of marketing materials for Immaculata, most recently participating in a photo shoot for Philadelphia Style magazine. “I used to model for a woman who made party dresses for little girls. I was so young at the time I don’t remember much about it, but I enjoy doing it now.”
In case anyone thinks that being a fashion major means nothing but modeling and manicures, Benigni, whose 3.5 GPA has earned her academic recognition every semester, has some no-nonsense advice for incoming students. “Do your best and don’t limit yourself. You can do anything as long as you put your heart and your head into it. Keep an open mind and enjoy college because it goes by quickly. And make sure you make that time to study. In the end, studying until your brain hurts is worth it!”