With their stitches precisely aligned and their skirts hemmed to just the right lengths, a group of Bartholomew County 4-Hers took to the runway to demonstrate their individual fashion style.

As part of the 2016 4-H Fair fashion revue contest, local 4-Hers are challenged to channel their inner fashionistas in two competitions — the consumer clothing competition, which requires contestants to create outfits from pieces of clothing they own or purchase, and the construction contest, which asks contestants to sew their own unique fashion designs.

But the annual fashion revue, which was judged last Tuesday at FairOaks Mall, is about much more than just outfits.

This year, 21 local girls in Grades 3 through 12 spent days, weeks and even months researching fashion trends, analyzing their own styles and searching for fabrics that were just right, all in an effort to to create the perfect look.

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Elisabeth Smith, the Bartholomew County extension director and extension educator — 4-H youth development, said the consumer clothing competition focuses more on what the contestants learn from the experience of creating an outfit, such as smart buying and shopping techniques.

But the construction competition is purely visual, Smith said. The judges assess every aspect of the contestants’ creations — the quality of the stitching, the overall look of the ensemble, even the smoothness of the fabrics.

The winning outfits, Smith said, are the ones with the perfect fit, from the top of the neckline all the way down to the bottom hem.

“They’re looking for which outfit looks the best on them (the contestants),” she said.

Lilly Arnholt was among the three contestants who entered garments in the fourth-grade division of the construction contest — one shirt, one apron and one pair of shorts.

Lilly’s creation was a pink and blue paisley-patterned shirt, which she accessorized with a pink tassel necklace, matching earrings and a blue belt, also of her own creation. Arnholt — who will enter fifth grade at Rockcreek Elementary School this fall — said she looked through dozens of fabric patterns before settling on the paisley print.

True to Smith’s words, Lilly said she knew that the judges would be assessing her based on how well the garment she created complimented her physical appearance. After trying out a few different patterns, Lilly said she settled on paisley because she thought it was the best match for her body type, her skin tone and white-blonde hair.

But the decisions didn’t end with the pattern selection. As Lilly worked to sew her blouse together, she ran into trouble as she tried to attach the sleeves and, at times, put up roadblocks to her progress by accidentally pulling out her stitches.

But eventually, Lilly’s shirt was perfect and she was able to enjoy her time in the spotlight as she walked the runway at FairOaks Mall and showed off her hard work to the dozens of spectators who attended the competition.

Her attention to detail in the creation of her shirt paid off, with the judges awarding Lilly’s outfit a blue ribbon and naming her the grand champion of the fourth grade division.

“It feels really good,” Lilly said as she broke into a wide grin after her win. “Everyone looked really good, but I guess in my division, mine looked the best.”

For Rebecca Walker, who was the only contestant in the dress-up category for Grades 8 through 12, sewing is more than just a project she completes to earn a blue ribbon at the fair — it’s a pastime she genuinely enjoys and takes part in all year round.

That’s what inspired her to spend nearly a month working on the bright blue satin dress she entered in the 2016 fashion revue competition. Walker said she began working on her dress in May and spent about three weeks putting it together, a process she said was often difficult as she worked to piece each square of fabric together to create the short-sleeved, knee-length dress.

Walker said her dress, which she paired with a white three-quarter-length sleeve jacket for a touch of flair, was meant to reflect her own personal style. Dresses are her favorite thing to wear, especially ones with full skirts, so the bottom half of her garment, although not a full hoop skirt, flared around the waste to add some volume to her look.

Walker’s personal touches were evident to the judges, who named her not only the grand champion of the dress-up division, but also of the entire construction contest, earning her a spot in the Indiana State Fair competition.

Although Walker said she was excited for her dress to be featured at the state fair, she also said she plans to show it off at her church later this summer.

Like Walker, most of the contestants in the fashion revue competition announced plans to wear their creations at various times throughout the year.

For the 21 competitors who worked tirelessly to create the perfect fashion revue look, the contest was more than just a chance to bring home a blue ribbon. It was a chance to create an ensemble completely unique to themselves and to use their sewing abilities to show off their personalities to the rest of the world.

Fashion revue winners

All contestants in the consumer clothing and fashion revue construction contests took home blue ribbons for their outfits. Reserve grand champions and grand champions for each division include:

Consumer clothing, level 1 (grades 3-5)

Reserve grand champion: Laina Klinge

Grand champion: Grace Burbrink

Consumer clothing, level 2 (grades 6-8)

Grand champion: Saylor Lancaster

Consumer clothing state fair entries

Reserve grand champion/state fair entry: Saylor Lancaster

Grand champion/state fair entry: Grace Burbrink

Construction, grade 3

Grand champion: Lindsey Hartwell

Construction, grade 4

Reserve grand champion: Olivia Middendorf

Grand champion: Lilly Arnholt

Construction, grade 5

Reserve grand champion: Leah Hartwell

Grand champion: Izzy Larken

Construction, grade 6

Reserve grand champion: Ella Fisher

Grand champion: Delaney Roxbury

Construction, grade 7

Grand champion: Erin Enzinger

Construction dress-up, grades 8-12

Grand champion: Rebecca Walker

Construction suit or coat, grades 8-12

Grand champion: Caroline Luehrmann

Construction state fair entries

Reserve grand champion/state fair entry: Caroline Luehrmann

Grand champion/state fair entry: Rebecca Walker

Fair highlights

The 2016 Bartholomew County 4-H Fair officially opens on Friday. Here are a few fan-favorite highlights fairgoers can see at the fairgrounds:

5 p.m. Friday: Official opening of the fair, midway

7 p.m. Saturday: Demolition derby in the Grandstand

1 p.m. Sunday: Antique tractor pull in the Grandstand

6:30 p.m. Monday: 4-H horse and pony contesting show

The 2016 fair runs through July 16. For a complete listing of all fair activities, visit bartholomewcountyfair.com.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.