Erin McSherry '09 made a name for herself as a women's basketball player at Muhlenberg, setting the school record for blocked shots, playing on three Centennial Conference championship teams and earning All-CC honorable mention as a junior and senior.
Now she's making a name for herself in the fashion industry. This article, originally written by Jack McCallum '71, an award-winning former editor at Sports Illustrated, first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of the Muhlenberg alumni magazine. McCallum serves as the magazine's current guest editor.
Erin McSherry walks onto the set of a children's fashion shoot in midtown Manhattan and three of the young models stare up - and up and up - smiling in anticipation of what she's going to say. McSherry stands 6-1, but in her wide-brim fedora hat and knee-high suede boots with high-rise heels, she's about the size of a Division III men's center.
She frets and fusses with her charges, re-combing hair, tucking in a blouse, applying a strategic safety pin, much as a mother would do before sending her kids to school. "This is a nice break from celebrity and fashion shoots," says McSherry as she signs an autograph at lunch break. "I really like the kids."
In the four years after going out on her own, McSherry has become a much sought-after designer/fashion consultant. Her company, Erin McSherry LLC, now employs three assistants and four interns, positions she occupied herself as she doggedly climbed the fashion ladder.
McSherry came to Muhlenberg largely because she liked the animated style of basketball coach Ron Rohn. But she was also intrigued by the fact that a student could create her own minor by combining disciplines – and so she pursued costume design with a theatre course and the history of fashion with a history course. She even had an internship during her junior year that had her dashing into Manhattan two times a week during basketball season.
In her four years on the women's basketball team, McSherry set a school record with 164 blocked shots during her career. And as she accomplished that mark, she knew the next goal she would reach. She kept working towards her dream, and eventually she started landing her own jobs through referrals and used whatever contacts she could to land clients.
Suddenly, she had her own business, lots of clients and zero free time.
McSherry may find herself off to London with her biggest celebrity client, 50 Cent, organizing his wardrobe and supervising the quick-change choreography – the rapper switches outfits in 30 seconds – that takes place during his live performances. Another day she could be working with the cast of "Modern Family," designing the look that Sofia Vergara, Ed O'Neil and Ty Burrell will be wearing on billboard ads, or styling acclaimed actress Marcia Gay Harden for her recent appearance on the Emmys.
Not bad for a Jersey girl who came to a school that didn't offer a single course in fashion. As McSherry sees it, the fact that Muhlenberg does not appear in anyone's Most Fashionable List worked to her advantage. "Fashion was my thing," says McSherry. "It was wonderful to have something special to me and incorporate it into my college experience."
"Obviously she was the go-to person for all our fashion decisions, what warmup goes with what jersey, that kind of thing," says Rohn. "She told me she'll come back one day and design new uniforms for us. I'm not sure I can get her now."
McSherry is making it in the fashion world because she attended a college that didn't put her in a box, close the lid and say, This Is What You Are.
"I can't tell you the last day off I had," says McSherry. "I work all the time. But I couldn't be happier. This is what I wanted to do. This is what I dreamed of."