Dear ASDP Board

  • 03/09/2014 7:34 PM | Anonymous

    Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers, by Julie Cole and Sharon Czachor (published by Fairchild Books, Inc.) is an excellent textbook. There is also a workbook available. The book is expensive, but it costs less than a weekend workshop and it’s the equivalent of a full semester’s course.

    The book has 18 chapters: The Design Process, Getting Prepared (extensive discussion of grain, pattern matching, seam allowances, sewing notions) Stabilizers, Darts,  Pockets,  Seams,  Tucks  and  pleats,  Zippers,   Waistbands,  Ruffles  and  flounces,  Collars,  Facings,   Cuffs, Sleeves, Hems, Linings, Closures, and Finishing touches.

    Illustrations are 2-color line drawings and are exceptionally easy to understand - when to use stay stitching and which direction to sew in, where to use a small piece of stabilizer at a point, 4 waistband finishes.  The  basics  are  covered  in  charts  -­  what  size   needle to use for which fabric, what type of stabilizer to use where, when to use a full lining and when to use a half lining.

    The book is written in a user-friendly voice. Don’t be put off by the dos and don’ts format. Among the suggestions for satin seams: a reminder to maintain a clean and oil-free environment and to clean your hands often, to use a silk organza press cloth, to use fine  needles,  and  to  stitch  directionally.  For  faux  fur:   Trim fur from seam allowances before stitching, turn scissors at an angle to trim the fur, and don’t trim fur off the hem allowance.

    To give an idea of the breadth of the material, the tuck chapter teaches dart tucks, blind tucks, pin tucks, corded tucks, cross tucks, shell tucks, and overhand tucks. Only then does it move on to pleats. If you need  help  figuring  out  the  most  accurate  way  to  do   simple tucks, this book will help you. If you are looking for something more convoluted this book is still able to help. The pocket chapter includes inseam pockets and how to draft them, patch pockets (topstitched,  sewn  invisibly,  lined,  with  or  without  flaps,)   shaped pockets, welt pockets, pleated or gathered pockets, piped pockets and zipped pockets.

    There are four pages of illustrations showing how to clip where seams join. I like a book that reminds you that in a sheer dress you can sew the zipper to the lining.

    This is not a book of industrial sewing techniques and it is not a book on embellishment, but if you want to choose a single book that illustrates construction techniques for high end clothing, your go-to when you can’t remember the steps in a welt pocket or how to stitch jersey without stretching it, I recommend Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers by Julie Cole and Sharon Czachor.

    Written by Rachel Kurland

    Rachel Kurland by Chuck Islander

  • 03/08/2014 6:28 PM | Anonymous

    As your new VP of Chapter Relations, I am seeing firsthand how much time, creativity and energy goes into maintaining all our vibrant Chapters. Kudos to all who are involved in your Chapter’s activities!

    It sounds like the New England Chapter held a fun, educational and inspiring event recently. Here is Patricia Kane’s account:

    “Five of us intrepid ASDP New England members braved the snow predictions to meet at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell. Rebecca, Cathie, Janee, Pat, and Penny were inspired and entertained by the exhibits on the evolution  of  the  textile  industry  in  the  US  and  specifically in Lowell. Looms, carders, spinning jennys, fullers, and a cotton gin were on view, along with clothing and textiles from the 1700’s to a special exhibit on the 1960’s. This 60’s exhibit made some of us feel old, (or maybe special?), to see the styles we wore in the day now a museum exhibit...

    There was much discussion among us as we toured, with everyone adding a bit of information to the mix-- always fun when we are together and sewing is somewhere in the conversation!

    The snow started in earnest as we adjourned to lunch at Cobblestones, in a lovely old building just up the street. Conversation continued about gardening, the costumes of Downton Abbey, the Patriots, food allergies, and food. Off we went to home, in the now snowy and slippery streets, carefully negotiating our way. Everyone arrived home safely, though the trips were slow.

    The Textile Museum deserves another visit to read the wall information in depth and to observe the looms in action when someone is there to operate them. A nice gathering to begin the year for the New England chapter of ASDP.”

    Their March program: Sketching for your Fashion and Sewing Business Get inspired to start and learn how to progress in your skills so your presentation is professional and beautiful for clients.

    The San Francisco Chapter is planning a sewing retreat in May and 8 members have signed up. They are happy that their Chapter is being revitalized!

    For their February meeting, the Baltimore Chapter had scheduled Carey Puomo to do a presentation on the CAD design software workshop that she took recently (see her article, Page 9). Unfortunately, the meeting had to be canceled because of yet another snowstorm. So, hopefully, they will be able to hear about this some other time! The March program will be on Surface Design, in particular Shibori, presented by a guest speaker. Some future programs will be on online classes and how to do pattern alterations.

    They held their annual Christmas Gala in December. One of the highlights of the evening was handing out door prizes, some of which were won at Conference because their Chapter acquired the most new members last year!

    The Colorado Chapter will be having a sewing retreat from February 28 – March 3 at Peaceful Valley Ranch.

    A number of Chapters held elections recently. New officers include:

    Baltimore – Program Chair – Valencia James Secretary – Pat Jackson Director-at-Large (Friend) – Elaine Shire

    Chicago – President – Denise Liss VPs of Education – Gini Lloyd and Susan Gerbosi Secretary – Karen Gay

    Great Plains – added a new position: Vice President – Sharon VanFleet

    New England – Treasurer – Cathie Ryan Secretary – Pat Kane

    New Jersey – President – Jil Konopacki (will start her tenure in May)

    Oregon – 1st VP (Programs) – Marsha McClintock 2nd VP (Website/Communications) – Jennifer Phillips Treasurer – Judi McKamey Secretary – Michelle Davis Education Committee Chair – Janet Walker Membership Committee Chair – Alice Knox Library – Michelle Davis

    San Francisco – President – Dale Webdale

    Written by Debby Spence

  • 03/07/2014 6:22 PM | Anonymous

    Since this is the first ASDP newsletter of the year, I wish all of our members a very happy and prosperous new year. A new year always brings with it the opportunity to evaluate the previous year and plan for any future  changes or refined  goals. I was recently reading a local periodical, “Twin Cities Business” March 2014 edition, when a highlighted quote caught my attention. Dan Ferrise, CEO of Eagan, Minnesota-based Miller Manufacturing Co., says that to stay focused his company has a straightforward, one-page business plan. “The more goals you have, the less likely you are to accomplish any of them.”

    Diversity  in  focus  of  business  may  seem  like  finding   a larger market, but perhaps focusing on a smaller, singular goal will work much better. Ten or more years ago my business was much more diverse until I decided I was spreading myself too thin and decided to focus on a smaller aspect of my business. The interesting thing about this was that it was not the part of my business that I was trying to market the most. I was getting more calls for custom sewing and embroidery rather than the quilting product that I was certified  to  teach  and  sell  at  trade  shows.    Since  it  gave   me more time to commit to a smaller set of goals, I have never regretted my change in focus of my business.

    ASDP has some very good help for re-evaluating a business plan, or writing up a formal business plan on the website. Take a look under the Member Center, for this information. Again, have a good new year and have fun in your businesses!

    Written by Teresa Nieswaag

  • 03/04/2014 6:00 PM | Anonymous

    Five ladies walked into a bar. The bartender asked, “What may I get for you?”  The first lady asked, “What drink does my dress inspire you to make?”

    The Chicago Chapter held their Annual Meeting and Garment Challenge on January 12, 2014 at Gibson’s Steakhouse in Rosemont. This year’s theme was to create a “Cocktail Inspired” garment. Members Gini Lloyd, Karen Gay, Sue Gerbosi, Ann Vidovic and Denise Liss were in attendance. Barb Lloyd also joined us for the festivities. Gini, Karen and Denise wore their garments to the lunch.

    Since Gini wore a black short sleeve sheath on which she beaded the symbols for “Man,” “Hat,” and “Ten,” she ordered a Manhattan from the bartender.

    Karen created an amazing skirt from a faux fur fabric she discovered while we were at conference in Nashville. Her original name for her creation was a “Hairy Buffalo,” but since this drink is a creation made by college students, using whatever alcohol they have with them and pouring it into a large vat at a party, the bartender wasn’t really willing to make such a drink, so Karen settled for titling her creation a “Reverse Guinness.”

    Denise also used fabric that she purchased while at conference. She discovered this luscious white fabric with  strips  of  bias  sewn  on  to  form  beautiful  flowers   and she had to have it. She also found yellow silk chiffon for the bottom of the dress. Denise knew what she was going to do when she saw these fabrics. She asked the bartender for a Harvey Wallbanger when she entered. (Do I have to admit that her son said it looked more like a lemon chiffon pie? No. That is NOT a cocktail.)

    We do have to mention that Sue did send in a photo of her dress which was also inspired by the Manhattan. Sue purchased her fabrics while she was visiting in Manhattan which gave her the inspiration. The swash of red is representative of the cherry on top.

    With three entries, The Golden Dress Form went to Denise and the Harvey Wallbanger.

    We enjoyed a lovely meal and delightful company. Of course, we held our  annual meeting and our officers were elected for the next year.

    Can’t wait until we get together for our next meeting. We always have a great time.

    Written by Denise Liss

    Denise Liss by R. Broshan

  • 03/03/2014 5:57 PM | Anonymous

    A few things you have to keep in mind before you start planning your fashion show.

    1. Budget 
    2. Location 
    3. Theme 
    4. Promote your event


    It is important to decide how much you are able to spend for your fashion show. It can be organized on either a small or large budget. But if you have a small budget you need to focus on the most important areas for your show.

    One option is to pair with another complimentary designer, like shoe or jewelry designers. Another option is to approach your local businesses and ask them if they would like to sponsor your fashion show in exchange for some advertising. Be ready to offer an attractive package to your prospective sponsors. I would even design two or three packages at different cost levels, giving them an option to choose the package and how much they are willing to spend.

    Recruit as many friends and family members as you can to help on the day of the show.


    Your fashion show can be held in various places, and venue will be determined by how many people will attend. You can host a fashion show in a banquet hall, school, or gallery. If you plan to have an elevated runway, spend the money and go all the way. Otherwise, use your creativity as you don’t need to spend a lot of money when setting up a runway. Some of the fanciest fashion shows are set up on a ground level runway.

    To give the feeling of a runway, place chairs on each side of the runway. If the venue does not have good lighting, you need to rent or invest in some lighting.


    Decide your theme, hire a DJ, and make sure he or she has good music for a fashion show catwalk. The best music is without lyrics (which can distract the audience). You can get almost any instrumental music online these days.

    If you are planning to have a cash bar, you may ask one of your local caterers or bars if they want to set up their own cash bar (reasonably priced).

    Check with your venue to inquire whether they have liability insurance for your event. If they don’t, you should contact your insurance agent and ask to purchase “event insurance.”

    Of course, you need models. If paying for professional models is not on your budget, check college campuses, as students might be willing to do it for a small fee or for clothing.

    It is important to hold rehearsals with your models prior to the show. If you are not hiring professional models, you will need to work with them on how to walk on the runway and how to highlight what they are modeling. If you don’t have enough models, get an entertainer to fill  in  between  the  changes  (3   minutes minimum to change).

    Hair and makeup artists: Check with your local salon, to see if they are willing to do the hair and make up for free in exchange for advertising.

    Promote your Event

    It is an important day for your business, so create a buzz! Start promoting your event at least one month prior to the fashion show. Call your local paper and ask if they would write an article about your show; sometimes they will do it for free. Call your local TV channels,  create  flyers,  send  attractive  post  cards  to   businesses, use Facebook and other free media to promote your fashion show.

    Hire a professional photographer, or call a school of photography where students are willing to do it for free or for less than half of what a professional photographer would charge you. Students need to get assignments to count towards their grades. You may contact the school directly and the teachers will provide names of students.

    Create an Event Program - it is chic and your guests will appreciate that. It is a perfect place for all the garment details, plus everyone involved, including photographers, and the DJ will most likely display their business cards. Nowadays it’s all about showing the clothing with good music.

    Have a table with business cards, look book, and anything else you can think of to make your show shine. If you want to have a good time after the show, extend the DJ for an after-party so your guests can enjoy some dancing, and a chance to chat and mingle with people.

    Remember: there is always room for creativity when planning your fashion show!

    Written by Sonia Santos, Passion ♥ Women’s Designer Clothing

  • 03/02/2014 5:35 PM | Anonymous

    My name is Francesca Sterlacci. Many moons ago I applied to fashion college. Although my high school offered art classes, none of our art teachers knew the  first thing about how to prepare a fashion college admissions portfolio or what it took to be a fashion designer for that matter. My high school sewing teacher, Mrs. Tieri, who was a 1940s Pratt graduate, offered technical sewing advice but to be honest, she really wasn’t a fan of my design sense. She was in love with 1940s style, you know, Mainbocher, Dior, and Balenciaga (I would later appreciate the work of these talented designers). In contrast, the designers that were inspiring me at the time were 1960s designers like, Gernreich, Courreges and Rabanne. Not only did Mrs. Tieri not “get” my design sense, she questioned my hubris in reworking commercial patterns to fit my designs, a big no-­no in  her class!  Despite our differences I successfully compiled an art portfolio and clothing samples, then applied and got accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology. Years later, I became a Seventh Avenue designer under the label “Francesca Sterlacci Ltd” and manufactured 100% of my collection in New York City. My collection sold at  Saks,  Barneys,  Nordstroms and other fine stores   around the country. It was 8 years later when Mrs. Tieri and I reconnected. Just like a proud parent, she had saved all of my press clippings over the years (so sweet). She even volunteered to work for me that summer! Why I am telling you this?

    Fast forward to 1990 when I closed my company after 10 years. It seemed like more of my time was spent running the business and less time designing the collection. So, I started a freelance design company called Design Instinct and began teaching part-time at FIT. It was there at FIT that I met designer Geoffrey Beene who inspired me to think of ways to keep the art of fashion design alive in the U.S., particularly the hands-on skills of pattern making, sewing and draping, at a time when this knowledge was increasingly being exported off-shore. Having always been a “hands-on” designer, one who needs to touch fabric and drape it on a dress form for inspiration, I wanted to share my hands-on skills with my students. I found that books, although I had written several, just weren’t the right medium to teach my hands-on sensibility to today’s generation of aspiring fashion designers. Today’s students, as I learned while teaching graduate level design online for six years at the Academy of Art University San Francisco, want to learn from a more visual approach to teaching.

    I am not sure whether living for 9 years in Silicon Valley, the home of Facebook, Google and Apple, wasn’t the inspiration or because I am passionate about things Made in USA, but suddenly it hit me: Create a fashion design video library! A video library that tapped into all my fashion contacts over the years and brought in the best fashion college professors and fashion industry pros to share their knowledge and skills through professionally produced videos with the hope of jump-starting a Made in USA manufacturing  movement.  I began  by filming basic lessons, just the way you would learn if you were sitting in the classroom at any of the best fashion colleges. I then expanded on the concept to offer more advanced lessons. I wanted the website to inspire and empower people to become designers

    The University of Fashion launched on July 4, 2013 with a large library of videos spanning the 5 fashion design disciplines of draping, pattern making, sewing, fashion drawing and product development. I wanted to make my video library affordable to the many home sewers and aspiring designers in the world today. I wanted to create a place where students could go who needed help with their college admissions portfolio, for those who didn’t get into a prestigious fashion college or those who simply couldn’t afford to go. I wanted everyone to get the same access. In addition, I wanted to offer my video library to fashion companies, to train their designer employees and, to high schools and colleges as a supplement to their “live” teaching programs. Mrs. Tieri, I think, you’d be proud!

    At the University of Fashion, we continually add new video content to the website. In fact, we are now offering fashion lectures on subjects like costume history, fashion licensing, and fashion marketing, all taught by college Profs and industry pros. Next month we will launch lectures on fashion branding, color theory and a 3-part series on how to start a fashion brand taught by a successful New York fashion designer. In addition to our “how-to” and lecture videos, we have interviews with famous fashion designers and tours of fashion museums and other key fashion industry resources. Our goal is to be the ones-top fashion hub for fashion professionals, aspiring fashion designers, teachers of fashion, home sewers, and the fashion curious.

    Now that you know the history and mission of the University of Fashion, let me tell you a bit about how we produce our videos. After making 2 pilot videos in 2008, we conducted market research at high schools and fashion colleges to learn the best way to deliver our video content. We made substantial changes and came up with what we believe is our “secret sauce”, adding motion graphics, music and well-edited content designed to keep the viewer engaged. We recruit the best teachers at fashion colleges known for their expertise in a particular discipline. Each fashion college instructor has excellent teaching credentials with stellar peer and student evaluations at their institution. Our  fashion  industry  instructors  are  considered  leaders  in  their  field   and all of our instructors have spent a minimum of 6 years in the industry, most having more than 20 years. These folks know their stuff!

    We tested our videos in classrooms to insure positive student learning outcomes. Faculty at fashion schools have also tested and endorsed our videos. Our subscribers continually send us pictures of their work and some have even written testimonials. In addition to our video library, we offer a blog that keeps up with fashion industry news. Our Pinterest boards are designed as inspirational resources with links back to our lessons to show how it’s done.

    Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Group International, Seventeen magazine and fashion websites like Fashionista and Refinery29 have also endorsed the U of F.    Beginning in January 2014 we are offering the U of F library to schools and  organizations.  The first fashion college to acquire the library will be FIT,  followed by Parsons.  Schools that are interested should contact us through our website. Our goal is to not only offer the library to high schools and colleges but also to organizations, which is why we have made a generous discounted offer to ASDP members that we hope to launch in the near future.

    Based on ASDP’s recent Online Education Survey Results, it looks like the U of F will be a big hit! Six years ago when I started the U of F, I realized that online learning is the future of education, even for fashion design. To make U of F videos more effective, I leveraged my career as a New York fashion designer, tapped my many industry connections, and, after 20 years in academia (both onsite and online), have been able to recruit the best faculty at the best fashion colleges in the world. At the U of F, we are dedicated to fashion. We don’t offer cooking lessons or crafts projects. We concentrate only on fashion: in-depth and professional. The University of Fashion website is created by a designer for designers. Check out our free lessons and soon you’ll be hooked. The U of F is affordable, convenient, effective, and a great place to “Master Design One Step at a Time.” Try us on for size

    Written by Francesca Sterlacci

  • 03/01/2014 5:17 PM | Anonymous

    I arrived in London to visit my 95 year old Mother and work for an English client one day before the exhibit ‘The Glamour of Belleville Sassoon’ was scheduled to close at the Fashion & Textile Museum (a small museum south of the Thames river -nearest tube stop: London Bridge). What a delight to discover that indeed David Sassoon was in the gallery that afternoon.

    Helen Haughey and David Sassoon

    My sister and I began in the first small room which had a collection of 5 garments worn by Royals. (No photos allowed!) Belleville Sassoon has dressed all the female members of the royal family apart from Her Majesty the Queen. On display was the going away outfit  created  for  Princess  Diana  for  her  wedding  to   Prince Charles and during the small tour that David Sassoon gave us he told us he had been very fortunate to find the glorious coral two-piece outfit and have it o  display.   It was thought to be lost. He had made two jackets for the dress: a short sleeve version for warmer weather and a long sleeve one if it was cold.

    In the main gallery almost at its entrance was displayed the Lifetime Achievement Award given to David Sassoon at the ASDP conference in Chicago in 2008.

    That gallery had a large collection of custom couture garments, with a small grouping made for several American socialites.

    The upper gallery had ready-to-wear garments including several prototypes of Vogue patterns.

    Also in glass cases were some beaded bodice pieces ready to be stitched together.

    When I asked David the order of construction it was as you would expect (at least for those of us familiar with stitching together a French jacket):

    • construct and fit muslin 
    • take apart, cut fashion fabric and thread trace stitching lines on fashion fabric 
    • bead or embroidery or hand  paint 
    • stitch the beaded/embroidered/hand painted pieces together 
    • bead, embroider or hand paint over the seams

    And finally in a room being set up for a class the  following day were a series of sketch boards from the decades in which Belleville Sassoon had been in business.




    I can’t think of a better way to start a stay in London!

    If you are planning a visit, be sure to check out the Fashion and Textile Museum

    Written by Helen Haughey

    Helen Haughey by Chuck Islander

  • 12/11/2013 6:56 PM | Anonymous

    During the Nashville conference I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with representatives of all our chapters. I was able to give updates on the new resources available for chapters: a revised version of the procedural manual has been posted on the website. Those who remember the huge red binder that was distributed years ago will be happy to know that this is a much more portable version, and one that can easily be revised in years to come. I would like to thank the committee that assisted in the huge task of revising the manual: Karen Ahrens, Karen Bengston, and Debby Spence. I couldn’t have done it without you! To access this manual, log in on the website and go to Chapter Resources.

    The New England chapter held a lively October meeting when Maureen Egan presented a program on painting silk fabric. The meeting was well attended by both members and guests. Maureen is a chapter member and also belongs to Silk Painters International. She shared a wealth of knowledge during her demonstration and lecture, along with beautiful samples of her work. The session ended with plenty of time allowed for participants to try out several of the techniques. Donna Fortier and I also shared some of our experiences from the ASDP national conference.

    Baltimore chapter members gathered for their November meeting, which included sharing techniques from conference classes and officer elections. Planning their programs for the new year was also on the agenda. The chapter was well represented in Nashville, as you can see by the photo!

    Sadly, we have one less chapter now, as the Empire State (New York) Chapter has been disbanded. Its members voted to dissolve after several years of struggling to continue with very few members. Being separated by great distances, the core group had been able to meet only sporadically, and each had served the chapter as officers for many years. My thanks go to Marcia Cohen, Kathy Burns, and Kathy Levy, longtime members who gave so much of their time to keep the chapter going. They, along with other chapter members, will remain members of ASDP.

    In the past several months, I have sent packets to several people interested in learning how to start a chapter. There are members in the Detroit area, in Nashville, and a former member in Seattle who are looking for others willing to come together to form a local chapter. As I come to the end of my term as VP of Chapter Relations, I look forward to watching these come together, and hope that more of our members will have the chance to experience the benefits of having a local group, with the opportunity to learn and share with one another.

    Written by Janee Connor, VP of Chapter Relations

  • 12/10/2013 6:51 PM | Anonymous

    Do you get up from your sewing machine fuzzy and off-balance? Working too long and too hard, too often goes with being self-employed. Fortunately, there are some reasonable fixes to keep us healthier (and saner, a bonus to family/ friends).

    We tend to curl into close work at our machines, for hand sewing, etc. (my relaxation is reading and knitting, which doesn’t help). This is hard on our backs and necks, and that tension brings arm and hand aches. Aim for positions that encourage good posture with joints at 90° angles.

    Moving around is good. I used to think setting up my sewing machine, serger, and press so I could work by swiveling my chair would be more efficient. I’m in better shape when I have to get up and move several feet from one work area to the next. If your balance is good enough, stand to sew or serge.

    There are commercial tables that will angle your machine.

    A couple of honking big doorstops (not dainty standard ones) will do the same and can do double-duty for your tablet or computer keyboard. The optimal angle is 11-12°.

    As I don’t need computerized and/or industrial machines, I sew on a late-50s Singer 411G - gear drive, built-in stitches, double-needle capacity. I converted it from an electric back to a treadle (the first thing I did was rewire the light) and ergonomically-engineered its cabinet. I get exercise while I sew and have superb control! There’s more power in my (formerly thunder-) thigh muscles than in a motor that will fit in any home machine head.

    If you’re interested in a treadle conversion, you must have the head that was cast with a belt slot. There are still a few around. They’re beloved by Amish communities and folks who cope with third-world conditions.

    Alternately, you may have inherited or been lucky enough to find an old straight-stitch treadle machine. (my mom taught me to sew on one when I was seven). It’s possible to put lumber under the back legs to tip it to that 11-12°, but rock it a little to be sure it’s stable.

    My studio has color-balanced fluorescent lights, and I haven’t had SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter since I started using them.

    See the plants? They clean the air as well as turn my used breath into oxygen.

    When you know you’re headed into an intense project, set a kitchen timer to remind you to stop and gently stretch every 20-30 minutes. Stay hydrated! If you drink a glass of water whenever you get up, your body will remind you of your next break. Notice where you’re carrying tension and shake it out. Think what you might alter.

    Don’t eat at your machine. Take time to sit somewhere else and relax. If possible, go for a walk. You’ll more than make up the time “wasted” by greater energy and an increased attention span.

    If moving around is difficult for you, at least gently stretch and do range-of-motion exercises with your arms and hands.

    Think about what you could fix right now, and ponder how you could reset your routines or your studio down the road. You’ll be less apt to get up and fall on your face after a marathon project.

    Written by Carol Kimball

  • 12/05/2013 6:26 PM | Anonymous

    It isn’t often that you get to see a collection of a famous star’s costumes up close and personal. But at this year’s national conference in Nashville we had the privilege of displaying nine of Dolly Parton’s costumes at our Welcome Reception. (It would have been ten costumes but I’ll get to that story.) We worked with some of the ladies who used to sew for Dolly, in particular Lynn Lesher, to secure the display. In addition, one of our own members, Alania Sheeley, who also lives in Nashville, used to sew for Dolly and was a huge help in setting up the display. Big kudos also go out to Rachel Kurland who brought three dress forms from home that were small enough to accommodate Dolly’s figure.

    It was quite a challenge to get all of those dress forms to fit Dolly’s costumes! We had to stuff, prod, and poke those mannequins until we got them just right. The reason we couldn’t show the tenth costume was that we simply didn’t have a dress form small enough to handle the 23” waistline. Most of the costumes had about a 24” waist so we squeezed the garments onto the forms and didn’t zip some of them all the way, but that last one was just not going on any form we had.

    We would have advertised the display earlier so that all of our members knew about the event, but we didn’t fully secure the costumes until the week before conference. Lynn Lesher corralled three other people from Dolly’s staff and from Textile Fabrics to help collect and transport the costumes to conference.

    We learned a few things from those who worked/work for Dolly while dressing the mannequins: Dolly only wears each costume once. And she may change 4 – 5 times a day when she’s on the road. Dolly then donates her costumes and they are auctioned off in order to raise money for her foundations, one being to buy books for children under 5 years old. 655,000 children received books from Dolly’s Imagination Library in 2012 alone. Since its inception the program has distributed 45 million books. The costumes we were lent for exhibition covered a range of styles. Whether leather, tweed, or feathers, Dolly always pays attention to style and works closely with her designers.

    It was a huge bonus to be able to view Dolly’s costumes and to have Lynn and Alania there to talk about their past experiences sewing for Dolly. Dolly’s home is in Nashville, so it was only “fitting” that we have her costumes on display there!

    Written by Debbie Bone-Harris, VP of Membership

    Debbie Bone-Harris, VP of Membership

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