Catherine is a native of Portland, Oregon and spent her high school and college years in Madison, Wisconsin. She received her B.A in Textiles and Clothing in 1971 from the University of Wisconsin (Madison). Although educated in a system that expected their graduates to go into the ready-to-wear industry, she chose instead to create a custom dressmaking business and follow her entrepreneurial calling.
Back living in Portland, she opened her business, Catherine Stephenson Couture, in 1979, and in 1984 became a founding member of The Custom Clothing Guild of Oregon. Her motivation to get involved was to network with other dressmakers, increase her skills through targeted sewing classes, create business opportunities and promote standards of quality through a (peer) Portland-based juried referral service and elevate the level of custom clothing to the public. On a local level, Catherine served on the guild’s Board, and during her presidency in 1987-89 she oversaw the compilation of the chapter’s How to Start a Custom Clothing Guild, which they began selling to a few groups around the country.
This caught the attention of the Home Sewing Association (HSA) who offered to back a national trade association. Catherine participated in 2 years of a CCG committee working to create the new organization and the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers (PACC) was launched in 1991.
Catherine continued to serve on the national board during the 90's including National Chair 1998-2000.
She also chaired the committee that wrote the Quality Standards in the Custom Clothing Field, adopted by ASDP in 1997. A few years later, Catherine served on the Master Sewing and Design Program (MSDP) committee to write the curriculum for the certification modules, and has chaired the MSDP National Board since 2009.
Catherine owned and operated Catherine Stephenson Couture in Portland, Oregon for 35 years. She specialized in couture-quality garments in natural fibers. She created both tailored and dressmaker-styled clothing. Her clientele were professional women, brides and mothers, and clients wanting unique clothing. Everything she created was different and that was what she loved — the variety and opportunity to always create something new. She developed long-term relationships with many of her customers, along with special event clientele.
For five years, from 1994-1998, Catherine taught couture sewing with Susan Khalje during the beginning years of The Bridal Sewing School at biannual, week-long seminars. In 1997 she was hired by the Art Institute of Portland to teach a special workshop on Couture Sewing Techniques. This quickly led to an adjunct professor position in the Apparel Design department where she developed and taught a series of couture sewing techniques classes, along with draping, textile and advanced sewing classes. She taught 2-3 classes a quarter and was with the school for 17 years until her retirement in 2014. To support her teaching, Catherine received her Master of Arts degree in Education in 2008 from Argosy University in Seattle, Washington.
Catherine closed her business in 2014, and is now living in Ajijic, Mexico with her husband. Both artists, they included studios in the home that they built. She cannot stop being creative and continues to produce a line of clothing called Ajijic Chic, which she sells through annual fashion shows and her studio.
She also continues to share her expertise, participate in the ASDP sewing community, and supports the industry as a business owner, entrepreneur, educator, mentor, and friend.