'Sew Sisters': Custom Prom Gowns From Local Designers Are Blowing Up Harrisburg Red Carpets

24/ago/2019 11:17:43 wearziusorg Contatta l'autore

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Making custom prom gowns is a lot of work. Making 17 in one season would be a career - or at least a very time-intensive side gig.

"This is actually my part time job," said Keya Wilson of Harrisburg, who works as a state employee when she isn't filling out orders for formal gowns. "This is my part time thing that I do on the side during prom season, and then I go straight into wedding season. That's coming up next."

Wilson is one of a handful of local designers that create custom gowns for students in the greater Harrisburg area, taking orders from students in school districts such as Harrisburg, Susquehanna and Central Dauphin East. She operates through a Facebook page, titled Pieces of Me, as well as through Instagram.

Wilson had no formal training in design, though she is carrying on a family legacy.

"My grandmother, bless her soul, she just passed away in December," Wilson said. "She was a seamstress. She passed it along to me. She gave me my first sewing machine."

Beyond instructions from her grandmother, Wilson is self-taught. But she has found kindred spirits in two other local designers, who she refers to as her "sew sisters."


Wilson often collaborates with Satin Monroe and Jaylene Crawley, with the three women working together to produce flyers for prospective clients during prom season.

"They help me with everything if I get stuck!" Wilson said. "We stress and we cry and we argue about the girls the whole season. They have a huge number of clients as well this year. I know Jaylene did nine, Satin did about five. So we were very busy."

Between flyers and word of mouth, all three designers had more than enough work to go around. And while the process is often stressful, the women are invested in each other's success.

"For one of my clients, Jaylene even helped me put the zipper in the dress." Wilson said. "At the end of the day, nothing is a competition. We're all here to make sure everybody is happy and that's our main goal."

And when she says "everybody," she means it.

"You're dealing with not just the client, but the client's parents," Wilson said. "Sometimes the client's grandmothers. And the schools, to make sure they are okay to wear. They have a policy where they want to make sure the prom dresses are approved with them. Not too revealing, appropriate for the prom. I do every school."

Like any custom-made dress, the prices involved are generally in the hundreds of dollars. But their customers aren't just paying for a designer label. The clients send in colors and inspirations for what they have in mind, and meet with the designer for a consultation and a fitting - the first of three, to ensure that the dress has a perfect fit when prom arrives.

"What you're getting is not just a basic gown," Wilson said. "We travel to New York once a month, just to make sure the girls have exclusive fabrics. No one else will have the fabric they have. But that means tolls, that means gas, that means parking. A full day of searching stores. We have to buy your thread, needles. It really does add up. A lot of people say that's too much! But when it comes down to a custom gown, it can range $600 plus. And that's very cheap for what a lot of the girls can get."

Gowns designed have ranged "from size 0 up through 16-18 plus sizes," according to Wilson, and the "sew sisters" have also put together a pop-up show to supply last-minute clients using the remains of their materials.

The three women will frequently refer clients to one another when they have reached their capacity. But even then, coming to the end of the prom season can be quite a marathon.

"We don't get a lot of sleep," Wilson added. "This year I had a total of 17 gowns, and I went over my max. So with that, I was like, 'okay, I have to stop.' It's a little overwhelming when you want to make sure everyone's gown is correct."

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