We rarely choose our fates. More often, our fates choose us. Entrepreneur and fashion designer Maria Stevenson discussed this fact over coffee recently. "Everything worth having comes from trials worth withstanding," Stevenson said wistfully. "Everything worth having is a life fully lived. You can't live a full life without setbacks, failures, and destruction because that's when you discover who you truly are and what you truly want in life."
It is for this reason that Stevenson is going for it.
Northwest regional manager for the State Chamber by day and creative force and co-owner of the burgeoning custom clothing company Vestida by night, Stevenson is a young woman who wears many hats. And she likes it that way. Her go-get-'em work ethic was instilled in Stevenson by her mother and business partner, Betty Stevenson.
Betty first learned to sew out of necessity when, at the age of eight, she and her seven siblings suddenly found themselves orphaned. The entire brood came under the guardianship of the oldest sibling, just a young newlywed in her early twenties. With many new mouths to feed and clothe, Betty learned how to sew. She began designing and constructing ensembles for her Barbie dolls. And so a fire was lit.
When Betty had a daughter of her own, Stevenson, she relished the opportunity make her costumes and custom clothing. "My most favorite memory of sewing is making Halloween costumes for Maria. California raisin, Raggedy Ann, harlequin clown ... I loved how happy they made her," Betty said.
"My Mom has always loved making me clothes. She hates to iron so when I was growing up, she'd just make me a new outfit instead of ironing an older one," Stevenson said. "She gets no greater joy than to make something for someone. I love the designing aspect. I love to create something from nothing. You conceive it and then when it is created, that idea comes to life. When the clothing makes someone who wears it feel beautiful, it makes you feel so good."
To maximize the number of garments Stevenson can design and Betty, a former math major, can construct, the duo have come up with a business model that is based on a custom-fit clothing concept adapted to a highly efficient and duplicable process. Each season, a customer can attend trunk shows or shop online and select from a number of styles in the Vestida "Look Book."
Once the items are selected, Betty takes the customer's measurements, a 3D rendering is created in AutoCad (the same software that architects, engineers, and designers use for creating structures and designing products) and a custom pattern is made based on the measurements. The garments of choice are then sewn based on the pattern. Because the pattern creation process can be automated and there isn't a great deal of inventory or overhead, the price point for the clothing is comparable to what you'd pay in a boutique or department store. The entire process from measurement to completion takes around 2-3 weeks.
For the fashionistas who need something, like, right now, an off-the-rack line, "Alecia," will soon be available in locally owned boutiques in Tulsa, Nashville, Tenn., Charleston, S.C., Kansas City, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.
If custom clothing isn't in your wardrobe budget this season, you can certainly maximize the potential of what is currently in your closet by strategically selecting items that highlight your best assets. Stevenson offered some tips on how to work with what you've got.
"I have come to realization that not all clothes that magazines recommend for my body type are what looks the best," Stevenson said. "What looks best on me is what I feel confident in and the magazine doesn't know what parts of my body I don't like. The hardest part for me is realizing everything I love on the rack does not love me."
"Take pictures of yourself in outfits when trying on clothes," she added. "This is your best gauge of what will give you that extra pep in your strut down the everyday runway of your life. I hate seeing pictures of me on Facebook where I thought I loved the outfit and then bam it doesn't flatter me or accentuates what I hate about my figure. So if you like something, take a picture so you never have to say ... I will never wear that again!"
Plus, who doesn't need more fodder for Pinterest and Instagram? This practice serves double duty.
Here are few of Stevenson's recommendations that really make their body type look rocking.
If you are hourglass (bust and hips the same size with a smaller waist), you'll want to wear tapered clothing, accentuated waist dresses, sheath dresses, tapered pants, pencil skirts, and more form fitted clothes.
If you are pear shaped (smaller on top than you are through your hips), you'll want to wear darker colors on bottom, A-line dresses, black leggings, knee high boots with long, flowy tops and fitted jackets, and strapless or halter top dresses with a mermaid cut.
If you are athletic (weight evenly distributed with muscle), then put on open necklines (like halter tops and big collars with dropped necklines), feminine laces, soft colors, flowy silky fabrics, sweetheart neckline dresses, A-line skirts, or fitted Trousers.
If you are waifish (thin and petite without a lot of curves), you'll want to wear fitted jackets, halter tops, tucked-in blouses, pencil skirts, mermaid dresses, and skinny jeans.
Although Betty learned to sew by making clothes for her Barbie dolls, women needn't actually be Barbie dolls to look great in Vestida designs. Vestida is a company started by two real women for the betterment of many real women. What started as humble beginnings is surely destined for great things. There are very few causes nobler than contributing to a woman feeling better about herself.
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