Junior Clare Lippincott creates original prom dresses
October 21, 2015
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Many people are afraid of needles, but for junior Clare Lippincott, they are her favorite to play and create with.
“When I was young, I remember having a basket of little needles and old thread from my great-aunt and a bunch of upholstery clippings,” Lippincott said. “I would sew things together and say ‘Look what I made!’ and my babysitter would say, ‘This is incredible!’”
This year, Lippincott’s hobby is turning into a small business. She is designing and making six prom dresses, five to sell and one to keep for herself.
At the beginning of the process, Lippincott takes her clients fabric shopping at Fabric Place Basement. She uses a variety of materials, including polyester and rayon.
“I love rayon,” she said. “You can’t see through it, which is great because a lot of fabrics that flow nicely are really sheer. It’s nice for linings because I can put something with a little more shine over it.”
After Lippincott purchases the fabric, she takes measurements. She measures at the bust, waist, hips and bottom length of the skirt, which requires two measurements for a high-low skirt. Then she adjusts her mannequin.
“I always start with the bodice, then attach the skirt and then do detailing. I have a really basic five-piece pattern for a bodice,” Lippincott said. “After I take measurements, I use that pattern and cut the fabric around it either bigger or smaller, so it works with every bodice I make. I sew that together and attach the skirt under and over at the same time, so they’re both connected. Then I do the edging, any sleeves and a zipper. It’s a lot of fun.”
To keep customers involved, Lippincott shows them pictures of the dress every step of the way. She invites them to her home for a fitting before she adds the zipper.
“Sometimes, especially with a side zipper, it takes a really long time to get it right, and I’ll have to redo it four times,” Lippincott said. “The dress is never done at that point, but then it starts to look like a real dress that someone can try on, and that’s a really exciting moment.”
Lippincott knows her clients are expecting only the highest quality for their money.
Her customers pay 50 to 60 dollars for fabric. Then, they pay Lippincott 10 dollars an hour for designing and sewing. For prom dresses, she’ll be at work for 10 or more hours over the course of a few days. In total, this adds up to $150 per dress. These are Lippincott’s biggest sales so far.
“It’s never been something of this magnitude,” Lippincott said. “A prom dress is very important to a lot of people. That’s why I’m starting early of course. This year it’s really ramping up.”
In addition to her high hopes for others’ dresses, Lippincott has big expectations for her own dress.
“I bought pastel green fabric, which is not the color I would have expected myself to get,” Lippincott said. “It’s sort of like a fit and flare. It goes into a high low skirt with off the shoulder straps on top with a big band.”
Lippincott describes her fashion sense as comfortable and colorful. For her, making her own dress is a completely different process from making dresses to sell.
“For me, I’ll take the fabric and cut it up and just dive right in because I know with myself, even if it doesn’t fit perfectly, I can keep adjusting and adjusting because I’m right here,” Lippincott said. “Whereas if I’m making it for someone, I only want to have to adjust it once or twice, especially if they’re buying it from me, because I want to give them something that fits them well.”
Lippincott knows that mistakes can happen in the most simple or the most elaborate projects. She is prepared to correct her mistakes until the finished product is perfect.
“Luckily, so far, there’s never been anything unfixable,” Lippincott said. “Sometimes I’ll sew one of the seams backwards, so instead of the seam on the outside, it’s a raw edge. I’ll have to seam rip that whole side to redo it the other way around, which takes a long time to fix. Other than that, luckily nothing’s ever ripped that I’ve made for other people, so I hope that doesn’t happen.”
In order to prevent accidents, Lippincott instructs her clients to be careful not to step on their gown. Each dress has been sewed with the utmost of care, so they are truly one of a kind.
Although Lippincott’s style is original, she also takes inspiration from designer Edith Head.
“She’s who that woman from “The Incredibles” is based off of. She designed a lot of costumes for film. She designed for “Sabrina” and “Roman Holiday,” which are Audrey Hepburn movies,” Lippincott said. “I definitely love her style she gave to people. It’s a very retro, classic style.”
Lippincott thinks that more people would like sewing and fashion design if they gave it a chance.
“It’s not as difficult as everyone assumes.” Lippincott said. “It’s something I taught myself at 12 and I’ve been mastering. People are always sort of blown away by that, and I like it. Thank you to everyone who’s ever been blown away by me. It’s not as mystical as people assume; it’s about spacial awareness. It’s not hard to get into, and it’s really fun.”
In the future, Lippincott could see herself turning her passion for fashion design into a career.
She is currently looking at art schools, but for now, she’ll keep making dresses and doing what she loves.
“I really like making prom dresses,” Lippincott said. “These are gowns. They’re beautiful, and I really love doing it.”