The Flights of Fancy collection made its debut at the Dominion Center as part of RVA Fashion Week, and I couldn’t be happier! Each look in the collection was inspired by something that flies.
The runway photos with no caption or watermark are courtesy of Jamil Matheny from Jamil Images, LLC. (check out his website and instagram account! He got some really great shots.)
The watermarked photos were taken by Michael Hostetler Photography. Other photographers are credited in the caption below their photos.
Two of the outfits were designed by my sister Nichole (the Dragonfly and the Peacock). The others were my creations, though I did have help and support from family members and friends who gave me materials or some kind of assistance.
Some of the items were made entirely from scratch, and some of them were upcycled creations (for example, the Peacock dress started out as just a solid green dress, and we added fringe, organza, and feathers to it.)
The first look out on the runway was the Dragonfly, which was one of the two outfits that my sister Nichole designed. It was a fanciful steampunk creation, modeled by @its_a.n.g.i.e_ in her no-nonsense boots.
The materials for the Dragonfly were pretty much all upcycled. I’m sure you can recognize some of the parts and pieces that went into the backpack!
The Dragonfly is an explorer; a daring, adventurous character who improvises with what she has. She doesn’t just make do, she makes it fabulous!
Next up we had a Dragon, modeled by @kairiemma who actually bought shoes to go with the dress! Check out how well her shoes match the dragon scales at the hem of the dress and on the arm cuff.
And if you want to make a fierce accessory of your own, check out my dragon scale arm cuff tutorial and FREE printable PDF sewing pattern! It makes a great accent for cosplay, Halloween costumes, kids’ dress-up, etc. And the material it’s made from is surprisingly inexpensive and easy to work with.
The asymmetrical scales at the bottom of the dress were placed to look like she’s morphing into a dragon, and the lock and key around her neck symbolizes that she’s unchained, and looking for a new adventure. Look out, here she comes!
Then we had a Flamingo, modeled by @gracemmac
The dress and leggings were my design, and my sister Nichole made the headpiece. The unusual shape of the straps was designed to look like two flamingo necks. The over-the-top poofy dress is covered with layer after layer of organza “feathers”, and is very attention-grabbing.
The Flamingo is fun, bright, and frilly. It celebrates the lighter side of things, and the more “colorful” people in our lives. (We all know a few!)
Then there was a Griffin, a mythical beast that’s part eagle and part lion. I painted feathers to make a collar that was designed to resemble a lion’s mane, and the dress is covered in layers of thin, floaty silk fabric with metallic accents. The edges of the silk fabric layers are intentionally harsh and angular, contrasting with the curves of the metal and feather collar.
The model @nalani.z.p had the perfect hair for this look! She didn’t have any matching shoes, however, so Nichole suggested that I make ankle bracelets out of gold fringe and let the model walk barefoot. I think it worked very well, and the fringe swayed and moved as she walked.
The Griffin is a keen, dangerous creature: observant, bold, and brave.
The Forest Fairy
Next up was a Forest Fairy that was modeled by @catherineelioh
The leaf-shaped wings are covered in real leaves that I layered to look like feathers. I made the shoulder harness, belt, tiara, and arm cuff out of real vines, and I created a DIY forest fairy costume tutorial that details the steps I took to put it all together. The post also includes lots of tips for working with natural materials in your art.
It’s a lot of fun to work with natural materials, even though there are so many different steps required with a piece like this. In between picking the leaves, preserving them, weaving the vines and letting them dry, I probably worked on it (off and on) for a full month.
The Forest Fairy is a very whimsical design, and it touches on a desire to escape every now and then. The escape can be something simple, like taking a walk through the woods, or daydreaming of a fantasy world where we can sprout wings and turn people into frogs with our magic wands.
Next there was a Sparrow, modeled by @rachelmwilkerson
Are you ready for a pun? The colorful star weaving on the fascinator is a traditional Mexican craft called an Ojo de Dios (God’s Eye) that symbolizes and reminds us that God is watching over us. I wanted to put one on the Sparrow because it’s a reference to these verses from the Bible (in Matthew chapter 10):
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.Matthew 10:29-31, NKJV
His eye is on the sparrow! I think it’s a lovely reminder of how much Jesus values us and cares about our well-being… so much that He would die for us!
I asked my other sister, Tika, to make the God’s Eye because she’s really good at yarn crafts and mixing bright colors, and yarn stresses me out. I knew she’d do a great job, and it looks perfect! Just what I had envisioned.
I asked the model to do a quick turn at the corner of the runway to make the twisted fringe fly out, and she nailed it! She was so perfect for this look.
Here’s the Peacock, modeled by @mjkozar in some of the most perfect shoes imaginable!
You might have seen the Peacock already (I posted pictures of it when I announced that Nichole and I would have our designs in the show), but seeing it on the runway was spectacular!
The Peacock dress personifies earthy natural elegance, and we could not have asked for a better model to give life to this design.
The Steampunk Butterfly
Next to walk was the Steampunk Butterfly, modeled by @jasmine_models247
The frame of the butterfly wings was welded (a big thank you to my younger brother Cory for helping me out with the welding!) and then I added filigree wirework, beads, handmade gears, and shoulder brackets that helped hold the whole thing up. The model had to spend about 40 minutes going through doors sideways as she went to get makeup touchups and make her way to the runway. She was such a perfect butterfly! I’m so glad I got the chance to work with her.
The Steampunk Butterfly design is all about metamorphosis and new beginnings. The tough yet elegant metal in the butterfly wings symbolizes grit and determination, a boldly beautiful but firm and unyielding look.
Butterflies might seem like fragile creatures, but watch out! This one will kick your butt if she needs to.
The Swan Queen
The Swan Queen walked next, modeled by @thatsbrickell
The Swan Queen had feathers down the front of the dress that formed a swooping wing shape, extending off the side of the waist. There were fabric “wings” attached to the model’s hands with lacy cuffs and gold chains, which fluttered and flowed when she moved her arms.
There was also a light, airy fascinator made from feathers that I curled. The feathers were arranged in a curve to suggest movement, and to play off of the swoop of feathers on the bodice. I covered the whole strap of the one-shoulder dress in shorter feathers (the shorter feathers followed the curve of her shoulder better than longer ones would).
The Swan Queen is elegant and authoritative. She was based loosely on Odette from Swan Lake, but it’s Odette the way I wish she was: more powerful and resourceful.
The Phoenix was the next one down the runway, modeled by @_tirtha
I’ve put the concept sketches of this dress in my newsletter before, and it’s much more impressive in person than it was in my sketches! I tattered and burned the gray fabric at the bottom to resemble ashes, and put LED lights in the fascinator to make it glow and look like it was on fire.
There were red feathers attached to the top of the dress, arranged to look like leaping flames. It was a little bit of a trick to cover the zipper with feathers so that the zipper wouldn’t interrupt the flow of the design, but also make sure the zipper was still functional so that the model could put the dress on. The center feathers on her back are actually attached to a separate removable piece in order to accomplish this.
The Phoenix isn’t just a red dress with feathers, it’s about rebirth: rising out of ashes and despair to become something beautiful and new.
I had removed the Raven dress from the lineup for the show, but it ended up making an appearance on the runway anyway because it was worn by my sister Nichole that night. Here we are walking in the final flood behind our models:
I designed the Raven as almost a counterpoint to the Flamingo: the Raven is dark, mysterious, and a little bit foreboding. The fluttering fabric strips that form the wings are carefully balanced along the extra-long sleeves, to keep the sleeves from twisting as the dress is worn. I think Nichole wears it very well!
And guys, this is really sad, but I ran out of time to make my own dress. I had planned to be a Goldfinch, but in the end I wore a little black ready-to-wear dress that I didn’t even alter. Eeeep!
Here’s a video of the final flood, so you can see all of the dresses in motion. The flood is when everybody came back out on the runway to make one last walk (except the fabulous Swan Queen, who had to change quickly so she could walk for the next designer). The video was shot by stylist @oneikascloset (check out her instagram or blog!)
I’d like to thank my friends for being so supportive, and a huge thank you to @CharissaGoerge from toFREEyourSTYLE for all of her advice and encouragement! Charissa, thank you for believing in me!
Thank you to my parents for finding odd materials for me. (Hey dad, got any more used electrical wire?)
And thank you to my sister Tika for making the God’s Eye on the Sparrow’s fascinator. It looked amazing!
I’d like to especially thank my younger brother Cory for helping me weld the frame for the steampunk butterfly wings, and for letting me ruin one of his soldering irons by using it to cut foam.
I’d also like to thank my older brother John for standing in the press box taking photos, even though I’m sure he would much rather have been out in the woods than at a fashion show.
I had such a great time! Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be back next spring.