Meet Kelly Chaffin
March 26, 2009 in News
When you think about gowns and wedding dresses, some of the first words that come to mind are glamour, grace and maturity. Kelly Chaffin, 19, discovered the world of gowns at a young age and quickly wowed the sewing world with a level of talent that is as mature and glamorous as the dresses she creates.
Kelly‚Äôs mother taught her to sew as a child, and she began stretching her talents in annual 4H contests at age 9. Her first project, a blue vinyl duffel bag with matching short, won first prize in her category.
Kelly first discovered her love for gowns when she was a freshman in high school. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a category in 4H called ‚ÄòSewing for Others‚Äô. I jokingly suggested that I could make a prom dress for my brother‚Äôs date,‚Äù she says. ‚ÄúAnd she said yes.‚Äù
In addition to winning her 4H category, Kelly‚Äôs first dress won second place in the 2005 Simplicity Make Your Own Prom Gown contest and was eventually featured in Threads Magazine. But more importantly, that first gown helped Kelly find her true calling when it came to sewing. ‚ÄúI just fell in love with the materials and the silhouettes,‚Äù she says.
Kelly loved sewing the prom dress so much, in fact, that she made her own. Kelly created a bronze satin prom dress (complimented by a matching tux that she made for her date) embellished with detailed embroidery using over 10,000 yards of thread. Her dress eventually won the 2008 Sew Jo-Ann Prom Contest, beating over 800 other dresses.
Kelly‚Äôs prom dresses and other creations have caught the eye of noted sewers and publications. After impressing Martha Pullen of Sew Beautiful with her heirloom techniques (as well as being Martha‚Äôs youngest student in her class), Kelly was invited to teach sewing to young sewers at the Martha Pullen School of Fashion Arts in Huntsville, AL. ‚ÄúIt was so much fun and the kids were adorable,‚Äù says Kelly. ‚ÄúI hope they let me teach again.‚Äù
This past summer, just before she began her freshman year at Kent State University, Kelly was featured in three publications ‚Äì Threads Magazine, Brio and Beyond, and Sew Beautiful. All of her award-winning gowns were recently featured in Sew Beautiful magazine, as well as displayed at the 2007 American Sewing Expo.
Kelly also displayed her impressive, award-winning replica of Princess Diana‚Äôs wedding dress at the American Sewing Expo, created with 25 yards of fabric and antique and beaded lace. ‚ÄúThe women there all remembered that time and how that dress changed the fashion of that time period,‚Äù she says. ‚ÄúMy mom said she stayed up til 3 in the morning to see Princess Diana‚Äôs dress on TV.‚Äù
Kelly is studying fashion design at Kent State University and is looking forward to an internship in New York. ‚ÄúMy professors and the program are phenomenal. I love it,‚Äù she says. ‚ÄúA lot of my professors have worked in the industry and I love hearing about their experiences.‚Äù Kelly is heavily involved with fashion shows and exhibits planned by the Fashion Student Organization. ‚ÄúI love all of the opportunities.‚Äù
In the future, Kelly says her dream is to open her own store featuring customized wedding dresses. ‚ÄúI think if it‚Äôs your own wedding, you should be able to wear what you‚Äôve imagined. It‚Äôs your wedding. It should be perfect.‚Äù She has also considered creating her own patterns and submitting them to companies and publications ‚Äì an idea inspired by her love of Simplicity patterns.
No matter where Kelly‚Äôs creativity leads her, she‚Äôs sure to do it with grace, glamour and plenty of ambition. But right now she is having fun learning. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm excited to see where it all takes me.‚Äù
Totally Stitchin Advice:
‚ÄúPolyester pleated charmeuse is a great fabric for gowns that I take to shows. You don‚Äôt even have to iron them!‚Äù
‚ÄúPay attention to fit. A muslin copy is definitely important. Make sure to choose a pattern size that‚Äôs right for certain types of girls. Or just create a practice one ‚Äì practice is really important for clothing sewing.‚Äù
‚ÄúIsabel Toledo (designer of Michelle Obama‚Äôs Inauguration dress) was recently at our school. She told us, ‚ÄòDon‚Äôt loose the sense of originality that you have in sewing.‚Äô I think that‚Äôs really important, especially for designers. New designers think, ‚ÄòI‚Äôll just make what everyone else is wearing,‚Äô but no one will be wearing that in three years.‚Äù