Meet Kelly Chaffin

March 26, 2009 in News

kellychaffin063-s 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’s 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. “There’s a category in 4H called ‘Sewing for Others’. I jokingly suggested that I could make a prom dress for my brother’s date,” she says. “And she said yes.”


In addition to winning her 4H category, Kelly’s 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. “I just fell in love with the materials and the silhouettes,” 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’s 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’s 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. “It was so much fun and the kids were adorable,” says Kelly. “I hope they let me teach again.”

This past summer, just before she began her freshman year at Kent State University, Kelly was featured in three publications – 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’s wedding dress at the American Sewing Expo, created with 25 yards of fabric and antique and beaded lace. “The women there all remembered that time and how that dress changed the fashion of that time period,” she says. “My mom said she stayed up til 3 in the morning to see Princess Diana’s dress on TV.”

Kelly is studying fashion design at Kent State University and is looking forward to an internship in New York. “My professors and the program are phenomenal. I love it,” she says. “A lot of my professors have worked in the industry and I love hearing about their experiences.” Kelly is heavily involved with fashion shows and exhibits planned by the Fashion Student Organization. “I love all of the opportunities.”princess-diana-replica

In the future, Kelly says her dream is to open her own store featuring customized wedding dresses. “I think if it’s your own wedding, you should be able to wear what you’ve imagined. It’s your wedding. It should be perfect.” She has also considered creating her own patterns and submitting them to companies and publications – an idea inspired by her love of Simplicity patterns.

No matter where Kelly’s creativity leads her, she’s sure to do it with grace, glamour and plenty of ambition. But right now she is having fun learning. “I’m excited to see where it all takes me.”

Totally Stitchin Advice:

“Polyester pleated charmeuse is a great fabric for gowns that I take to shows. You don’t even have to iron them!”

“Pay attention to fit. A muslin copy is definitely important. Make sure to choose a pattern size that’s right for certain types of girls. Or just create a practice one – practice is really important for clothing sewing.”

“Isabel Toledo (designer of Michelle Obama’s Inauguration dress) was recently at our school. She told us, ‘Don’t loose the sense of originality that you have in sewing.’ I think that’s really important, especially for designers. New designers think, ‘I’ll just make what everyone else is wearing,’ but no one will be wearing that in three years.”

10 responses to Meet Kelly Chaffin

  1. What a great article…to see such great talent at such a young age is incredible. I know she will go far in her career and hopefully she will be dressing a generation of young women behind her. Shirlee

  2. How do i get a hold of kelly? email?

  3. Dear Kelly; Youare an inspiration to young peole. I too admire Martha Pullen designs and concepts. Please continue with your goals we may see you Project Runway. As a young person I also had those goals however I made the wrong choices, I still sew and admire those who can achieve wonderful things. Conitue your dreams.

  4. I am not sure what you want me to say, except that Kelly will make a name for herself in the fashion world. I believe fashion is only a repeat of previous styles and fashions of modern times, however what changes things is the availablity of fabulous fabrics,such as the purple gown pictured. When I was a young girl in the forties very little was avaiable. Thank you.

  5. Good luck to Kelly. It is wonderful to see someone so young taking such a huge interest in sewing. I will watch for her patterns and creations.

  6. Hi I sumbled upon your webpage by chance, I was flipping through Google for new designer fashion when I came upon your site, I must say your blog is very great I just love the theme, its amazing!. I’m in a bit of a rush right now to completely read your blog but I have bookmarked it and also signed up for your RSS feeds. I will be back when I free up some time. Thank you for a fantastic website.

  7. My wife has three old sewing machines that just never worked. We had them in the shop all the time. After taking an ecourse, I had all three running great. This was an online course and I must say that it is the real deal.

  8. This post is actually the best on this valuable topic. I concur with your points of view and will eagerly look forward to your forthcoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the phenomenal lucidity in your writing. I will directly grab your rss feed to stay in the loop of any updates. Impressive work and good luck in your writing!

  9. Where did she get her pattern for the purple dress?
    I can’t find anything close to that and i have been looking forever!!! Prom is coming up soon! Thanks for any help! 🙂

  10. Hi kelly wonderful job, where would i find a pattern from for this dress as i am getting married and woulf love for my bridesmaids to wear this dress

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