Designing Diva

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One day Ashley Gee wants to have a clothing line named Gee! sold in stores nationwide.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: Belen High School senior Ashley Gee cuts strips of fabric, which will be used for straps for a shirt. Gee is applying to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, where she plans to study fashion design.

Gee, who calls her sewing machine her best friend, said she loves clothes.

“I love to (sew). It helps me relax and keeps my attention, because if I don’t want to do anything else, I’ll make a dress or an outfit,” Gee said.

The Belen High School senior is applying to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, where she plans to study fashion design.

“I like making people happy, and I feel that clothing makes people happy,” she said.

Baby Steps

Gee picked up sewing from her grandmother, Verena Smith. In Smith’s sewing room, Gee would rummage through leftover quilt material in a large scraps bag.

“I would sit on the floor and put them on the dolls and that’s how I got started,” she said.

Gee’s maternal grandmother added onto this knowledge by teaching Gee to hand sew.

At first, she created outfits, including dresses, shirts and pants for her Barbies and baby dolls.

“Anything I could get my hands on I would use – T-shirts, extra material my grandma had from quilts laying around – I would take that and pin it, put it on the doll and sew it up,” she said.

When her grandmother or parents wouldn’t let her use the sewing needles, since she was too young, she would tie the fabrics together with a knot.

From there she expanded to designing her own clothing. In eighth grade, Gee made her first skirt with the help of her grandmother and said she loved it.

Her first designs were hand stitched, but Gee’s designs took off once Smith bought her a small, purple children’s sewing machine.

Unfortunately, that machine broke shortly after due to Gee’s high usage.

“I was sewing a lot and the little one was just for occasional sewing,” she said.

After it broke, Smith bought Gee a white and blue Singer sewing machine.

From skirt to prom dress

In pushing her sewing abilities, Gee decided to make a dress out of gold colored silk material.

With the material in hand, she started cutting the material into a dress without a pattern.

“I just kept cutting it and fitting it to myself and then sewed it up,” she said.

She added black lace onto the thin gold straps of the dress and seams. As a final touch, she added a zipper down the back of the dress, which was “the hardest part,” since she hadn’t worked with zippers before, she said.

This dress acted as a spring board in generating more pieces, including Gee’s junior prom dress.

“I wanted to do something big and really cool,” she said. “That way everybody can see that this is really what I want to do.”

She thought if she designed her own dress it would guarantee no other student would have the same dress at prom.

She chose a dark purple silk fabric, which she placed under a see-through light purple fabric with glitter swirls.

With the help of a Bernie’s Fabric, Notions, Etc.’s employee, she finished the dress at the fabric shop in one month ― just in time for prom.

And this year is no different. The dress Gee plans on creating for her senior year prom will resemble a detailed princess ball gown made out of a bright color “no one else is going to be daring enough to wear,” she said.

“When everybody looks at it, I want them to be in shock and awe compared to the ones you see in the stores,” she said.

Color, color, color

Gee, whose taken a year-long clothing and crafts course at Belen High School and a sewing class at Bernie’s, can be sitting in class or getting ready for bed when a design idea pops into her head.

“Something pops up and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, my goodness. This color has to be on there,’ and I’ll get up and write it down,” she said.

If she can’t quite translate her idea onto paper, she’ll cut the fabric she’s working with until the idea comes to life in her hands.

Although Gee uses patterns from time to time, she mostly makes up her own patterns as she goes along.

With Gee’s clothing, she aims to fit the clothing to the individual person, not the other way around. Her clothing fuses together different colors or adds bright pops of color to darker hues.

Gee believes that a clothing’s design and color can change an individual’s appearance and attitude.

“If you’re wearing a big, bulky outfit and it’s heavy and you’re like, ‘Ugh. Why am I wearing this?’ You feel down and depressed, but if you wear this really nice, light, fluffy one and it’s really pretty, it makes you feel frilly and girlie,” she said, adding colors bring life to an outfit.

On weekends, Gee can finish sewing a dress in a few hours, but more complicated designs can take up to two days to complete. On those days, Gee sews from morning until night, with her projects spread throughout her home from the living room to the kitchen and back to her room.

“I’ll sit on the floor and take up the whole living room and just cut everything out and start sewing,” she said.

 


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.