LAST DAY in my 30 Days of Outfits Challenge

In About Me, DIY, My Clothing Designs, Outfits on December 2, 2010 by Naoko Takano

 Rhinestone Dangle Earrings: Forever 21.  Small Crystal Studs: handmade by me.  Dress with Cut-Out Back and Swarovski Crystal Detailing: handmade by me.  Magazine Clutch: DIY.  Pleated Satin Shoes: Charlotte Russe.

Day 30 in my 30 Days of Outfits Challenge: November 30.

Boy, these 30 days have flown by!

I felt it appropriate to end these 30 days in the Dress That Began It All, also known as the Bacardi Limon dress.

No, it didn’t mark the start of my DIY’ing!  (I’ve been making my own stuff since I was 9.)

This dress was officially the start of my Fashion Career.

Rewind to Winter of 2006…I was a stay-at-home mom to a baby just over a year old, and my days were filled from morning to night with bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningplayingwithbaby / bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningreadingtobaby / bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningmakingdinnerforeveryone / bottlesdiaperslaundrycleaningcomfortingbaby etc.  I did have a Mom’s Club meeting once a week, but otherwise that was my life.  It had been so long since I had done anything creative.  It was a very difficult time for me.

I began to have more stamina to stay awake after Lil Tot had gone down for the night, so I would try to catch up on email and surf the web a little.  One night I happened upon a posting about a design competition, sponsored by and The Daily – where entrants had to sketch a dress inspired by the flavor of Bacardi Limon.

Now, being a nondrinker, I had no idea what Bacardi Limon even was, but I read the press releases about the new flavor and over the course of 2 evenings or so I sketched 6 designs, inked and watercolored them, scanned them, and then sent them in to the contest.  It was right before Christmas and I had been staying up late trying to get all my Christmas cards written, and instead for two evenings I just immersed myself in what I loved: designing and drawing.

And then I completely forgot about them and the contest and everything.  I just figured I didn’t win.  Life went on, pretty much unchanged.

And then in February I heard the phone ring while I was lying down next to Lil Tot trying to lull him into taking his morning nap (which he refused to do unless I was lying down with him).  I couldn’t answer it and it went to the answering machine.  After Lil Tot finally fell asleep despite the interruption, I went to check on the message.

And was utterly stumped by its contents.  I had to play it a few times to understand it.  Someone who I didn’t know, from some number in a New York area code, calling from a something-Group, wanted me to call her immediately about some competition.  And then I realized what it was, called, and was told  

I was one of the 5 finalists they had picked from more than 300 entries around the United States in that Bacardi Limon design competition!

The dress design that was chosen as a finalist.

A whirlwind ensued.  It turned out that the PR group had picked the dress I had designed that had a cut-out in the back, like a lemon slice, as the finalist entry.  I had to make the dress I designed.  I was being flown to New York to compete in a live “Cut-and-Sew” competition “just like Project Runway” that would be televised and everything.  I made another dress in black to take with me to New York and wear while there.  I went in March 2007.  It was the first time I had been away from Lil Tot so long (I’d only been away from him at the most for 3 hours up until then, since he had born 15 months prior).  I met the other finalists in the competition, some who’ve remained my friends to this day.  I did the live Cut-and-Sew, where I made yet another version of the yellow dress. 

At the live cut-and-sew competition, where we had just about 7 hours to make our dresses again.
At the event after-party.  Photo by FashionWireImage’s Dmitris Kambouris.

I didn’t win, but I returned home determined to make my 15 minutes of fame into something worthwhile.  I parlayed that press coverage and local interest into a great story for me founding a misses’ line of clothing and jewelry.  I hired a party planner and PR whiz who helped me plan a launch party for the line, inviting the who’s who of the fashion elite and helping me with press releases, gift bags, branding, the works.  I hired a patternmaker to make and grade the patterns, a samplemaker to make the samples.  I bought fabric and had it shipped from LA to Hawaii, where I lived at the time.  I produced a line, had a runway show, trotted it to local boutiques trying to sell it.  A few pieces ended up in a few places. 

 The models from the launch party and runway show, myself, my patternmaker, and samplemaker.  Photo by Elliot Takane.

Hub believed in me and allowed me to use our savings for this venture.  I began to produce a Winter Collection and then began to run out of money.  The previous pieces weren’t selling well, there were fit and sewing issues.  Much of it was returned.  I couldn’t pay anyone else to help me and couldn’t do it all myself anymore.  We moved to Oregon in late Fall and I officially closed the line down.  And I also reached out to to see if they wanted someone to write content for them, so I could at least stay connected to the world of fashion even if I couldn’t design.

So I wrote for them.  And wrote for them.  And started my own blog.  And wrote for it.  And wrote and contributed to other blogs and websites.  And started to design things again, on a small scale, to sell in my Etsy shop.

And here I am today.

Now all that was a bit of a tangent.:-)  I guess the point of all this is that sometimes the path from A to B is not in a straight line, and what seems tangential is actually useful experience that sets us up for something better.

I still want to design; I love designing but I HATE the manufacturing of clothing, and being financially responsible for all of it.  It’s very scary for a small, struggling family to take on ourselves.  Not a very good idea.  And it’s too much work for a single person to run an entire line by themselves, even with a patternmaker helping out.  Plus I enjoy more working within parameters – maybe not pushing boundaries so much, but working within someone else’s aesthetic or color story or mood board or whatever.

I’m glad I found that out about myself!  Who knows if I ever will get the opportunity to design for someone else…but it’s been a great journey, and I’ve learned a ton along the way.

That’s why this dress is so special: it truly marks the beginning.  (The other yellow dresses I made for the competition were kept by the PR company as far as I know.)

The dress I designed was a boatneck 50’s style flared party dress that I drafted the pattern to.  (For the yellow, I turned the yellow satin inside-out since I liked the matte side better:-)  I added a double-layer of iridescent chiffon to the hem.  The back was a complicated citrus-shaped cut-out with floating bands attached to a central ring, and Swarovski crystal “seeds” suspended in the bands.

I am a much better sewer and patternmaker now than I was then – and the back of the dress was extremely complicated.  I knew exactly what I wanted for securing the Swarovski rhinestones into the cutout, but I couldn’t find elasticized crochet cord sold by the yard.  The back was very difficult to fit properly.

The clutch was made by gluing a magazine cover onto a small clutch from Target with E-5000 glue.  Any flexible glue would work here, though.

30 Days of Outfits – ALL DIY!  What fun it’s been!

Also, if you’re curious to see how others fared, please check out Katarina from She sells sea shells, who’s been doing this Challenge along with me – you can see her last couple outfits here, here, and here.


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15 Responses to “LAST DAY in my 30 Days of Outfits Challenge”

  1. That is so cool how you got your start!! In a weird way Im in the same position right now I just graduated and feel kinda lost. I just got a job to tide me over until I kinda figure out what I want to do. But Im working on it. Your story was truly INSPIRATIONAL It kinda shows that you have to work at it and you never know when you'll get that opportunity that will boost you.

    Your dress is awesome. I adore dresses that have a peekaboo factor on the back its almost like a secret surprise. Its even better that it has an awesome story behind it. I absolutely love that clutch. Would you possible consider doing a tutorial for it or even an extended explanation on how you made it.

    Im gonna miss the 30 days of outfits I was enjoying seeing what you were gonna put together and wear everyday. But as they say all good things come to an end.


  2. What a great story and what a great dress. I think the concept for the yellow dress was so clever though I like the black version better. The back looks so chic. It's sad that your line didn't work out, but the experience is priceless I guess.
    My friends ask me all the time when I wear something selfsewn and designed if I really chose the right profession and wouldn't like to become a designer, but now- three years after I had to make the choice what to study- I'm glad I also took economical factors into consideration. I'm not sure if it'd be as much fun if I had to be creative to make a living. I mean, I can't force myself to have great ideas, they come or they don't and somebody else might not consider them to be great at all. Also the competition is kind of overwelming. I always salute to people who take the plunge.

    That being said, I'm glad that you didn't get dispirited and still design and (best for us) share your ideas.

    And yes, the challenge has been fun and I didn't even made it through all my clothes but yeah, it's great to be able to dress without limits again.


  3. Carly you are just amazing! i love this dress and the story. Don't give up on designing, maybe theres some way to throw out the manufacturing part. Don't know but i know you are a great designer and DIYer.

    You've also insprired me to pitch to more websites for writing….i let a few “no”s stop me.

    my blog and boutique

  4. Wow, it's so cool to read about how you ended up where you are! And I *love love love* the design of that dress…although to be honest I prefer the yellow (or would prefer any brighter color) to the black 😉

  5. What a wonderful story, and journey. Thank you for sharing it!

  6. Well…actually…i'm really sad that it's the last day of outfits Challenge.

    I just loved the idea and i got used to enter every day to see what you wearing. Sometimes i got inspired from your outfits, and try some ideas of yours.
    Maibe in spring i will try a challenge like this…

    About the story of begining. it's e beautiful story. I learned sewing at nine too 😀 but at first i dressed Barbies.

    All good wishes,
    A reader from Romania.

  7. The dress is amazing!

    I loved hearing the story behind it and your start into fashion.

  8. Great story. Great dress. And what a brilliant DIY magazine clutch.

  9. @SandyAww, Sandy! I'm a little sad too…but also a little relieved to start tackling other DIY projects I've had to put off since I was so busy taking photos of my outfits!;-)

    Please do try your own challenge, to see how you define your own style…

    As a kid I dressed Barbies too! (Except I sort of taped and stapled their clothing together…sewing seemed too complicated to make something that little..;-)

    Thanks for your comment!

  10. @~L~ of Avid AccentsThank you, L! I do hope that someday I can figure out the “making multiples” part in a way that's ethical and ecological and affordable…maybe a bunch of like-minded friends who don't mind being slave-laborers??;-) hehe:-)

    But don't ever give up trying to do what you want to! Keep trying and improving, and don't let no stop you:-)

  11. @KatarinaThanks Katarina! Yeah, the people from the company seemed to really like the yellow dress since it was a clever gimmick with the citrus cut-out back, I guess. Something that looked nice on paper but was really hard to execute well.
    I understand what you mean about being creative on your own terms…sometimes it feels so much better not to have any else claim ownership over your own ideas…

    I'm glad that you are happy with your choices and where you are!

    Thanks for your comment!

  12. @Tara of CT Yankees in SC and Traveler's TalesOh, thanks Tara! I had a bit of difficulty with that dress since my forte isn't really eveningwear design…as I found out as I was manipulating that bright yellow satin!! Interesting that you like the yellow…most people say they like the black!
    Thanks for your comment!

  13. @ChristinaAwww, thank you Tina! Your comment brought tears to my eyes in the many kind things you wrote. It's true that you never really know what path you will take and you have to work each and every opportunity as hard as you can – capitalize on it, if you will – because no one else is going to do it for you. You will find your direction, even if you take a meandering path to do it. Honest!

    I'll do more of an explanation on the clutch a little later this month.

    Thanks for your sweet words, they meant so much!

  14. @MenopauseprincessThank you!
    (and your username made me crack up LOL!!)

  15. Actually I am a great fan of animation. I sometimes draw in Corel Draw some animation characters…i really like it….but i'm left handed when it comes to draw by hand. Vectors help me a lot! I tryed once to make an animation short movie for a contest…actually, i made it….but i got 13'th place from 26.

    I like to make/diy clothes too.

    I'm actually a radio journalist at the begining of the career(i do the morning show for kids radio) and a graphic designer for a vacation magazine(at begining too).

    Oh! I am so excited you answered me. I really admire you. I'm sorry if I made english mistakes. I'm not really good at grammar.



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