Fashion Design by Mi Ae Lipe
Ever since I was a young child, I have been fascinated and inspired by the works of Erté, Tiffany, Lalique, and the great twentieth-century French and Italian couturiers. This led me to draw hundreds of dresses in my sketchbooks, all of them high-end evening and bridal wear. However, not having the slightest desire to learn to sew so much as a buttonhole, I decided to see if one of these glamorous sketches could actually be made. After many years of searching (and failing) to find a suitable dressmaker, I met Luly Yang, a Seattle couturier whose organic, elegant styles are her signature.
We worked together for nearly a year to create the first dress, an aubergine-colored sheath with red accents, done in silk charmeuse. I love integrating jewelry directly into dress design, and I found an antique necklace that became a broochlike bodice decoration; the chains of a second necklace were transformed into the shoulder straps. The pièce de résistance are the breathtaking, hand-embroidered appliqués that form the flowers and glittering accents on the dress’s expansive train.
Every year Luly Yang has a fashion show in which she debuts her couture designs for that season. Prior to the main show, she invites her previous year’s clients to walk the runway in their commissioned outfits. During the show, my boyfriend at the time accompanied me in a Luly-designed tuxedo, and on the runway, he proposed to me in front of some 400 guests.
Needless to say, this led to a fabulous opportunity to design my own wedding gown, which we also did in silk charmeuse. The one-shouldered bodice was ruched, pleated chiffon that was hand-painted with lavender and green accents at the shoulder and beltline, both front and back. The train was a single piece of charmeuse that was beautifully ombre-dyed a brilliant lilac on one end and gradually faded upward into the dress’s soft ivory color. Fabric gingko leaves were created, each one hand-painted, and wrapped in green silk cord so they cascaded down the back of the train and could flutter freely in the breeze.
To accent the dress, we recycled one of my older necklaces as the shoulder strap, and by happy accident, I found an Art Nouveau-style gold brooch in an antique store that became the center decoration. A subtle sprinkling of Swarovski crystals and amethyst and citrine beads in strategic points added the finishing touches to truly a dress of my dreams.