Dressed to the Nines by The Dress Designer

Samantha Wood, the Dress Maker
Photo credit Jamey Price

Samantha Wood brings to her clients the chance to create their dream dress. With plenty of creative inspiration from her family growing up, Sam started with creating her own prom dress and knew she had found her calling. Now she is the founder and CEO of The Dress Designer.

We got to know Sam and The Dress Designer a little better by asking her a few questions on her passion for dressmaking, and the hard work that goes into custom designs and alterations.

Having grown up with your mom as a hobbyist sewer and your godmother a seamstress, what drew you to their work and inspired you to pursue fashion?

I was surrounded by creativity growing up. Whether my mom was sewing dresses or my dad was renovating our house, I picked up the ability to create anything I wanted. My godmother showed me style. She lived in a beautifully-decorated historic home that looked like a Southern Living magazine spread. She would let me tag along to her Neiman Marcus shopping adventures and treat me to special outings in D.C. that I would love to get dressed up for. I developed an appreciation for art, an eye for design, and a passion for fashion.

What drew you to Charlotte and starting The Dress Designer here?

I used to roll my eyes when people said, “wrong turns lead you to the right places,” until it happened to me. I never intended to live in North Carolina for long, but here we are seven years later. The creativity in Charlotte inspires me and I love the versatility of this state. What triggered me to start my business here was seeing the success of fashion designers outside of NYC and LA. I was also a creative ticking bomb after suppressing my passion to design dresses for years. Life is too short to not do what makes you feel alive.

How would you describe your own style?

Eclectic, yet classic. My go-to look is distressed jeans and a bodysuit with a funky cut or an unexpected low back — then I’ll throw on a blazer for a more sophisticated look. I’ll also pair a basic dress with fun sneakers or a fun dress with basic sneakers. I’m all about style over fashion, so I try to stay away from trends and buy timeless pieces.

the dress designer

Who or what do you find inspires you to create the most?

I’m inspired by anything and everything, but most often by other dresses. Whether it’s noticing a woman’s dress in real life, scrolling through dresses on revolve.com, or seeing my favorite designers on Instagram, I often find myself subconsciously analyzing how I would design them differently.

What is your process for creating a dress?

I start by creating an inspiration board and sketching ideas. Once I solidify the concept, I draw final sketches, think through the construction, and source materials. I then create the dress with muslin, typically using the draping pattern design method. After I refine the fit of the mock-up dress, I make the real thing. If it’s not perfect at first, I adjust it until my client is smiling.

What custom dress design would you say has been your personal favorite to make?

I’ve made custom wedding dresses for friends, and there’s nothing quite like seeing someone you love walk down the aisle wearing something you put love into. I recently worked on a project with local stylist, Stacee Michelle. Often, clients want me to make their vision a reality, which takes the fun out of designing. Stacee gave me her inspiration and let me run with it.

What advice would you offer to those looking to start their own creative side hustle?

I’m still trying to figure out a balance and how to reach my own goals. I will say though — don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.


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