The Academy Awards: Dress Me!

When my friend M called me a few months ago and asked me to be her date to the 83rd Academy Awards, I quickly accepted without a moment's thought. Who wouldn't say yes to the Oscars? I have been an Oscars devotee for years and not once had ever thought I would one day have the oppurtunity to walk down the red carpet.

After my initial excitement simmered, my mind skipped ahead to fear. How in the hell was I going to pull of an Oscar calibur dress?

My search for a dress began that day. I perused online flash sales in between packing lunches and cooking dinner. I downloaded every shopping iphone app possible and relentlessly searched for a dress while running on the elliptical. I tweeted while at Nordstroms and I shoved pictures of myself in countless department store dresses to all 852 of my Facebook friends.

Don't I look happy?

Nothing worked. Nothing was Oscar worthy. Even the dresses I liked would pale in comparison to what all the famous people would be rocking. I decided going to the Oscars was not in my future.

And then...

a facebook friend named Jessica wrote me a note.

A friend of hers was a clothing designer and she wanted to make me a dress. She lived in Cleveland and her name was Valerie.

I called her immediately.


Turned out that Jessica's friend Valerie, is THE Valerie Mayen of Project Runway fame. She also is the head of her own label, Yellowcake Shop, and creator of sewing co-op, Buzz and Growl. She is lover of all things CLEVELAND and she is freakin' AWESOME.

We met, we talked dresses, and we came up with a plan. I would find a vintage dress I liked and she was put her funk on it. She would modernize it and put her Yellowcake spin on it, all the while designing it with my body in mind. I left her loft happy and ready to go to LA.

The next day I hit the mean streets and threw myself into vintage dress shopping. Store after store I walked out empty handed. I posted on FB my lack of a dress and my dear friend Paulius quickly messaged me. "Check out Deering Vintage, Amelia, my girlfriend Cindy runs the place."

The next day, the Chef and I headed to Tremont. Within 10 minutes, I found the dress. A teal vintage gown with intricate beading caught my eye and soon it was leaving Deering and on it's way to the Yellowcake Shop in care of Miss Valerie Mayen.

For weeks Valerie went to town on this delicate dress. She drew and cut, searched for fabric, sewed, and designed. She put her all into figuring out a way to take this super 70's gown and make it rockstar.

However hard she tried, this dress just wasn't meant to be. The delicate material and beating just couldn't make it through an overhaul. Devastated, my Oscar dreams were squashed. The show was only three weeks away and I had what I thought were no options. I was bumming.

My sadness was short lived because as soon as Val told me the vintage dress was a no go, she also told me she had a plan. She would make me a dress, that wasn't really a dress. She would make me a 2 piece dress, consisting of bodysuit and skirt, and would take half the time to build that a dress would. We would find some fabric we both liked and she would begin immediately.

During this time, Val and I became buddies. I would hang at her studio late night while she took measurements. We talked about our love of Cleveland and our dreams of it's future. I found out that being a fashion designer in Cleveland is way hard because there are no fabric shops. JoAnn Fabrics just doesn't cut it.  She feels the same way about department stores that I feel about chain restaurants, her favorite restaurant is the tavern, and she is starting a super cool sewing co-op for budding CLE designers. In short, she's wicked awesome and she only had less than three weeks to create a dress.

We spent the day at Virginia Marti College picking out fabric and coming up with a silhouette. Within 20 minutes, Val had come up with this:

Her design was inspired by an art deco brooch she had used on the runway at fashion week. I told her I trusted her vision and she should just go with it. A few weeks later I would have my dress & be walking down the Academy Awards Red Carpet next to Helena Bonham Carter and Marky Mark. Holy Shite.

Valerie had accomplished what I thought no one could. She created the absolute perfect dress for me.

Red Carpet ready? Most def.

I can't help but think Valerie and I were destined to become friends. Not only did her dress make me sparkle at the Academy Awards (Jake Gyllenhaal totally gave me the *&%$ me EYES), but her amazing attitude about our fair city only encouraged me more about the future of Cleveland. She chooses to stay here in a town that doesn't have a fabric store. She believes in this town and she believes in her talent. She is a phenomenal designer and if you are in the market for something you will treasure for the rest of your life, I highly suggest checking out Yellowcake or following her on the FB. She is a ROCKSTAR.

Soooooo did you like the dress????

More Oscars stories coming soon....