Kansas City Museums – Kitty Sondern Snyder will be here tonight October 21st 2014 @ 5:30pm to talk about what it is like making the Dress Up clothes many Kansas Citians are wearing for their Special Occasions!
My business is all from word of mouth. Someone hears about me from a friend who has had a dress made and calls me about having something made. I make an appointment with them and then interview them about the type of dress they need and the kind of Occasion they need it for. We talk about the time of day of the event, the location, her budget, the degree of formality. I do sketches as we talk and we start to describe the garment. When I have a sketch that looks like the dress in her head, I ‘m ready to take her measurements and we schedule a muslin fitting. The muslin is sort of a pretend dress I make to adjust for fit on my client, then I rip it apart and it becomes the pattern when I cut the dress out. I give her a shopping list of everything needed for the dress’s construction. Fabric, Lining, Thread, Zipper, etc. ( It`s a little harder now for customers to shop as we’ve lost our two fine fabric stores.) If she is confused or undecided about fabric types, I have lots of swatches I can show to her and give her to help in the search.
The average Prom or Cocktail dress takes about ten hours to make and requires an average of five fittings. Bridal Gowns can take fifty plus hours and many fittings to complete. I also am happy to answer questions about what accessories should be worn with it, give my opinion on shoes, jewelry and hairstyles. I really get attached to my customers and feel like I’m getting to share in their big event. After so many fittings, I start to get to know them pretty well.
This summer I made fourteen wine satin cocktail dresses for a Sorority Rush Ceremony. Each girl had a different style. They were all excited to have pockets in their dresses. I just finished twelve floor length, lined, blue satin matching skirts for a group of High School Chambers singers. The garments were all the same, but the girls were every size and shape. They sang beautifully at their concert, but I spent the evening scanning their hems to be sure they were even. I love working with these accomplished and energetic young women!
How did I get here? I studied Fashion Design in New York at Parson’s School of Design, now famous for a TV show called Project Runway, which is filmed there. I spent a lot of time as a kid drawing “girls” on my school papers and any other scrap of paper I could find. I loved clothes and loved dressing up. Thanks to my mother, I always had a nice dress for Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, my first day of school. I learned to sew from my mom, who taught Home Ec. at one time. My grandmother had made me several rick rack trimmed calico dresses when I was little, that not only had matching panties, but matching doll dresses and panties! So I knew the power of sewing to make people happy! I started to make myself some simple clothes inspired by the newly graphic colors and shapes of the 1960’s. I was also inspired by the clothes my mom wore; narrow pencil skirts and wide swing coats, full skirted dresses with beautiful necklines and tiny waists. I also read lots of Fairy Tales featuring “gowns of spun gold “or “dresses made from silvery moonlight”. So naturally, I was drawn to fashion.
After graduating from Parson`s and working for various people at various jobs, I started making dress with a friend. We called our business SONDERN WILLIAMS after our two last names. We had a basement studio in Manhattan`s East Village, We designed and made everything ourselves. We delivered local orders on our bikes. We sold to Macy`s, Bendel’s, Alexander`s, and Saks in New York and small boutiques around the country. Our dresses were in Saks front windows and featured in Seventeen and Cosmopolitan magazines. Also in Women’s Wear Daily and the Soho News. Our friends started asking us to make them custom dress for weddings and parties, eventually we just did made- to- order dresses.
After a decade in New York, I decided to move to LA, where my brother was living. I shipped half my stuff out there and the other half home to my parent’s house in Kansas City. I stopped here to visit them over the holidays. That was in 1982 …..I`m still here! I had a couple of jobs that involved sewing, then I rented a darling little run down shop in the West Plaza area. After six months of work, I had a painted, tiled and carpeted workspace. I hired someone to sew for me, bought fabric, and started turning out original designs. Once again, as people discovered my shop and that we made everything onsite, I began to get orders for custom, Special Occasion dresses. I sent my clients to Cy Rudnick and Kaplan’s Fabric stores for their materials. Those stores began to send me customers, which was wonderful! I made one of a kind Wedding Dresses, Debutante Gowns, Graduation Dresses, Prom Dress, usually about thirty every Prom season. I made gowns for the many Gala Fundraisers here in Kansas City. I made uniforms for the Crystal Pavilion and Painted Lady restaurants. I got some write-ups in the Star and in Vie and Boulevard magazines, now long gone. My garments were in an exhibit at Crown Center called Fashion as Art, along with other local designers, like Nickey Cave, Jennifer Walker, Linda Flake and Robin Nichols. Since my shop was attached to a Hair Salon, we collaborated in doing Fashion Shows, showing off their hair styles and my clothing styles. ( I still made a few ready to wear items of my own design) These shows were like big fun art projects.
Then I got married myself. The person who sewed for me at that time had a baby due the week of my wedding! It was kind of hectic. I made my gown and veil, my Mother`s Dress, six Bridesmaid’s dresses, the groom`s bow tie and bund ( It’s gotta match!) Also four people`s dresses for the Rehearsal Dinner. I was still sewing the morning of my wedding.
Everybody knows that love and marriage lead to the baby carriage, so after seven and a half years, I closed my shop to be a stay at home mom to two kids. A few years ago, I got divorced, downsized and started to make dresses again. I really enjoy being a part of someone`s Special Event. I tell the girl to enjoy the whole process, not just the one day event.
Join us for the Design and Creation of Textiles and Clothing with Fashion Designer Kitty Sondern Snyder Tuesday, October 21 Reception: 5:30 p.m.; Presentation at 6:30 p.m. | Free