Melody Cooper


Outline the story …

I love wearing 19th century gowns that I’ve collected or commissioned, which is how I came across your website. I decided to jump into this project with no experience because I love the theme. Also, I struggle with anxiety, and working with my hands calms me. I’m an artist (writer and filmmaker) who has had a wonderful connection with nature since I was a child. My parents, who were both teachers, took me and my brother camping across country every summer, so I was inspired and emotionally moved to create something. I’ve been to some of the most spectacular national parks in the U.S. and one of my absolute favorites is Yosemite. I go there when I need to immerse in the calm and beauty of what I call God’s Chapel: the magnificent ancient rock, cliffs, meadows and waterfalls of the Valley. When the falls are running in Spring, it’s a glorious sight and sound! In my design, I wanted to capture the majesty of the rock they spring from, all well as the stunning torrential cascade of water that shimmers in different ways depending on the light and where you view it from. My parents have both passed and I dedicate this dress to their memory: two Black teachers who shared their passion for the beauty of nature with me in ways that left a deeply spiritual impression. I hope my humble attempt to capture it in this dress will inspire people to visit the real thing.

Outline the construction…

This is my first garment constructed from scratch from a sketch. I don’t own a real sewing machine, just a mini one that broke down as I was trying to sew the cotton dress together, so I had to do everything by hand. On a tight budget, I chose sheer gray, white and sparkling fabrics for the waterfall (organza, a metallic open weave and tulle) to give a sense of light, flow and movement. In contrast, I wanted a flat cotton fabric for the rock and boulders and found a cotton batik that worked well. I embellished it with jasper stone beads (the belt and around the neck). I found there were several versions of the waterfall that I liked. It wasn’t until I bought a cheap dress form to pin fabric to that I saw it all come together the way I wanted.

I didn’t use patterns, but referenced some YouTube tutorials. I watched "Next in Fashion" as I worked on the dress and was so tickled (and relieved) to find accomplished designers struggling with some of the same issues I was: changing my mind on what fabric would work where, scraping one element (tied waist) for a different one (boned belt). I knew my work would not be perfect. Some of the stitching wasn’t even; there were probably better ways of constructing different elements. But in a way, that didn’t matter to me as much as the process and the finished product meeting the expectations of my imagination.




  1. Avatar Stanislava Stanislava Pilkova on April 26, 2023 at 8:40 pm

    That sheer fabric must had been pain to work with, just like water and you tamed it so it floats like a waterfall

  2. Constance MacKenzie Constance MacKenzie on April 26, 2023 at 9:13 pm

    I love your wired collar, shoulder piece with the waterfall down the back.

  3. Avatar Elowen Elowen Blackthorn on April 26, 2023 at 10:39 pm

    Wow, that collar is fantastic! Lovely fabric choice!

  4. Avatar Angela Karl on May 1, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    You really captured that moment in time when the water cascades over and splashing against the rock. The collar and the draping of the sheer fabric against the solid batik cotton were great choices. And you included nature itself in the shape of the stone beads.

  5. Avatar Lowana O\'Shea on May 7, 2023 at 7:21 am

    Well done on creating something so meaningful. What a lovely tribute to your parents. Thank you for sharing your work and story with us, it’s lovely!

  6. Avatar Anna-Catherine Sendgikoski on May 7, 2023 at 5:53 pm

    So inventive! I love it!! Very graceful!!

  7. Avatar Susannah Allanic on May 12, 2023 at 5:55 pm

    The collar is impressive. You’ve really captured a cascade that I know of in Alps. Beautiful.

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