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The Art of Prom

CCHS art student takes on her second sewing challenge for senior prom

Breuklyn Opp's prom dress stands on display with her other artwork during the April 7 high school art show.
Breuklyn Opp’s prom dress stands on display with her other artwork during the April 7 high school art show.

By Kate Hayden

Contributed photo
Contributed photo

In the weekdays before prom, there’s always a few adjustments to be made. There’s final tux fittings, dinner confirmations and more than a few mothers and daughters giving The Dress a final, pre-dance inspection. Senior and art student Breuklyn Opp had a few tweaks for her own dress before Saturday.

“There was not a belt, that’s one of the things that I still have to make,” Opp said on Tuesday, hanging out in Charles City High School’s art studio, where she’s most often found at school. “The dress itself is mostly three pieces. The actual body of the dress, the main portion, I’ve had done since probably the end of February…the skirt has only been done for a couple of weeks, since I had some issues with the first bit of silk that I dyed.”

Trials and errors abound when designing and constructing a prom dress from scratch, as Opp well knows. With only one other dress project under her crafted belt –– her junior year prom dress, which Opp made from her grandmother’s wedding dress –– Opp spent somewhere near 25 hours dying, piecing and sewing together an original design. It’s been a less-stressful experience her second time around.

“I had more of a plan going through with it, and I knew that if I screwed up I wasn’t ruining my grandma’s wedding dress. That’s what scared me so badly last year,” Opp said. “I did have some mistakes but I just ordered more fabric, did it over. Plus I was on a wider timeframe, I had a little more wiggle room with mistakes that I was making.”

Designing her own dress means that for a second year, Opp got a bit creative with her inspiration source.

“Originally I was joking with a friend about making a completely metal dress, because we were talking about wearing chainmail to prom,” Opp said.

Could it be done? “Well, I have done a lot of metalworking in the past, so I thought that’d be kind of fun,” she added.

After a few metal dress-related safety considerations, Opp settled on a triangle-featured neckline and belt, carrying the geometrical pattern over to a dyed-silk skirt. She’s also incorporated the metal into her bracelets and headbands, which she made, and added metal accents into the gladiator sandals she bought for the night.

The neckline itself was cut from a nickel sheet, then sanded and polished down by Opp. She then pieced the individual triangles together for the front of the dress, soldering them for stability and finishing the whole piece by mid-January. For the skirt, she used a silk-dye process she had been curious about in the previous year, and –– with the help of a new sewing machine and a more informed choice of fabrics then the previous year –– she had the project mostly completed by the student art show on April 7, where her dress was on display.

“It was a lot of trial and error,” Opp said. “It forces you to learn how to do a lot of different skills because you don’t really expect needing to know all of these different stitches and things, you just kind of think, ‘oh man, I can sew up this side and the other side and be good’. I didn’t really know how much went into it until I actually started it.”

After all those hours spent at the sewing machine or hand-stitching in front of the TV –– learning to complete that kind of project on a deadline was completely worth it, she added.

“It’s very fun. It’s a good hobby,” Opp said.