Finding the best dress for a special occasion is always a problem. High school student Ciara Gan had already asked someone to design a dress for her graduation ball, but she was unhappy with the results. So instead of settling for anything less than perfect, Gan decided to make her own – and ended up stunning everyone with her own hand-painted gown!
Even with her limited experience in sewing, the young artist was determined to make her own custom dress. “My inspiration came from my mom, who pushed me to make the dress. Because I love to try new things, I thought why not? It was my last big event for school and I had about a month of graduation practices, so I’d be able to focus more on making my gown without worrying about schoolwork.”
Teaming up with her mother, Gan put her talents to work on a stunning emerald green dress with voluminous pleats and a sweetheart neckline. The gorgeous color comes from an unusual inspiration. “As nerdy as it may sound, I chose emerald green because I’m an avid Potterhead and a proud Slytherin.”
The most striking feature of the dress, however, are the hand-painted flowers on the surface of the gown that trail down the large folds of the beautiful dress.
A passionate painter, Gan has an Instagram page dedicated to her artwork. So why not exhibit her creativity in a distinctive hand-painted graduation dress? The choice of design, in itself, is already unique. Gan was motivated to paint 80 large orange florals after rereading the book Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.
“I strayed away from basic roses and dainty florals because although they’re pretty, they don’t reflect my personality. I love the vibrancy of loud colors like orange and green — they speak more about who I am.”
Gan added, “Everything from the painting to the leaf-like top came from the idea that I wanted to make myself look like a garden. Our graduation ball was actually themed after Disney’s ‘Enchanted!’” She later added some Swarovski crystals to complement the hand-painted blooms and to add more sparkle.
Actually making the dress was another matter altogether. It all started with a simple miniature concept model. Having little knowledge of garment construction, Gan then turned to another reliable source.
“I learned it all from Youtube tutorials!” Gan and her mother started with 13 yards of fabric, crinoline, boning, and Swarovski crystals. The skirt was sewn together a panel at the time. When the dress was done, it was time for the hand-painted flowers, which then took five days to finish.
The secret project took a month to complete and was a huge success! Gan struck a magnificent figure at her graduation ball and surprised everyone. “When I first showed up at the event place, my one classmate took a double take to make sure what he was seeing was right! He told me, ‘I thought it was printed!’” she said.
The glorious dress earned the admiration of classmates and was an instant hit on social media. She posted a photo of the gorgeous gown on Twitter, which generated hundreds of thousands of likes. Enthusiasts agreed that the dress could rival any gown crafted by a professional fashion designer, so who would have thought that it was made by a 17-year old girl?
Despite the widespread admiration for her design, Gan decided not to pursue a college degree in fashion, although she sees no problem in merging her interests.
“I recently graduated from the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) strand, so I plan to pursue a degree in a science related course. I am in love with both the arts and sciences and I want to incorporate two different things with each other. I want to bring art into science, or vice versa.”
Making the spectacular one-of-a-kind DIY dress has been a wonderful experience for the talented artist. “The whole process was so rewarding afterwards because I was able to wear one of my own creations. What I appreciate the most about this whole thing is the requests for commissions and artworks. It really warms my heart to see people appreciating my art.”