Follow What Fuels Your Heart
I had always wanted to be a dress designer.
My mother taught me to have a practical skill to support myself and my children so that I would never have to depend on anyone else. Like a dutiful daughter I attended graduate school and received a master’s in speech language pathology. I followed my mother’s advice and succeeded past her wildest dreams. I achieved what she’d always wanted for herself: independence. She had meant the best for me, but it was her voice and her choice.
And yet I found ways to sneak in the dressmaking. I put myself through grad school sewing costumes; I created dresses for my friends when they got married. Sewing was a skill that I enjoyed as a hobby. Somehow, if my sewing remained merely a hobby, it felt more acceptable. But my advanced degrees never made me happy; I had to do more. ‘Doing more’ meant, for me, leaving my lucrative career as a speech-language pathologist and started a business creating eco-friendly wedding dresses from sustainable materials.
What made you finally decide to start living your lifelong dream?
A lovely friend, who was not a ‘typical’ size, was shamed and insulted by bridal salon employees. I was so angry; nobody does that to my friend. I reassured her that we would make her the best dress ever, together. She was so happy and thankful that I helped made her feel beautiful, the way she wanted to be on her special day. I realized that this was what I needed to do, not just for my friends but for everyone who wanted to feel beautiful. Don’t we all deserve that?
What were the obstacles you faced?
I had sewn for around 20 years, but I didn’t think I was good enough to go pro since I had never had formal training. I had held back at first because I felt that I needed to have a piece of paper stating my worth. I always thought I could be better if I had only gone to sewing school and resented that I had not been able to go. But the dream would not let up and I pushed ahead, despite my trepidation. I’m still amazed that no one has ever complained.
My mother was very doubtful about my plans. She was trying to look out for me in the best way that she knew and was not supportive of my deviations from the path she prized. I was not raised among artists; I never got that encouragement. My family felt that ‘crafty stuff’ was what you did in front of the TV as a hobby – they were all about the practical.
What helped you get through them?
I’ve learned that one doesn’t need formal training to create beauty. A person can go to art school for years and if they don’t have the drive inside, it’s not going to make much difference.
It’s a bell ringing moment when something does not leave you alone. It doesn’t go away. You don’t forget about it. It was like that for me with the wedding dresses. People keep asking me to make them. I won’t say no. It brings them happiness and I need to do what I can to help. Using my skills to help people was important enough for me to push past my doubts.
My dresses are eco-friendly both in design and materials. I follow sustainable business practices for green-friendly weddings. I do it because it is the right thing to do. Factory workers are often abused by mass-producing dresses; I know I am making the world a better place by offering an alternative. My clients care about ethical choices and want to support small businesses and artists, not sweat shops. The only sweat shop here is me
How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?
It felt like I might burst from so much happiness. There is the phrase, ‘my cup runneth over.’ For me, it exploded over. You can’t contain it. It’s bigger than you are.
What advice would you give to others who are contemplating finally living their dream?
Do what you know you have to do. Don’t let your perceived lack of training stop you. The skill will come. If it’s something that won’t leave you alone, there’s a reason.
All that said, don’t berate yourself for learning something practical to fall back on. There’s no shame or failure in it; it’s a stepping stone.
Success is being happy with what you are doing and where you are going. You won’t make anyone happy by denying yourself. If you are doing what makes you happy, you’ll make other people happy.
You can find more on Lori and her eco-friendly dresses here.