The Golden Age

This (school) year, we had 4 sessions (basically semesters) at Staten Island Dance and Art Center. Last year, my fashion classes were sort of, whatever I thought of next, but I wanted to use this structure to my advantage. With four sessions, I could pick four themes to jump off of. Well, really three- the last session is dedicated to our Annual Fashion Show of course!

The second session was dedicated to Old Hollywood Fashion. The girls loved it! I started with this fun Buzzfeed Quiz I made. I was scouring the web for a good one, but everything was just slightly too inappropriate for the 8-14 year old age range so… I made my own!

We started with a power point presentation, highlighting different looks that were in style in Hollywood in the 30s-50s- cigarette pants, LBD, you know. The girls were shocked when I told them it was technically illegal in some towns for women to wear pants when Katharine Hepburn was walking around in tailored suits. That’s always fun. It was nothing compared to the Victorian Steampunk lesson we just did!

The beginner class made Little Black Dresses in true Audrey style, but the Advanced class was allowed to get creative.

Elle got the iconic Marilyn Monroe as her Hollywood style sister, and decided to design a white coat as a nod to the flowy white dress. It’s made out of white minky and tulle.
Jessica, always the neat sewer, went with an Audrey-style LBD in navy. She tirelessly took the dress in and out again until she got the perfect fit!
Nadine, the speedster, had this dress done weeks before everyone else, even with me making her finish her edges. This dress is made of a nice velvet. The belt is actually recycled shower curtain holes. I do not know what’s holding them together.
Valentina the Daring- she loves tulle. Probably a little more daring than the old Hollywood starlets went, but it looks fabulous! She was very cold in this, however, since we finished this up in January!
The Rising Star of the Beginner Class- Arianna entered the program in the middle of the 2nd session and has really dived into it! She got a little experimental with her satin LBD and added some buttons.


I’d been trying to do it for a while, but I finally got my sister involved in my classes. She came to teach an Old Hollywood Make Up lesson and boy, was that a hit, even from the girls in there scoffing at make up (haha). I can’t wait to have Jessie back to help the girls design their Runway Makeup to compliment their runway looks!

The Make Up Artist herself


I’ve got a lot planned for the rest of the year. On the 31st we’re hosting Fashion Survivor, and in April we’re heading to Jo-Anns for a shopping trip.

The New Sewist’s Wishlist

One of the tough things about learning to sew is all the stuff you need. Some of that stuff is obvious, you need a sewing machine, fabric, needles. But which ones? And what else? If you’re looking to learn, pass this list off to anyone who asks what you want for the holidays!

Sewing Machine

Obvious, right? There are so many different machines out there, and they are definitely not created equally.

I tell all of my new students to get a computerized Brother. They are easy to thread, and are incredibly user friendly. This Brother XR3240 comes with lots of toys too- a seam ripper, some bobbins, an automatic button hole maker, even embroidery stitches. The best part is it’s on sale through Costco, so I highly recommend you pick it up!

A good sewing machine will make sewing a breeze. In my experience, the smaller, more inexpensive machines cause a lot of headaches for the novice. It’s not worth the savings!


You see thread at the supermarket, packaged with a few needles and a mini scissor. Don’t buy them! Especially not for your new sewing machine. These will often break when going around the machine. Purchase brands like Guttermann and Coats & Clark for excellent quality sew-all threads. After Thanksgiving, Joanns offers a thread tower of Guttermann’s most popular thread colors, which is something to look out for!


When I was a kid, I always used to ask for a yard or two of fabric, just to experiment with. Having some basic cottons with fun prints can be great motivation to get started sewing pillows and bags. You can buy pretty prints from most fabric stores by the yard or in quarters.

Pins and Cushions

This might seem obvious, but I show up to a few too many students houses without a pin in sight. Get ones with a large, round head so you don’t lost them in the fabric. There are also a ton of pin cushions out there, but I prefer one that can sit flat on the table (rather than a tomato). I’ve been using this one for about ten years! Throw a safety pin in there too- a small tool full of big uses.

Flip Flop pin cushion ftw!


Guess what! You can’t use the kitchen scissors! A lot of people don’t know this, so I’m telling you that right now. Paper dulls the blade of a scissor, and you need something really sharp to cut fabric. I use these, but really any scissor untouched by paper will do. Make sure you write FABRIC ONLY on the blade! Non-sewers seem to be drawn to fabric scissors to cut open boxes, for some reason. Beware!

Odds and Ends

Just some extras you want to check to see if you have- a ruler, tape measure, a pencil. Your sewing machine will probably come with a seam ripper (or as my students call them, the Soul Crusher, thanks Elle!) but you can get one with a nicer grip since you’ll probably be getting real friendly with it in your early days! The machine will also come with a few extra needles and bobbins, but if you want to be safe, you can pick up some refills to start with.

That should be everything! Happy Sewing!

The First SIDAC Fashion Show

It’s been a while since I have posted here. July has been a bit of a slow month after the craziness that was July. I costumed my first professional theatrical performance, “Waitng for Godot,” produced by Sundog Theatre at Wagner College. However, I was most excited for and proud of my fashion design students at Staten Island Dance and Art Center.

Overall, twelve girls walked in what ended up being a pretty short show. We had the entire place decorated with art that the kids had made, and a real red carpet for the designer/models to walk down. Some of them were a little nervous, but that’s okay- when they are real designers, they won’t have to model themselves!

Six kids were chosen for Advanced Fashion for 2016-17- Congratulations to Elle, Valentina, Catherine, Nadine, Jessica, and Katelyn!

Summer Dresses

I’ve been really excited the last couple of weeks because it’s almost time for SIDAC’s first ever fashion show! Last Friday I had them finalize the designs they’ve been thinking about all year, and I did my massive fabric shop this past weekend, and we’re kicking it into full gear coming up so we can get our designs out in time.

Our last big sewing project were these cute high-low summer dresses. For, you know. If warm weather ever actually comes to Staten Island. The next couple of 2 months are going to be pretty hectic, so I’ll have to look on these awesome projects to get through it when it gets tough 🙂

Ava in her watermelon dress
Ava in her watermelon dress
Daniela, the little ray of sunshine
Daniela, the little ray of sunshine
Jessica, pretty much ready for Project Runway at this point
Jessica, pretty much ready for Project Runway at this point
Slow and steady, Katelyn gets her projects done! :)
Slow and steady, Katelyn gets her projects done! 🙂

I am so proud of these kids, and I’m so excited to see what else they can do.


Also, can’t forget; the summer camp schedule is up! I’ll be teaching a bunch of programs, but my favorite is going to be the Harry Potter theme. I will be bringing my wand with me. And possible wear robes.


Guess who?


In a couple of weeks, my student, Holly, is having a movie/cartoon costume day at school, so she decided to be… Marie from Aristocats, a movie that came out 35 years before she was born. This kid is so dedicated to cat culture. Today we started working on a cat mask to go with the costume. We wanted to use yarn, so we coated it with a special glue mixture to stiffen it up and attach it at our next lesson. She chose to do this over making a matching Easter dress for an AG doll, so you know she means business!

One of the things that makes teaching Holly so fun is that she always has ideas for what to make, and we work together to figure out how to make it work. She’ll be awesome on Project Runway one day! But for now, she’ll be acting like a cat… right after I took this picture, she got on all fours and starting patting at some yarn!

Also, I have yet to meet her sans article of cat clothing. If it’s not a t-shirt, it’s leggings. Once, it was a necklace. So, basically, Holly is #goals because I really want more cat clothes in my life.

How to Style Your Favorite Crochet Items

This post is sponsored by:


When it’s extremely cold outside, there’s no better way to warm your body than to wear crochet items such as hats and hand warmers.

Carol’s Crochet Collection creates customized crocheted items in a variety of colors to go with just about any outfit you own. Here are some suggestions on how to style them!


When it’s not cold enough to need to hide all your fingers, wear a cute hand warmer! Pair it with a sweater that can be worn wrapped or long, bell bottom pants and comfy fur-lined shoes. Don’t be shy to show off those fingers with a statement ring!
Bring a pop of color to the dreary winter with a warm crochet brimmed hat (perfect for battling the snow, paired with bright oranges, blues, and purples. Jazz up the look with wedge sneakers!


Warm up soft greens and blues with a multicolored neck warmer. Add a statement ring and bracelet for some cool winter feels, and spice it back up with cognac colored boots.

If you’re not afraid to wear white, this beret is perfect to wear with dark reds, black, and gray. Add a pop of red color to your lips and a fun cat ring.

Interested in ordering a crochet item from Carol’s Crochet Collection? Check out some of the items they’ve created by clicking here, and fill out the order form for a quote on your custom item!


Master has given Dobby a sock!

Meet the newest addition to my shop, Dobby!


Dobby likes socks, Harry Potter, long naps on the beach… oh, I’m sorry. Too soon for that joke. RIP Dobby <3


Anyway, I’ve actually been working on this new doll since like… late October. I made my own pattern for him, and made a ton of (blue) prototypes that my whole family found to be kind of weird.

I got down to construction in January. The toughest part was getting his nose to be just right- there are a lot of little stitches in there just to give Dobby that friendly look that sets him apart of Kreacher. I think the embroidery on his face helped with that, too.

This doll is entirely hand sewn, and is also the first doll I’ve made with eyelids! I made his tunic out of white broadcloth that I dyed with tea. The best part of Dress Me Dobby, in my opinion, is his wardrobe… I was so determined that I got over my dislike of knitting to make his a little Weasely sweater, three socks (because we know how Dobby feels about matching socks), and a little hat, that was probably knitted by Hermione, obviously.

Dobby was a lot of fun to make, and I already have another order for him. I’m also going to be working on more characters from Harry Potter soon!


You can see Dobby on my etsy here.

And the winner is…

On the last class before the winter break, the Staten Island Dance and Art Center’s fashion design classes competed in a Project Runway-style Upcycling Challenge.

Each team had two or three girls in it. They were to pick one old dress at random from a big garbage bag, then work quickly with their team to make it stylish. We started on the second-to-last week of class, and had our first ever paneled runway show on the last day.

I was so impressed by my designer’s sense of style! Soon enough we’ll be starting our big end of the year project where each of them will be making their own ensemble. Of course, I wanted to foster a sense of competition and reward, so there were winners. They were judged based on their technical skills, presentation, overall style, thoughtfulness, and integrity of design. The winners were Sophia & Jessica in 5pm class, and Jaclyn & Valentina in the 5:45pm class.

Prize was also a photo op with Miss Melissa ;D

Each designer got to go home with a fashion sketch book, and I hope they’ll bring it to our next class to show me all of their designs!

So proud of all my designers!


Me, Etsy, and the last 5 years

I think I was in high school when I decided to start sewing and selling American Girl doll clothes. I’m not sure if that was before or after I made my prom dress, but I realized I much prefer working small to big. It took me a long time to come to terms with that. I’ve also taken painting classes since I was in high school, and was always told the specific size that I had to work in, and even the mediums. But now I realize that some artists like to work on tiny canvases, while others fill the wall. And both of those are okay.

However, my goal is really to sell my cute dollies and clothes for American Girl dolls. I made my first Etsy sale in 2012 when I had finally stocked my shop with some pretty nice clothes. In fact, the first one that sold was the least cringe-worthy (in retrospect) dress in my shop. I can’t help but cringe when I compare my old work to my new work, which is why all my old work is in a special “sale” basket at all my craft baskets for $5 a piece. They are probably worth much more than that, but I’ll just about give them away at this point to not have to look at them anymore!

The biggest problem with Etsy during college was that I was just too busy to keep it stocked. They say you need around 50-100 items to really start getting a following. Now that I’m graduated and doing the whole self-employed thing, I guess I have no excuse but to keep it stocked! I’ve got lots of holiday outfits, and lots of other stuff too. I’m also working on some special projects that will be up as custom orders soon, and I’m very excited about them!

I have also started an instagram- follow me @simplymelissy!

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