The ingenuity of an indigenous clothing designer caught the eye of young indigenous ladies preparing for prom, who later chose to “indigenize” their prom gown selection with her work. Their choices have since gone viral. Spray tan, hair spray, rhinestones, nail and hair appointments — the excitement of prom season is in full swing as
The ingenuity of an indigenous clothing designer caught the eye of young indigenous ladies preparing for prom, who later chose to “indigenize” their prom gown selection with her work. Their choices have since gone viral.
Spray tan, hair spray, rhinestones, nail and hair appointments — the excitement of prom season is in full swing as students take to signing off the last of their high school years with formal fun.
And it isn’t hard to figure out prom’s origin; #prahm, short for promenade, came about to promote social etiquette and manners in each year’s graduating class. The tradition itself is older than sliced bread, literally, but a contemporary idea that might become the next tradition for indigenous high school students has emerged.
Indigenous students in the USA turned prom into a platform to make a statement about indigenous representation as well as to support indigenous designers.
Designs by Della which is a label created by Della Bighair Stump was commended in a tweet from Sioux Writer Ruth H. Hopkins who showed pictures of her custom-made gowns on April 22, and caught viral media attention.
Growing up in a family that made their own traditional regalia, Bighair Stump, who is an enrolled member of the Crow from Montana, is also an entirely self-taught designer and sewer. Her work comes from the teachings of her family members and her designs come specifically from her own people — she describes her work as bringing “two worlds together.”
“I always wanted to wear clothes that represented me and where I come from,” said Bighair Stump. “I’m Crow and our style of designs are unique and colourful. I brought two worlds together and made one.”
And for her, her craft also follows in line with not mixing or blending designs from other nations or tribes.
“I only use my own Crow designs on all my creations. I don’t do any other tribal designs other than my own because I have high respect for all nations and only use what I was taught. I also use Pendleton for more of a contemporary style,” she said.
She has been designing and making clothes since 2015 with her label, and although she can do her own bead work, she collaborates with local beaders in her area and her own family members. While describing her process of creating a dress, she gave an understanding as to why her creations are so eye-catching and colourful.
“First I decide on style of dress, be it mermaid, cocktail, ballgown, etcetera. Then I decide on the colour of the dress, I love colour and I always want to make something unique,” she said. “Then I decide on a Crow design to incorporate with the style of dress and choose where to put the designs on the dress. I then decide colours to use in the design. That’s the hard part.”
“I try to only use up to six colours for a Crow design. Once I finish with the design I then sew everything together.”
She explained that it can take from one to two weeks for a dress to be completed depending on the style, and it can take up to a month or two for dresses with beadwork.
In regards to the young ladies that chose to wear her work to prom, Bighair Stump said that she feels “honoured.”
“I’m very honoured that these young, beautiful ladies wanted to wear my creations to their special event,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to go viral. I’m just doing what I love and sharing my blessings with others.”
Her label Designs by Della is available on Facebook and Instagram for contact, and she accepts orders that will be shipping into Canada two months before the due date.
In the near future, some of her work will also be showcased through a vendor booth at the Indigenous Fashion Gala in Edmonton, Alberta in September.