Kelly’s couture experience continued at noted costume and dress designer Kathleen Van Horn’s atelier. Known for her love of color and passion for fashion history, Kathleen was the perfect choice to create party dresses and ball gowns for both Kelly and Andrée. Walking into Kathleen’s studio is like walking into a candy shop. Bolts of dreamy fabrics line the walls and her treasure trove of vintage buttons, ribbons, and embellishments reflects her endless creativity. I could spend hours studying her vast collection of Barbie dolls sporting detailed custom dresses from every fashion era and poring over her drawers and drawers of rhinestones, baubles, and bugle beads.
Kelly’s "big soirée" was planned with three other debutantes and they each envisioned attire that would follow the chosen theme of The Four Seasons. "We all gathered at a coffee shop to draw from a hat," Kelly explains. "I picked Autumn and wanted to try my best to incorporate the season into my dress. I love color so I immediately ruled out the browns of Fall. At Promenade, Kathleen found a beautiful double faced silk taffeta in persimmon and melon that captures all things Fall to me."
With Christian Dior as a muse and the Mad Men era as inspiration, Bryan, Kathleen, Kelly, and her mom had a blast creating the shirred cocktail dress with an oversized puffed out bow and train in the back. Leaves fabricated out of both sides of the taffeta were scattered on one shoulder, mimicking falling autumn leaves. A cornucopia of foliage was fixed to the center of the back poof with a vintage button and ribbon. Everything about this party dress spelled fun—the pop of color, the exaggerated bow, and the decidedly retro vibe.
Kathleen also custom designed the ballgown that Andrée wore to The Achaeans ball the night of Kelly’s reign (seen in our final chapter). It was one of the prettiest dresses I saw all season and more importantly, it exemplifies everything I love about couture dressmaking. At retail, you may find a full length long dress in a shape you love (don’t get me started on necklines and sleeves), but often the color options are limited to safe neutrals or black. That’s just not going to fly in New Orleans. Mardi Gras balls are all about festive palettes and exuberant hues. On one of his fabric hunts, Bryan found an unusual moss green embroidered and beaded lace and a matching silk charmeuse at Promenade Fine Fabrics on St. Charles Avenue. Andrée’s favorite color is green, so he knew this would make his sister-in-law’s heart sing. And with that, Andrée was soon donning the exquisite ball gown that Kathleen created specifically for her and this special occasion.
This article appeared in Spring 2020 Issue of Adore Magazine.