published Monday, April 30th, 2012

Young Chattanooga fashion designer creates GPS May Queen's gown

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    Madison Waldrop designed this A-line gown in organza and lace for her classmate, Girls Preparatory School senior Rachel Kelly, who was crowned the school's May Queen. The dress has a 19-foot train.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
    enlarge photo

A young Chattanooga fashion designer recently notched another milestone.

Madison Waldrop, whose line of bridal and formal wear is known as Designs by Malyse, designed the gown worn by Girls Preparatory School senior Rachel Kelly, who was crowned May Queen at last week's May Day celebration. The all-girls school requires the bridal-like gown to be white with a lengthy train.

Bridal gowns, evening wear, cocktail and prom dresses are the young designer's specialty.

A freshman at GPS, Madison earned national attention when she was featured in a February 2011 New York Times article about young fashion designers. Her first full-scale runway show, held last August at the Hunter Museum of American Art, was a dream come true, she said.

"I was thrilled," said the 14-year-old Ooltewah resident.

Designing the May Queen gown was a welcome challenge, she said, noting that she wanted the gown to reflect her classmate's "fun and happy" personality.

With the final touches applied just days before the May Day celebration, Madison said she and Rachel were very pleased with the design.

"It's totally who she is," Madison said. "I have detail at the top of the gown because I wanted it to radiate like Rachel. She lights up a room. She's a fun person."

Madison described the gown as an A-line poly peau de soie gown with a sweetheart neckline.

"The gown skirt is covered in three layers of lightweight French silk organza with [a] layered hemline that softly graduates from the front to the back over the 3-foot train," she said. "The gown skirt is gathered in layers in the back, starting at the waist, and is designed to complement the gathered 19-foot French silk organza detachable train."

The bodice begins with the poly soie sweetheart neckline and is covered in the same French silk organza as the gown skirt, she said.

"A French guipure lace with pearl cluster detailing overlays the bodice to then create a V-neck that is trimmed in hand-detailed French pearl beading as it extends into sleeves that grace the shoulders and wrap to the back. A pearl cluster button closure is at the top of the bodice in the back with a peekaboo opening that extends down to the same French pearl detailing that covers the band that wraps the wrist," Madison said.

Madison works with several seamstresses who bring her designs into reality. Although she took sewing lessons at age 7, she is more interested in the design element of fashion.

"I did fashion sketches when I was little," Madison said. "I was fascinated with dressing my Barbie dolls. I'd change their dresses every hour."

Her mom, Christine Waldrop, said Madison's interest in fashion started at an early age.

"I remember a school play she was in when she was very young, and she designed the costume she wanted to wear," Mrs. Waldrop said.

Already a full-time designer, Madison is taking her GPS classes online to better meet the demands of her business. She plans to return to class in 11th grade, she said, because she doesn't want to miss out on being a student in her last two years of high school. She's still involved at GPS, where she attends dance class and meets weekly with her math teacher.

Madison and her 12-year-old sister, McCall, also run a charitable program, Shocks (shoes and socks), collecting shoes and socks to donate to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

Madison said that helping others is equally as important to her as having a career in design. She's optimistic about both.

"As fast as everything is moving, I have no limits," she said. "As long as I'm helping someone through what I'm doing, I'm happy with that. That's my goal."

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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