Written by: Eileen Qian
Ma was first motivated to try clothes-making during when she failed to find a Halloween costume that she liked. After designing a Queen of Hearts dress, Ma found that clothes-making was an activity that she wanted to pursue further. “I realized how gratifying it is to be able to create a piece of art that is functional,” she said. Ma enjoys making her own garments because it lets her produce something unique. “Unless you’re making something really special and different, buying clothes would be a lot easier,” she said. “I make clothing that I can’t find.”
Ma primarily makes formal dresses, not only because it is harder to find dresses that are completely compatible to her, but also because she can personalize her pieces. “There’s something about a dress that I love,” Ma said. “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but to me, a dress is more charming and fun. Although it’s not more practical, a dress can be more versatile in style. There’s a dress for every occasion.”
Ma draws inspiration not only from magazines and online sites for, but also her surroundings, such as animals, friends, machines and chess pieces. When she finds a design that she likes, Ma sketches the item in a notebook, makes changes to it and creates her own version of the piece. “I’ll look over my sketches and see which ones I am able to make and start planning where each seam would go and what each piece might look like,” she said. When her idea is finalized, she sews together fabric that she buys from stores with fragments of clothes that she already owns. “With reconstructing, I get a wider variety of fabric options and sometimes there are some really cool details from the clothing that I can use in my recreations,” Ma said. Because the complexity of her designs varies, it can take from three hours to four days to complete one item.
According to Ma, there are many benefits to making dresses instead of buying them from stores. “I like knowing that what I make is 100 percent my style,” she said. “Every part of the garment is fully customizable. I get to make the decisions on the fabric I use, the cut of the dress, the embellishments and best of all, it fits me.”
Throughout the years, Ma’s hobby has taught her to be persistent and patience. When she first started, she would begin new projects with motivation, but find herself losing her initial drive. She soon, however, found a method to overcome this shortcoming. “Now, I start a project and finish them in one to three days so I don’t lose my motivation,” Ma said.
While Ma wishes to continue designing clothes after high school, she does not plan to pursue it as a career. “I think I’ll be keeping fashion design as a hobby,” Ma said. “Although I do enjoy creating my own designs, I would rather pursue another career.”
Ma’s father, Siyad Ma, encourages Ma’s clothes-making because he believes that it is a practical way for her to channel her artistic creativity and learn in the process. “She has improved her planning skills, her artistic taste, and her creations have given her a good sense of satisfaction for her accomplishments,” he said.
Ma’s friends believe that it allows Ma to express her creativity and fashion sense. “She takes ideas or themes like stars and the galaxy and is able to transfer it into a tangible and a wearable form,” junior Julie Xin said. “Instead of spending a lot of money on a costume that she might only be able to wear once, she creates her desired look from things that she already has or is easily accessible to her.”