Reclaiming joy with a custom-made dress for graduation

Sarah's Story

Celebrations are a time to be joyous. For graduation, it's an achievement where family, friends, classmates, and significant others can all be a part of.


For Sarah, this accomplishment in 2018 at the University of Richmond didn't turn out the way she had hoped for. Before the actual ceremony day, Sarah had been working on an independent study focused on crafting a dress for her to wear for commencement.


For a whole semester as a senior, Sarah wanted to explore her Chinese-American identity through Eastern and Western influences with fashion. Even though she was a Biology major, this project allowed her to research details and use creativity that would go into designing a dress she proudly could share.


When it came to the day of commencement, however, this dress never made its reveal. For Sarah, it was a chaotic time due to personal reasons and photos of her handmade outfit never took place. Graduation has been a bittersweet memory since then.

As an Asian-American woman myself, hearing Sarah's story about her graduation day reminded me of my very own flustered one. Part of graduation is of course showing off your success but also the cute dress you're wearing! Not being able to do so is just a little thing that carries with you in remembrance.


Sarah is a lovely client of ours who we have had the joy of working with previously. Just before her move back to her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, she wanted to capture herself in this handmade dress of hers.


For Sarah, this photoshoot was more than just showing off her hard work that never saw the light. This is Sarah reclaiming a moment of joy for herself that has been long overdue.


While years have passed since graduation, Sarah has developed comfort and confidence within herself and her body. Her craft in DIY garments has also gotten better.


She can certainly say that she is proud of who she is now because of her growth and now exemplifies the power of healing, the beauty of strength, and the importance of intention. This is a coming-of-age identity story worth celebrating.


Capturing Sarah and highlighting her dress is an even more special moment because of the metaphor behind it. These are the memories and meanings we stand for.


You can read more through an interview about Sarah and the dress in this UR magazine article.


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