Rachel McElvogue’s Gypsy-Inspired Collection Mixes Textures, Prints

April 9th, 2014 by Amanda Pierce
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Rachel McElvogue. Photo by Amanda Pierce

Rachel McElvogue. Photo by Amanda Pierce

Rachel McElvogue’s haute gypsy collection is inspired by the caravans of Romani travelers who came through her town as a child in Norfolk, England.

Her inspiration didn’t come from the way they dressed, but rather how they lived. Their temporary camps were a hodgepodge of collected treasures from faraway lands—colorful blankets, intricate tapestries, shiny fabrics.

“They always had blankets laying outside and things they picked up in random places,” Rachel remembered. “I just loved the way all of their things were set up.”

Rachel wanted to mimic the eclectic feel of the gypsy caravans but also wanted her collection to be cohesive and polished for the runway. She decided on a unifying color palette—gold, silver, and shiny metallic accents—and brought in fabrics commonly used for upholstery to evoke the look of tapestries. Decorative hook-and-eye closures, exposed zippers, and chunky metallic bangles add an eclectic feel.

Rachel’s favorite look, a maxi dress that combines sheer embroidered fabric with a heavier, frayed textile, is finished with a rabbit fur vest.

Mixed fabrics

Rachel mixed fabrics of different weight and texture in her collection. Photo by Amanda Pierce

“The fabrics are nothing that you would normally put together,” Rachel said.

Rachel looked to current trends as she designed her second runway look, a crop top and pencil skirt ensemble made of shiny printed upholstery fabric and accessorized with a thick cream-colored scarf.

Working with unconventional fabrics created challenges for Rachel. Some fabrics were heavy and thick, while others were delicate and prone to tear.

To tackle design and construction challenges, Rachel relied on tips she learned from her grandmother, a master seamstress who taught Rachel to sew when she was only five years old.

Her grandmother was skilled in pattern making and dress construction (she made a wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses for her daughter, Rachel’s mom), and was skilled in working with upholstery fabrics to make pillows and drapes.

“When I was younger my grandma always sewed,” Rachel said. “I loved going into her attic because there was always cool stuff [that she had made].”

When Rachel moved to the United States at age 10, her love for sewing and design took off. She started making clothes for herself and took as many home economics classes as she could throughout middle and high school.


Decorative hook-and-eye closure on one of Rachel’s garments. Photo by Amanda Pierce

After attending CCAD’s College PreView program, Rachel knew that CCAD was for her.

“I just loved the city and I loved the friends that I made here,” Rachel said.

Rachel’s gypsy-inspired looks will grace the runway on May 9—don’t miss your chance to get a front row seat. Tickets are on sale now.

Rachel is from Cincinnati, OH, and attended Northwest High School.

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The CCAD Fashion Show is an annual fundraising event that showcases the talent of graduating Columbus College of Art & Design Fashion Design Seniors. This popular event sells out every year and this blog is a portal through which to view the behind-the-scenes goings on.

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One Response to “Rachel McElvogue’s Gypsy-Inspired Collection Mixes Textures, Prints”

  1. Dress Lover says:

    I love the embroidered fabric with the gold fringe that’s shown in the first photo. It does evoke a gypsy feel.