One of the best things about working with wool fabrics is that “you don’t have to worry about it catching on fire” while ironing it, said Miranda Dowler. Hurray for a low combustion rate. The Vancouver teen competed in this year’s Washington State Make It With Wool Contest, where wool knowledge is just as important as the design. The 16-year-old created a wool plaid jumpsuit using fabric she discovered at the Pendleton Woolen Mills in Washougal. As part of the contest, Dowler had to model her outfit for the judges, while answering questions about its construction. “You have to have your body completely covered in wool,” she said. Her jumpsuit earned her third runner-up in the state for the junior category. It’s part of a national contest which encourages contestants to create outfits using at least 60 percent wool fabrics or fibers. Dowler competed in last year’s contest, creating a fur-lined wool jacket and pants, which earned her third place on the national level.
“I’ve been sewing since I was 8 years old,” Dowler said. She and her sister would play with their mother’s old box of needles and sewing trim. Dowler took lessons with a friend’s grandmother and fell in love with sewing, she said. “I really like making clothes, and do mostly my own designs. It’s super cool to draw something out and make the pattern.” And the translation from a 2-D sketch to a realized garment is a challenge she excels at. “An arm sleeve, for example, is not just a square you sew up the side. It needs slight angling and tapering, and a round top with room for the shoulder.”
“I have dyslexia,” said Dowler, “so I’m able to flip everything around in my head (to create the other half of the pattern). While other people look at dyslexia as a disability, I want to use it to my advantage.”
Her wool jumpsuit took about two weeks to design and make, working on and off. Her design pulls some inspiration from denim overalls. “Sometimes, doodling mistakes turn into inspirations,” she said, adding that she really likes taking elements from previous generations of fashion, and giving them a twist for the modern day.
“The bold prints of the ’60s, with the tailor and the flow” was a trend she incorporated into the design.
In addition to creating clothes, Dowler has also been modeling them. She took part as a model for this year’s Portland Fashion Week, along with some ad campaigns and photo shoots over the past year. “When I’m walking in someone else’s clothes, I’m really aware of the blood, sweat and tears (that went into it),” Dowler said. “This is their baby, their life, their interpretation of art, and it’s very brave of them.”
She has plans of pursuing a business degree, while still creating her own clothing designs and exploring modeling. “I haven’t signed with an agency yet, I want to focus on school first,” she said. Dowler currently attends Vancouver iTech Preparatory.
Dowler is already designing her piece for next year’s wool competition, taking inspiration from another passion: dog shows. She currently spends her weekend showing an Afghan hound named Rider in the juniors ring. “I wanted something that I could get more use out of,” she said, so creating a three-piece wool suit for the show ring seemed like a perfect fit.
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