Telluride Dresser

The Telluride Dresser’s Kathleen Morgan backstage at this year’s Telluride AIDS Benefit. (Courtesy photo by Suchitra Baker)

Not too long after she moved here 30 years ago, Kathleen Morgan found a sewing machine in the Free Box and took it home.

She hadn’t done much sewing before, but, through a friend’s encouragement, met Robert Presley, a local costumer and artist who taught her how to construct, sew and alter a wide variety of garments with her Free Box find.

Over the years, Morgan grew into a talented seamstress and dresser, working behind the scenes at pretty much every Telluride AIDS Benefit — it was Presley’s battle with HIV/AIDS that launched TAB — as well as at innumerable festivals, theater and dance productions, weddings and other events.

It is safe to say that over the past three decades, Morgan has helped hundreds of models, performers, brides and many others put their best sartorial foot forward, gigs that she balanced with her professional life, first as a Telluride school district teacher and later as One to One Mentoring’s program manager, a role she left last year.

Now, Morgan has founded The Telluride Dresser, a dressing service for weddings and other events across the region.

“I am excited to take this from a longtime side hustle into having it be my business,” Morgan said.

So, what does a dresser do?

“Unpacking and hanging garments, steaming or pressing them, doing any touch-ups that might present themselves and then helping the client dress,” Morgan explained. “A lot of my work is weddings, but I have dressed people for all kinds of events. My role as a dresser is to make sure that everybody at an event is comfortable in their skin and looks their best, and to free up the planners to focus on other things.”

While The Telluride Dresser does not offer large-scale alterations or dressmaking services, Morgan will make small alterations, as well as repairs to garments.

“Being a dresser means being prepared for all kinds of mishaps or problems,” she noted. “I carry what I call my bag of tricks, which has solutions for all the things that can happen.”

According to Morgan, she has a busy summer ahead, primarily with weddings.

“For weddings, I create a personalized plan with the bride and event planner to make sure that everything goes smoothly from a fashion perspective,” Morgan said, adding that the big day can be hectic and not a little nerve wracking for both the participants and the planner.

“My job is to make sure that the brides, their bridesmaids and families are confident and comfortable in what they are wearing so they can enjoy the day,” she said. “And the event planners are so busy. I ensure that they can focus on the event itself, secure in the knowledge that the fashion is taken care of.”

Even after the bride is dressed, there are subsequent tasks like fluffing the dress and veil before she walks down the aisle and assisting the photographer in styling the bridal party for the all-important photos.

Morgan points to another key wedding day activity: bustling. (For the uninitiated, this is the process of fastening the dress’s train to the back of the skirt so it no longer touches the ground, thus creating a “bustle”. It typically happens after the ceremony and before an activity like dancing begins.)

“The number one request I get is about bustling,” Morgan remarked, chuckling. “If there isn’t a dresser, the planners often have to take time out from everything else they are doing to help the bride. It can be complex — wedding dresses even come with YouTube tutorials on how to do it — but for me, bustling is easy.”

She adds, “I think that’s really the thing about having a dresser. It takes the pressure off the bride, but also the planner. You have one person, an expert, to take care of all the clothing needs. It can be for the bride, but also her bridesmaids, the groom and groomsmen and members of their families, like the mother of the bride.”

It was Wendy Jacobs Hampton, the highly regarded Telluride wedding and event planner and owner of Soiree Telluride for 22 years, who last summer reached out to Morgan to dress an upcoming wedding.

“Historically, I had been flying in bridal dressers from out of town,” Jacobs Hampton said. “I had one fall through last summer. I was thinking of who I could bring in and I thought, ‘This is crazy — there has to be someone fantastic who is local.’ ”

Morgan came to mind, so Jacobs Hampton reached out.

“I asked if this was in her wheelhouse and she said it absolutely was,” she recalled. “Quite frankly, the first wedding I had Kathleen on was a monster wedding. There were 18 bridesmaids, and it was a really big, intricate wedding that was complicated when it came to dressing the bride in multiple dresses, plus dressing the mother of the bride and all the bridesmaids.

“Kathleen nailed it. She absolutely crushed it. She could not have done better.”

Jacobs Hampton continued to have Morgan dress her weddings and was impressed enough to suggest that she consider setting up a business, a seed that has grown into The Telluride Dresser.

“It is so heart-warming and exciting to me to have been part of this,” Jacobs Hampton said. “It’s local, entrepreneurial women helping local, entrepreneurial women and nothing makes me happier. It fills me with joy to see her do something she loves in a thriving industry in Telluride.”

She added, “I do believe Kathleen will be consummately successful.”

 

Contact Morgan at kathleen@thetelluridedresser.com or 970-728-2437.