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Tracy Frank, Published May 03 2014

Her Voice: Fargo teen makes own prom dresses

FARGO – For her past two proms, Ellen Solberg’s dresses have been truly unique.

That’s because the 17-year-old Fargo North High School junior designed and sewed her dresses herself.

“I didn’t think I would find a dress I would like,” she said.

She based her dresses off of styles by famous designers and then added her own twists.

Last year’s prom dress was a long, smoky sapphire blue A-line dress with a gauzy overlay. The sheer layer had a boat neck and ¾-length sleeves. The inner layer had a sweetheart neckline and was strapless. The dress was belted at the waist and adorned in beads, sequins and applique flowers. Solberg says it was inspired by a dress by fashion designer Elie Saab.

This year’s dress was inspired by a dress from The House of Balmain. It is made of an off-white wool material and is form-fitting to the top of her legs, where it flares slightly to the floor. The dress is adorned in braided fabric and crystal flowers. The bodice has a straight, sleeveless neckline where it joins a sheer sequined top that has elbow-length sleeves and a T-shirt neckline.

To make the dresses, Solberg says she found patterns that were similar to what she wanted and then improvised.

“That’s the hard part, figuring out what to do without a pattern,” she said. “I like problem-solving. Sometimes I get frustrated, but that’s part of the process, I guess.”

She says her dresses are like works of art. Each one took several days to make. Her aunt, Karla Heisler, helped her.

Solberg made matching gold, belted cocktail dresses for her and four friends during spring spirit day for homecoming after finding “this great gold fabric” at a garage sale. (The school’s colors are blue and gold.) And she made superhero capes for the homecoming king, queen, and anyone else who wanted one.

Solberg started sewing in second grade and took lessons from a local teacher for six or seven years. She started out making bags and small clothing items.

“I really liked it so I just kept going,” she said.

Solberg is considering pursuing a career either in fashion or writing.

She started a fashion club in school, reads fashion magazines, and follows a couple of fashion blogs.

“I like that it’s art you can also wear,” she said.

Solberg is also involved in soccer and key club, a service program for high school students.

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526