Farragut’s Diane Dalton is a designer. There’s just no other way to describe her.
Not only is Dalton designing home interiors at a new Farragut area business, she’s designing clothes just for herself — for the time being. A clothing line could be in her future.
Dalton is energetic and enthusiastic about what she does, born from a passion for fashion, as reflected in her interior design work at the business she and husband, Paul, manage: Wolfgang Interiors & Gifts at 10532 Kingston Pike.
“I’m fabric–driven,” she said. “I might be up on the ladder [in the store] looking at these fabric books and see something and say, ‘I need to make a cape out of this.’”
She said a good interior designer should know how to dress.
“If you can’t decorate yourself, how can you decorate someone’s home?”
Dalton grew up in California where her mother taught her to sew and she has been in fashion design ever since she earned a sewing badge in Girl Scouts.
“I started making Troll doll clothes and Barbie doll clothes in elementary school,” she said. “I sold them on the playground at school and made a lot of money. I grew up and went off to Liberty University [Lynchburg, Virginia] and brought my sewing machine. I was probably the only girl there in the dorms who had a sewing machine in her dorm room. I made my clothing.
“Everybody thought I was a hippy because I came from California to Liberty University,” she added. “One of the first things I wore was a plaid coat with gorilla arms made out of fur with a maxi skirt. Nobody was wearing maxis. I was fashion-forward, but they weren’t.”
Dalton did well at Liberty and even worked as university president Jerry Falwell’s secretary.
She stood out in college, something she’s never shied away from.
“If you can’t stand out in a crowd, why be there?” she said.
“Fast forward to now,” Dalton added. “I might see something that a star wore. For instance, Taylor Swift has a dress that I’m going to copy, but in my own fabric. On this one, I’m running out of time before Market [the Markets at AmericasMart], so I might hire this out. I have a lady who sews for me occasionally. She’s wonderful. But it’s my design and my fabric choices if she makes it.”
Dalton said her love is dresses and that she wears a dress almost every day.
“I wear a dress to every Market,” Dalton said. “Wolfgang [Schaber, business owner] and I go to Market four to six times a year and most of my clothing makes its debut at the High Point Furniture Market or the Atlanta Market. I’ll wear them to appointments [to meet clients], church, Bible study, out with the girls.
“I hardly wear pants,” she said, adding that she doesn’t look good in denim and that jeans aren’t comfortable. “Pants get complicated. If you wear a dress you’re done. Just put accessories with it.
“I might see a dress in a movie. What I’ll do is go to the fabric store and see if I can find something. I’ll make a pattern out of paper and then an old sheet to make sure it fits. You can’t try on paper. I’ll tweak it and then I’ll cut it out of the fabric. If I can’t take the sleeves from one pattern and the bodice from another, I’ll make my own. Sometimes I trace around the shape of an existing dress.”
Dalton is so busy she doesn’t have time to sit down and sew leisurely. But once in a while she’ll stay up all night to finish a dress. Just before Easter, she made what she called “a frock” that was inspired by a vintage white Jackie Kennedy-esque hat. “I stayed up all night to finish,” she said.
Usually, though, she’ll do a couple of seams a night and a dress might take weeks.
“This is my pet peeve,” Dalton said. “I feel like we’re the last of the ladies. I’m into femininity. No one dresses up anymore and we’re so casual — even a teacher puts on a T-shirt and denim and that doesn’t command respect. I feel like it puts credit on you if you dress nicely.”
“[Coco] Chanel said to dress like there’s a party. Who wants to blend in? I’m bold.”
Dalton said you don’t have to be thin to dress well.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re not the perfect size. Sometimes that’s not healthy,” she said.
Will she start her own line?
“I ran into Julian Alexander at the furniture market and he commented on my clothing,” Dalton said. “He said, ‘I love that hat.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’ I had designed and made my dress and I have an artist friend paint a hat to match.
“We had a rep who came in who said, ‘If you make it big, I want to be your agent.’”
Dalton said if she had a clothing line, it would be mainly dresses. I have a lot of people who ask me to sew for them. I say, ‘No.’ I do it for my pleasure. It’s a lost art.”