One Dress


I think God has a great sense of humor.

Because if you knew me in sixth grade, the last thing you would EVER imagine I would do with my life would be to start a women’s clothing line.

Fashion didn't always come easy to me (and I have the pictures to prove it). After all, I had lived in a totally different continent for nine years of my life. I grew up in a world without clothing labels – what you wore was not a status symbol, but a more of a fight for survival against the environment. The weather in Ghana is much different than here in America – they don’t have four seasons, only two. They have six months of a hot season and six months of a wet season. Wardrobe choices are pretty limited.  

The girls in my village didn’t have bows in their hair or closets full of dresses. If you’ve ever been totally stressed out, and asked yourself “What should I wear today?” – (hey, we've all been there) be thankful. I remember the girls in my village either wore hand-me-down t-shirts from foreigners passing through or their school uniforms – and that was about it.

Except on Sundays – those days were special. In Ghana, everyone has one nice dress. And this dress is what you wear on special occasions – weddings, funerals and church. In fact, this dress is so special that they make them with about two inches of seam allowance so that you can wear it in multiple stages of your life (let it out when you’re pregnant, take it back in when you’re not). 

It was a special day when you chose your dress. I remember walking into a seamstress shop, overwhelmed by the beautiful, colorful fabrics surrounding the walls around me. “Choose whichever one you want,” my mom told me, my eyes wide with excitement. "They would make this just for me? Whichever one I wanted?" I thought.

I chose a deep blue fabric and placed it on the cutting table. They asked me how I wanted it to look – showed me pictures of different styles. “This one,” I said, pointing at a jumper (I liked the clasps – shiny object syndrome, I guess).

I remember walking to church the next Sunday – it was a dusty walk from my house to the church, one on a winding, barren trail. The kind of trail where a couple of feet in the wrong direction could land you in the path of a cobra or scorpion (true story). Dirt caked my small feet as the scorched earth burned at my soles – but I felt beautiful in my new dress. 

I looked around the small church – women from every walk of life were gathered in a circle in their dresses. In a hardened Sahara full of filthy, brown earth, the dresses were vibrant. I looked at my friend Atomboraoh, normally in an off-white tshirt (that was virtually impossible to stay clean). She smiled at me, radiant. And in that moment, I knew she felt the same way that I did. Beautiful.

And that's how By Grace was born. A spark in my heart that wouldn't ever die, couldn't ever be pushed out of my mind. A realization of a social need and a solution. Not through charity, not through hand-outs, but by partnering and working with talented and intelligent women from across the world.

The Builsa tribe only have words for three colors. All of the other colors require descriptions to depict, because they can't give accurate honor to each shade through one word. For example, if you want to say blue, you could say, "The color of the sky before a rainstorm;" for green, you could say, "the color of the grass during harvest time." 

It always struck me that on a space of the earth that is so profoundly barren, they would place such an importance on color. Maybe that's why I fell in love with the fabrics and their bold colors. I saw the way that they valued them - that they honored them. And I thought, every woman deserves that value, that honor. No matter where they were born, or how they were raised.

Until next time,