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Sew much talent: Carpenter creates gowns, drama as a home sewer

Jordan Carpenter in his sewing room. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 9
Jordan Carpenter is finding his voice as a designer of epic couture fantasy gowns. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 9
Summoning Cinderella vibes in this powder blue gown by Jordan Carpenter. Courtesy Jordan Carpenter3 / 9
Some of Jordan Carpenter's "Wizard of Oz" collection helps inspire his sewing, he said. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 9
At home, Jordan Carpenter works on a corset at his Brother sewing machine. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 9
Jordan Carpenter and Emma Cory dressed wearing Carpenter's homemade garments to Red Wing High School prom 2017. Courtesy Jordan Carpenter6 / 9
Jordan Carpenter wearing a Wicked Witch of the West costume inspired by his love of "The Wizard of Oz." Courtesy Jordan Carpenter7 / 9
"Winter Belle" inspired costume created by Jordan Carpenter using real fox fur. Courtesy Jordan Carpenter8 / 9
A corner of Jordan Carpenter's workspace. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia9 / 9

Jordan Carpenter has been outfitting people (and stuffed toys and Troll dolls) since as far back as he can remember.

Creating garments from his imagination was an instinctive drive. Just like walking, eating or breathing, being creative came naturally for him. However, his first few attempts were pretty disappointing, with clothes not quite looking the way he had hoped or falling off completely from the model. He was a child, after all.

"One time my mom took me to Walmart and got a yard of fabric," Carpenter said. "I got this little teddy bear and I kept trying to make a dress for her, but it kept coming apart because the stitches were so big. I got lace for it and everything, but it just didn't work out. That was so depressing. But I kept trying."

At some point in middle school, the process just started to click. Carpenter made a full golden gown, inspired by Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," and one of his friends wore it for a photo shoot. The dresses and photo shoots continued from there.

"I did it kind of backwards," Carpenter said. "I started with — I've got to figure out how to make my own looks because I don't want to use commercial patterns because they were so confusing to me — and now I use a lot of commercial patterns. I just change them. Usually if I make a dress it's like four different patterns I put together and changed."

A home sewer with homegrown talent, Carpenter has learned everything he can on his own and turned this hobby into a small business. He does alterations as Jordan's Sewing Services, and just got through the big prom and wedding rush. He assists with costuming for theater productions at Red Wing High School as well.

Carpenter's sewing gained legendary status at RWHS in 2017 when he and his date showed up to prom wearing a fully homemade suit and gown. He's taken on some commission work for other clients, as well, but only if they're willing to pay the commission price.

"People think that homemade is cheap, but it isn't," he said.

Carpenter said, after taking a gap year to work and save money for school, he's ready to enter the next phase of his training at University of Wisconsin - Stout. He'll major in apparel design and development and plans to study performing arts as well.

Though he got into several colleges immediately after high school, Carpenter decided to spend a year working and saving and figuring out his next steps, rather than dive into student debt. Carpenter has spent his gap year working on self-image, improving his photography skills and finding direction for his budding career.

"I have it together now," Carpenter said. "A year ago, I didn't have it together because I didn't know what I was going to be doing.

"I want to remember how happy you can be with making a decision and sticking by that decision and feeling good about it. And that's how I feel right now and I'm really excited about that."

Carpenter heads to school in September and will be living on campus. He said he looks forward to getting the hands-on training and sewing guidance that will launch his career to the next phase, and he's confident UW-Stout is the best place to get started.

"I feel like, if I live in a big city someday, I'll wear suits every day and that kind of thing, which is what I really want to do," Carpenter said. "I just want to look good on the street. I want people to see me and be like 'I want to be that guy.'"

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