Going to town on a Halloween gown

Meaghan Deakins sewed this gown for a client for Halloween based on a dress worn in a well-known Dracula movie.

Most people start thinking about Halloween when the weather cools, but Woodville resident Meaghan Deakins started preparing in the heat of June. For Deakins, a clothing designer who specializes in costumes, particularly Renaissance era attire, Halloween is a time of hustle and bustle.

“I stay pretty busy all year round designing for weddings, parties, dance recitals and other events, but Halloween is definitely the most popular time for costumes,” she said.

This Halloween season has been especially hectic because among her regular costume orders was a request for an intricate duplication of the elaborate “absinthe” gown worn by the character Mina Harker in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 movie version of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

“There’s no published pattern of the gown, so I Googled it,” she said. “I viewed dozens of photos, read descriptions, studied and practiced, then got to work on the dress. That was four months ago, and I just finished.”

Deakins, who uses a sewing machine but does a lot of detailing by hand, “barricaded” herself in her sewing room to work with the delicate red silk taffeta she purchased from India.

“Not long after the taffeta arrived, the cat must’ve gotten into the room because I spotted claw marks near where the dress would hang,” she said. “After that incident, the door stayed shut.” Deakins said that she communicated with her husband, Eddie, who works as a graphic designer and drum-maker in another part of the house, by telephone and e-mail.

“When sewing, I entertained myself by listening to some of my favorite movies on Netflix,” she said.

Even though she had to stay isolated for long periods of time to get the gown exactly like the original, Deakins wants to continue making complex costumes in the future.

“Creating fantasies for people is worth all the pinpricks and cuts,” she said.

Deakins has had other requests for movie and musical costume replicas in the past, including costumes from the Broadway musicals “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats,” the movie “Lord of the Rings” and the television series “Firefly.”

“I’m glad I can help support my family by making people happy,” she said.

Deakins, who performs in the local Celtic band Whiskey Wagon, likes the fantasy world of costumes as much as her clients. She’s regularly attended Renaissance festivals since about age three. Her mother, sensing Deakins’ keen interest in period clothing, taught her then 17-year-old daughter how to sew.

“At the time, I had no idea sewing would be my career,” Deakins said. Her business, Strike Daekins (using the old Norse spelling), is co-owned with her sister, Brynn, who works from Alexandria. Since starting their business in 2003, their clientele has expanded globally.

“We get many orders from other countries, particularly Scotland, New Zealand, and the U.K.,” but business is growing stateside as well.” The order for the “Absinthe Gown” was from Baltimore, close enough for Deakins and her husband to deliver the gown in person.

“I wish I could see the faces of all my clients when they see their costumes for the first time,” Deakins said, “but at least most send me photographs.”

To learn more about Strike Daekins, visit www.strikedaekins.com or call the shop at 540-987-9156.