Yamilette Santos, center in the photo above, spent hours each day after school stitching gemstones and jewels, lace, and roses into beautiful gowns. Taking direction from her friends on their personal preferences, she designed not only her own dress for prom this year, but five friends’ dresses too. She and her friends wowed this year’s dance with her stunning creations.
Yamilette first began sewing when she was eleven years old. She enjoyed taking old or unwanted clothing and using her imagination to create something new. Her first spark of interest in the world of fashion began with her grandmother. She says, “I visited my grandma in the Dominican Republic for vacation, and she made my sister and I two purses out of old jeans. I could have sat there and watched her sew for hours, it was truly fascinating to me. Since that moment my interest in sewing started to grow.”
During her high school career, Yamilette began her own fashion business by taking commissions to create custom gown creations or alterations. Her dream was to create her godmother’s wedding dress, and while the busyness of school kept her from designing the dress, she was able to make the custom alterations to make it a perfect dress for her godmother. For the wedding, she designed and created her own gown, her mom’s gown, and the flower girl’s dress.
For prom, she recalls this being the most pressure she has ever been under. She designed six formal gowns (one for her and five for her friends) and managed college level classes through dual enrollment. Esperanza Academy partners with Esperanza College for students to earn college credit while simultaneously earning high school credit. Yamilette graduated high school with not only her high school diploma but her associates degree in business as well.
She recalls, “Prom season of 2023 was my first time ever working on multiple gowns all at once. I experienced the most amount of pressure of my life. I made 6 prom gowns total, starting in December and finished the last dress at the end of April. I spent hours every day hand sewing and designing because I wanted to give my clients the absolute best.”
Her perseverance paid off as she shares, “Each of my clients came in for multiple fittings because it was important to me that all my clients felt their best on prom day, and I can say I did achieve that. What made this year so challenging was also trying to prioritize school at the same time. I spent hours working on dresses, but I also had to make time for school work. I had the opportunity to be a part of the early college program and I was working for my associate’s degree as a business major so I had to put just as much work into school as I was putting into making those dresses. This year was the biggest challenge I’ve experienced so far in life but I can proudly say the pressure prepared me for what’s yet to come.“
Esperanza Academy is encouraged by Yamilette’s dedication to her gift, sharing her talent with the world, and her perseverance in her studies. We are cheering her on as she enters Jefferson University. We cannot wait to see more of her incredible designs. Check out her business, photos of her designs, and the behind-the-scenes of her design process @ysfashiondesign.