Home / Culture / Recent Auburn grad’s homegrown business turns old team T-shirts into gameday showstoppers

Recent Auburn grad’s homegrown business turns old team T-shirts into gameday showstoppers

Designer Wallis Smith-Owens' business This Old Blouse brings high football fashion to the masses.

As it turns out, wearing a dress to a football game is mostly a southern thing, but a Tiger transplant hopes to change that trend. During her last semester at Auburn, Wallis Smith-Owens started This Old Blouse, an Etsy-based shop where she sells dresses made from old college T-shirts. After graduating in December with a degree in design apparel, she landed a job in Portland, Ore. and immediately noticed the difference in style.

“People dress a lot different here than they do in the Southeast. No one dresses up to go to a football game typically,” Smith-Owens said. “Right now, I’m just trying to advertise in a new market.”

Smith-Owens works as a design assistant for Jet Clothing – a company she interned with the summer of 2011. With a minor in sustainability, the dresses were a no-brainer. She uses “pre-loved” team shirts and recycled or donated fabric.

Generic Anders giveaway into a one-shoulder gameday dress? That ain't no lateral move!

Portland is home to NBA, MLS and NHL teams, but she said the sports fanatics aren’t like those in the South. “Most people are fans of the Timbers (the Major League Soccer team),” she said. Not long after moving, she made a Timbers dress. Each time she wears it, women stop her to ask where she bought it.

“In some ways, that’s good because it’s less competition because there’s no one catering to the west coast teams,” she said. “They don’t see girly gameday apparel.”

In addition to her Timbers jersey, she also made a Trail Blazers dress, but it’s not available in her online store yet. She offers four designs and customers have some say into how the dress is made.

“They can pick a shirt or mail me a specific shirt to use,” she said. Customers can also choose the contrast color used in the dress and can pick other details including fabric with prints and patterns.

Most of her business comes by word of mouth. She’s not the only Auburn fan in the northwest and found an alumni club to watch games with and to help spread word of her business.

What about when it spreads to Ducks fans?

“Everyone here is really into the environment and about taking care of nature,” she said. “Even though some Oregon fans are still bitter about the loss, so many have told me, ‘I’m so sorry about your trees.’”

Connect with This Old Blouse on Etsy, Facebook and Twitter.

Victoria Cumbow is a 2008 Auburn graduate. She’s a Communications Specialist with HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville and a freelance journalist. Find her online at victoriacumbow.com  and follow her on Twitter @victoriacumbow.

Related: ’74 Auburn grad reinvents herself with docu-tourism.

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