Traditional Tlingit formline design and high fashion merged in Miss Alaska Alyssa London's Miss USA evening gown.
London, a top 10 finalist in the pageant held last weekend in Las Vegas, walked onstage wearing a robe based on Tlingit regalia draped over her shoulders, then threw back the garment to reveal her red, Swarovski crystal-beaded evening gown. The material of the robe became the dress's long train.
"I am Tlingit, and I am a proud Alaska Native/ Native American woman. I wanted to use the moments I had on the Miss USA stage to show the world that I embrace and am proud of my culture and heritage," London wrote on Facebook. "By wearing a gown with this design work, I felt I had the strength of my ancestors and my whole community behind me on stage."
The formline design of a killer whale representing London's clan was drawn by Seattle-based Tlingit artist Preston Singletary. The gown was designed and constructed by Joey Galon Atelier in Los Angeles.
It was London's idea to reference her culture through the dress, designer Joey Galon said. Galon came up with the transforming train concept and then London asked Singletary to provide the traditional touch.
Incorporating London's heritage into her gown "was challenging, but exciting at the same time. I really wanted it to be a big success for her," Singletary said. "I do formline design work all the time. It reoccurs throughout all the designs we do in woodcarving, textiles," and other materials.
Galon sent the train fabric to Singletary, and the artist drew the design on it in ink.
"He shipped it back to me and I crystallized it from there," Galon said. "The line is completely covered in black Swarovski crystals."
Both Galon and Singletary were dazzled by how London and the dress looked onstage.
"It was spectacular. I was amazed," Singletary said. "It's like it transformed from this traditional robe and became this very elegant dress."