Party Dresses, From Cocktail to Ballgown | The Realest

Why should models have all the fun? Each month we’re finding a “real woman”—i.e., of any shape and size—and giving her the model treatment in The Realest. We bring the wardrobe, stylist, photographer and blog editor—she brings her anything-but-one-size-fits-all personality and style—and we all head out on location for an IRL photo shoot to showcase our monthly Dress Spotlight.

Meet Leah Watkins, a talented fashion designer and self-described jack of all trades with personality to spare. Not to mention just a lovely human being. We brought her to the quirky Palladian Hotel and spent the day playing around the boutique accommodations. Because, why not? Our only regret was having to leave the one-of-a-kind pillows behind.


Holiday Party Dress Ideas--Sequins

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On dressing for a party: “If I’m going to a cocktail party, I’m going to want to feel beautiful and sexy without showing everything off. I like to show a little hint of skin and let the imagination do the rest. I love hemlines short, but sometimes I just want to evoke the spirit of Stevie Nicks and dance around in a floor-length maxi dress. I tend to gravitate towards black, and I don’t mind a little sparkle here and there.”

On her style: “My personal style is really influenced by motorcycle culture, rock & roll and the ’60s and ’70s. I definitely dress according to my mood, so some days I might wear lots of flowing florals, and some days I’m head to toe in black. I love vintage and try to incorporate at least one special and unique piece with every outfit. Nothing spices up an otherwise simple outfit like a great hat, a printed scarf or a very unique bag. One thing I can’t live without is my leather moto-jacket. It goes with everything!!”


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Adrianna Papell Sheath Dress | BaubleBar Fringe Earrings | Topshop Pumps

MIX & MATCH I – The Two-Piece

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Brad Pitt | Adrianna Papell Ball Skirt | Tom Selleck

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Natasha Couture Clutches | BaubleBar Rings


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Topshop Crystal Ear Crawlers

Evolution of her style: My style has changed so much over the years. I used to only wear vintage. Everything had to be vintage! Now I like to mix it up a little more. I like to combine modern pieces with vintage accessories. I tend to get bored of my clothing very quickly, so I spend more money on staple pieces like a great pair of booties, a timeless leather moto jacket, or the perfect pair of jeans and spend less on things that I know I’ll just end up selling in a month or two. As I get older, my wardrobe has definitely become more sophisticated, but I will always have a beat-up Harley Davidson tee somewhere in my closet.

MIX & MATCH II – The Two-Piece

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Aidan by Aidan Mattox Two-Piece Ballgown

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Soko Ring | Virgins Saints & Angels Cuff Bracelet | Steve Madden Sandals


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Maggy London Lace Sheath Dress | Majorica Wrap Ring

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Dior Retro Metal Sunglasses | Topshop Pointy Toe Boot

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Maggy London Sheath Dress | Topshop Platform Sandals

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Whiting & Davis Mesh Clutch | Valentino Rockstud Sunglasses

On work and play: “I am an Instructional Tech for the School of Apparel Design and Development at Seattle Central College. A typical day for me consists of helping the students pick out the right fabrics and notions for their particular projects, updating our website and Facebook pages, cutting fabric, drafting patterns, sewing samples, aiding and assisting the instructors with whatever they need to help their classes run more smoothly, fixing sewing and pressing equipment, and basic administrative tasks around the office. I’m what you’d call a jack of all trades.

“After I’m done with my day job, I go home and work on my Etsy store FELONWOOD, which consists of vintage clothing, accessories and housewares–plus handmade home goods and apothecary made by yours truly.”


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Adrianna Papell Beaded Ball Gown | Topshop Moto Jacket | Topshop Sandals

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Her fashion and design inspiration: “I look for fashion inspiration on the street, at shows, in old biker magazines, movies of the ’60s and ’70s, and the pages of Vogue. When designing clothing, I’m mostly inspired by fabrics and textiles. Once I see an amazing piece of material, I start to imagine how it would look on the body and design around that. The fabric, in a sense, speaks to me!”

Special thanks to our real woman model Leah Watkins (follow her on Instagram) and the Palladian Hotel.

Images: Elizabeth Rudge | Styling: Associate Stylist Margaret Jones | Hair & Makeup: Jamyrlyn Mallory

–Jeff Powell

  • Claudia November 3, 2015, 11:48 am

    This “real” girl used to work for me as a massage therapist! Multi talented and full of spunk! Congrats Leah!

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