A Fashion Renaissance

By Irisa Gold

Fashion Design alumna Jennie Fear’s timeless artistry honors the past, celebrates the future, and unites generations.

Fashion icon Ralph Lauren once said, “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” Jennie Fear ’97 has created a fashion renaissance that makes dreams come true for families 

in her own backyard—and across the nation. Her work is transformational. She not only designs dresses, she helps to restore, create, and pass down treasured heirlooms—forging new memories from old garments.

From a young age, Fear loved clothes, and loved making clothes. “I have been behind a sewing machine since I was seven years old. I would make clothes for my dolls, and I made my first prom dress. I like textures and I have a strong love for tailoring.”

Her creativity thrived as a fashion design major at PhilaU, now Jefferson. “I loved it there. I loved spending my nights in those sewing labs and drafting patterns in studios and putting together my collection. It was a wonderful 

space with great professors who really helped encourage my love of all areas of fashion.”

After graduation, Fear worked in all areas of design in the industry—as a design coordinator, a sweater designer, and a stint working freelance. Following the birth of her son, Noah, inspiration struck.

He needed a christening gown. “I wanted to cut up my wedding gown and my mother refused to let me. It was all this amazing silk, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do with this? It’s been sitting in a box.’” She then learned that a friend’s nephew needed a christening gown, her sister-in-law donated her wedding dress, and Willow Bean Studio was off to the races. 

“We’re not a society anymore where you would buy a wedding gown and all your sisters would wear it and you may pass it down to your child. It is very green to recycle them.”

It’s an emotional process for both Fear and her clients, whether she is meeting an infant and their mother to take initial measurements for a christening gown, or allowing an excited little girl to make the first cut into her mother’s wedding gown on its way to becoming her communion dress. 

She is humbled that she can be a part of a family’s special journey and aware that the wedding gown’s transformation process requires a leap of faith and trust on both parts. Through it all, Fear works to connect the gown to the past and the future, adding to the story and the memories. 

“It’s moments like that I can’t get anywhere else. This feeds my soul.”

Fear adores working on communion dresses. “Eight is a magical age. My house is filled with laughter from January to mid-April.” The mothers and daughters have an initial consultation, design meeting, and three fittings, followed by a dress reveal fit for a queen. Fear throws open the doors, and there, proudly displayed on a dress form, is their magical communion frock. “They bring such joy into my home when they come in and twirl in their dress.” 

Fear’s great-grandmother fed her love of fashion. “She just would bestow these little things on me every now and then, so she really gave me a love and an appreciation for things from the past, which definitely connects to this. She inspired my love for all things old and showed me how to connect generations through fashion.”

The business has continued to evolve in new directions, from transforming gowns into keepsakes like Christmas tree skirts, to showcasing her creations at fashion shows, including New York’s upcoming Fall Fashion Week, where Fear will debut a collection of junior bridesmaid dresses inspired by the butterflies in a story her beloved mother told her throughout childhood. Sharing her multi-generational journey, her 13-year-old daughter, Willow, will model in the show and walk her down the runway.

Fear treasures this inspirational legacy. Clients tell her that their daughters have requested sewing machines and are confident in trying to make something on their own. “And that’s amazing.”