BALTIMORE (AP) — Little did Jody Davis know she would one day dress Maryland First Lady Dawn Moore for his inauguration. She didn’t even expect to become a fashion designer.
Davis, 60, originally planned to become a veterinarian. But the summer after she graduated from Western High School in North Baltimore, she started “stitching around.” She bought a yellow linen tablecloth from Goodwill Industries and turned it into a top and skirt, drawing compliments from family, friends and even strangers.
“People started asking me to make them what I had or to make pieces for them,” Davis said. “But it took me seven years before I realized that the things I saw as hobbies were really my gift from God.”
Raised in Baltimore, Davis graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She then moved to Washington, D.C. and spent seven years at retailer Neiman Marcus.
“At that point, my boss said, ‘You’re either going to quit or I’m going to fire you because you’re too good to work on the sales floor when your clothes come in,'” Davis said. “That was the kick I needed to get me out there and give me the courage to go out there on my own and start designing full-time.”
In the year In 2010, Davis opened Jodi Davis Designs at 110 W. Saratoga St. downtown, where she has been ever since.
Davis dresses are 80% of her collection. And there are some clothes that no customer can find – the ones Davis wears herself. She has been wearing only her own designs for the past 15 years, but suddenly she doesn’t match the customer because she has unique things.
Davis said her clothes are “statement pieces” because they all come with a certain stretch, so the clothes “fit the body with elegance and class.” Her dresses range from $195 to $2,600. And, she said, her clothes allow a woman to “walk into a room without saying a word.”
This was the goal of the swearing-in ceremony that Davis developed for Moore. On January 18, Moore wore a semi-fitted white Ponte jersey dress with a high neck below the knee and long sleeves that fell, cinching at the waist. She had a matching cap made of light cashmere. Davis said Moore’s dress will be available for purchase in an upcoming collection expansion.
The first lady’s eyes lit up as Davis presented the dress to Moore for the final time.
Moore did not return a request for comment.
Lana Ra was Moore’s costume stylist for Inauguration Day. She paired Moore’s dress and coat with a vintage Cartier brooch and earrings from Smith jewelry, Sam Edelman boots, and satin gloves. Ray LeMore said she drew inspiration for her monochromatic look from former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Davis found clothing materials in New York City. She said she would prefer to go to Paris or Italy, but Moore would not see her appointment until after her husband’s November victory, so time was limited.
Davis Moore saw her vision come to life in real time as she watched from the crowd as she descended the stairs in Annapolis. Designing the gown worn at the historic inauguration of Maryland’s first black governor was an out-of-body experience, she says.
“I don’t know if it’s really registered yet,” Davis said.
Davis designed the dress and coat for Moore’s daughter Mia, who appeared at the inauguration in a princess-style blue dress with a matching coat and hat with pompoms. When Davis fitted Mia, she went straight to the mirror to spin and dance in her new outfit.
Even Oprah Winfrey, who was the surprise commencement speaker at the inauguration, praised Davis’ designs. In a video filmed by Ray and posted on Davis’ social media, Oprah said she “looks up to Jodie Davis” and wants a more “sophisticated Mia dress” for herself.
“I really like the way our first lady looks like Dawn Moore because it’s sophisticated, it’s beautiful,” Winfrey said. “It still is. You know, it’s also very trendy. I mean, you can’t even describe what it is. I’ve never seen that look before. She’s wearing it, she’s not wearing it.”
“It’s great,” says Davis, to be recognized by Winfrey, “Midas has touched herself.” Oprah says she’s working on shipping.
Davis’ husband, Kevin Scott, also works in fashion. He owns Benedetto’s Haberdashery, a menswear store next to his wife’s boutique at 324 Park Ave. The couple met when they were 17 years old.
Davis said that when a black woman enters the fashion industry, she has to explore the world on her own.
“Being in that space was invisible,” Davis said. “It hasn’t been easy, but using my gifts and talents to dress women and make them feel good is very rewarding.”
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