When designing the gown for Maid Silvia LXXVII Ashley Elizabeth Houchin, Connie Linger said she let her imagination travel back in time to the debutantes of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Linger said Mountain State Forest Festival Director General Cricket Leary requested she let her imagination flow as she designed the looks for Houchin and the entire court.
Houchin will descend Coronation Hill today at 2 p.m. wearing a velvet gown in the color most Royal Sapphire Blue. The dress boasts an empire waisted A-line style with a simple set-in long sleeve.
The neckline is a classic wide dipped boatneck shape and is trimmed with a four-inch collar of genuine black fur. From beneath the fur collar, a velvet capelet drapes around her shoulders and is trimmed at the bottom with a two-inch band of the black fur.
This fur is banded on the inner edge with pewter lame' and a row of pewter hex-cut beads to add some depth and glimmer.
"The simple navy matte satin sleeves of Ashley's gown are embroidered from top to wrist with ruby and amethyst leaves with pewter veining," Linger said. "A simple ruby velvet maple leaf drips off the wrist and is accented by grey Swarovski pearls and a cluster of crystals."
Linger said the A-line skirt features a cut-away front she recently mentioned in a Facebook post.
"The cut-away was a bit daunting to perfect," Linger said. "The cut-away velvet is edged with hex-cut pewter beads. From under the velvet, a navy matte satin layer is revealed. This layer is richly embroidered with leaves on branches and some ruby, amethyst and pewter velvet maple leaves. The leaves appear to flow out from under the velvet edges, and are accented with Swarovski pearl and crystal clusters with ruby crystals as centerpieces."
One new accent used on Houchin's gown, as well as throughout the court, is the simple stylized bow. The bows of pewter lame' on the front of her skirt appear to clasp together the cut-away velvet. Near the bottom, one of the two bows anchors the lower velvet front, and more pewter ribbon trails and folds its way around the entire hemline. At the back of the gown, the trail of ribbon is tied into one last bow, and drapes gently off the puddle train.
The train hooks on under the capelet at the empire waistline. It is simply designed of sapphire velvet and is accented only with a pewter lame' bow boasting a very long, folded streamer. The streamer makes its way down to meet the black eight-inch fur bottom edge. The streamer features embroidered leaves and velvet leaves with one particular leaf at the center showing the number 77, a request made by Leary.
"Many thanks go to Lola Collier, Kathryn Prentice, Sheila Scott and Brandy Williams for all their seamstress skills in continuing the design theme from Ashley's gown throughout all the court costumes they have sewn," Linger said.
Houchin is a junior at West Virginia University and has been accepted into the speech pathology and audiology program. She is a Dean's List scholar and a member of the Mountaineer Maniacs. She plans to graduate as a speech therapist and work in an early prevention program or in an elementary education setting in West Virginia.
She graduated as salutatorian from Calhoun County High School and was an officer for the class of 2011. She was a four-year letterman in volleyball, served as team captain two years and earned a spot on the Class A All-State Volleyball Team two years. She was a three-year letterman in basketball and a three time LKC basketball scholar athlete.
She was also a member of National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honorary, student council and senior homecoming court, as well as serving as a peer mediator, yearbook editor and rural health initiative intern.
She has been a member of 4-H for nine years and enjoys working with 4-H youth at camps. She has worked as a WVU Extension camping instructor at various county 4-H camps around the state.