The Ultimate Dress

By Sheri Zipperian, Inside Arden, Arden Shoptalk, June 2003

From modest sewing projects starting at the age of 10, Carole Kenney has become one of the most recognized dress designers in Sacramento. Kenney began her career working at Canfield's boutique and quickly began performing alterations and custom clothing pieces for the store's clientele. In the early 1980s, she launched her own business, Carole Kenney Design.

She built her business through word of mouth and has designed hundreds of custom dresses, not only for brides and bridesmaids but the whole bridal entourage, including mother and grandmother of the bride and flower girls. Custom dresses and outfits for special events are still a large part of her business. Kenney just completed a spectacular prom dress for a very lucky young lady.

Quite often, a bride will ask her to update or redesign an heirloom dress. Numerous client consultations occur on each garment regarding fabrics, fittings, special details and adjustments. She also designs headpieces, veils, wraps and other custom accessories.

Nancy Fisher, a client for more than 15 years, is a big fan of Kenney's. "Carole has an incredible attention to detail and she really knows my style," she says. "Plus, I know my dress will truly be one of a kind." Fisher has worn Kenney's creations to the Crocker Art Museum Baroque Ball and the Sutter Club Christmas Ball as well as many other special functions. A self-described perfectionist, Kenney typically works with a couple dozen clients at any one time.

Kenney designed Julie Stauffer's wedding dress and bridesmaid's dress. "She really listens to what you want and translates it into something that will look terrific on you," says Stauffer. Later, both of Stauffer's sisters and all of their bridesmaids hired Kenney to design their wedding dresses. Kenney also transformed Dana Lidster's cherished debutante dress into a wedding dress.

Unable to find a dress she liked in a bridal store, Michele Witry recently hired Kenney to design her wedding gown and a dress for her 9-year-old daughter based on the style of Vera Wang.

Debbie Fairbrook, who wanted an elegant black-and-white wedding, hired Kenney to design her dress and dresses for her mother, grandmother and bridesmaids. "She created the entire look of my wedding, right down to my headpiece," says Fairbrook.

Gayle Wilson, former first lady of California, is a big fan of Kenney's and wore many of her designs, including the gown she wore to a Governor's Ball at the White House. Wilson still works with Kenney on a long-distance basis.

Kenney works from a studio behind her Arden Oaks home. A self-described perfectionist, she typically works with a couple dozen clients at any one time.