Designer's Gift of Garb Honors Parish Class of 2013

To my delight, Parish Episcopal School senior Claire Criss shadowed me at work last week. Multiple people mistook this teenage dynamo and aspiring fashion editor to be the company’s newest employee, and with any luck, she’ll come back to see us before she heads off to pursue a journalism degree at Texas Tech University. 
Claire’s high-school commencement ceremony is coming up in the meantime, so she penned this story about local designer Vatana Watters, and the white dresses that have become a de facto uniform on graduation day. 
— Georgia Fisher
On Sunday, members of Parish Episcopal School’s sixth graduating class will make their way across the Meyerson Symphony Center stage to receive their diplomas.  However, this graduation differs from others in the past.  The girls’ white dresses will look the same as every other year, but the meaning behind them will make them special to the class of 2013.
 Sydney Dunbar has been a student at Parish since second grade, and her mother, Vatana Watters, has been there every step of the way.  As founder and CEO of Watters, a wedding-dress company, Vatana has tried to find the balance between a busy work schedule and keeping up with her daughter.  “Being a career mom,” she says, “I had to apologize for myself early on. I said, ‘I’m not always going to be the best mom, but I will always love you.’”

Now Vatana has found a way to show her love and support for her daughter’s entire graduating class.  As per tradition, the girls in Sydney’s class will all wear a classic, white Watters dress.  This year, however, the price tag will be of no importance because Vatana has donated all the graduation dresses to the class of 2013.
“She’s the most giving person that I know,” Sydney says of her mother, who has long been their household’s personal designer. From homecoming to prom to cocktail dresses, Vatana has had the opportunity to design for her favorite model — her daughter.  She even hopes to make Sydney’s wedding dress one day.  “When you’re doing dresses for someone that you personally know and have seen grown up,” Vatana says, “you just hope they love what they’re going to wear.”
Parish isn’t the only school to incorporate Watters’ dresses on graduation day.  Greenhill, Hockaday, and Ursuline students will also wear them, as will girls from a few out-of-state schools. The mother-daughter connection felt at Parish, however, is priceless.
“Watching [these] girls from this little,” Vatana said, waving her hand near her knee to show just how young they were, “and seeing how beautiful and intelligent and just a great class of girls [they have grown up to be], I just said, ‘I’m going to give it to this class.'”
— Claire Criss 
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