Haute Couture Designed and Crafted in East Village

Above: Founder Faythe Dornink, left, and her daughter, designer Sarah Dornink, right, operate Dornink Couture in Des Moines’ East Village.

BY STEVE DINNEN

Ah, the French Room at Younkers – that was high fashion. Perhaps it inspired Des Moines native Roy Halston to design his elegant clothing.

The French Room and Halston are both long gone. But quality ladies’ clothing lives on in the city. You can have your own, bought ready to wear from several fashionable shops, or even custom designed for you exclusively at Dornink Couture in the East Village.

Faythe Dornink founded the shop that bears her name in 1981. Her daughter Sarah literally grew up surrounded by the business, as it operated from their home in early years. Sarah went to the University of Iowa, majoring in mathematics, and then to fashion school in New York, then returned to join her mom as head designer in the shop at 518 E. Grand Ave.

Men typically acquire custom-made clothing – suits, certainly – for work. That’s not so much the case with women, whose focus seems to be on finely tailored clothes they can wear to a special event, such as a charity outing. Weddings are a big deal, both for bridal gowns and designs for mothers of the bride (or groom).

Clients will sometimes come to Dornink with photos of a piece of clothing that has caught their eye. They might want a different color, or a slight change in the shape. And of course, they will get to choose a fabric of their own. Sarah Dornink says all of their material comes from suppliers in California and New York.

The showroom and fitting rooms are upstairs, while the work gets done in the basement by Faythe, Sarah and two assistants.“We cut and sew everything here,” says Sarah.

The Dorninks and their crew can spend as a much as 40 hours cutting, sewing and stitching all of this finery together. Because these garments are custom made, and conform so precisely to each client’s body, Sarah Dornink says her shop can attain a high degree of comfort with the clothing it offers. Pricing will not stress a customer, either, as a mother-of-the-bride outfit runs an average of  $700-$800.

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