Most 17-year-old girls going to senior prom have a simple process for finding the perfect dress, typically determined by a standout cut or their favorite color. But for Skyler Branch of White Station High School in Memphis, Tenn., it was actually a loved one who inspired the teen’s incredible prom dress, which depicts a number of iconic black women.
After the passing of her father’s grandmother, with whom Skyler was particularly close, the teen decided that she wanted to honor her relative on the big night. And as Skyler began to brainstorm, she came up with an homage to multiple inspirational figures.
“She said, ‘Mom, there’s been so many extraordinary African-American women who have done so much for me. I want to show them some respect so that they know that not just the older adults but the younger adults appreciate who paved the way,’” Skyler’s mother Dayna tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And she found different pictures of all of the people who she wanted on the dress.”
“I called Shannon up and told her what concepts Skyler wanted, and what we wanted the dress to look like,” Dayna says. “We sat down with her, we went over the print and where we wanted everyone to be. She has her great-great grandmothers on there, she has her great grandmothers on there, as well as her grandmothers. She has all of her aunts from Memphis to Houston. Everybody’s on there.”
With the material picked out, Skyler and Dayna went to a print shop to have the photos printed on the dress. Then the dress was cut and jeweled to perfection by Pierce to become a one-of-a-kind piece that blew everyone at prom, and outside of it, away.
Before the dance, Skyler and Dayna went to see Skyler’s other great grandmother, who’s 87, to show her the dress with her face on it. Pictured right on the front, Dayna says that her grandmother was amazed, while other family members cried.
“We didn’t see anything like this before,” Dayna explains of Skyler’s particular design, while making mention of another unique prom dress that made headlines last year: a tribute to Trayvon Martin. The dress worn by Florida teen Milan Bolden-Morris featured photos of Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot to death in 2012, in addition to a number of other individuals killed during police interactions. While Bolden-Morris’s design made a powerful statement about the Black Lives Matter movement, Skyler’s takes a different approach by recognizing black women who beat the odds.
But as the Tennessee teen approaches her start date at college, there’s one person in particular on her dress that serves as a major inspiration.
“Skyler is actually going to school for pre-vet studies,” Dayna says. “One of the women on the dress is Dr. Alfreda J. Webb, the first African-American female veterinarian in the U.S.”
Although Skyler is striving to follow in the footsteps of these stellar female leaders, it’s pretty clear that this teen is already a strong leader in her own right.
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