The prom couture queen of Cambridge

By Debra Messick
Posted 5/14/24

The excitement of prom season starts long before the big event itself, while searching for that one-of-a-kind wow outfit dreams are made of.

But those who know Dionne Sampson of Cambridge know …

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The prom couture queen of Cambridge


The excitement of prom season starts long before the big event itself, while searching for that one-of-a-kind wow outfit dreams are made of.

But those who know Dionne Sampson of Cambridge know that shopping isn’t the only avenue to acquire an unforgettable look.

A seamstress for 40 years, she’s still fusing the skills learned from her mother with her own creative flair making magic for proms, weddings, baby nurseries, stuffed animals, curtains, pillows, and almost anything else she’s asked for. “I do it all,” she said.

Sampson honestly can’t remember how many years it’s been since she started helping answer prom night prayers coming in by special request, often months in advance.

“This year, I started getting asked back in September and October. And yes, I’ve already gotten some orders for next year,” she said.

“They just come to me with a picture of what they want, and we start shopping for fabric,” she said, mostly online since her go-to local source, Jo-Ann Fabrics of Easton, closed its doors.

“I enjoy the challenge. And sometimes I even amaze myself with how they turn out,” Sampson said.

This year she’s brought to life five gowns, plus one matching suit and, for the first time, another to be “blinged out.”

Her appreciative clientele comes from as far away as Virginia, Pocomoke, Mardela, Stephen Decatur High in Salisbury, and Easton.

Over the past five or six years, Sampson has gotten an increased number of requests from young men. “They especially like the Pee Wee Herman look, with tightly fitted jackets,” she said.

For gowns, designs with rhinestones and appliques are most popular now, and it’s that detail work which takes the most time, according to Sampson.

The desire for a customized look for a special occasion is something she understands well. The first outfit she made for herself was fuchsia, with a  hip-length double breasted jacket and sheer pants, which she wore to celebrate her 14th birthday.

Originally from Taylors Island, Sampson comes from a line of talented sewing women. Her grandmother was a quilter, a skill she wished she’d learned; her mother made all the clothes worn by her four sisters and herself when they were young. She also taught her how to sew, though Sampson was the only sister to follow in her mother’s footsteps in doing so.

Employed by the Hyatt for 22 years, Sampson usually stays too busy with sewing orders from others to outfit herself anymore, she said.

But last year, after learning she was to be honored as an outstanding entrepreneur at Groove City Heritage and Culture Group’s Iron Sharpens Iron Awards Ceremony, she decided to take the time to make a fittingly “glam” gown for the occasion.

She also sewed the special gown worn recently to a Hyatt “prom” night, made even more memorable because she was  accompanied by her mother, who passed away suddenly in January.

While high school prom season is about over, there’s no slowing down for Sampson as wedding season is underway. She’s already created one gown worn by an April bride and has another early order for an October wedding.

Depending on an outfit’s style and design, the cost for her couture services can range anywhere from $200 to between $500 or $600. “I don’t ever want to ‘wreck’ anybody over price,” she said, adding that some people, feeling she deserves more than she asks for, “treat me very, very well.”

But the true reward for Sampson isn’t counted in dollars received. “Nothing pleases me more than seeing them happy with what I’ve made for them. Making them look pretty is what makes me happy,” Sampson said.

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