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'Daddy Dressed Me' Founder On Teaching Himself To Sew For His Daughter


Six years and 200 outfits ago, Michael Gardner did not know how to sew. He was looking for a creative outlet and a way to bond with his then 3-year-old daughter, Ava.

MICHAEL GARDNER: So in the beginning, I started with refashioning women's clothing. So I went to the thrift store and just resized it for her. I think the first thing I did was actually a pair of pants. I took a woman's skirt and made it into pants for Ava.


He watched a lot of tutorials on YouTube. He asked his sister, who can sew, a lot of questions. And then he just started making stuff.

GARDNER: Skirts, shirts, shorts, dresses - like, whatever was coming to mind, I was just trying it out.

GREENE: Ava is the inspiration for Michaels fashion blog and social media campaign, which is called Daddy Dressed Me by MG. MG, of course, are his initials.

GARDNER: The mission was always just to teach her to love herself, to be confident and just, like, a bonding experience. Like, our bond is literally built on just trying to empower each other. And that's what I love the most when we're together.

GREENE: Most days, Michael is making an outfit for Ava, who is 9 now.

GARDNER: Any, like, special occasions, her birthday or just, you know, regular days, like, I'm generally making her something that she wears.

KING: Sometimes he's also making a matching outfit for himself. Ava does call a lot of the shots. She weighs in on cut, style, fabric, the whole thing.

GARDNER: She's a kid and I'll always want to keep her in that space. Like, she loves to be comfortable, but she loves to be girly, too, so definitely usually bright, bold and very colorful.

GREENE: Now, the pandemic has had a big impact on them. Michael worked in finance at a hotel, and when the hospitality industry took a hit, he was laid off like millions of other Americans.

GARDNER: Obviously, when, you know, everything kind of happened, the sewing machine was, like, the first thing that I turned to. You know, me creating has always just been, you know, my outlet.

KING: And now Ava has started sewing with him. She has her own pink sewing machine.

GARDNER: She wanted to make a mask, so we started there. Then this summer, she actually made, like, her first skirt. So it's actually gotten her into sewing, too. She's very creative also. So that's kind of been a blessing of, like, actually being home with her throughout this time.

GREENE: They are not selling their work, even though they field a whole lot of requests for that. Michael says Daddy Made Me This (ph) is as much about his love of fatherhood as it is about the clothes he and Ava make.

GARDNER: I absolutely love being a dad. So the fact that I can combine two things that are, like, so important to me, which is creating and fatherhood, like, that's what drives me doing this.

KING: Michael Gardner, the creative genius behind the clothing collection Daddy Dressed Me by MG.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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