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SCIO — Kate Miles’ goal in life is to work in haute couture — high fashion — in Paris, France.

She has even started learning the language, preparing for that day.

It may be a lofty ambition for a 14-year-old, but one would be wise to stay out of her way.

Saturday afternoon, the Scio High School freshman, who began sewing when she was just 4 years old, will host her first public fashion show at the former Oakview School, 38181 Gilkey Road. It was built in 1920 and has been remodeled into a home over the last year by her mother, Rebecca.

An open house to show off the renovation will be from 1 to 4 p.m., and Kate’s Couture show of mostly 1920s-inspired outfits will begin at 2 p.m.

“I love to create things. I see patterns in all kinds of things,” Kate said. “I’ve gotten inspiration from everything from flowers to a slide show on a church wall.”

Kate works out of her own large basement studio.

Her mother lived in Sweet Home when she was young, until her family moved to the Christmas Valley area to farm. The family moved to the Scio area after Kate’s father, Lloyd, was killed in an accident four years ago.  

The first floor of the old school building that had been turned into a church has been renovated into a large open living room and kitchen, complete with 12½-foot-tall ceilings and a master bedroom and bath.

The basement — which had been the church hall for many years — is now Kate’s studio and bedroom area. She even has her own kitchen, left over from the church hall days.

The studio’s walls are covered with pages of pencil sketches and water colors as well as vintage hats.

There is plenty of work space for her sewing machine, serger and other equipment needed to turn scraps of fabric into wearable works of art.

Rebecca said she knew Kate was going to be her own person, when her daughter was about 18 months old.

“My husband wanted her to be a tom boy and would dress her in bibbed overalls,” she said. “She would crawl upstairs and come back in a frilly dress.”

Although Rebecca admits she doesn’t like to sew, she made a blue princess dress for Kate when she was two.

“I wore it every day until I was four, and then my cousin wore it every day for two years more,” Kate said. “It was my first love of fabrics. I used to play with army men in the mud wearing that dress.”

Kate’s grandmother, Lois Miles, got her interested in sewing and gave her a sewing machine for her 10th birthday.

“My grandmother taught 4-H sewing for years and the machine has a lot of miles on it,” Kate said — no pun intended.  

By the time Kate was 12, she was designing patterns and sewing dresses for her dolls.

Kate creates dresses from scratch, but also enjoys repurposing older dresses, especially outfits from the 1980s that can be purchased at thrift shops for pennies. When she was in the seventh grade, she designed, sewed and fitted her first wedding dress for a family friend.

Over the last two years, Kate says she has sewn about 60 dresses and sold about 20 of them to customers from Alaska to Washington, D.C. Prices for repurposed dresses start at about $80, while handsewn new outfits range from about $100 to $200.

One of her peacock feathered dresses fetched $250.

Her materials and colors run the gamut, from peacock feathers on a repurposed dress that was purchased by a father for his 7-year-old daughter, to crushed mirror glass; from sleek black evening gowns to multi-colored eye-catchers.

She especially enjoys working with fashions from the Roaring ’20s, but also designs eclectic contemporary outfits.

In addition to dresses, Kate sews blouses, shorts, neckties, blankets and even baby clothes.

“I know how to quilt, but I don’t like the precision of patterns,” Kate said. “I like to be more creative.”

Kate plans to dual enroll at Linn-Benton Community College through the PACE program her sophomore year.

“I hope to have my associate’s degree in art by the time I graduate from high school,” she said.

And then, she says, it will be off to a fashion school, preferably somewhere in Europe.

“It’s really difficult to get into European schools, but there are many good schools in the United States and I could take part in a study abroad program,” Kate said.

Kate says she feels most at home in front of a sewing machine or sketching in her design books — she is a self-taught artist in several mediums — but not all of her time is spent bent over a sewing machine.

She is active in FFA and recently took fourth place in the creed speaking category at the state contest held in Bend.

“I like to talk to other people about agriculture and FFA teaches you how to feel comfortable speaking about all kinds of things,” she said.

Kate has also done some work for Matilda Jane Clothing and last May she flew to Michigan to assist in photographing their upcoming fall line.

Kate keeps her roots in farming by helping her two older brothers, Daniel and Andrew, both ag students at Oregon State. The young men help run the family farm near Christmas Valley during the summer and Kate spent last summer cooking for the hay baling crew.

And lest we forget, Kate loves to bake as well as sew.

Along with her mother, she has been baking cookies and other refreshments for Saturday’s upcoming show.

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Alex Paul is the Linn County reporter for the Democrat-Herald. He can be contacted at 541-812-6114 or alex.paul@lee.net.

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