Watch out, Blake Lively. There is a Plymouth fashionista following closely on your Gossip Girls heels. Caitlin Ellsworth, 18, recently tied for first place in the Sweety High: Be A Star on the Runway competition for girls ages 8–18. Her prize is a trip to the online social networking hub’s Los Angeles headquarters to work closely with designers who will turn her dream dress into a reality.
Ellsworth’s award-winning sketch of a cocktail-length coral dress, complete with a sassy lace overlay, is just the kind of casual-yet-sophisticated outfit the teen says she would wear for an evening out with friends.
“It’s something I would definitely wear. I chose coral because it’s one of my favorite colors,” she says. “It’s pretty, practical and something that can be worn for all kinds of occasions.”
Veronica Zelle, founder of Sweety High, says the contest received many submissions that the judges initially whittled to 12 finalists, allowing visitors to the site the opportunity to vote for their favorites.
“During the judging phase, our criteria was based on originality, creativity and aesthetic appeal,” Zelle says. “Both of the girls who tied for first place had compelling designs, and Caitlin’s in particular struck the judges as something distinctly elegant yet simple.”
Once Ellsworth realized her design had made it into the top 12, she vigilantly checked the Sweety High website to see how voters were reacting to her dress.
“Every three days, there was another elimination round until the judges chose the top three,” she says, “so I was checking it at least twice a day. It was kind of nerve-wracking to see if I would make it to the next round.”
In Los Angeles, Ellsworth and the other contestant selected consulted with a team of designers from BeBop, a contemporary fashion label, who are prepping for production of both winning designs July 11–15. “The experience the two girls have seeing their dresses come to life will be premiered on sweetyhigh.com,” says Zelle.
For a devoted Project Runway fan like Ellsworth, this opportunity is a dream come true. She’s been sketching designs since she was a young girl and recalls the days when she and her best friend would draw a variety of outfits and play “store” where they would “sell” their designs.
Two years ago, Ellsworth launched her own You Tube channel called Glamourista 16 where she dispenses beauty and fashion advice to other teens and prior to that, she created a website called Preptastic Layouts after teaching herself graphic design skills.
Fashion always has been a big part of Ellsworth’s life, so it was easy for her to describe her own sense of style. “Right now, I like the boho look that I’m seeing in stores like Urban Outfitters or online at asos.com, which is one of my favorite fashion sites—the designs are very European,” she says, adding that her go-to accessories include long, dangling earrings and colorful handbags, flats or wedges.
Her fashion icon of the moment is Gossip Girls star Lively, who is making a name for herself with her elegant, sophisticated style. “I love her Gossip Girls wardrobe and wish it was mine,” says Ellsworth with a laugh. “But I love her everyday look, too.”
Other fashion favorites include singer Selena Gomez, the legendary Audrey Hepburn and Kate Middleton; closer to home, she’s also spotted several trends among friends and classmates at Wayzata High School, from which she graduated in June and where she was involved on the yearbook staff and in art club.
“The neon trend is very popular at school and in general,” she says. “When it had a resurgence from its ’80s origins in 2000, it was kind of obnoxious, but now I love things like cool neon gladiator sandals.”
Other teen trends? Geometric patterns, especially in bold statement jewelry, and fedoras—for both boys and girls—which Ellsworth thinks “can really pull a look together.” She says the same about scarves, but is less likely to wear them since, “I’m not sure I pull them off very well,” she says with a laugh.
Ellsworth attends University of Nebraska this fall, where she plans to study business or marketing. She might also specialize or minor in fashion merchandising.
With a dream of owning her own business one day—perhaps involving fashion in some way—Ellsworth’s award-winning experience with the Sweety High contest has definitely been a step in the right direction.
“I’ve always thought in the back of my mind about what it would be like to be a fashion designer, but I guess I never really thought it could happen,” she says. “It’s awesome knowing I’ve come this far. Maybe I do have potential after all.”