A Royal Oak designer who has fitted Whitney Houston and other movie stars with jeweled costumes also works in her Troy studio on wedding dresses that are just as precious.
It’s the nature of the bridal wear industry that every wedding gown generally makes a woman elated. That’s why Deanna Zapico, 51, loves being a bridal and evening wear designer.
“My clients are generally ecstatic,” Zapico said. “Sometimes I am able to give them exactly what they wanted before they even knew they wanted it.”
Whitney Houston sparkles
In addition to making wedding gowns, Zapico has worked on several Hollywood films shot in the Detroit area. Last August, she worked with Whitney Houston on the set of Sparkle, a film about a ’60s girl band that was shot in area venues including Cliff Bell’s, Bakers Keyboard Lounge and the Masonic Temple.
“Whitney was a sweetheart,” Zapico said of the singer-actress who died Feb. 11. “She was friendly and very professional.”
Zapico was shocked to learn of Houston’s death, saying the singer’s behavior in the final days of her life was inconsistent with the sweet woman she fitted in Detroit.
Zapico also did Sparkle fittings for Jordin Sparks as she assisted designer Ruth E. Carter with period costumes.
“I made jewelry mini-dresses made out of 1-inch glass stones,” Zapico said. “Ruth drew pictures of what she wanted that had to be completely engineered. There were over 300 stones and each dress weighed 15 pounds.”
‘I do’ wedding dresses
Sewing has been Zapico’s passion since her childhood days growing in St. Clair Shores.
The College for Creative Studies grad initially focused on an advertising career, but she somehow always managed to design and tailor clothes for friends on the side. In 1979, while in still in college, she designed her first wedding gown for her cousin.
Even as the art director for the D’arcy advertising agency, Zapico would do styling for photo shoots and on occasion make costumes for ads.
In the 1990s, she left her advertising career to raise her two boys – son Ian is now a junior at CCS studying glass blowing and Andre is a senior at Royal Oak High School.
“My ex-husband had a busy career, too, and I told him someone has to raise these two babies,” she said.
In her role as a stay-at-home, Zapico was able to spend more time sewing and building her reputation as a fashion designer.
“I was good at promoting myself,” Zapico said. Soon she found her designs featured in Hour Detroit magazine and the Metro Times.
Reception was good
Today, Zapico has moved out of her home studio and into a choir loft in a former church where she creates 1920-30s vintage-inspired gowns.
“Women don’t want a big poufy traditional dress,” she said. “They want something sexy.”
One future bride may bring in a single photograph of the dress she wants while another women will bring in 20 pages from a bridal magazine. Still others come not knowing what they want at all.
Five years ago, Trish Dewald came to Zapico with bad drawings, magazine clippings and fabric swatches.
“Somehow she pieced all my ideas together to formulate a gorgeous dress,” Dewald said.
The end product was a silk dupioni gown with an apple green silk charmeuse sash. A couple of years later, Zapico would take the same fabrics and make a christening gown for Dewald’s daughter.
“She is incredibly talented,” Dewald said. “The gown exceeded my dreams.”
“I love working in 3-dimension,” Zapico said. “And it’s for such a happy occasion.”
A perk for Zapico is deadlines rarely change. Unlike the world of advertising in which clients are always changing their minds, she said, a date for exchanging nuptials in generally set in stone.
Happily ever after starts here
A custom-one-of-a-kind kind gown will fit better and can cost less than you might think, Zapico said.
“Having something that fits you right, makes you look good,” she said. “I have clients who will say something like ‘I can’t wear that style because I have broad shoulders.’ Maybe they can’t wear a dress off the rack because they have broad shoulders, but I can make any style look good because I can tailor it to fit properly.”
The same is true for weight. A poorly fitting gown can make you look heavier, she said. By the way, Zapico recommends getting to the weight you want at least two months before your wedding, and she joked, “Don’t get pregnant.”
As for cost, custom dresses can be much less expensive than the designer gowns seen in popular magazines, but she says don’t come to her for a bargain.
If you see a $15,000 designer gown you love but can’t afford, give her a call. If you see a $500 dress at a bridal salon you love, “Buy it,” she said.
Zapico also makes evening wear, prom dresses and even has a few clients who are cross-dressers. You can view a portfolio of her work at customweddinggown.com.