Ashley Riewer, who spends most of her time as a hairstylist, decided to make 2012 a year of creative challenges. A longtime home sewer, she took things up a notch when she started taking classes at Portland Sewing, then a step even further with the self-appointed 52 Dresses Project, in which she, in true blog tradition, pledged to design, pattern, and sew a new dress every week for the entire year. (If that sounds like a concept that sewers all of the country must be similarly executing with visions of blog-to-book deals dancing before their eyes, Riewer says she tried to find others online, hoping for a little friendly competition. She found one, but they never made it past the first dress.) For a relative amateur with minimal formal training, the results are impressively polished—it helps that her husband's photographs of her modeling each look are of professional quality (Tyler Riewer is a content and community strategist at the Grady Britton ad agency), and that she's super cute. Yesterday afternoon I chatted with her about how the project's going (12 dresses down so far).

Dress #5 was inspired by a trip to Vegas.
  • Tyler Riewer
  • Dress #5 was inspired by a trip to Vegas.

MERCURY: Why focus specifically on dresses instead of just pledging to make a different piece each week?
ASHLEY RIEWER: Originally I thought of dresses because I used to wear a ton of them, but I feel like I've gotten a little lazy about it and have just been dressing more comfortably—living in Portland, we dress so much for the weather. So part of it's also challenging myself to dress up more, and making sure that a lot of the dresses are really comfortable and weather-appropriate.
Dress #3

There's a lot of variety in the designs. Where do you take your cue design-wise from week to week?
It varies. Sometimes it’s where I’m going. The Vegas dress with polka dots and cutouts was picked it based on what I thought would fit well in Vegas. The Arizona dress was for memorial, so wanted the opposite of mourning black. I also look at design blogs, and just what people are wearing.
Dress #10, the Arizona dress

As if one dress a week weren't enough on top of a day job and her classes, Riewer actually makes copies of the dresses each week and sells them on Etsy along with other projects like hair clips and clubby fanny packs. Well, most of them. There are exceptions, like #9 here, which turned out quite well but which she says "was a biiiiiitch to sew, therefore, I will not be making more of this design!"

Check out the rest of the dresses, and cheer her on, over here.