If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it’s no surprise Deborah Morrison loves Reno so much. Her career as a costume designer has taken her all around the world, working with performers like Liberace and the Osmonds, and she still travels frequently to work with her long-distance clients. But no matter where her work takes her, Morrison is always happy to come home to Reno—and her new clothing store, Ymi Wear.
“It’s pretty crazy right now,” said Morrison by phone from South Carolina, where she’s designing costumes for a country-themed musical production. “You think you’ve got everything organized, and then it’s, ‘Oh, we changed the order of the songs and added a new number.’ So there’s a lot of challenges. But it’s also a lot of fun.”
After this show, she’s headed off to Nashville to coordinate a riverboat performance on the General Jackson showboat, but she hopes to return soon so she can concentrate on promoting her store.
Ymi Wear, 241 S. Sierra St., is both a storefront and a workshop. Upstairs, Morrison sells designer pieces, as well as jewelry and handbags made by a friend. In the basement, she works on costumes and keeps the fabrics she picks up on her travels. She also designs customized clothing; since the store opened in September 2003, she’s helped clients with prom dresses, formal wear and even a wedding gown or two.
A bright, open space with bare white walls, the store is designed to showcase the clothes. Frothy Cinderella-style ball gowns, rich velvet scarves with beaded tassels, and iridescent skirts that call to mind vintage saris add splashes of color to the elegance of Ymi Wear’s interior.
“I want the store to have a very boutique-y look—very minimal, no clutter,” said Morrison. “Our motto is ‘Celebrate your unique style.’ I really want people to feel like they can come in, and I’ll work with them to find the perfect design.”
Morrison has plenty of experience doing just that. After studying at a fashion design school, she earned her degree in creative arts at Sierra Nevada College and set out for a career as an independent costume and fashion designer. She did costume design for 30 years and clothing design for 10 years, before deciding that she’d like to open her own business selling her creations.
“Some people are cut out to be their own boss,” Morrison explained with a laugh. “I’ve always preferred to work for myself.”
Morrison just finished teaching a semester of fashion design at UNR, where students designed outfits for a fashion show at the Reno Hilton. She also works locally with casinos, designing costumes and uniforms. Last year, she made the walking game pieces for the World’s Largest Monopoly Game, held at Harrah’s Reno; more recently, she created the cocktail waitress outfits for Altitude, the new dance club at Harrah’s, and designed the costumes for the New Year’s Eve party at the Silver Legacy.
Upcoming events at Ymi Wear include fashion shows, evening functions and design classes taught by Morrison. In spring, she’s looking forward to holding a Jean Night, where customers can bring in old jeans and spruce them up with trims and ribbons from Morrison’s extensive collection, and Make Over Your Wardrobe, where Morrison will work with clients to find fresh looks for clothes they already own.
“I’m really hoping to get people who want costumes for Burning Man, too," Morrison added. "People come up with such great costume ideas—really wild stuff. I always tell people, if it goes on the human body, I can do it."