Live! Casino’s Wardrobe Manager on New York Fashion Week and Making Her Own Wedding Dress

Susie Benitez showed her first collection on Saturday — and is getting married two weeks later.

Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia

Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia wardrobe manager Susie Benitez and Jesse Paine / Engagement photos by Desiree Hoelzle

Susie Benitez — the wardrobe manager at Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia — has been very busy. Not only does she and her staff of three oversee the uniforms for the hotel’s employees and the themed costumes for showgirls, as well as holidays and event decor, but she’s also been prepping to debut her first clothing collection at New York Fashion Week. She landed the opportunity thanks to an alumni fashion show at her alma mater, Albright College in Reading, back in May. (Benitez and six other alumni will debut their collections on September 9th.) And if that weren’t enough, she’s getting married to fiancé Jesse Paine just a few weeks later, on September 22nd, at William Penn Inn in Gwynedd — in a dress she designed herself, no less. Here’s a peek behind the magic ahead.

This story is part of Philadelphia Wedding’s ongoing Real Talk series, in which real Philly couples share their unique approaches to wedding planning and marriage. If you have a unique story or experience worth sharing, we’d love to hear about it.

Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia

Photograph by John Pankratz

When did you find out that you were selected for New York Fashion Week? I got the official word a week after the alumni show, but one of the judges stopped me during the event and said they loved what I did and that I should get ready to sell a lot. They gave me a sneak peek, but it doesn’t sink in until you see it in writing.

Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia

Photograph by John Pankratz

Your collection is called Buttons in Bloom. Tell us about it. It’s my first collection, but I’ve been sewing since I was eight. My grandma taught me, and I took sewing classes on the weekends. I’ll have an expanded version of the collection I debuted in May — I showed three then and will add another four that the judges selected for Fashion Week. I love the ’50s. It’s like candy-colored meets the ’50s and vintage silhouettes.

And your wedding dress is in a similar realm. Yes. It was also inspired by Cinderella (the 2015 adaptation). I knew I wanted a princess dress I could twirl in and have some fun in. It’s tea-length with pearls, satin, tulle and organza. I’ve never worn just solid white in my life — I need my color so I will feel confident on the day. So the skirt has 13 layers built into it, with different colors. From the top layer it looks white, but as it moves you see the other colors. A friend of mine is going to bead the pearls.

What is your design process like? With Fashion Week or when I’m designing a costume, I read the script or decide what the theme is going to be and kind of sketch it out, color it in and go from there. And with the wedding dress — I want it to be perfect, so it’s been a lot of back and forth. I’ve changed my mind a lot. I didn’t think it would be so difficult — I thought I’d have it done in like a week.

When did you begin designing it? About a year ago. I started thinking about the design I wanted, the fabric. And making it on top of that adds so many layers. I kept starting it and walking away from it. I ordered fabric swatches. I also took one of my very best friends to Fabric Row —Fleishman Fabrics & Supplies and B&J Fabrics — and played with everything. I had a sketch, but seeing the fabric really determined what it was going to be.

Will we see it at Fashion Week? You never know, but I did make a dress to wear to my bridal shower and Fashion Week. It’s a pink floral dress from my collection that wasn’t selected for the show — so I made it for myself.

Are you making anyone else’s looks for the wedding? My mom has been struggling to find an outfit — it’s Mom’s day, too — and I found a dress of hers in my closet that she’d worn for ages and loved. So I had one of my friends make her the same dress, but I picked out the fabric — it’s purple and matches our Princess Garden theme.

Susie Benitez

Are you doing a second dress? No, I figure you only wear it once, so I wanted it to be special. So many strong women who have helped me grow also helped me make this dress. I won’t want to take it off until I fall asleep that night.

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