There’s no doubt that couture designer Roxana Robles is a superb, multi-talented designer and seamstress. Personal tailor to Magnolia’s Joanna Gaines, she has an unflinching eye not only for innovative fashion, but a “design superpower” in knowing what styles and colors will make her clients look and feel not just good, but amazing.
The Mexican-born designer grew up sewing — learning at her mother’s feet in her Monterrey sewing school, Fina, her own franchise under the umbrella of Mi Corte Universal [My Universal Cut], a Mexico-wide technical couture school. She earned a degree in sewing from her mother’s school while still in high school, then an undergraduate degree in fashion design and a master’s degree in tailoring at CEDIM, a prestigious fashion design school based in Mexico City, with a campus in Monterrey. She excels in over-the-top special occasion garments and costumes, like the stylishly avant garde outfits she designed for this and last year’s Día de los Muertos event in Waco.
As for herself, the petite powerhouse favors fashion with a cultural nod. “I always like to wear things that have at least a little of the Mexican colors and designs I love so much,” she said. But beyond her own huge fashion sense, Roxana Robles also has a huge heart. That manifested in a big way this past spring, when a casual conversation with her daughter snowballed into a meet-the-moment project of providing prom dresses for 16 UHS students who couldn’t afford a dress for prom. From altering donated dresses to suit the young women’s sizes and tastes to then knocking on doors to secure corsages, professional makeup application and even a red carpet to walk down, Roxana Robles is certainly a fashion design superstar, but even more importantly, she’s one with heart.
Wacoan writer Susan Bean Aycock sat down with Robles recently to talk about daring to dream big, following her passion no matter the odds and giving back to a community that has given so very much to her.
WACOAN: Let’s start with your passion: how did you get into sewing and find you loved it?
Roxana Robles: I started sewing when I was 6 — I always wanted to sew. I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. My mom, Domy Segovia, was the owner, principal and a teacher at a sewing school in Monterrey; it had about 180 students. Her school was incorporated into the public education system in Mexico, so it offered a real degree that I earned while I was still in high school. Every summer I’d help as her assistant with summer camp sewing lessons for girls. I loved it — teaching girls is so much fun! Sewing is becoming somewhat of a lost art, but everyone needs to know the basics, like knowing how to make a sandwich.
WACOAN: What did you do after graduating from high school in Monterrey?
Robles: I went to college at CEDIM, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and a master’s in tailoring. I’d been sewing women’s clothes and wedding dresses all my life, but in my master’s program I also learned how to make men’s clothes. For my master’s thesis, I designed and tailored four custom men’s suits. Good tailoring is really very difficult. I moved to Waco at age 23; my parents had moved here a year before.
WACOAN: Is it true that you’re Joanna Gaines’ personal tailor?
Robles: Yes, I do her altering and tailoring. She likes her clothes very simple and elegant, so they have to fit really well. The first thing I sewed for Magnolia was a Santa Claus robe about 10 years ago. And an outfit for Mrs. Claus too.
WACOAN: What about your other professional experience?
Robles: I worked as a tailor for Jos. A. Bank [U.S. men’s clothing retailer] for seven years, but it was hard to be an employee and a mother, with doctor and dentist appointments and everything else. It was just too much, so I decided to open my own business about 14 years ago. I was a dressmaker for Cotton Palace for three years, designing the dresses, making the patterns, sewing them, putting on crystals and sequins, and tailoring them to fit each girl. I made 10 extravagant outfits for the Catrina ambassadors representing sponsors in Waco’s Día de los Muertos festival this year.
WACOAN: So, you have a thriving couture and alterations business in Waco, but last year you initiated a project to give prom dresses to girls who couldn’t afford one. How did that come about?
Robles: My daughter Michelle had transferred in ninth grade from Vanguard to University High School. I was always involved in her school, and I made the costumes for the Vanguard Vikings mascots. Michelle began to tell me that she had some friends who couldn’t go to prom because they couldn’t afford a dress. I thought, ‘I need to help,’ so I contacted the school and was put in touch with Mary Olivarez [UHS parent and school Community Involvement Specialist], who started lining up girls who needed a dress. I asked for dress donations on Facebook, and at first only had a small inventory of dresses. Then I had so many responses that soon I had 150 dresses in my garage. I wanted to have dresses of all styles available for all sizes of girls; I can’t say no to anyone! So last year was the first year of Dream Couture, which is what we call that project.
WACOAN: Tell me how people reacted to your request for donations?
Robles: A lot of good people wanted to donate dresses. No dress was too old or out of style, because if I couldn’t use a whole dress, I could use pieces of fabric or appliqué from it. One woman donated several of her daughter’s dresses from the ’80s. There was one that was a strapless, robin’s egg blue, with a tiered skirt. The first girl who saw it said, ‘That one’s mine!’ At least two customers told me I had no idea what this means to them, because they were the girls who weren’t able to go to prom, so they immediately wanted to help.
WACOAN: How did that first year of Dream Couture go?
Robles: We provided and altered dresses for 16 girls at University High School the first year in 2023. Mary [Olivarez] helped to identify the girls with the most needs, and they came to my workshop in groups of four. Then they picked out dresses and I measured them and did any redesign they wanted, like taking off sleeves to make it sleeveless, or shortening it, adding fabric or crystals. Sometimes I basically redid the whole dress.
WACOAN: And then how did the ball keep rolling?
Robles: Then I had another idea: with makeup and hair styling so expensive, I wanted to offer those services to the girls to go with their beautiful new dresses. So, I contacted a friend at a beauty salon and asked if she was willing to help. She not only said yes but contacted another friend to help with hair. Another friend offered jewelry; Wolfe Florist donated corsages. Eight of the girls didn’t have dates for the prom, so Vanessa Rodriguez, owner of Maria Mezcaleria, offered to do a complimentary group dinner with those girls and two teachers.
Another friend offered a red carpet, so the girls would literally get to walk the red carpet. And 25th Street Furniture Store loaned all the mirrors so we could turn my office sunporch into a group salon to do hair and makeup.
WACOAN: What were the girls’ reactions once they were all dressed and ready?
Robles: When they said things like, ‘I feel like a princess!’ or ‘I feel confident and beautiful,’ I felt like crying. It made me feel so happy to make the girls happy. You can’t put a price on how much it means to me to tell our story, to talk about the look on the girls’ faces. It’s like applause for them and will impact their lives for years to come. It’s not just one moment in one day, but something that changes their lives forever. It affects the people who donate the dresses too. Sometimes people stop me in the street and ask if I’m Roxana the tailor helping girls with prom dresses, and then they hug me and ask how to help. I worked for two months non-stop for free and no money coming in, but that’s the best payment of all. My heart is just amazingly full.
The girls came into my workshop on prom morning super shy and hesitant. But later they were so confident and left here feeling like Cinderella. At the beginning they don’t understand how big a deal it is, but someday they’ll figure it out and turn around and help others — pay it forward. They may not give back to the one who helped them, but they turn around and help another person and it just forms a little chain of people helping people.
WACOAN: What’s your design superpower?
Robles: I have to say, I have a really good eye. I’m very good at looking at a particular person and their body type and knowing instinctively what colors and styles will make them look their best. One girl was dead set on a maroon color, but it didn’t flatter her dark skin and I’m always honest. I encouraged her to try a bright pink and she was amazed at how beautiful she looked in it. We always have real people in our fashion shows, from heavy-set to thin, short and tall. I like to stay away from stereotypes, like putting a Hispanic girl in a Mexican style — I prefer to mix cultures and ethnicities, and to design for them based on their skin color and body shape.
WACOAN: How does it make you feel designing a uniquely beautiful dress for someone?
Robles: It makes me so happy to make my customers look wonderful and love how they look. I love creating and sewing, so how could I not help girls who only lack a dress to be able to go to prom? That’s a very special day for them, and now it’s a special day for me too. I was crying my eyes out at prom last year. I love using my gift to help others.
WACOAN: What’s your own fashion style?
Robles: I love beautiful and unique clothes. Personally, I always try to represent my Mexican heritage in the fashion I wear. I like to incorporate my culture into new garments and use the bright colors we Mexicans love so much.
WACOAN: Tell me about your family and personal support network.
Robles: I have three kids; Luis is 21 and Nicole is 20, and they’re both in college. Michelle is 16 and a sophomore at University High School. My children have been so supportive in all of my projects, being my models and cheering me on. They help me a lot and understand my crazy work hours, ask me how they can help, bring me food, and leave me letters with positive thoughts.
My boyfriend, Chip Wilson [CEO of the digital marketing agency 360 Solutions], has been a rock on everything that I have decided to do, like Dream Couture, Creative Waco’s Chalk Walk, fashion shows and designing outfits for the Día de los Muertos event in Waco the past two years. He helped financially with the extra fabric and notions for the prom dresses — like zippers — that I needed and then said, ‘Hey, let’s make this happen and make it a nonprofit.’
Claudia Fraga and Jessica Gudiño are very important and help me in every fashion show event I do, plus this beautiful prom dress project. Jessica does hair and makeup, and Claudia organizes the models for the fashion shows, and also helped in Muertos and on the prom dresses.
WACOAN: Tell me about your dreams for the future for Dream Couture.
Robles: Last year, we provided dresses for 16 girls at University High School. This year, I want to help 15 girls at UHS and another 15 at Waco High School. This was just the first year of many years to come for Dream Couture.
Dream Couture is accepting donations of dresses now through prom season in April-May. To make a donation or for more information, contact Roxana Robles at firstname.lastname@example.org.