How a high school student’s hand-painted graduation dress went viral


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When 17-year old Ciara Gan arrived to her high school graduation ball on an emerald-green, hand-painted gown, her classmates were in awe.

She had kept it a secret that she was making her own dress. The gown is tailored at the top and waist and features a folded skirt with hand-painted flowers.

"My classmates got shocked because I kept it a secret from them and they told me, 'Wow, I didn't know you were gonna paint your dress, I thought you were just gonna make it,'" Gan said.

young woman wearing a green gown looks down as she poses for a photo

Ciara Gan posted this photo of herself on social media wearing the hand-painted gown.


Courtesy of Ciara Gan

Gan and her mother worked together for about a month at their home in Manila to create the dress. They designed it, cut it and sewed it out of 13 yards of satin, pellon, boning, crinoline and regiline, using skills they learned by watching YouTube videos.

"There wasn't much talking. More working, but we talked openly. Unlike with seamstresses — it's kind of hard to tell them what you want,” Gan said. “When we made the dress, I told [my mother] I wanted it green, I wanted to have these flowers. And we had some [disagreements], but eventually, we came to it and we made it completely personalized for me.”

Gan's mother encouraged her to hand-paint the orange floral design on the skirt since she knew about her daughter’s artistic skills.

"I just [thought] of it as another canvas that I can work on," Gan said.

The photos of Gan's dress went viral on social media. Her post has almost 400,000 likes and more than 80,000 retweets.

i made and painted my own gown for my graduation ball! 💚✨
i painted over 80 flowers, sewed + stoned my dress with my mama and designed the whole thing myself! 🧡🌼

— ciara gan (@ciaragan) April 8, 2019

She says she is surprised by people’s reactions and by the fact that she has received dozens of requests from people in the Philippines to make them gowns and hand-paint personalized designs on it.

model of a gown made of white paper.

Before working in fabric, Ciara Gan made a scale model of the dress.


Courtesy of Ciara Gan

Could this be a career for Gan? Possibly, she said.

“But right now I'm focusing on my first year in college," she said. "I'm going to be studying computer sciences completely far away from art.”

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