If you’ve read this meme and laughed sympathetically, you are not alone: “Me getting dressed: puts on the same black yoga pants for the eighth day in a row. Me packing for vacation: I don’t have room for this third ball gown I may need to check another bag.”
Charleston-based MORPH Clothing has an answer. What if your gown was as comfortable as yoga pants and packed like a dream?
“I wanted to create something that looked good on everyone,” says Cristy Pratt, the entrepreneur, seamstress, and face of MORPH Clothing. “I want to stop fast fashion. I want us to be able to travel light. I want moms to feel hot instantly, because it’s a struggle. You have little ones biting your ankles and you are the last on the list.”
The day we met for coffee inside The Gibbes Museum of Art, Pratt wore salmon and black stilettos and a bright emerald MORPH dress, wrapped into a chic one-shoulder midi that highlighted her signature hairstyle — sides of her head shaved closely and dark waves perfectly coiffed on top.
MORPH’s staple dress admittedly doesn’t look like much on a hanger, but on a body it can twist, wrap, and drape into 60 variations. Pratt calls it a “nerd dress, like a puzzle or Transformers.” The simple shape becomes an off-the-shoulder midi dress, a Grecian one-shoulder wrap dress, a maxi skirt, a mini skirt, and a long-sleeved sheath dress, to name a few.
“You walk in and feel overdressed, you change it. You feel underdressed, you change it,” says Pratt. “At first, people are shy [about ‘morphing’], but then I’ll have someone reach out to me and say, ‘I morphed five times last night right in the middle of the bar!'”
This June, Pratt and a team including Andrea Serrano of Charleston Shop Curator took the MORPH capsule dress to the 2019 BET Awards, where Pratt dressed stars like Mona Scott, the producer of Love and Hip Hop, for the red carpet and spread the gospel of “morphing” in Rafi Anteby’s curated give-away lounge.
When asked if she’s looking for more red carpet experiences, Pratt’s response is, “Y-e-e-e-s!”
Fashion design was not always on the mother of two’s radar, but when she inherited her grandmother’s sewing machine, something clicked.
“My father was cleaning out her affects and brought me her 1960s sewing machine,” remembers Pratt. “It wasn’t like iron or anything; it wasn’t that old. He said, ‘I don’t know what you’ll do with this but I know you’ll make something of it.'”
A self-described do-it-yourself person, Pratt developed an almost obsessive interest in sewing and set out to design her dream dress without any formal design experience. She bought dozens of vintage Vogue patterns and hundreds of dollars worth of expensive fabrics.
“When I laid it out and looked at the pattern, it was all these nips and snips and biases and I felt like I was building a rocketship or something,” she laughs. “I’d ruined hundreds of dollars worth of fabric, so I crumpled the thing up and decided that wasn’t going to be my pathway to sewing.”
Pratt kept waking up at 2 a.m. to sew though. She transformed the closet in her Fort Lauderdale home into a “cloffice — a closet office,” and taught herself to make patterns in spite of the dyslexia that made reading them challenging.
“Because I don’t sew in zippers or do all of these formal things that people sewing do, I worked backwards,” says Pratt. “My skills are limited but my vision is grand, which kept me working and working at it.”
Over a year after starting the concept for MORPH’s capsule dress (U.S. Patent Pending), her pattern was complete and her prototypes were taking off at friends’ house parties and hotel pop ups. Now in her second year of business, Pratt is focused on the lengthy process of obtaining an international utility patent, and growing the community of empowered MORPH-ers.
“I think that when we’re living in our more authentic selves that we become a lot more powerful. My hope is to give people the confidence to say, ‘what the hell!’ and do it.”
“The dress is just the outside. When you feel confident in how you look, you change. Confidence is what’s beautiful! The dress, yeah, the shoes, sure. But you know it when someone walks into a room and they’re confident,” says Pratt. “I don’t mean a false confidence or an ego confident, but being comfortable in their skin. There’s such an allure to that. Instead of trying to fit into a box or pick something off a rack just because everyone has it. Let’s change that.”
At its core, MORPH Clothing is about change on a grand scale. With the fashion and textile industries’ massive environmental impacts, Pratt wants to empower consumers to choose fewer garments over more. Textiles were labelled the second-highest polluter of clean water in a 2013 study; last year the United Nations reported the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping.
“You have to start somewhere,” says Pratt. “That’s a lesson I want to teach my children. That if you have a vision of something that you want to do — you do have the skills to do it.”