Unique poppy dress on display in Powassan

·4 min read

A dress adorned with 600 to 700 poppies is now finished and can be seen in the display window of JMI Design Studio in Powassan.

Owner Julie Gohm put the dress in the front window Monday afternoon and will keep it on display through Remembrance Day.

It took Gohm and eight of her employees upwards of 300 hours to complete the dress, which sits on a mannequin.

The fabric lining is 100 per cent polyester and the poppies, which are sewn onto the lining, also are made from polyester with an elastic material known as lycra added to give them durability and to keep them from fraying.

There are six different sized poppies, ranging from the smallest at the top of the dress and becoming increasingly larger as they make their way toward the train of the dress.

“I'm so pleased with it and sincerely hope it accomplishes what I was trying to achieve,” Gohm says.

“I hope when people see it they stop, pause and remember.”

Gohm got the idea for the poppy dress a few years ago when she saw a similar dress someone photographed through a window and posted on Facebook.

She believes the image came from a shop in Britain.

That picture had the same effect on her that Gohm attempted to achieve with her version of the poppy dress — to remember we're here today because men and women gave their lives to help ensure our freedom.

When Gohm applied the finishing touches on the dress, she “stepped back and there was an overwhelming feeling.”

Gohm says she doesn't have the exact words to describe the inner feeling, but adds the closest she can get to giving it a description is like when someone has butterflies in their stomach.

But there is one feeling Gohm can easily describe.

“I had a feeling of gratitude that my staff was so willing to be part of something that's so important,” she says.

Gohm describes everyone's work and contribution to the two-week long project as a labour of love.

Although she first saw the British poppy dress a few years ago and had a desire to create something similar, it wasn't until this past summer that Gohm decided the time was right to create her distinct Canadian version of the dress.

In an earlier interview, Gohm said COVID-19 would disrupt Remembrance Day ceremonies and she believed her dress could serve as a small contribution to helping people recall past sacrifices.

Powassan is a small community and it didn't take long for people to hear about the local businesswoman making a poppy dress.

But Gohm and her staff kept their progress under wraps throughout the process.

She made an exception for three members of the local legion branch who each saw the dress as it was coming together.

“They were overwhelmed by it,” Gohm recalls.

“But it wasn't by the dress itself, but rather what it represents. They talked about their history and their memories of what Remembrance Day means to them.”

The reaction of the legion members captured what Gohm was trying to achieve.

“I don't want people to say 'Look at that beautiful dress,' but rather I want it to be about what it represents,” she says.

Gohm says the final outcome surpassed her vision for the dress.

“From when I first saw it in my mind, it took a while to bring it onto paper, and then the fabric and then go to the actual dress, I'm very pleased,” she says.

Onlookers also will see a relatively new Canadian military uniform on a mannequin standing alongside the poppy dress in the display window.

The uniform belongs to the son-in-law of one of Gohm's employees.

When Gohm was still putting the dress together, she says an elderly man came into the shop last week and asked if she needed a military uniform to accompany the poppy dress.

The individual had seen battle and wanted to know if Gohm wanted to display a battle-worn uniform.

Gohm wanted to accept the offer, but had to decline because she doesn't have a third mannequin on which the veteran's uniform could be displayed.

However, that could happen next year assuming the poppy dress goes up again in the display window.

Chances look pretty good that could happen.

As for whether Gohm will make another poppy dress for 2021, she says “I don't know if I could recreate it.

“The simplicity of what we did here will stand the test of time.”

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget