Lifestyle & Culture

Meet Smithsonian Craft2Wear’s Denise Dickens

September 13, 2018


Denise Dickens will be showing her new raincoat patterns at Craft2Wear in October.  With deep pockets on both sides, the coats are lightweight, reversible and waterproof on the solid side. 

WE’VE SLOSHED through our share of heavy downpours these past few months. And now September is greeting us with Hurricane Florence dumping water on the Carolinas, with potential to keep going right up the coast.  In any event, it looks as if we’re going to need some smart rain gear for fall should this weather pattern continue.

Enter Denise Dickens, who founded her DC-based company Outside Designworks™ in 2002 with a focus on rainwear. Previously having worked in both the wholesale and retail ends of the clothing business, the impetus for starting her own line was that she found that the market didn’t have the stylish designs that she wanted and were suitable for her.

Says Dickens, “We baby boomers are not giving up. We need easy silhouettes, but they can’t be drab or dowdy. I was always looking for the perfect coat or jacket to go with my favorite pants. Something that had color and style, that could keep me warm, or dry… . I figured that other women must be looking for (and not finding) the same thing, too.” Her goal: Fit everyone into a practical, fashionable, one-coat solution that’s durable for travel.

Left: This waterproof car coat is designed for cold, wet weather. Right: A reversible swing car coat with an outer waterproof nylon side and an inner fair-weather side.

Dickens’ bestsellers are her reversible raincoats but in 2012 an interior designer colleague introduced her to weavers in Uzbekistan, and she began to produce Ikat jackets in patterns and colors she knew would appeal to her customers. “It’s a statement piece this time of year,” says Dickens. Because it’s a tricky material (very narrow) to work with, Dickens saves the remnants and makes clutches, scarves, even scrunchies out of them. Along with her limited-edition, ready-made jackets, Dickens says she’ll bring raw fabrics to the Smithsonian show so customers can choose a pattern and be fitted for their size.

Handwoven in silk and cotton, Denise Dickens’ Ikat jackets with coordinating scarf (left photo) and clutches.

For Dickens, the most rewarding parts of owning her own business is meeting people who wear her clothes—and seeing how it changes their outlook.
The three-day Smithsonian Craft2Wear event kicks off Thursday night, October 4, from 6 to 9pm, with an opening night cocktail party (tickets, $50, advance purchase only) to meet and mingle with the artists, see a fashion show, shop and enjoy drinks, hors d’oeuvres and desserts.  Hours for the show Friday and Saturday are 10:30am to 5:30pm. A one-day pass for Friday or Saturday is $13. Purchase tickets at
—Janet Kelly

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