Fashion designer offers local women custom designed gowns

From school in Cincinnati to a fashion showroom on 7th Avenue in New York City, Lora Van Lear of Miamisburg has seen a lot in her lifetime.

“I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in fashion design,” Van Lear said. “My sister and I decided to go to New York in 1984 and open our own design business.”

Van Lear said her “small” business began to grow to the point where she had her own factory. She was designing mostly for private labels. Then a life change brought her home to Ohio.

What the business does: Van Lear Bridals opened in Miamisburg in 2006. She offers custom, one-of-a-kind bridal and formal designs to customers.

“Sometimes folks come in and they have an idea of what they want but just can’t find it in the retail stores,” Van Lear said. “Sometimes they want something retro or historical and they have ideas and pictures. I meet with them and we design the perfect dress for them.”

Van Lear’s first design session can last an hour or two but after that is complete, there is a sketch of the design and fabrics and embellishments are selected. “I work within anyone’s time frame,” she said. “Typically it takes about six months to complete a dress but sometimes customers don’t have that much time so I make it work.”

Once the design is complete, Van Lear works on all the dresses herself on old Singer sewing machines she has in the back of her shop. She includes all alterations in her quoted price.

How the business started: Van Lear said she was "always drawing," as a child and learned how to sew as a Girl Scout. "I wanted to make clothes for my Barbie dolls and I ended up cutting up some fabric I found of my mother's. Turns out I made dressing out of some of my mother's slip covers!"

“My subsequent divorce and my desire to spend more time at home with my kids brought me back to Ohio,” Van Lear said. “My sister was in Dayton so I decided to look at living here.”

Van Lear raised her two children in Centerville and initially ran her business out of her home. “I was home when the kids got off the bus, so that was really great.”

Then in 2006 a friend told her about a bridal shop for sale in Miamisburg.

“I loved it immediately and I bought it,” Van Lear said. “From bridal gowns to galas to mothers of the bride, I love making them all feel good,” she said. “I love what I do so much that I don’t really feel like I’m coming into work every day.”

Contact: Phone is 937-866-9900; website:

About the Author