In Justify Your Designs new designers display their favorite piece, and explain why you need it in your closet. Today, we’re checking in with Courtney Tharpe who is showing off this one of a kind dress. She’s been working in collaboration with her friend Brian Stanziale, and the line bears his namesake. You can learn more about it at and

Explain to me why I need this item in my closet.

This dress makes you feel insanely sexy when you wear it. The fabric is super light and swims around the body perfectly. It’s just such a special piece.

It looks a lot like another dress which I already have. Why is yours so much better?

Frankly, if there is another dress similar to this, I have yet to come across it. My designs are all one of kind, using hand-dyeing and hand-sewing techniques to make each item slightly different, yet at a significantly lower cost than you’ll find on the runways.

Perhaps you are a charlatan. What’s your background and qualifications?

My design career began when I was 5. I would take brand new clothes my mom had bought me, lock myself in my room, and immediately begin my alteration process (i.e. a single sleeve, pant leg, or strategically placed hole). I designed and made clothes through middle and high school, using class time to sketch hypothetical ensembles for my friends to wear to the Grammys, Oscars, or other highly publicized events we were convinced we’d be attending someday. At 18, I packed up and moved to New York where (4 finger-numbing years later) I received my BFA in fashion design from Parsons School of Design. Since then I’ve worked in a multitude of fashion houses, including J. Mendel, Heidi Weisel, and Yoana Baraschi. I’m currently working on a line with my close friend Brian Stanziale (our collection shares his namesake).

Will it look as good if I’m a size 14 as it will if I’m a size 2? Be honest.

I’ve always maintained any girl can wear anything as long as she rocks it. This dress is so great because it looks completely different on girls with varying shapes. On a 2 it drapes beautifully; forming an ethereal, Grecian silhouette. On a 14, it accentuates the waist, creating a curvaceous hourglass shape (emphasized by the hand sewn rosettes on the bust and the raw edged shirring on the right hip). Gathering on the hip and center back hide any clinging; we all know that’s not look good for anyone. It has an unexpected versatility to it that I didn’t discover until all of my friends started trying it on.

Will I have to live off Ramen noodles for a month to afford it?

My dresses currently range anywhere from $350-$700 which, for the couture techniques and craftsmanship put into each piece, is kind of a steal. This particular dress is $600.

Will my relatives in rural Iowa think I’m a freak if I show up to our family reunion in this?

Does it matter?