Southern Lady Magazine

Behind Borough: Q&A with Charleston Dress Designer

By Elizabeth Bonner

Ashley Worrall’s love affair with dresses began at an early age. During childhood visits to her grandmother’s Virginia home, she could always expect to come away with a few handcrafted selections. “We’d head to Jo-Ann Fabric, pick out the material and patterns, and then she’d set up shop around the sewing machine while we watched musicals,” she recalls.

For Ashley, this dressmaking process seemed a sort of magic, so it was no surprise that she decided to study textiles in college and then began a career in the industry. Working for a compression garment company, she gained widespread experience in the multifaceted trade, but it also left her with a desire to create something of her own.

When the North Carolina native and her husband made their dream move to Charleston in 2011, Ashley determined that it was time to fulfill another dream and start her own business designing dresses. In this web exclusive, Ashley gives us a behind-the-scenes look at her journey through launching Borough.

SL: Can you tell us about your dresses and why you decided to base your company around them?
Ashley: Dresses have always had a special place in my heart. That love for dresses has stayed with me, and my favorite style has tended to be shift dresses for their classic look and flattering fit. I knew I wanted my dress line to be based around shift dresses but have additional options. I played with modifying the classic design by adjusting the sleeve lengths, hemlines, and necklines. I ended up with five styles, so it made sense to have five prints available as well, letting customers mix and match their dress choices.

SL: Can you tell us more about these styles and prints?
Ashley: We have five different dress styles: a classic shift, a short-sleeve shift, a three-quarter-sleeve shift, a tunic, and a maxi. Each one is named after a Charleston borough that reflects its personality.

The styles are available in five different prints that change out seasonally. All our prints are inspired by Charleston, the Lowcountry, and Southern culture. Like our ‘I Think I Can’ print that features mason jars and reminds me of taking home jars of pimiento cheese and chow-chow every time I left my grandparents’ house.

SL: What makes your dresses great for summer?
Ashley: Southern summers and dresses are synonymous; it’s too hot for anything else! That’s why we made sure to choose breathable cotton. Our bright, cheerful prints are a perfect match for summer barbecues, weddings, farmers’ market trips, brunches—the list goes on. Breathable fabric, a relaxed, flattering fit, and bold, bright prints make Borough dresses perfect for summer.

SL: Where did the name of the company come from?
Ashley: The name Borough comes from the different boroughs in downtown Charleston. Everything about Charleston is charming—from the architecture and the restaurants to the shops and the fierce local pride. It’s impossible not to be enchanted by Charleston’s history, character, and timeless beauty. I knew this is where I wanted to end up.

Borough is all about encompassing the fun personality found in the diverse areas of Charleston. Each neighborhood has its own feel, like each of our dress styles and prints.

SL: What makes Borough unique?
Ashley: I think what makes us unique is the importance we place on choosing the right materials and vendors. From sourcing 100 percent–organic cotton fabric that is knitted, printed, and sewn in North Carolina to finding buttons made from palm trees to using vendors we can drive to and visit, each selection has been made to infuse our brand with quality, local love, and Southern heritage.

SL: Can you tell us more about your Southern heritage and how it affects your design process?
Ashley: Growing up, I had family that worked for textile mills, and I watched them lose their jobs as the mills closed. I saw bustling cities turn into sad ghost towns. That’s why it was so important for me to have products made in the Carolinas and help continue the rich textile heritage.

When it comes to my upbringing, I didn’t realize how Southern I really was until, one, I moved in with a girl from New Jersey my freshmen year of college at NC State (one time she had me try Irish-cut oats for breakfast while I made her try grits—she was not a fan), and, two, I moved to Charleston, and things that seemed commonplace to me were being celebrated daily. It was exciting to realize these things had been infused in me my whole upbringing. Those Southern roots shine through in our fabric prints—showcasing all the things that people love and cherish about life in the South.

For information, visit shopborough.com.

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