LSU College of Agriculture Alumnus, Professor Create Inauguration Dress, Suit for Louisiana First Lady Supriya Jindal
BATON ROUGE – When Gov. Bobby Jindal took the oath of office for his second term as the leader of Louisiana state government on Jan. 9, he was joined by his wife, Supriya, for both the inauguration ceremony at the Old State Capitol as well as the inaugural ball celebration the prior night at the Renaissance Hotel.
What many may not know is that both the red dress suit and red ballroom gown worn by the state’s First Lady during the inauguration events were designed and created by an alumnus of the LSU College of Agriculture and a current assistant professor from the school, respectively.
Award-winning designer Natasha Popich Miller, a Belle Chasse native and 2010 graduate of the LSU College of Agriculture’s Division of Textile Science, Apparel Design and Merchandising, or TAM, joined forces with Lisa Barona McRoberts – an assistant professor in the TAM division who taught Miller – and created the suit and ball gown as a way to showcase local apparel designers.
“We wanted to do this as an effort to promote the work of Louisiana-based apparel designers and persuade them from leaving the state,” McRoberts said.
The partnership began when McRoberts contacted Kellie Duhon, chief of staff for the First Lady’s office, proposing a collaboration that included Miller, who is the owner and designer of local bridal fashion company Natasha Marie Bridal, to create a dress for Jindal.
“Under this collaboration, I set out to custom design and create Supriya Jindal’s inaugural ball gown with Natasha,” McRoberts said. “Mrs. Jindal generously agreed, and also requested that we create the inaugural suit as well.”
Now with two garments to prepare, the design and creation duties were split, McRoberts said, with Miller responsible for the suit and McRoberts responsible for the gown.
“The Natasha Marie design aesthetic is feminine, classic and timeless – the perfect complement to Mrs. Jindal’s style,” Miller said.
The suit Miller designed had princess seams and a ruffled collar, with chiffon both on the body of the jacket and the bottom of the sleeves.
During her time spent at LSU, Miller was a member of LSU Hemline, completed a fashion field study in China and participated in the prestigious Dallas Career Day, where two of the garments she entered were chosen to walk the runway, and she placed third in the Red Dress category. Miller also won the 2010 LSU Senior Design Award. Prior to graduation, she completed an internship in 2009 with New Orleans designer Suzanne Perron, where she learned how to hand-bead Mardi Gras Queen gowns, construct the inside of wedding and debutante gowns and to draft patterns. With her home-based company in Denham Springs, Miller designs and builds custom bridal and evening wear. Since starting her business, she showed a small bridal collection at The Cinderella Project Runway Fashion Show in Baton Rouge, and has designed custom woman’s suits and Mardi Gras ball gowns.
However, she said, designing for the state’s First Lady has been her biggest job to date.
“I was really nervous at our first meeting, but shortly discovered that Mrs. Jindal is very humble,” Miller said. “She made me feel comfortable during the fittings, and she was great at expressing exactly what she wanted for her suit. It was truly a pleasure to work with her. I hope that this experience leads to great things for my business as well as my fellow Louisiana designers.”
For McRoberts, the project was an unforgettable experience, which she said fulfilled an entrepreneurial dream, while affording an academic platform for promoting the accomplishments of the TAM program and its alumni.
“Working with Mrs. Jindal and Ms. Duhon was an absolute pleasure,” McRoberts said. “Although I was a little nervous initially, Mrs. Jindal was a gracious and kind host. I felt very welcomed and blessed to meet her family as well. Meeting Gov. Jindal and receiving appreciation from him directly was surreal. I am very grateful and touched to have been a part of Louisiana history.”
Miller said she was honored to be able to design for Jindal, and that she felt opportunities such as this can help show apparel designers in Louisiana that they can stay in the state and still have their works showcased in a major spotlight.
“LSU has an excellent apparel design program, and not all of us want to go to New York or Los Angeles,” Miller said. “Quite a few of my fellow alumni have stayed right here in our home state of Louisiana. Dr. McRoberts and I want to help bring awareness to the great things happening in fashion right in our backyard.”