The story of Alice Marie-Thérèse Hamm’s aspiration to dress the modern-day Cinderella begins in war-torn eastern France in 1942. She had unusually ambitious dreams for a young 12-year old girl. Alice desired to make all women look beautiful, so she harnessed her entrepreneurial instinct by hand-making elegant dresses for the local ladies out of her mother’s draperies and tailoring shirts for her town’s farmers.
But Alice soon grew frustrated by her small town’s limitations. In 1945, she shifted her earnest focus to the local design school in Saverne, Alsace. Alice excelled as a student in a design school run by strict nuns. Upon graduating at age 19, she was hired immediately by the school to teach couture, patternmaking, and draping techniques.
Inspired by the intense enthusiasm surrounding Christian Dior’s revolutionary New Look (1947), Alice realized that she really needed to become a dressmaker in Paris. So, in 1952 at age 22, Alice’s fearless ambition led her to the City of Lights. In Paris, Alice first worked as a costume designer, then enrolled in the École de Coupe to crystallize her dream of becoming successful in the United States, where her own mother had worked from 1923 to 1928.
After graduating the École de Coupe at age 25, Alice, with her Parisian diploma in hand, switched continents, moved in with her aunt in Chicago, and immediately found a job as designer for a local bridal house, Carol Gowns. During her interview with Carol Gowns, the owner crumpled up the Paris diploma that Alice proudly extended, and sniffed at her, “I don’t care about a piece of paper—show me what you can do!” Undaunted, Alice resolved to show him exactly what she could do.
Alice enjoyed her new life in the United States, and became a citizen in 1961. At that time, she changed the spelling of her name to “Alyce” (pronounced “AH-lease”). By the mid-1960s, Alyce championed a more audacious challenge: to open her very own fashion house. Alyce dared to pursue the dint of her feisty icons, the French couturiers Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and Madame Grès (where Alyce’s best friend worked during their years living together in Paris).
She saved all her earnings year after year, whipped together her brothers as financial backers, and at the dawn of the Women’s Liberation Movement spreading across the USA, founded her namesake company in 1967. Alyce’s daring drive, bold confidence, and impassioned courage had fueled her dream across continents to make women look beautiful on a global level.
One year later, in 1968, through connections in the pageant world, Alyce was dressing Miss America, Debra Dene Barnes. Barnes, who was crowned Miss Kansas earlier that year, met Alyce, known then as “Mademoiselle Alyce”, and commissioned her for custom-designed pageant gowns. Ironically for Alyce, Barnes’ historic speech was interrupted by Women’s Liberation protestors at the Miss America pageant, and became headline news.
In 1981, true to her gutsy aspirations, Alyce decided to expand her horizons beyond pageant and bridal, and produce hand beaded prom gowns. She sought out an agent in Singapore and flew overseas to tour hand-beading factories in India and China.
Since the East Asian factories that Alyce visited at the time only embellished tablecloths, Alyce herself sat down and demonstrated how to embellish dresses! These dresses quickly became so popular that our fabric manufacturer Sequins International once claimed that Alyce was “the world’s largest consumer of sequins”, confirmed by this Buzzfeed article (our favorite is #17).
Et voilà! Alyce’s iconic talents and block patterns spawned a worldwide industry built around prom, and Alyce's family, Jean-Paul and Claudine Hamm, still continue to influence modern formal wear.
Over fifty years after Alice decided to boldly go, we still:
- Hand make dresses using many of the same finishing techniques that Alice developed during her prodigious working years and passed down to the next generation.
- Sell our evening gowns to some of the same bridal shops who were Alice’s first customers in the late 1960s.
- Dress up those who dare to pursue neverending dreams.