Queen of the Rodeo: Entrepreneur Opens Custom Clothing Shop — Velvet Outlaw

Miranda Deaton started Velvet Outlaw out of her natural-born desire to defy the odds and test the limits. The local clothing brand made its official debut in late April 2022 and Deaton’s Nudie inspired suits have been popping up all around the city ever since. Whether featured in local magazines or TikTok fashion trends, Velvet Outlaw has staked its claim as an unconventional, atypical clothing line that caters to all. 

“It has been a journey. I have always said, ‘I’m gonna do what I want.’ As if I was born with this defiant gene in my body. And it has served me well. And it has not served me well. But it has led me to this point,” Deaton expressed, explaining how her passion for fashion arose.

Deaton’s grandfather owned a monogramming business that he ran out of his basement. As a child, she often was around to observe and assist him in much of the process. 

Scotty Milks – Milkman Photography, model: David Welker @davidjwelker

“He would pull the clothes off the monogramming machine, and I would get the little snipper scissors and cut all the little strings.  I was so fascinated by the machines and how they could create a million different words and initials,” she described. She shared that she has always been an artsy person, and loved to paint and draw from a young age.  

Deaton grew up near Detroit, Michigan. She moved to Louisville for school, completing her undergrad at Bellarmine University, where she studied psychology and art, and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Louisville. After years of fighting to become a social worker within the legal system, Deaton found a position where she could work with both her passions for social justice and fashion. 

“A lot of my clothes and the things I make are loosely based on Nudie suits, which are rhinestone suits that the old country Western singers wore. They are very much coming back now. I grew up listening to country and Bluegrass music and seeing these musicians on a PBS special that my dad would play. Elvis had his whole thing going on, and then Dolly Parton too. There are so many examples of what it looks like. But on the other side of it all, when you take away the singers wearing the suits, you have Mexican culture wearing what we know as ‘mariachi suits’ which come from the deeper tradition of Spanish culture from when Spain colonized Mexico. So, it’s a derivative of that, which we see. And I’m interested in the story and the culture behind this,” Deaton reflected upon her interest in the entangled histories behind Nudie suits.

Lauren Smith-Reed – Citrus Collective; Miranda Deaton – Citrus Collective

Nudie Cohn, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant born in Kyiv, is one of the original contributors to staple these rhinestone-covered suits. Other designers who contributed to this concept for Western wear include Bernard “Rodeo Ben” Lichtenstein and Manuel Cuevas. 

Learning these stories inspired Deaton to take the risk of creating Velvet Outlaw for herself and her community. 

“I think I’ll be coming out for the rest of my life, and maybe these clothes will help some people do that as well. Or maybe you don’t want to, but you want to wear stuff that makes you feel good; that’s representative of who you are. And that’s for me, too. I remember telling one of my friends that Velvet Outlaw is the only job I’ve ever had that feels like the most authentic expression of how I feel on the inside,” she said.

In December 2021, Deaton met Madison Fields of MadKind Design, a local brand design company, who helped push her to create the brand’s name and image. At first, Deaton was unsure about Velvet Outlaws’ perception, but she knew she wanted to do Nudie suits since no one else was doing them at an accessible and affordable price point. After brainstorming “western adjacent” but uniquely styled names, “Velvet Outlaw” came into existence. 

Deaton spoke passionately about her desire to find a safe and suitable space for her vision and her customers.

“All parts of me can show up as me in this space. I hadn’t been able to do that in other places. I hope that when people come into this space or wear these clothes, they can do that too. Once you leave, you can do whatever you need to, but in these four walls, you can be exactly who you are.” 

Deaton plans to have a spot blocked off in the shop where she will produce everything custom-made. The front will be a store and showroom where customers can buy pre-made items or design their custom garments. Her current plan is to have a display wall with all the options for fringe, rhinestones, and fabrics. Customers can come in, mix and match, and visually see it together or peruse through a rack of thrifted bases they can build upon. Customers will have options for jackets, pants, dresses, and more in an array of inclusive sizes. 

Deaton also expressed her dedication to inclusivity and body positivity. “My body has changed so much just over the last two years, and I’ve had to learn through patterns how to make the rise of the pants different so that they can be higher to accommodate body shapes or different parts of the body. If you have uneven breasts, how do you change the shirt to accommodate that? This is part of what sets me apart from the other designers that do this. I’m more focused on size 14 and up. I have smaller sizing, but the priority of my custom work is mid to plus size,” she offered. Her designs have been featured in various magazines, as well as Kentucky’s Derby Diversity Fashion Week 2022 and Austin Fashion week 2022. Currently, the wait for garments is about three to six weeks. 

“As a queer person, seeing that one of the most famous people to wear a rhinestone suit is a straight white man is like – He can wear rhinestones and be shiny and fun, but then if a drag queen does it, it’s somehow something else. What is the intersection of that? What are the parallels? And how can Velvet Outlaw expand and teach people about that? That’s also very important.” Deaton continued.

The official clothing storefront is now open at Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, KY. If you can’t make it into the shop, you can check for updates, request custom clothing, or look through available styles via the brand’s Instagram account or website.

“Just because we’re putting rhinestones on it, making it pretty, doesn’t mean that we’re not going to acknowledge all the things that it took to get here – with me, with them, with understanding the culture of these clothes and the backstory, all of this will always be a part of Velvet Outlaw.”