We've Found The Perfect Holiday Dresses—And They Were Designed By Two Southern Living Tastemakers

Sue Sartor and Riley Sheehey’s colorful collaboration is the stuff of party dress dreams.

Sue Sartor with her dresses
Photo: Courtesy of Sue Sartor and Riley Sheehey

A quick scroll through Virginia artist Riley Sheehey's whimsical watercolors and Louisiana designer Sue Sartor's feminine dresses on Instagram, and it's easy to see that they're a match made in aesthetic heaven. Even so, it wasn't until the two creatives met during a 2021 Zoom call with Southern Living's annual group of New Southern Tastemakers that they discovered just how much their styles aligned: Sheehey, without realizing Sartor would be on the call, wore one of the designer's signature blockprint dresses. Now, the pair have partnered to launch a special collection of four party-worthy pieces that feel just right for the holiday season.

Sue Sartor with her dresses
Courtesy of Sue Sartor and Riley Sheehey

The collaboration took root at Illumination Charleston, an event Southern Living co-hosted in South Carolina last year. Sartor and Sheehey's booths were positioned next to each other at the holiday market. "We started chatting and realized we had a mutual love for so many things and an affinity for botanicals and florals," says Sartor. "We were kind of speaking the same language and then fell in love with each other as people."

From there, they began building a mood board for a collection of Sartor's signature dresses, going back and forth sharing inspiration from pressed flowers to chinoiserie vessels. "Riley got the paintbrush out and the magic was happening," says Sartor.

They settled on a series of florals, from chrysanthemums to dahlias. "We wanted to make something that would be good for fall and holiday, so I did a little bit of research and figured out what kind of flowers bloom that time of year," says Sheehey.

Riley Sheehey with artwork
Courtesy of Sue Sartor and Riley Sheehey

The result was an intricate floral pattern that required Sartor's artisan partners in India to hand-cut six different screens to replicate the details and colors of Sheehey's artwork. "Sue texted me a video of people screenprinting the flowers and I just gasped," says Sheehey. "It's so cool to see something that I've done in watercolors being brought to life by other artists in a totally different medium." Adds Sartor, "They hand-mix the color too. It's all organic, vegetable dyes and flower petals that have been crushed down."

Their collaboration's resulting four dresses feel inherently celebratory, just like their individual brands. "Everything about what Riley and I do is joyous and optimistic," says Sartor.

You can pre-order dresses from the Sue Sartor x Riley Sheehey collection from suesartor.com.

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