Sew Much More

Written By: Denise Miller


A native of Chattanooga, TN, first lady Susan G. Landers, known by many as

Ms.Gail, is a little-known secret here in the surrounding metropolitan area of

Birmingham, AL. Though many know her as the First Lady of the newly established

Divine Order Ministry lead by her husband, Pastor James E. Landers, few others

know her for her fabulous designs and alterations. I met the First Lady a little over

a year ago while attending Bible study at Divine Order. Upon our initial meeting, I was

unaware that in addition to her powerful presence as a devoted woman of God, she

also had the awesome ability to design and alter clothing. I learned of her skills

completely by happenstance after commenting on a beautiful dress that she

was wearing. When I asked her where she found such a gorgeous design, she

smiled and bashfully replied, “I made it.” I was astounded. I made an appointment

to meet with her immediately to find out more about her designs. We met at her alterations

shop nestled in the middle of downtown Bessemer. Inside beautiful designs greeted me in

an atmosphere that exuded an air of creative quality. As we sat down to begin our conversation,

I noticed gowns, dresses, and other garments masterfully displayed throughout

the shop. I became eager to find out as much as I could about this design phenom

Susan G. Landers. “God placed the gift of design on my heart when I was a young girl,”

she said after I asked her when did she know that designing clothes was her passion.

“I remember my mother purchasing me a micro-mini dress. Well eventually,

mine had become a bit too much of a micro-mini,” she said with a smile, “and I

asked my mother if I could cut the middle to lengthen it and she said that I could.

That was the first time that I had ever altered anything. I was only about eight years old

when I did that. After that, I became fascinated with the idea of creating and making clothes.”

When I asked Ms. Gail who inspired her, she explained that her aunt Dora was the biggest

inspiration that she had in becoming a designer. “My mother did sew some,” she remarked,

“but my aunt was the seamstress in the family.


She would not allow me to use her sewing

machine because back then you didn’t play with things like

that. I wasn’t permitted to use any of her sewing machines until I was in

high school. But she would give me a needle and thread and tell me, ‘you

can do this’ or ‘you can do that’ and would show me how to do it. Yes, I

would have to say that my aunt Dora was a huge contributor in me learning

the craft of sewing.” We paused for a moment as Ms. Gail greeted a client

that had come by to pick up a stunning gown. I watched the excitement of the

young lady preparing for prom as she tried on a gorgeous blue dress finished

with lace and embellished with sequin and rhinestones. After the customer left,

I became curious how Ms. Gail could stay abreast of the ever-changing trends

of today’s youth. When I inquired what or who kept her “aware” about what

the youngsters would like, she quickly answered, “my girls.” Typically, when I

design something, I will shoot a pic to one or both of my daughters, Kelli and

Kenya, to find out what they think. My daughter Kelli, is very instrumental in

my design process. I know that they both will be honest with

me whether I like it or not. And though I use patterns, I occasionally alter them

to better suit my clients and make their design original. I also freehand cut my

own designs as well. Because of this, my daughters’ opinions are invaluable.

They definitely keep me on my toes about what the young people will like.”

A quick glance at my watch signaled that it was getting late and we needed

to end. I closed by asking just a couple more questions. First, I wanted to know

who she considered her biggest support system. She said without hesitation that

it was her husband. “He supports me in everything that I do. Even when I opted

to open my shop up eight years ago, he assured me that I could contend with

anyone out here in the fashion industry.” Finally, the First lady said that she

would someday love to have her own fashion line and possibly design clothes

for Oprah and Michelle Obama. You can find Susan at ARK Designs

and Alterations: 317 19th Street

North, Bessemer, AL 35020.

Facebook: Gail Smith Landers

Instagram: susangdesigns