The Paris Hilton Grateful Dead Dress

The Paris Hilton Grateful Dead Dress

I get asked often about the Grateful Dead Dress I made, that Paris Hilton wore 20 years ago. That was a very special dress to me, and it was the perfect storm: a combination of all the traumatic events in my life at that time, and my outlet to dealing with those events by creating beautiful wearable art.


So how did that amazing dress come to be, you ask?


In junior high & high school, I lived for thrift store shopping, and at that time (1988-1995), thrifting was considered something only poor people did…. Unlike it is today where it’s so hip to thrift and recycle!! My family had no money and I had a dozen odd jobs that kept me busy & out of trouble… which made my thrifting hobby such a passion and thrill because I could buy things on the cheap that no other kid in my class had. I could be original and stand out. I’d deconstruct and reconstruct everything I bought, fueling my love for sewing, hand beading, embroidery, everything handmade and totally unique. It was my passion for repurposing Grateful Dead t-shirts that really molded me into the fashionista and business woman that I am today.


Back in the good old days… I’d ride my turndown handle bar bicycle to the thrift store every few days after school, and snatch up all the vintage couture beaded gowns, fabulous costume jewelry, crazy printed 60s & 70’s styles, and all the Grateful Dead t-shirts I could get my hands on. In the early nineties, really amazing Dead shirts were a dime a dozen at all the local Southern California thrift stores, since where I lived, the Grateful Dead used to come through town on the regular. I always thought that the Grateful Dead’s artwork and graphics were the best the band tee business. I love tie dye, and how each piece looked, “as one of a kind as you are.” I LOVED the look of the Grateful Dead skeleton (later to learn it was called a “stealie”), and all the cool, psychedelic artwork. Their music at that time wasn’t my favorite, but the vibe and coolness factor of the bohemian, carefree Dead Head lifestyle was.


The year was 1997 and I scored a “1994 Grateful Dead Illuminati vibes” oversized t-shirt at the Goodwill in Anaheim, CA. It had an amazing eye in the center of the stealie, and the dancing bears, terrapin turtles, and the dancing skeletons were circling around the stealie. It was a perfectly worn 2XL, ultra thin, with the right distressing in all the key places. The vibrant tie dye was faded so much that it had these beautiful hues of neon pink and fluorescent yellow that were so strikingly beautiful and spoke to my creative soul. It was perfect! I could imagine the previous owner wearing it to all of the Irvine Meadows, Glen Helen, and the Great Western Forum shows. I don’t remember the actual price, but I do remember it being crazy inexpensive, under $5, and I’ll never forget the feeling when I found it. My heart beat was racing, and it was such a thrilling moment! I couldn’t believe it was going home with me…. I knew I was going to make something bitchin out of it!!

As a proud hoarder of all my thrifting purchases, I sat on this fabulous t-shirt for 5 years, often wearing it to get inspiration as to what it was to eventually become. It was a conversation starter for men that were much older than I was, that would come up to me and ask me how many shows I’d been to, or what my favorite song was.


It wasn’t until the spring of 2003 when I was going through a traumatic time in my life and career, did it hit me as to what I wanted to make with this t-shirt. After discovering that my business partner had stolen millions of dollars from our business, and I had lost the legal rights to use my birth name in commerce, I fell into a deep, dark depression that only my craft could help me navigate out of. For weeks on end, I would spend every moment at the beach hand beading and embroidering that t-shirt. Quickly it became a dress, as I sewed on the top, my first ever lace bra that my mom had bought me when I was 16, from K-Mart. It was the most perfect red and very tattered, and matched the t-shirt wonderfully. I was very inspired by Dolce & Gabbana at the time, so the look was, “column, flirty hem dress meets sexy, busty top.” I sandwiched in neon pink lace to match the tie dye between the lace bra and t-shirt, and cut out parts of the Stealie and replaced it with lace for a sexy peek-a-boo effect. I cut around the t-shirts’ tie dye and created an illusion with mesh underneath, the hand dyed silk fabric below to make it seem like the tie dye was draping down the skirt. Every inch of the screen print on the t-shirt was hand beaded with flowers, and butterflies were embroidered on top to tie the “Meghan look” all together. There were pieces of bold printed vintage fabrics sewn inbetween the skirt layers to give the tie dye depth and dimension. Almost every stitch was hand sewn, and you could see the workmanship in every detail. The back had a hand sewn invisible zipper that added to the couture quality of this one-of-a-kind dress. This dress was truly a work of art, and to this day I believe, it’s one of my “gratest” masterpieces.

This Grateful Dead dress lifted up my spirits during a time I didn’t want to live and go on. It was the catalyst that inspired so many other individual genius dress ideas that I still produce at some capacity today.


All summer long, I created couture, one-off pieces, that by the end of the summer, I had a whole collection. A friend of mine was putting on a spring fashion event at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood for press, buyers & stylists, and asked if I’d like to exhibit this new collection. All this hyper creativity had pulled me out of my depression and mental state, and I was able to have clarity. At the ripe age of 27 and not being able to use my legal name anymore, I re-branded myself to something “Fabulous,” and Meghan Fabulous was born.

Showing at the Standard was a great experience and amazing exposure. Although I didn’t have any immediate sales on any of my work, I did have many tastemakers, and people I really looked up to in the business appreciate my work and tell me how much they loved it. (Designer, Richard Tyler was the highlight!) Paris Hilton’s stylist LOVED every piece of the collection! She wanted them asap for some of the project Paris was working on, and how could I say no!!


I only had one caveat- My Grateful Dead dress was only available for loan. I surely couldn’t part with it!! “Of course!”, she said, and away my Grateful Dead dress went, along with a handful of other dresses that pulled me out of deep, dark rut. A few weeks later, Paris wore my Corset Dress, fashioned out of a vintage nude corset, to the launch of her new fragrance! Then the following week, Paris Hilton was working the red carpet in a magenta pink hand embroidered slip dress for a movie premiere. It was magical, and I felt alive again.


Then THEE moment happened. Paris wore my Grateful Dead Dress to the VH1, Big in ‘04 Awards ceremony to receive the “That’s Hot Award.” It was like my life had hit the reset button. The next day, my phone was ringing off the hook from press, stylists, buyers asking what else did I have to offer. It was the restart of my career.

Although my new business was budding, I blew it with Paris. Weeks later after I hadn’t recieved the dress back, I demanded to her stylist that she returned the dress- it really was a special piece and meant so much to me. Crickets. And I could forget all the other amazing pieces she had that she was planning to wear too. I was pissed, and couldn’t see through the fog how valuable that moment was for my career. I was young, green and caught up in my own head. Sure, I was told many reasons why I wouldn’t get it back, but it all didn’t matter to me. That was my creation and it belonged to my heart.


Fast forward to 2024. Hindsight is always 20/20! That was a moment for me, and it took me many years to feel thanks to Paris Hilton for wearing my creation, and making me realize what it truly was all about. I could always create another dress, and it made me remember and appreciate my roots and how far I’d come. The love for the Grateful Dead art helped me crawl out of deep depression. Because of this Grateful Dead Dress, I had a legitimate business. The love and appreciation for the Grateful Dead introduced me to my soul mate. That true love, helped me secure a license deal to make more Grateful Dead clothing! That clothing has brought me so much closer to the music and people that make up this incredible community of Dead Heads. It has all come full circle!


Yes, I have serious regrets for being a whiny baby and demanding the dress back. That single moment taught me more about business than any Ivy League school ever could have. And most importantly, I am beyond grateful for the love and appreciation it has taught me about the biggest, most incredible band in rock & roll history, the Grateful Dead.

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