Designer Diaries: Old Navy’s Katherine Leigh Talks Designing Dresses with Pockets

by Gap Inc.

Gap Inc.

May 17, 2023

Designer Diaries is a new series where our talented roster of creatives here at Gap Inc. join us to speak to how some of our customer’s favorite products are made. 

Hi there! My name is Katherine Leigh, a designer on the Old Navy Design Team, and I am here today to chat through one of my favorite topics: dresses! This spring, our teams tackled the ambitious project of doubling the number of dresses with pockets across our assortment. As you can imagine, that is quite a handful (or pocketful!). 

My team and I experienced the design journey firsthand, and I am so excited to walk you through how our team executed this amazing undertaking, so without further ado, let's jump right into it!   


Getting with the Trends 

Why pockets, you might ask? The answer is simple. Serving our customer is the bottom line, and leveraging customer insights is imperative to the design process.  

Our team gained a lot of inspiration from feedback we received through social media, particularly TikTok! The customer will comment on everything — from little details they love, certain fabrics they like, if something doesn't fit right, etc. The common thread we noticed from all this feedback? Whether or not a dress had pockets.  

Early sketches of Old Navy Spring ‘23 dresses.


Yes, to the Dress 

When deciding which dresses would get pockets, we understood that some would not make the cut. We did our best to retain the design integrity of the garments, striking a balance between fashion and function.

This launch introduced me to some of my favorite dresses I have worked on at Old Navy.

Our team has been loving all the milkmaid-inspired dresses across the market, so we knew we had to make our own — call it a “dupe” moment! The result was the Waist-Defined Smocked Mini Dress, where we brought our own Old Navy spin to such a trendy style. Shifts in the industry happen quickly, so being able to pivot was the key to success for us to deliver a product that our team was proud of and our customer loves! 

Initial sketches and their final conception. In order from left to right, shop: Smocked Tiered Midi Cami dress (shop here), Waist-Defined Smocked Mini Dress and Shirred Bodice Cami Midi dress


Cut from the Same Cloth 

Some dresses continue to take on new shapes even after they make their way to our shelves and in our customers’ closets. One example is our humble but beloved Mini Cami Dress, which has evolved so much over the years. 

What was once just considered just a franchise item has quickly become a fashion driver. It was challenging to update a customer favorite, but staying aligned with the market took precedent and paved the way to provide the customer something new to love! 

Old Navy Mini Cami Dress. Shop the dress here.

The goal was to reimagine the garment cut from the same cloth in more ways than one, taking all the details — the fit and flare silhouette, adjustability and, of course, pockets — and giving it a spring refresh! We knew the final design was in a good place when our samples looked great and everyone on the team wanted to buy it. 

Dresses like these exemplify some of the exciting ways our design team tackles new opportunities that fulfill our customer’s needs. We are eager to explore how we can incorporate some of the learnings from this exercise into future product! 


Meet Katherine

Katherine works predominantly on woven dresses and skirts but has worked on knit dresses from time to time. Based in San Francisco, Katherine finds inspiration by venturing into the city and experiencing all the arts and culture firsthand, whether it's going to museums, art galleries or exploring a few vintage shops!   

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