(left) Silk + Steel owner Pam Walter models a black silk three-quarter sleeve tunic alongside Mary Clare Bauman (center) in a pink dupioni silk cap sleeve dress and Sylvia Martinez (right) in a blue dupioni silk cowl-neck dress with cut-in shoulders. Photo by Rodney Margison


With no experience in the fashion design industry, Pamela Walters and longtime friend Jean Robinson retired from Indiana University in 2018 and 2017, respectively, and decided to delve into their own clothing line, Silk + Steel. “We had a shared interest and passion for a certain kind of fashion,” Walters says, describing their proclivity for simple, high-quality sustainable fabrics with natural fibers. “We hit on a couple of styles that work really well across different body types.

Walters says she has been sewing for many years, getting her start with her grandmother and mother, but she’s mostly a self-taught artisan. “The skill that I have in sewing is a tribute to my mother—it’s a way to honor her,” she explains. “Sewing has always been a therapeutic activity. I love the feel of good fabric going through my fingers.”

With about 40 pieces in stock—all handmade and ranging in price from $130 to $270—most of Walters’ designs are based on the same shape and silhouette with different finishing touches or fabrics, she says. For instance, a cap sleeve top with a rounded neck and full A-line shape can be lengthened for a dress; sleeves may be absent, three-quarter, or another flattering length; and collars may be funnel or cowl neck.

Before the pandemic, Walters sold tops, dresses, and jackets through trunk shows and pop-up stores, but now sales are mainly through the Silk + Steel website at silkplussteel.net.