When Mia reads about a Design-a-Dress contest in a magazine for “budding designers ages 12–16” she is excited. But she doesn’t realize how much work designing—and sewing—a dress truly is until she starts on her contest entry. While Mia stresses out about all the work she has to do, she and Katie have an argument about, of all things, fashion preferences! Katie offers suggestions that don’t really go with the outfit Mia has in mind. And when Mia makes (what she thinks) is an offhand joke about Katie’s fashion sense, it turns into a full-blown argument.
As Mia tries to finish working on her dress during a kids’ Halloween cupcake party, she realizes that kids plus cupcakes plus silk dresses plus frosting equals a recipe for disaster!
About the Author
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Mia’s Recipe for Disaster
All right, people! Hit the lockers!” called out Ms. Chen, our gym teacher.
I jogged off the basketball court along with my friends Katie, Emma, and Alexis. We all have gym together, which is great. We all have pretty complicated feelings about gym, though.
Emma is blonde, sweet, a little shy, and gorgeous—and, surprisingly, a competitive beast when she plays sports. I think it comes from having three brothers. She especially gets mad when the girls and boys play together and the boys don’t pass the ball to the girls.
“What do they think? That we’re not as good as them?” she’d say.
Alexis is competitive, too, but mostly about academic things. She likes gym—mainly because she’s really good at it—but she just loves to criticize it. “You need a healthy body to maintain a healthy mind,” she’d always say. “But gym class is just not an efficient way to get exercise. Half the time we’re standing around, waiting to play.”
Then there’s my best friend, Katie. She used to hate gym more than I hate polyester, mostly because she used to get teased because she wasn’t good at sports. But she’s a lot more confident now.
“Can you believe I made a basket today?” she was saying as we walked toward the locker room. She jumped up, pretending to make an imaginary layup. “An actual basket. In gym!”
“You did great, Katie,” Emma said.
“I almost wish gym wasn’t over yet,” Katie said, and I gave her a look.
“Did you actually just say that?” I asked.
“Well, I said ‘almost,’?” Katie replied.
“Well, I am definitely glad it’s over,” I said. “That means I can get out of this uniform.”
I am at war with my Park Street Middle School gym uniform. For one thing, it’s half polyester, which is just itchy and gross. Polyester makes me sweat more, which is the exact opposite of what I need in a gym uniform. As Alexis would say, it’s not logical.
Then there are the shorts, which balloon out on the sides like old-fashioned bloomers. And it’s a totally boring blue color, not a deep navy or a pretty powder blue, but just this really dull blue, a dirty grayish blue, like the color of the sky on a drizzly day. Blah.
“Mia, you look great in the uniform,” Katie said. “You look great in everything.”
“Thanks, but nobody looks good in this,” I said. I pulled at the fabric of the shorts. “I took these to my last class at Parsons, and Millicent, a design student, showed me how to alter the seam, so they don’t look so baggy. But they’re still hideous!”
Parsons is a pretty famous design school in New York City. My mom signed me up for a class there, which is totally awesome.
By now we had reached the locker room and quickly got changed for next period: lunch. We only get about three minutes to change, which is ridiculous. I never have time to redo my hair, which is always all over the place after gym.
“How is that class going, anyway?” Alexis asked.
“Really good,” I said. “I’m learning so much about sewing. Which I’m going to need to do if I’m serious about becoming a fashion designer.”
“Oh, you’re definitely serious about it, all right,” Katie said with a grin. “It’s all you talk about.”
“Not all,” I said, but then I remembered something. “Oh! I have something to show you guys at lunch. I found out about it yesterday, and I’m so excited!”
“Yesterday? Why didn’t you tell me on the bus this morning?” Katie asked.
“I wanted to save it and tell everybody at lunch,” I told her. “This could totally be my big break.”
Katie raised her eyebrows. “Tell us now!”
“Not in this smelly locker room,” I said, and then the bell rang. “Come on, let’s go to lunch!”
The four of us pushed our way through a sea of middle schoolers as we headed to the cafeteria. Once we got there, Katie and I went to our usual table, and Alexis and Emma got on the food line.
“Come on, just tell me now,” Katie said as she unwrapped her PB&J sandwich.
I shook my head. “You are so impatient!” I told her, laughing.
Katie put down her sandwich and closed her eyes. “Okay. I’ll just meditate until you’re ready then.”
That’s when Alexis and Emma walked up, carrying trays of salad.
“What’s with Katie?” Emma asked.
“I’m meditating,” Katie said.
“Not if you’re talking,” I pointed out.
“Meditation can be very beneficial,” Alexis said. “In Business Club we learned that many successful executives practice it. It keeps them focused.”
Katie opened her eyes. “Okay, I’m focused. Now tell us, Mia!”
I opened my backpack and took out a magazine, Teen Runway. I flipped through the pages and stopped at a photo of a model gliding down a runway in a gorgeous chiffon evening gown. The headline above her read, “Design Your Fantasy Dress—Enter Our Contest!”
“Teen Runway is having a contest,” I told my friends. “It’s open to anyone between the ages of twelve and sixteen. You have to create a dress that you would wear to a fashion event with all the top designers. The grand prize is a thousand bucks, but that’s not even the best part. The winner gets their dress photographed on a professional model for the magazine, plus a meeting with famous designers.”
I put the magazine down on the table, so everyone could see. “I can totally do this,” I said. “Especially now that I’m taking that sewing class. You have to sew your dress yourself and send in a picture of it for the contest.”
“You can totally win this,” Katie said, excited.
“Totally,” Emma agreed, nodding.
“It’s the perfect contest for you,” Alexis said. “Although I wonder how many people will be competing. Do you know how many subscribers the magazine has? Maybe we could estimate.”
“I think maybe it’s better if you don’t think about the other competitors,” Emma suggested. “Just bring your amazing vision to life.”
I nodded. “Exactly! On every fashion competition show I’ve watched, people get in trouble when they worry about what other people are doing.”
“So, can you do the sewing at your class in the city?” Katie asked.
“That’s my plan,” I said. “This week, I’m here with Mom. I can spend the time sketching and figuring out what material I need. Then next weekend I’m at Dad’s, so I can work on the pattern there.”
My parents are divorced, so every other weekend I take the train to New York City, where I used to live, and hang out with my dad. The rest of the time I live here in Maple Grove with my mom; my stepdad, Eddie; and Dan, my stepbrother. It used to be much more confusing, but we all figured it out, and now it just seems normal.
Katie scrunched up her face. “I almost forgot. Will you be around the weekend of George’s Halloween party?”
“Yes. And even if I wasn’t, I would ask Dad if I could go. I definitely don’t want to miss that.”
Suddenly, George Martinez appeared at our lunch table.
“So are you guys all going to dress up like cupcakes for my party?” he asked.
Katie almost jumped out of her chair. “George! We were just talking about you. That is so weird.”
George waggled his eyebrows. “Really! Were you talking about how cute I am?”
Katie blushed, because she does think George is cute. Which is okay because he thinks Katie is cute too. You can totally tell.
“No,” she said. “We were talking about your party.”
“And we are not going as cupcakes,” I said. “That would be ridiculous.” But I understood why George suggested it. My friends and I formed a cupcake club when we started middle school. We bake cupcakes for parties and other events. Everyone in school pretty much knows us as “the Cupcakers.”
“Actually, it’s a pretty cool idea,” Katie said. “Although it might be kind of hard to go to the bathroom in a giant cupcake costume.”
George laughed. “Yeah, right. But you’re all coming, right?”
“Yes!” we all answered at once.
“Good,” George said, and he headed back to his lunch table.
“Everybody is going to that party,” Alexis said, leaning in toward us.
“I know,” Emma said, her blue eyes shining. “The last time I went to a boy-girl party at somebody’s house, it was, like, first grade or something.”
Katie nudged me. “Is Chris going?”
Now it was my turn to blush. “I’m not sure,” I said. “He hasn’t texted me in a while.”
Chris Howard is this boy in my grade who I’m pretty sure I like. He’s tall and cute, and he has braces like I do, only mine are the clear kind, and he has the shiny metal kind. But they don’t make him any less cute.
Emma was frowning. “I haven’t thought about a costume yet. If we don’t go as cupcakes, what will we go as?”
“If I didn’t have this contest, I would design fabulous costumes for all of us,” I said. “Sorry.”
“No, the contest is way more important,” Katie said, and Emma and Alexis nodded in agreement.
Then Alexis opened up her planner. “So, Cupcake Club meeting at your house, Mia? Saturday?”
I nodded. “Mom and Eddie said fine. We could get pizza, or Eddie said he’d make spaghetti for us.”
“Eddie’s spaghetti!” Katie sang out. “It’s delicious, and besides, it rhymes.”
Alexis looked at the clock. “Ten minutes until the bell rings, and we haven’t eaten a bite.” She picked up her fork and dug into her salad.
I picked up my turkey wrap in one hand and stared at the magazine page in my other hand.
If I win this contest, it could change everything, I thought. I could go from middle schooler to fashion designer overnight!