photo courtesy of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Science and Fashion


Poway resident and fashion designer Tammie Pontsler was recently recognized for her talent and creativity at the Design and Discovery Fashion Showcase – a competition connecting Salk Institute researchers and San Diego Mesa College designers. Tammie was paired with Dr. Pam Maher and translated her research into diet’s effect on brain inflammation and autism into a gorgeous hand-dyed gown. The gown won Best Translation of Science to Fashion from both the 12-panel judge and the public online vote. They named their team Sweet Lizzie to honor Liz Tillman, who donated silk and beads for the project.

“Using science as an inspiration for a gala gown was an incredible experience,” shared Tammie. “Scientific imagery is beautiful, and there was a lot to inspire.” She explained that every detail of the gown reflects Dr. Maher’s study, from the texture of the fabrics to the hand-beaded bodice to the 600 green LED lights. “Dr. Maher said this image of the inflamed immune cells was the most important image,” Tammie said. “It showed a correlation between diet and inflammation in the brain. She highly recommended the lights be green for this reason.”

The overskirt is made of silk organza, which Tammie ice-dyed with dyes in the order of the scientific imagery. “As the ice melted, the dyes were distributed into the fabric. Sometimes the colors would separate and create new colors. This was also seen in the high-glycemic photos of the brain cells.”

Tammie is a Poway High School graduate and has been sewing since childhood – she cites her mother as her first teacher, and she designed and made her own senior prom dress. She currently teaches for San Diego Continuing Education and has created a sewing studio in Poway to host workshops and classes.