When Judith Amidon receives a national award this week for costumes she designed for the New York, New York casino in Las Vegas, the ceremony will mark a milestone on her company's recovery from challenging times.
The National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors will honor Amidon with its "Image of the Year" award for the New York, New York costumes.
Like other costumes created by Amidon and her six-person staff at Creative Specialty Apparel in Sparks, the New York, New York costumes are a mix of fashion, theater and practicality.
The property's management wanted its servers costumed in a way that would reinforce the casino's art deco feel.
Amidon and her staff, meanwhile, needed to figure how to create a costume that would work equally well for the individual body types of the 80 to 100 servers.
The costume needed to be sturdy and practical for hard-working servers, it needed to meet union standards about allowable exposure, and it needed to meet the casino's cost limits.
This balancing act is nothing new for Amidon, who's been the in the business of creating costumes for the gaming industry for the better part of two decades.
In its niche market, Creative Specialty Apparel competes against some big players when it's invited to make presentations to casino managements.
"It's very competitive, especially in the Las Vegas market, but we hold our own against major companies," Amidon said.
Nevertheless, Creative Specialty Apparel like every other supplier to the gaming industry was hit hard by the sharp downturn after the Sept.
Amidon, who had watched her business and its staff grow rapidly since it was launched with a single client six years ago, cut back dramatically.
Although the company's business has been reviving steadily, don't expect to see significant employment growth at Creative Specialty Apparel.
Instead, Amidon decided to outsource much of its production work to provide more staffing flexibility.
That leaves the core of the business design, pattern development, some pattern cutting and some small-lot sewing at the company's operation in a nondescript industrial building in Sparks.
The small-lot sewing, while not particularly profitable, is an important part of the company's work, Amidon said.
Say a casino customer needs an unusually sized costume.
Creative Specialty Apparel takes those jobs as a way of building customer loyalty.
The spread of gaming throughout the United States provides a boon to Amidon's company.
While much of her work continues to be in the Reno and Las Vegas markets, the company has won contracts from casinos in Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana and other new outposts of gaming.
A graduate of a Los Angeles fashion school, Amidon finds the development of costumes for casino workers fulfilling.
"I love it," she said.
" I have a little flair for it, and it's a little bit theatrical."