The real housewives of benton county presents: Marianne Egan-Single Mom/Housewife/ Designer extraordinaire


Marianne is quite an impressive individual. She is an instructor at OSU in apparel design and an amazing designer and seamstress. She is an amazing mother. She is beautiful, smart, and hilarious. She is a great housewife, but the only thing missing…. is the husband. Marianne is amazing just how she is,  but she is also a total catch for a lucky someone someday.
Marianne and I have a funny friendship. If someone knew Marianne and I independently, they may not be able to imagine why it is that we hit it off so well. There are a lot of ways in which we are different, but Marianne is a funky “keeping it real” kind of gal, and who else will bust out Michael Jackson with me while we push our kids on the swings? One thing we do have in common is that we both make the volume increase a whole lot when we enter a room. I have been a listening ear many times and a place for her to spend Holidays with George since she has no nearby family.
Marianne has been even more to me. When Chris broke his leg and needed someone to help with the kids when I was out of town, he called Marianne (because all kids adore her). We called Marianne in the middle of the night to come and be with my kids when I was in labor with Miriam, and then she was the first person to race to the hospital to fall in love with our new babe. She was at the open house for Chris’ studio last weekend, and I could go on with ways she has been a great friend and support to our family. Marianne is a loyal and honest person, and those are two things that I really admire about her. I feel lucky to call her a friend. There are many interesting things that make Marianne who she is, so enjoy this random interview with a dear friend.

Kara-You just had your big student lead fashion show for the year. Tell me a little about that class and how you help the students prepare for the big show.
Marianne-The class is two terms long. The students have to apply to be in the class and then apply for what committee they want to be on. The class is really all about leadership and real world experience. It’s like someone hands them the opportunity and budget, and they get to work together to creatively figure out how to create an amazing show each year.
Apparel Design majors in the Design and Human Environment department enter their collections and pieces into the show. The students network and try to find people in the industry to be judges, and the students also find and help train student models to walk the runway. They also secure the venue, build the runway, rent the lights and back drops, hold their own photo shoots to create the ad campaigns, design posters, and design the programs for the show.

Kara-What parts of apparel design are you most interested in teaching?
Marianne-I love teaching students how to design. I like teaching how to brainstorm, how to be inspired, and how to turn that inspiration into something physical. How to take the idea in their head and teach themselves to pull the idea out, nurture it, and develop it into a living breathing design.

Kara- And what design projects do you work on when you’re not at work?
Marianne-Corset making is my favorite, because it bridges technical and aesthetic design together. Not only do I love to design but I love the lost art of the ‘craft’. I have been bellydancing for the past few years and that has opened up a world of designing and constructing gear to dance in. Almost all tribal bellydance costume is custom made, so I’m right at home.

Kara-I know that because of your job, you get asked what is “in style” or people ask for fashion advice. How do you respond to fashion advice in general?
Marianne-I am not a stylist. I am a designer. If people ask, I recommend that people  wear what they like and what they are comfortable and confident in. If you came to me and wanted me to design an outfit for you for an event, I would take your casual personality into account and also the fact that we live in a very casual place. I design from the inside. I like to create the trends, not decide what they are.

Kara-Your department has merchandising students and apparel design students. What are the differences between the two.
Marianne-Apparel design students are more on the artistic side and they work with concepts to production. Merchandising literally means the right product, in the right place, at the right time, for the right price. The designers design what the merchandisers would buy for their stores. Merchandisers are going to work for places like Nordstroms and Macys. Designers become designers and product developers and Merchandiser often become buyers, store managers, visual merchandisers, creative directors.

Kara-Oregon definitely isn’t NYC when it comes to fashion. In fact, I know that many people in the Northwest are considered to be pretty casual and some might even use the word “dorky.” Where would a person who graduates in design try to find a job if they wanted to stay in Oregon?
Marianne-Oregon is the sportswear capitol! A person who graduates from our program may want to work for Patagpnia, REI, Nike, Columbia, Jantzen, or Adidas to mention the ‘big’ guys. There are also many small labels such as Hannah Anderson, and let’s not even get into the outdoor or footwear industry! Many students try to find jobs in Oregon, but many move to L.A. or NYC.

Kara-You have been designing custom wedding dresses ( for the past 5 years. What would you do if a bride wanted a dress that you knew would look very unflattering on her?
Marianne-In the initial consultation, I would encourage her to try that style of dress on and to bring girlfriends and moms when they do so to give feedback. I would try to point out the good in their body shape and play up their strengths and try to go with that. Ultimately, after all of my encouraging, I have to go with what a bride wants. I have never worked with a bride that wanted something too outrageous, though.

Kara-You have lost 30 pounds in the last couple of years and have worked hard to maintain it. Tell me about your motivation to lose weight, what you did to lose it, and what you are doing to maintain?
Marianne-My motivation was heartache. After ending a serious relationship, I had to find something to keep me focused so that I wouldn’t spiral into depression. I started keeping a food diary and working out every day. I started with home videos of yoga and pilates. Because I’m a single mom, when I’m with George, I never get a break to go off and do my own thing. When the weather was nice, I would pop George into the jogging stroller and run.
After I had lost all of the weight (it took about a year), I wanted to keep it off. After I watched you do your half marathon a couple of years ago, I felt inspired and decided that I wanted to do one. I just completed the Corvallis half marathon a month ago and I’m signed up to run the Eugene women’s half in September.
Another motivation for running was to help me quit smoking. When I am running/ exercising consistently, it really helps me not smoke.
Kara-Yeah, you don’t see a lot of people at the starting lines of half marathons lighting up right before the race :). I can definitely see how adopting a healthier more active lifestyle has helped you in many ways.  It really has been inspiring watching you get into shape!

Kara- What is it like trying to re-enter the dating world as a mom?
Marianne-Excruciating and hilarious at the same time.I definitely have had some good times and heartbreak. Dating now is completely different than when I was younger. Now job security and 401k’s are sexy to me.  It’s funny when you have 15 friends who are married, and they will sit around and hang onto every detail of a date. They are all married, so it is entertaining for them to hear my dating stories.
Sometimes I feel like I am playing the role of the goofy awkward girl in the romantic comedy, but I know that at the end I will find my catch . I am probably more of a Tinay Fey with tatoos than Jennifer Anniston, though. Each one of my friends has a different idea of how I will meet my future mate.
Kara- This is my theory of how you will meet your mate. You will be at the grocery outlet late at night in your pajamas picking up some milk. You will drop a bunch of change from your purse, and when you turn around to pick it up, “He” will be bending down to help you. It will be when you least expect it :).

Kara-What’s it like being “the” single mom surrounded by families all of the time?
Marianne-It can be difficult sometimes. It reminds me of what I am searching for. It can also be inspiring to be around my happily married friends, because even though things haven’t worked out for me so far, I know that I will find the right person someday.

Kara-What are the things you love most about being a mom and the things you find the most challenging?
Marianne-I love having someone who I love unconditionally and who loves me back unconditionally.  He is part of me. I love that I  get to wake up every morning to a bizarre question about Lego’s or chocolate bars. I am starting to love playing Star Wars, then discussing and analyzing Star Wars (had to text my brother not too long ago to see if Leah could use the force), then watching Star Wars, then searching for Star Wars underwear – Who knew little boys underwear had their target market dead on! Challenging? All the challenges a mother faces but doing it alone and working full time. When most people are exhausted and going to bed I’m just starting my work. But it is what it is and I wouldn’t change where or who I am for the world.

Kara-What brings you peace and happiness in your life?
Marianne-I am always striving to find balance in my life. I feel happy and peaceful when I can successfully balance the many roles of Marianne.  Being creative brings me peace and happiness.  I’m always working on a project. I am the kind of person who can’t sit still. My son brings me peace, because he makes me sit still. I feel happy when I take time to sit and read with him and enjoy life. I think we all fight that voice in the back of our minds sometimes when we want to give our kids our full attention but there is always a million things to do. I love that he forgives me for it.
It was so beautiful Sunday and I had spent the whole morning working on the computer while George was playing with his legos. By noon he was asking for a freezie pop. I looked out my window longing for the sun, got 2 freezie pops, and we sat outside eating and talking about how delicious freezie pops were. As I sat there eating the freezie pop it dawned on me why he could never ask for just one, they are so good! So when he asked for a second one I laughed and said,  “Yeah go get me one too!” He stood for a half a second stunned then smiled the biggest smile and said, “I knew you loved them more than your computer!” I didn’t touch my computer the rest of the day, and we sat there and ate several freezie pops before I made lunch. Now that is happiness.

Heidi Thomas - May 25, 2011 - 8:29 am

What a terrific blog Kara! You really both amaze me.

Wendy M - May 25, 2011 - 8:48 am

I am fortunate to call Marianne a good friend…the number one thing I love about her is that she is always up-front and honest. The way she has gracefully handled all of George’s health issues just floors me. Overall, she is an amazing and talented person. Love ya, Marianne! :-)

adrienne w - May 25, 2011 - 9:14 am

You know some really amazing and cool people!!

Kim Hall - May 25, 2011 - 10:21 am

Aw, I love the freezie pop story! What an inspiring woman!

juliette - May 25, 2011 - 1:21 pm

Could anyone be cooler than Ma-yanne? No, I don’t think so.

Diana - May 25, 2011 - 3:25 pm

Thank you Kara for thinking of the single moms out there! It really means a lot to read something about another single mom who is trying to do it right! It is refreshing because, like Marianne said- it can be kind of hard when all your friends have marriages and I like how she says it’s inspiring for her.

kara - May 25, 2011 - 7:00 pm

You are sweet Heidi.
Kim, the freezie pop story totally got me too.
Juliette, that is still how Gabe says her name too :).
Diana, you are also an amazing single mom. I have been very impressed with you since I met you!! Hazel is a lucky girl.

carolina amador - May 25, 2011 - 9:39 pm

She is an awesome momma! And I love her little George too!

Ivy - May 25, 2011 - 10:54 pm

Marianne and I were in the same department!
She is an amazing mom. (So do you, Diana!)

Heather Wilson - May 26, 2011 - 3:01 pm

I love the photos of Marianne, she is so beautiful. Nice interview Kara.

Jill Staples - May 26, 2011 - 5:42 pm

Way to go Marianne! I know how hard it can be when everyone around you is married, but I have no doubt you’re going to find the perfect man for you!!

Vicky - May 26, 2011 - 7:17 pm

What a fabulous interview. My daughter amazes me everyday. She seems to be at her finest when pressure is the worst. I’m so happy to hear all her wonderful friends saying such beautiful things about this wonderful woman. As I am crying writing this, I would just applaude Marianne and tell her she has a long fabulous life ahead.


Sunny - May 27, 2011 - 7:09 pm

Marianne you are as always a rock star. I admire you for many reasons and would just like to second what everyone else has said!

Kris - May 27, 2011 - 10:55 pm

Good Stuff….must be if I further than the pics. Glad to see you slowly weening yourself off the little yellow guys.

Alyssa White - May 29, 2011 - 9:23 pm

Marianne, you have always inspired me. I honestly don’t know how you do it all. The story was so great, Kara, as is this blog! I was tearing up at the freezie pop story. So sweet.

Bonnie - May 30, 2011 - 8:24 pm

I just met you the other day and you were so sweet (I was the one forgetting my baby in the car seat at the indoor park). By the end of this article I am crying, your attitude toward life is inspiring to me, and what your son said about you loving freezie pops more than your computer makes me want to throw away all my crap so I can enjoy my children! Thank you for sharing yourself with us all!

Adrienne S - June 1, 2011 - 7:52 am

Oh Marianne! I’m getting misty reading this. Your such a great mom!