As promised, here's the sixth and final piece in a series of longer Q&As with the designers featured in this week's fashion issue.
What kind of clothes do you focus on?
I really like tailored clothing. I like — I don’t like serging. I like French seams and linings and very finished clothes. I like things that fit. I really like historical patterns of the 1890s, but I want to take elements of that and mix it into things that people might actually wear rather than sew for SCA or something like that. Stylisticaly, I really like those looks but I don’t put them together in historically accurate ways, I’d say.
So it’s a little anachronistic?
A little anachronistic. That works.
How long have you been designing clothes?
A really long time. I used to do the patchwork hippie dresses, back in the day. I’ve done a lot of embellishment, embroidery, surface decoration. I spent some time designing bags. I designed a baby carrier.
So you have a broad array of things that you make.
Yeah. I’ve been sewing since I was 12, so.
Do you have a day job, or is this what you do?
I was a stay at home mom, homeschooling mom, for 11 years. My kids are 10 and 6. So that’s what I was doing. I didn’t work. After — well, then I had the baby carrier business. ... So right now I’m sewing and I’m working in a bakery, a part time job in a bakery. So I get up at 4 in the morning three days a week and I work a five to ten shift, and then I go home and feel like I should be starting my day, but I’m exhausted. It’s really weird.
That does sound pretty strange, like you’d be out of sync with the rest of the world.
It is a little bit, and then the days I don’t go, I try to slip back into my normal pattern, which is stay up and sew all night. It really doesn’t work.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
Well, from I guess from historical patterns and clothing, and ... I’m inspired by designers like [Madeleine] Vionnet who engineered some really interesting things. When you start to play with her patterns, they’re really quite brilliant.
Or Chanel, who ... I hate her clothes, I mean, they’re awful, but she was a brilliant businesswoman. Her marketing strategies were great, and I like to try to figure out how she did what she did when her stuff’s really, really ugly. Tweed boxes!
When I’m looking for design elements I like to look at historical patterns.
Tell me about the clothes we’re taking pictures of, and the clothes you’re going to have in the show.
Connor is wearing a Victorian vest, a wainscoat, that is actually made from a women’s pattern — it has front shaping — and a pair of bloomer-type underwear. You know, big, poofy and white, and little tucks and frills on the legs. He’s kind of standing there like, [goofy awkward pose]. I think in the context of the show with the rest of the crew he’ll be a lot happier. It’s sort of like, Why am I dressed like this here? It’s very cute. And I have [him in] long stripey socks and a little ascot. It’s very dapper and frilly.
What I was thinking was, this pinstriped vest and knickers. A lot of people are liking knickers for biking because the pants legs don’t get caught in the chain. And so that’s where I was thinking with that: the vest and knickers were kind of the guy outfit, and this little camisole frilly thing and bloomers would be kind of the girl outfit. That look, I can put the vest, in a women’s cut, and the bloomers on a boy, and I can put the same outfit on a girl. So there will be a girl dressed basically the same as he is walking. And so sort of mixing — I’m not putting the frilly camisoles on any boys, but... somebody could have a tuxedo shirt. And then because it is a fall show, I’m also showing a frock coat. Those are nice.
So how many outfits do yu have in the show?
I think I’m walking 10, including two 11-year-olds, 10-11 year olds. I really like my daughter’s age. She’s just starting to transition — she’s got hips now, she’s not little girl shaped anymore, but she’s still 10. And a half. And she and her friend, this boy Coltrane, who is ... a ten year old goth. He’s adorable. He may have dyed his hair, and I don’t know if he’s cut it — last time I saw him it was long, and wavy, and blond and he was just like, black and zippers. So I really want to put him in like a little kid frock coat in dark charcoal gray and lace. Little vampire Lestat. And then I’d really like to see her, my daughter, in just a really simple off-white sort of Greek shaped shift and black boots if I can find them, and have them carry my banner.
Do you feel like you’re part of a community of designers in town? Do you think there is a community?
I do. I think there is, yeah, especially now that I’m working out of Redoux Parlour. I’m sewing there, and it’s so nice to come in and see what everybody’s working on. Everboyd’s real supportive and friendly. There is definitely a community of designers here.
Is there any one thing that you’ve made in your current career that you’re most proud of or most fond of?
Hmm. For so many different reasons — I just made a wedding dress that I’m really pretty happy with. It’s really hard for me to be just fully satisfied with something. I always see all the flaws and I want to do it again better. But this one, I did a reproduction of a Vionnet pattern that I found in a book, so it was just the basic shapes drawn out and some really rudimentary instructions and I draped it rather — usually I will draft on paper with rulers, and just the act of realizing that I could drape, and it’s so imprecise, I’m not measuring specific and adding ...
[technical difficulties temporarily cut her off]
This idea that it seems so fussy and imprecise to just kind of hold up pieces of fabric, but really you’re getting something that fits an individual. Individual bodies aren’t perfectly symmetrical and measured. You know, the reason that we would draft like that is to produce something that can be graded and fit a range of people and be mass produced, and draping is so ... individual, just for one person. I think that I’m really happy not necessarily with how it turned out, because I’m never happy with how anything I make ever turns out, but just knowing that I could design that way has got me thinking about trying to figure out, you know, not just make a pair of pants and change the fly around and change the waistband around, but hold fabric up to something and come up with something sculptural that can be a garment that’s a really different idea.
So is that going to change what you’re working on in the future? Do you have anything that you’re planning?
I’m planning — for the short term, I’m planning to try to do this as a business. To channel Chanel: OK, go talk to the stores and find out what they would like to see that they think their customers might want, and try to work with what I can do to produce something that might actually feed my family. So that’s maybe not the best place for weird stuff. But I would like to be able to do some weird stuff, and some exploration of media.
Her model comes in and describes what he was wearing: “Poofy, poofy, raccoon tail socks. Oh, and the — poofy.”
I like to disregard gender roles. It’s something — it’s one reason I like historical patterns, because one way to look at old-fashioned clothing is it’s all lace on men and pretty peacock boys and stuff that would be so girly these days. It’s not just this straight spear business suit. But that was masculine back then. ...
Do you use a lot of reused fabrics and thrifty stuff?
I do, if it isn’t going to interfere with quality. So I don’t insist on using recycled materials. I happen to like to take a jacket and make a vest out of it. It keeps all the pockets. So this [what the model was wearing] was like, I cut it out yeterday but I sewed it in an hour. It was really easy but it looks nice and finished because most of that was already there on the jacket I got for six bucks at St. Vinny’s.
Augury is available at the Redoux Parlour.