How I started my dressmaking career Part 1

When I was a little girl, I watched Cinderella for the first time and I fell in love with it.  Not because of the prince charming, the fairy godmother, or even the becoming a princess fantasy.  My favorite part was the dressmaking scene - the mice and little birds sewing a gown using odds and ends in an attic room on a dress form. It was magic! I knew instantly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to make pretty dresses.  It was that simple.  I didn't know how to go about accomplishing this - I didn't have a seamstress mother or aunt to guide me and teach me to sew.  I was a sheltered child of 5 years old, dreaming big dreams that involved needle and thread.  I was the middle child in a family of 9 children.  I knew early on that my dreams were my own responsibility - this was my dream - no one else's - and I would have to see it through by myself. 

So, I began gathering up knowledge and materials from any source I could.  I started with all the sewing supplies my mother owned.  These she kept in a tiny cookie tin with no lid.  There were 2 dusty spools of thread, one brown and one black, a few random buttons, and 3 tapestry needles.  If I had only known then how may wonderful types of thread and needles existed and how exciting it would be to explore this - but for me, those meager tools were my treasures.  When I asked permission to use them after explaining my need to create beautiful gowns,  my mother gasped and insisted that not only was sewing gowns too hard for me to do, it was much too dangerous for a young girl to use sharp things responsibly.  Her solution (bless her heart) was to provide me with an old skirt on a hanger and to use bobby pins and hair clips to drape the fabric this way and that.  I tried this method - and after about 5 minutes, decided it was crap and that the off- limits sewing tools were what I needed instead.  So, I swiped them, hid them in an old winter hat, and began my secret sewing adventures.  I used dolls for dress forms, pieces of pillow case and any little scraps of fabric I could find, and an old pair of yellow school scissors (try cutting fabric with those babies).  I took my little satchel of goods and hid under tables or outside beneath trees, any little place where I wouldn't be found and pieced together creations for my dollies.  I draped the fabric, stitched it, made embellishments from the scraps, I played with how the fabric could lay this way or that and experimented with symmetry and asymmetry.  Of course I was much hindered by the limited amount of fabric I had, but I made it work.  It never bothered me that the black and brown thread never matched - I worked on my stitches, making them more even and observing that if I stitched ever so carefully I could make it so that the stitches didn't even show at all, and I could hide the knots!  I was very proud of discovering this.  

My mother never found out about my secret sewing - but eventually she observed that my drive wasn't going to slow, so she asked a seamstress friend of hers to come by one day and look at the dolls clothes I had made (my mother never could figure out how I made them) and to give me some advice.  I remember that I didn't like this woman.  She had a rough way about her and I was very nervous.  But, she said that my hand stitching was very good and then continued on about how hard it was to sew prom dresses and that she did it once for her size 0 daughter and would never do it again. I thanked her and made a firm decision within myself that I would not grow up to be like this woman - crusty, hard, and uninspiring.  I could learn any skill I needed to make any fabulous garment I liked and I could do it with style, grace, and a smile on my face.

I'll continue my story in future posts.  But for now I'd like to share a video of a gown I made this past summer.  This video project was done in collaboration with Peer Canvas.  We were inspired by Marie Antoinette and the fairy princess fantasy that so many little girls have - whether that means making the dress or wearing it - or both!  


Custom Dressmaking Video

Here is my first ever video with Peer Canvas.  This video gives a little insight into what I do - bringing a dress from concept to creation.  I love what I do, and I'm honored to work with other artists who appreciate my work.  It is always a pleasure working with Marjorie and Brenton of Peer Canvas.  They understand the creative process and their pictures and videos show just how magical the experience of wearing a fairy tale gown can be.

The gown I am working on in this video is a chiffon a-line gown with hand - beaded detailing on the bodice.  My favorite part of making this gown was the bead work.  I hand drew the design and embroidered the "stems" of the design by machine.  I hand beaded the floral and leaf details using a combination of seed beads, pearls, and faceted beads in silver.  


Bridal Video Shoot

It is always incredible to see your creations come to life.  When a bride steps into one of my gowns and I see it in motion, it becomes more than just a clothing buying experience.  This could be her once in a lifetime dress, the culmination of her romantic dreams, the heirloom that she passes on to her children.  To know that my creativity played a role in that scenario warms my heart and fuels my drive to create again.

This video is a bridal photo shoot that I did with Peer Canvas.  Please enjoy and feel free to leave some feedback.


Hand Made Accessories

I listed a belt in my Etsy shop this week that I made from organza lace and beaded it with rhinestones and seed beads. It got me to thinking that this kind of accessory is the perfect way to make your bridal look different than anyone else's. Maybe you have a scrap of lace from your grandmother's wedding gown, or you found a brooch at an antique store that you fell in love with.  Adding that little something extra to your gown makes your wedding day all the more special. It doesn't have to be a vintage piece or a family heirloom either.  Just follow your heart and choose something that has meaning to you.  Who knows, you just might start your own tradition!



About this week's dress......

My new Etsy listing for this week was my draped tulle gown with rosettes.  Very often when I'm creating a new gown, my concept changes from idea to idea.  I find that if this occurs, I need to let the design "speak" to me so that I know what it should become.  Now I know this sounds a bit odd but I feel that every successful design I've had comes from someplace in my heart, very often I need to set a design aside for some time so that I can return to it fresh.

I began with a simple sweetheart bodice torso and draped the tulle evenly down the length of it.  (I loved draping in design school.  In fact every class I took in fashion school felt like a new piece of some cosmic puzzle I was meant to know. )  I wanted this draping to be subtle and soft yet compliment the figure. My original plan was for a dramatic mermaid gown but I chose a trumpet semi circular skirt in the end.  The layers of tulle on the skirt float as the wearer moves and twirl away from the body when dancing.

My favorite part of this design, as with most of my work, was in creating the rosettes and beading the gown. I took discarded scraps of tulle, chiffon, and organza and singes the edges of the "petals".  Each rose was hand rolled and gathered up into individual floral puffs.  Some remained unadorned but I added a variety of crystals and beads to the other centers.  I LOVE the crystals because they were salvaged from an old necklace found at a garage sale. They are so lovely and bright, I also sprinkled them intermittently over the gown's skirt.


Fun new design for flower girls

Designing little girls' dresses is always a nice departure from the more involved projects I'm usually working on.  I wanted this one to be especially fun to wear with its' very full tulle bubble skirt.  The satin bodice creates a nice contrast and I love the little buttons on the back.



Photo Shoot

It's not every day I get to feel as though my vision is truly coming to life quite like it did yesterday during this photo shoot with the fantastic Marjorie of Peer Canvas.  This shoot featured some of my original designs, this one pictured being from my senior year of design school.  This collection was inspired by the late 19teens and Erte illustrations.  I loved the sumptuous fabrics being used during this time period, the mixing of textures, and the slinky, sexy sense of fashion that was so luxurious.

The red charmeuse slip dress is paired with an over piece of black chiffon which is hand beaded and belted at the hip in a brocade fabric.  Other items in the collection included a faux surplice slip dress, a charmeuse pants suit, and three kimono style jackets made from black satin, red brocade, and trimmed in recycled fur.

A big thank you goes out to Marjorie for her professionalism and enthusiasm.  I'd also like to thank Jessica Timmons for doing such a great job with my make up and hair.I felt like a model for just a little while.  It was a fun day and very inspiring shoot!