Thursday, July 2, 2009

She's Crafty

Recently I had the chance to do my first, all growns up interview here at The Girl Can't Help It headquarters. I was finally able to wear that fedora with the paper square in the band that says "press"! Last week I had a chance to talk with a fellow vintage clothing seller-turned-fashion-upcycler extraordinaire. Picture this:

It was hot that Thursday afternoon. Too hot. The kind of heat that not even the summer winds off the coast could chase away. So there I was, snakeskin platform heels kicked up on the oversized wood desk, staring at the round keys of the typewriter and wondering just what exactly was a "qwertyuiop". I was listless. Bored. The thrill was gone. The Metalcraft fan on top of the filing cabinets was spinning on low, and the wide wooden slats of the venetian blinds behind me cast long, black and white shadows on the wall, setting the stage for something cliche-ishly film noir-y about to happen. There was a knock on the door. I jumped up off my chair with such force that my unnaturally high-waisted pants gave me a wedgie that not even James Cagney himself could talk his way out of. In she walked. Why, it was none other than that crafty dame Hollis, of Past Perfect Vintage. She confessed to having the inside scoop about her new, one of a kind fashion line called eCouture by Jenkins & Evans, Recycled Clothing and was about to spill her story all over me like this morning's cup of joe. Of all the blogs, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. And she was about to blow the case wide open...And where is that saxophone music coming from?!...I had questions, she had answers...

Where did you learn to sew and how long have you been sewing?

I learned basic seams from my mother. She was an excellent seamstress, and had a lot more she could have taught me. But you know how 13 year old girls are...impossible. So I learned how to construct garments in college on a work study assistantship in the Theatre Department. Then I learned pattern drafting and draping and more advanced stitching techniques in graduate school.

What different types of clothing do you make? Do you use modern or vintage patterns- or not follow a pattern at all? And what different materials/fabrics/notions do you use?

Generally, I want to make clothing women can wear every day. I am sure I will spread out into special occasion pieces, but my goal is recycled clothing that can be worn by the average women as a perfectly mainstream option. I do create my own patterns. I drape new parts as needed while recycling as much existing construction as possible.
I prefer natural fibers. It's me. It's how I am. I am reusing the acetate linings though. I debated relining garments in lightweight silk crepe, it's such a nice touch, but it just adds too much to the overall cost and labor. I also love old glass, wood and metal buttons. I do have to purchase interfacing and zippers occasionally, but that's the only 'new' thing going in the designs.

Are your pieces strictly modern in design or do you do vintage-inspired pieces? Or both?

Both. My design process consists of standing in a thrift store staring at a piece, wondering: why hasn't it sold? Why did it end up here? Can I solve the problem? Then I look for 2-3 pieces that work together on some level. After that it's just what comes to me. Since I am surrounded by period clothing in my studio and have been designing and building period costumes for a long time, styles of the past certainly influence the process. So there will be a touch of 50s here, a bit of 40s there. But I do want the end result to be indisputably modern.

Do you use vintage in any of your designs? If so, what eras of vintage clothing do you use in your designs?

I don't use vintage garments at all. I feel they have a value in their own right and should not be cut up or redesigned. I do use vintage buttons and hardware such as unused buckles that I have a stash of. Those range from Victorian to 1950s do dads.

Are your creations strictly one-of-a-kind or would you reproduce a design if someone asked?

Right now they are all one-of-a kind. I am working on some ideas that would rework similar garments for similar results. There are so many good wool women's suits out there that need a new purpose. And men's sport coats! The thrifts and resale shops are packed. So I am thinking about ideas for those that I could repeat. I could try to reproduce a design, but it would have to be a vaguely similar piece, not an identical one.

Do you do custom orders?

Not right now. So much of the process is serendipity it would be hard to promise anything very specific! And working over the Internet makes the kind of one on one collaboration with a client that is necessary difficult.

Would you do alterations (ie: size adjustments) to pieces you have up for sale? If so, do you charge extra for that?

You know, I considered the one size fits all approach and it doesn't appeal to me. Too much elastic. So I am alternating between specific size pieces and looser fits such as the Tangerine Floral Blouse that is bias cut and can be worn by a wide variety of sizes and still have a shape. I also build in room for alterations when I can. Since I am working with a finite amount of fabric in odd shapes, it isn't always possible. I can do alterations when there is fabric to work with and would charge a minimal fee. But I do think alterations are best done by someone who can see the garment on the client and adjust specifically to their figure.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Once, women worked hard to make one of a kind garments, then restyled and remade them to fit the times. Clothing was an investment. They valued the fabric and the labor. I take that attitude toward clothing, and hit the fashion history books, magazines, and the web. And of course, people watch. Then I throw the existing garments I have found on a mannequin, walk away and let the right side of the brain come up with a solution.

Do you have anything special in the works for the future (ie: a website, new designs, a type of clothing you never made before, etc.)

I am starting to mull over a winter line. I see wool in my future. And maybe a wedding dress. I am deeply considering a website after I get comfortable in the process.

Here are 2 of my current favorites from eCouture! I love that while they're very sleek and modern in line, you can see little elements of past eras in there as well. Rock and roll Hollis! Here's looking at you, kid.



"She's Crafty" but the Beastie Boys.


  1. Snappy interview, girl!

    Thanks to Hollis for not cutting up vintage. I can't wait to see what she does with wool.

  2. Great article!!! Always wondered what was going on inside that brilliant & crafty girl's mind!!

  3. Thanks so much, Lizzie! It was fun to play reporter- in fact, I'm looking forward to doing it again!

    And I agree about Hollis! Can't wait to see if she does a "winter line"!

  4. Thanks Bonnie! I admire anyone whose sewing talent is above fixing a seam or button (that's all I can do!)