HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | SEPTEMBER 2016 | Back-to-School edition | “Keep Sewing, Keep Learning”

Posted by on Oct 1, 2016

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The course of my life and career choices has been educationally based. My senior year of high school in California, I went to beauty college.  My mom kept telling me, “You’re not going to sit around on my couch and do that forever.”  So I became a hairdresser.  I thought that it would be better if I used my talents artistically and soon I became very good at my craft.

At some point, I started doing makeup on print models.  The designers would run into snafus on the models, so I would rush in to help.  I tailored for awhile, then became a florist.  It was all design.  Everything seemed to keep looping back, no matter what I did.  Finally, I met a clothing designer at a friend’s who said, “You need to be designing and making clothes.”  She was really accredited by some of the best fashion schools.  Working beside her, I considered it an apprenticeship, even though it wasn’t.  But I couldn’t have paid for a better education.

I was a dressmaker for a few years in Los Angeles.  Then I moved to Milwaukee 14 years ago.  The demand for custom dresses isn’t big here, but I still have a group of women I design for (I always begin by asking “Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly?”).

All these years later, even though I’m not solely a dressmaker, I’m still good at hands-on work.  So when I met a master upholsterer, my direction changed.  Because I’m a meticulous sewer, it was good for his business.

What’s harder to do?  Fashion or furniture?  Well, what I’ve learned is that a body moves, changes.  A piece of furniture–it just sits there.  On a sofa, then, a line is a line, meaning if there are vertical stripes, those stripes need to go up the back, down the cushion, across the seat, and down–in a perfectly straight line.  But on a woman’s body, it doesn’t matter as much because of the curves of her particular body and how she moves.  I mean, it matters–especially to a dress designer–but not as much.

As an upholsterer, you get to know the different fabrics.  You get to be able to say, “This fabric has a good hand.”  In the industry, a “hand” means “the feel of it.”  Each fabric has a different weight, different stretch, different pattern.  All that stuff matters.

I’m still learning.  You sew, you sew.  You keep learning.

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