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Posts Tagged ‘custom made’

That’s me sporting my custom-made shirtwaist dress by Theresa LaQuey. Photo: James Young

Throwback Thursday. Originally posted on June 23, 2011.

Last October I had a brilliant idea while strolling Fabric Row in Philadelphia. Why not buy some fabric to take home and have a couple of dresses made? What a perfect memento of my visit to Philly.

So that’s what I did. I perused the family run shop Maxie’s Daughter on South 4th Street and chose two cotton fabrics – one with a violet color print and the other a brown/orange print. I knew I wanted shirtwaist dresses I could wear with sandals in the spring/summer and with tights in the autumn.

The middle-aged salesladies with frosted updos and South Philly accents seemed more serious about the upcoming baseball playoffs than fabric. “We’re gonna beat you,” they teased. “OK,” I said. “I have no problem with that.”  Heck, I was a San Francisco visitor with absolutely no attachment to ballgames, I wasn’t going to argue with Phillies fans.

When I returned home, designer Theresa LaQuey sketched a retro shirtwaist dress with buttons down the front and a knee-length hem (very vintage nurses uniform). A few months later, voila … I had dresses that are well made and fit to a T.

Every time I wear them I think of my visit to Philly and those serious Phillies fans. Now, those are dresses with a story.

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Photo courtesy of Carrie Asby.

Carrie Asby is a San Francisco fashion designer well on her way to success. A native of Portland, Oregon Ms. Asby studied creative writing and photography at Linfield College in McMinnville, OR. Although she always wanted to be a fashion designer those desires were left unattended as Ms. Asby moved forward with a career in advertising. But today, finally, she’s living her dream designing a line of women’s fashions called Sutter and Larkin, which can be found online and at Lili Merveille in Hayes Valley.

Ms. Asby was kind enough to take time for a Q&A with Over Dressed for Life.

What’s the story behind your business name Sutter and Larkin?

When I was 18 I moved to downtown San Francisco to pursue my dream of becoming a fashion designer. I was living on the corner of Sutter and Larkin, not the nicest of neighborhoods. Not knowing a soul, my support group was limited. This left me feeling alone, scared and miserable. In less than 2 months, I was heading back home to Portland, OR with my tail between my legs. I told myself that the world didn’t need another fashion designer. I buried that dream so deep, I was sure I would not find it ever again.

I returned to SF just over two years ago. This time I wasn’t pursuing fashion as a career. I was designing clothes for pure personal pleasure – and I was having a lot of fun. I would create a new ensemble for any occasion and it was getting known amongst my friends that I was designing clothes. A dear friend asked for an individual piece that he could wear at his massive birthday bash.

At the party, a stylish young woman got word that I designed the birthday boy’s outfit. Convinced that I was a fashion designer. she inquired to what boutiques carried my line. At that very moment, I pulled my dream back up and put it smack in the driver’s seat. Here’s the best part – the party was taking place where I lived when I was 18, on the corner of Sutter and Larkin. So voila’….Sutter Larkin became the name.

Photo courtesy of Carrie Asby.

What inspires you to design?

I have always gotten along very well with colors and textures. I love combining them; taking the unexpected and making it work. I also love simplicity. To come up with a simple design that works isn’t always easy. But when I do, then add great color and materials…..ah! I love it. The complexity of simplicity inspires me, as well as the unexpected.

How does your background in advertising inform your work in fashion?

Being a design thinker is not a trade that one learns: it is the way one sees the world. If a person is a design thinker, they are constantly curious and inspired by design; it’s not limited to one medium. Design is just how I look at things – all things. In advertising, I used a lot of colors and mixed textures to create a feeling with my work. This approach rolls over into my design with clothes.

Having a background in advertising has also sped up the process of creating a following with my line, as well as saved a lot of money. I have experience in brand positioning and the implementation of it. This has been beneficial for the business side of things. After all, my business is my fashion.

What’s a typical working day for you?

I’m usually up around 6:00 when I drink my coffee and read the paper. Then I return emails till about 8:00. At that time my dog finally awakes up so we head off to Alamo Square for an hour to let him run. When we return, it’s a few more hours of office work: bookkeeping, marketing, refining my production schedule, client correspondence, etc. I reserve the afternoons for production. This includes shopping for supplies or actual sewing.

What do you like the most about designing and what do you like the least?

I love it when I have a design in mind and am out shopping for the materials and wham! I find the perfect combination: the right fabric for the right dress with the perfect details. It just all comes together. I get so excited that if I had a tail, it would wag.

As far as sitting down and actually putting it together…ick. I’m not a fan of sewing. At all. Hiring someone to help with this is next on my To Do List.

Who’s your favorite designer and why?

I’m going to have to say Ralph Lauren. He gets it that a woman can look stylish, sexy and amazing when wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a t-shirt. And he can dress her up in an evening gown that says elegance, tradition, pure beauty and modern. I think Mr. Lauren understands that a woman’s beauty is who she is on the inside. Also, I only wear his perfume. All through high school and college I wore Lauren. Switched to Romance right after college and haven’t looked back.

How would you describe the Sutter Larkin woman?

My tagline is Be sexy on the inside. It’s who you are. As a fashion designer, I feel I have a responsibility to be a positive influence on the people who wear my fashions. I don’t want my clothes to overbear a person’s character. I want my clothes to enhance a person’s individuality so that when you look at them, you see an individual confident and happy. All my designs have an element of sexiness about them. But they are also all very comfortable to wear. People feel good and get compliments when wearing my clothes, and you see it in their smiles.

What kind of handbag do you carry and … what’s in it?

I’m a bit of a handbag whore. One of my favs is a black and white, fully beaded find that I got at Goodwill for $8. I get compliments on it every time I take it out. It’s so unique and cool – can’t believe anyone gave it up. Another favorite is a big, brown leather shoulder bag by Coach that my father gave me one Christmas a few years back. It has purpose and looks amazing with my favorite cowboy boots. All my handbags are extremely neat and tidy: I hate wasting time looking for things. I just carry the basics: wallet, iPhone, Aviators, set of keys, a pen, lip balm and a roll of boom-boom bags in case my dog has to go. (I take him with me everywhere possible).

Well done! To develop a line in just two years is a big accomplishment and I say, a sign it was meant to be!

Meet Carrie Asby at Lili Merveille boutique in Hayes Valley for a Sutter Larkin trunk show on November 15, 2012, 5-8. 552 Hayes Street, San Francisco.

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Regular readers may recall that last year I had a  20s style coat custom-made by Oakland designer Theresa LaQuey. Since there was plenty of fabric left over, I decided to also have a skirt made from the tweed and a blouse made from the coat’s silk lining. Now I have a complete outfit that, I have to say, gets many a second glance.

I knew I wanted a 40s style skirt (yes, I like to mix my eras) with a high waist. Theresa added the side slits and she was able to include the faux broad-tail fur trim, also left over from the coat. But I wasn’t clear on what I wanted for the blouse. Theresa suggested a wrap. She used an original 40s pattern, which needed some tricky altering because I have such narrow shoulders.

I’m thrilled with the results, particularly the blouse. The wrap is surprisingly comfortable and easy to wear. There are three inside snaps on one side and five outside buttons on the other side. Although bit stiff at first, now they’re a cinch. The small tucks at the shoulders and short waist length gives an overall sharp, polished look. I do love the tailored style of the 1940s and there is nothing better than a no-fuss ensemble.

This was my 2011 holiday go-to outfit. I wore it to parties and dancing at Le Colonial. I’m looking forward to sporting it at the upcoming Art Deco Society of California Membership Party, but I’m going to add a little something. Stay tuned.

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The Cindy Marshall paper doll by Lisa Perrin. All rights reserved.

When my mother was growing up she had a thing for paper dolls, but not the store-bought kind. No, she was more creative than that. She made her own.

My fashion designer grandmother taught Mom how to illustrate fashions, including the proper accessories – shoes, gloves, hats, and handbags. Mom would cut models from magazines and redress them in her own fashions. “I was really into hoop skirts,” she says.

Mom’s paper doll addiction continues today with the Dover Paper Doll Series. Her collection numbers close to fifty and includes Chanel, Erte, and Classic Hollywood Stars.

So, you bet I was over the moon when I  found custom paper doll artist Lisa Perrin. This year’s birthday gift for Mom will be a Cindy Marshall paper doll. 

I contacted Lisa by e-mail and we immediately got to work. Over approximately six weeks I sent Lisa pictures of my mother and some significant outfits in her life from the 1960s (which I have discussed on Mom’s Closet). Lisa sketched the doll and four outfits, sending me images at every stage asking for feedback.  It was really a treat to see the project develop and Lisa, talented and patient, was a pleasure to work with.

I love the way Lisa drew my mom’s pose, which is right on the mark. Lisa knew to put Mom in the essential 1960s girdle with garters and she got her signature page-boy hairstyle picture perfect.

Lisa is an accomplished artist having studied drawing and painting at State University of New York. Currently she’s working on a MFA in Illustration Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art. I’m a big fan of illustration and Lisa’s style really speaks to me. Fanciful and kind of spooky, Lisa’s work has an Edwardian/Art Nouveau quality to it. But of course when it comes to custom paper dolls, Lisa strives for authenticity to the person.

Lisa’s custom paper dolls are printed on 8 1/2 x 11 medium weight card stock and come in a protective cellophane sleeve in a non-bendable mailer. 

The Cindy Marshall paper doll arrived last month and the hardest part is waiting. Shhh, Mom’s birthday isn’t until December 27th.

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Did I say a tote bag a week? Never should have said that … kiss of death. So, it’s been longer than a week, but I still have bags to talk about and this next one is special.

The lovely one pictured here was made just for me by my sister-in-law, Lori. Using vintage fabric Lori created the pattern and went to some trouble to get it just right. 

I sport it when I’m off to Pete’s for some reading catch-up and a latte treat. It’s handy oval shape easily carts around my latest knitting project, latest WWD, mags, and novel. It’s roomy and to me looks like something a suffragist would have carried at the turn of the 19th century (toting her subversive pamphlets, of course). 

Why not make a unique tote for yourself? If you’re not a seamstress, there are beginning sewing classes that start with totes. Like this class at Stonemountain and Daughter: http://www.stonemountainfabric.com/module/class.htm?classId=8447

Use vintage fabric and really make it one-of-a-kind.

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Custom made coat in progress. Faux braodtail fur will be added to the collar.

The July issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine covers what’s up for fall, including Statement Coats. Houses such as Alexander Wang, Dior, and Nina Ricci are showing big silhouettes in bold colors for fall/winter outerwear.  

1920s Day Coat from the book, The 1920s by John Peacock.

Well, I got my own Statement Coat in the works and it’s sayin’ 1920s.

Designer Theresa LaQuey has been building a coat for me based on a 1920s version I found in John Peacock’s fashion book The 1920s. The fabric is a lovely Italian tweed from Stonemountain and Daughter. The collar will be covered with faux broadtail fur which comes from a vintage stole my mother gave to me. In fact, this custom-made coat was all her idea.  

If you’re a regular reader of Over Dressed for Life, you know I believe we get the most for our money with custom-made. For as much or less than we would pay for designer ready-to-wear, we get better quality and a better fit which means the best look. Plus, supporting local designers is a very good thing.

There’s no instant gratification, but  I learned a lot from watching the piece develop. It’s been great fun choosing the fabric and consulting with Theresa on what kind of pockets I want, where the hem should hit, and pondering plain lining or wild. Having such control is great and of course I love the fact that this coat is one-of-a-kind.

Check back soon for a peek at the finished product.

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