Last month on a beautiful fall evening, Michaan’s Auction House opened up it’s doors to the Alameda Point Vintage Fashion Faire produced by Sandra Michaan with a little help from Jonathan Belmares and a host of a dozen (or more) others. This is an annual (and sometimes bi-annual) event that happens at the Point and the opening of the event is really quite special, happening the first evening of this, weekend long, event.Read More
Every year the Art Deco Society of California puts on the The Gatsby Summer Afternoon. This Gatsby Event is the highlight of my year, as far as vintage events go, and this year was no exception. The weather was perfect (high 70 degrees and breezy), the picnics were exquisite and the company eclectic and entertaining.
For this year’s ensemble, I chose to replicate a look that my grandmother wore (see photo above) in one of her modeling photos. I’ve admired this dress for years and have not quite had the nerve to re-create it until now. That front neck detail with the capelet and ruching really had me flummoxed.Read More
Well, because you asked, here is a blog post about the Blue Velvet Coat I wore to Miss Fisher Con. In this photo shoot (Thanks Mom!) I paired the jacket with a true vintage 1920’s silk lace and chiffon dress, along with some rhinestone / crystal accessories and coordinating shoes and bag.I think it all works together quite nicely.Read More
This was a fun and quick upcycle to create a 1920's style cloche like the ones that Miss Fisher wears in the series, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. While not totally period correct, the style similar to some of the hats Phryne wears on the show, designed by Australian Milliner, Mandy Murphy.Read More
It's been almost two months since I attended the 2nd annual Miss Fisher Convention. If you don't know about Miss Fisher, she is the main character in a series of books by author, Kerry Greenwood. The books inspired an Australian TV Series called Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. A quite liberated lady detective, Miss Fisher, lives in 1929 Melborne, Australia. The Convention, celebrated everything "Miss Fisher". If you haven't seen it, you should. Fantastic show and books and her snappy dressing (ie. beautiful costume design) inspired me to create a whole wardrobe and rope my friends into coming along for the ride.Read More
A 1920's evening gown is not quite complete with out an evening cloak, a headpiece and the right jewels. Luckily for me, I had a lovely piece of velvet and some pink silk crepe-de-chine along with matching crepe back satin, tucked up on my fabric shelf just waiting to be used.Read More
Miss Fisher Con is less than a week away and my wardrobe is getting the finishing touches (even as you read this!). Here is a little sneak peak into the fitting of the evening gown I'll be wearing to the masquerade on the Saturday Evening of the Con.Read More
What are your Sewing Plans for the New Year? I already have a long list of things I would like to accomplish with the knowledge that there probably won't be time for everything on my list. In any regard, I'm very excited to get started. Take a look below at some of the things in the works....Read More
It's truly amazing how fast this year has gone and I when I look at this image it seems crazy that I made so many things. I've virtually created a brand new (but vintage inspired) wardrobe. It's been so fun making things for myself and a long time coming. I haven't really done anything like this since High School. Since then, sewing has meant mostly business - pattern making, fashion education and custom design work with a little bit of sewing for the home or for friends on the side.Read More
The Gatsby Summer Afternoon is an annual event presented by the Art Deco Society of California, every year on the 2nd Sunday in September. This is an event I look forward to each year and get ready for, pretty far in advance. For the 3 years, my mom has been joining me and then last year, my cousins Kathy & Maurice came along for the ride as well. AND this year, I even roped my friend Jone in, who ended up having more friends there than me!Read More
After all your wonderful suggestions, I did end up choosing Ladies 1931 Dress from Vintage Pattern Lending Library for my Gatsby Dress. I just can't seem to get enough of those VPLL patterns! More on THAT later. Here is the story of how I came to use a Vintage 1940's dress for my "muslin" prototype....Read More
The Art Deco Society of California's Gatsby Summer Afternoon, is right around the corner. Slated for Sunday, September 10th, this annual event will take place on the majestic grounds of the Dunsmuir Hellman Estate in the Oakland Hills. Hundreds of people enter the grounds dressed to the nines in gorgeous picnic attire....Read More
Who would have guessed that our seemingly demure and always impeccably attired, Art Deco Society of California Secretary, Alice Jurow, would write a book about Vampires? Set in Paris 1929, 3 impossibly chic fashion models work their way into the hearts and souls of numerous suitors, while drinking of their blood, just a little bit. It's a delicious helping of fun, dripping with scrumptious details describing the opulence of the time...Read More
My friend Jonathan invited me to his 30th birthday party. He wanted to leave his OWN roaring 20's in style and asked everyone to come dressed up for the occasion. What a great opportunity to play dress up and put on a made-by-me gown from my favorite era!Read More
Well, the day of the ball arrived and I was prepared! This year's theme was Death on The Nile (the Agatha Christie Murder Mystery) with a focus on Egyptian Revival of the Art Deco era.Read More
An Interview with Vintage Clothing and Pattern Designer,Theresa LaQuey
In preparation for draping my Art Deco Preservation Ball Gown, I reached out for a little advice and encouragement from Couture Vintage Clothing Designer, Theresa LaQuey. She has a wealth of knowledge, after spending many years creating beautiful bespoke creations for ladies with an eye for vintage style. Our Conversation is below.
Additionally, we will be doing another giveaway this week. Theresa has generously given us an autographed copy of one of the Simplicity patterns that she designed. I'll do a random drawing of our email subscribers to see who wins!
Jennifer: Theresa, I'll likely drape a late 20's look in silk charmeuse and chiffon and will probably take a trip to Britex Fabrics for some pretty beaded appliques. A friend gave me a purple and yellow ombre length of silk, that I intend to use for the main part of dress. I think the purple yellow combo will be my ode to Egypt but maybe I'll do a fun head dress as well. I'm still in the planning stages. Do you have any advice as to how I should begin?
Firstly, I so admire your thoughts on draping your gown. If I may make a recommendation, try to find the pattern making and draping book that was printed by the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, Scranton PA, published in 1928?? I think. When I was learning my trade, a dear fellow student gave me a xeroxed copy of that book. It made all sorts of dress making from the 1920s very plain and simple. Just geometry and physics.
I do not give a good review on getting purchased appliqués. I have had very bad experiences with them. They are too stiff and don't look correct. It sounds cruel, but get a dead dress and cut it up. You will do better with it. (note from Jennifer - I think this is a great idea!)
I would like to teach you to bead. I know the Tambour method. It takes about one hundred hours to learn it, and another couple of thousand hours to perfect it. But oh boy it is worth it.
However, purchased appliqués can work. Just make sure they are soft, not stiff. Also, give a call to the Fashion Company in SF. They have carried appliqués and are very great. Be prepared to meet the minimum of $70.
Jennifer: How & When & Where did you first begin studying bespoke sewing and couture design?
Well, my mother was the costume designer at Diablo Valley College (DVC) and my whole family has been stitchers for at least 100 years. My mother was paid so poorly and because of that, I started hanging out in the costume department with my mom at age 5.
(Later in life) I was in the punk scene and got married to the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys. He was a collector of vintage records. That’s when, I started collecting vintage patterns. After we broke up, I started the apparel design program at DVC. It was a fantastic program. If you want to get into design, don’t spend $30,000/year. Go to a community college. It’s an amazing experience.
Then, in 1987, I ended up partnering with Mark Jones, making couture gowns and learning how to bead..
Our very first commission was a wedding gown was a replica from a movie Topper with Constance Bennett and Cary Grant. I had to have foot surgery and I spent my time, in bed with my feet up, beading that gown.
Jennifer: At the Art Deco Preservation Ball 2 Years ago, I was completely impressed with all the glamorous ladies walking around that evening, at the Oakland Scottish Rite. Each woman looked spot-on, and I thought for sure they were all wearing mint condition vintage. Then later that night you were honored with a special display of all the ladies wearing your gowns (I think there must have been over 30 ladies standing up near the stage) and nearly all of the gowns on display were the exquisite designs I had been admiring earlier . It was wonderful seeing the variety of designs you produced from the Art Deco Era and the 1930’s styling in particular. Is this your favorite era? Or just the one most on display?
It’s my favorite era ever. I consider myself more of a mathematician than a designer. It sounds crazy but you are dealing with the geometry of stretch, when it comes to Bias. When you get into the 30’s they are really applying that “wonderful” of the 1920’s to the feminine form. One tip - Avoid Side seams. The 1930’s is my favorite (era) because it’s so unexpected. If you go in there like an explorer, you’ll learn a lot about making clothes.
Jennifer: Are your couture gowns original designs, inspired by the era, do you use vintage patterns or a combination?
A combination of both. We have a joke around the house that I’ve copied so many Adriens that we call them LaQuey-driens. I’ve done plenty of original designs as well. Mainly I do bespoke (gowns) only for friends, these days.
Jennifer: For this year’s preservation ball, I will be draping a gown in the late 1920’s style. When I made my gown two years ago, I made a corset to go under. The pattern was reproduced from a 1920’s pattern and had the perfect silhouette for the straight lines of my gown. I’m planning to do the same this year but for a dress that will have a little more shape appropriate to the later 1920’s. Did you ever make foundation garments for your gowns? Did you build foundations in the garment?
I have built foundation garments into gowns but they are more 1950’s gowns. The thing about 30’s gowns especially, is that they should look like they were blown on to the body and just land there.
Jennifer: Do you have a favorite material to work with for vintage gowns?
Yes, I do - My super-duper favorite - a 1930’s red & white ensemble. A Japanese fabric called Chirimin crepe. It’s a rayon pebble crepe and only 36” wide. You can find it at www.fabrictales.com
These ladies are incredible. The weight of the fabric is incredible.
Then I have a supplier out of the east coast and Los Angeles - Eastern Silk Co. (trade only) they carry 4ply crepe and crepe back satin in 144 colors.
C&J Textiles in NY - the fabric they carry for called Silk Vanity - The colors are gorgeous. I’m working on another gown this month in this fabric.
Jennifer: Along the same lines, do you have a favorite gown that you’ve made? Who did you make it for? Would you describe it for us or do you have a photo?
I do - Do you know of Mr. Pear? I worked with Mr. Pearl last year and we did a dress together for a burlesque artist.
From my own projects I would have to say the Chanel Fireworks dress. It was so hard. All beaded. Black Chiffon with poly-chromatic sequins. Every time you have to knot off each sequin individually. It’s a beautiful evening gown. The woman who wore it is incredibly elegant.
Jennifer: You always look so fantastic when I see you at Art Deco events. Do you dress in Vintage everyday?
I do not wear modern clothing. Most of the time I spend in trousers and a turtleneck. I used to wear beautiful clothing but it always gets ruined. I do not wear makeup either.
I have a pattern for some vintage trousers and have made up about 6 pairs of them. The woman on the cover of the pattern, is standing there, roasting a weenie.
I wear turtle necks in the winter and the rest of the time I wear “The Blouse” which is made from a 1930’s pattern.
Jennifer: After seeing your beautiful couture work for years, I found out that you make sewing patterns as well. What kind of patterns do you specialize in? And where can we buy them?
Simplicity patterns. My sister is Andrea Schewe and she got me the job. She was designing for Simplicity. It’s so crazy. I have 3 sisters. Andrea is 10 years older than me and our older sister convinced her to go to NY.
I went to celebrate my sister's wedding anniversary and Andrea told me to bring my portfolio. I sat down, with Simplicity Patterns, and they looked through my portfolio and they asked me “ What could you do for us?” I did a swing skirt. I made it up. It ended up selling 25,000 copies.
Then, I got assigned Steampunk. I had just done a Steampunk wedding and was so grateful. I became top designer at Simplicity afterward. That means your pattern is outselling everything else. My sister has been top designer as well.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for giving this interview and for generous giveaway of an autographed pattern! Finding out more about you and hearing all your sage advice has been priceless!
YOU can find out more about Theresa and see more photos of her exquisite creations by visiting her Facebook Page.
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