Do you know someone who did dressmaking for people in the 1950’s or 1960’s? Did they do dressmaking from their home? Did they work for themselves? Did they work for payment or exchange?
Jenny-Lynn Louise Potter is conducting oral history interviews for a research project on the history of women working as self-employed dressmakers in Australia in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This research will focus specifically on dressmakers using their home as the base for their work. The main aim of the research project is to investigate the personal experience of the dressmaker and what it meant to be a dressmaker in Australian society at this time.
Jenny is seeking women who fit the above criteria and who are willing to participate in this research project. Participation will involve one or two interviews at their home (or a preferred location). The interviews will take approximately 60 minutes. They will be asked questions about their own personal experience of working as a dressmaker and how they managed their work alongside of any family or domestic responsibilities.
This is an opportunity to contribute to expanding the body of knowledge about the social and cultural history of women, work and family in Post WW2 Australian society. Get behind the project by getting in touch with Jenny at email@example.com and letting her know about that special someone in your life that might want to share their story.
At the beginning of 2009 I walked into a little sewing shop and bought two shiny new sewing machines. It was a slightly unusual sight - a shop full of older women making patchwork quilts for their grandkids... and me.
I didn't mind. It seemed very punk at the time.
My idea was fairly simple - I would teach myself to sew, buy some beautiful stretch fabrics, and make insane leggings. Then I would find girls who would get into them. Girls who wanted leggings that could pack a little more punch than the ones on offer at your average department store.
I made the leggings, found the girls, and so was born Black Milk.
Things were slow initially, but the girls who bought the leggings were always really positive, which was super-encouraging for me in the early days. The turning point came when I decided that I was going to figure out a way to wrap chains around a pair of leggings. It took me a week of drawing, sketching, scheming and failing before I finally figured out how to do it. I called them Cages, and they were a minor cult hit. From that time on, so many girls were ordering Black Milk gear that it became a full time job.
We've come a long way since those early days sewing leggings at midnight on the kitchen table. We've sold thousands of pairs of leggings all over the world. We've been featured in numerous magazines, newspapers and blogs from the local paper to Vogue. Best of all, Black Milk has now got score a reputation as one of the most exciting designer leggings labels in the world.
But a lot is still the same. I still stay up to midnight sewing. I still personally design each piece. I still get a buzz every time a girl emails me a picture and tells me how many people commented when she wore out her Black Milk leggings.
Yeah, it's still fun.
In a short time James and his label, Black Milk Clothing has grown from a small label selling leggings to a cult phenomenon. His label has 12,518 Facebook followers and it grows everyday.
He has a fanbase as loyal as the KISS Army and he regularly interacts with them online. He asks their opinion on new garments and he listens to what his customers/fans say.
Seeing how very hard James and his team work has made me a fan of the label too. Some of his designs remind me of when I was a teenager and I although my figure does'nt allow me to wear Black Milk, I have a very big fondness for his work.
Which brings me to this, when another label steals your idea - regardless of whether "it's been done before" or not, you kind of have to say "oh well", but when a company makes the same garment as you are making AND STEALS YOUR PHOTOS TO SELL THEIR PRODUCT, that is not ok, never.
How this dress came about has a cute story behind it. I bought a roll of this cotton sateen rose print fabric in November 2010. I did'nt get around to making the intended dresses as other work had to be done first.
So, the dress was going to have capped sleeves, a full skirt and boat neck bodice. My friend Joy, who also runs a vintage inspired clothing label and also happens to share my birthday, made the same dress using the same fabric and neither of us knew we had the same roll of fabric or our intentions for how we were going to use it.
Instead, I have turned the roll of beautiful fabric, which I have named the print Midnight Rose into 12 'Rocker Girl Jane' dresses.
They are fully lined using cream coloured lining and come with a fabric covered belt in black for a little contrast.
OK, not quite. My real teenage dream was to work at a Motley Crue or Bon Jovi concert, however last week I worked in a job I never imagined I would do. I worked as an assistant in Katy Perry's wardrobe department at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
When I got the email, I admit I did'nt know much about Katy Perry but after being lucky enough to see her show in between working, I can say with honesty, I am a fan. Whether her music is or is not to your taste, two things are for sure, she can sing live and she puts on a great show.
So what did I do at Rod Laver? I arrived on Monday morning, with my sewing machine in hand and was introduced to Su, Erin and local dressmaker, Alicia. Gaby from Hopeless Lingerie also came in and helped us for one day which was fun.
Alicia and I sewed labels into costumes and did repair work when we were asked to, while Su worked on both Katy and her entourage's costumes and Erin, who also worked on the costumes focused on what she is Queen of - bling! Never in my life had I seen so many Swarovski crystals and jewels it was awesome! Half way through my time with the girls, I learned that Erin Lareau specialises in bling and costume design, among her many other talents. Take a look at her website here and her CV here, they're so impressive.
Thursday was show day and I started to get nervous and excited. We pressed and steamed costumes and got them ready for the dancers. Once our jobs were done, we were permitted to watch some of the show from the sidelines and I have to say, seeing a full Rod Laver from the side of the stage was a little daunting at first, but once the show started and we had to be ready to work, the screams and cheers seemed to disappear and my focus was on doing my job.
Naturally, we were not permitted to photograph any of the costumes, but I got permission to take a close up photo of her 'cupcake skirt'.
It was a very exciting week and I feel so honoured to have spent a week working with Su and Erin and I am grateful of the friendship I have formed with Alicia from Melbourne too!