From Buttons to Business

The hum of a sewing machine has been my lullaby for as long as I can remember. While growing up, my entire collection of clothing was homemade. Not the bad kind of homemade, either. My brothers and I were quite fashionable for the times. Our Mama was, and still is, an avid and talented seamstress. She would sew entire wardrobes for our little bustling family. It was the only way we could afford clothing for the whole family.

My first sewing experience was had while perched on a “time out” stool in Mama’s workshop. This “sewing room” was literally just an old antique sewing machine that sat in the corner of our living room. While I sat, Mama would hand me small pillows that she’d made from scrap paper and had stuffed with newspaper. My instructions were to hand-stitch buttons onto them. I can still hear Mama’s soft voice:

“Press the needle into that buttonhole…"

“Not too hard now, dear…”

“Ok, now loop it under and feel for the bottom of this hole…”

“See? Good, now loop it back through again and again until it is secure...”

I worked at this clumsily and flawed for months before I got the hang of it. As time passed, I was able to sew the buttons on much tighter and much more accurately. Once I mastered this skill, I graduated to cutting out the scrap fabric and sewing it into the square or circle pillow shapes, stuffing them with newspaper and stitching them closed. At this point I’d still sew on buttons but in a much more masterful way, displaying intricate designs. When I turned eight Mama had to go outside the home to work and support us. In her stead I was relegated to the task of family seamstress and quickly took over more difficult tasks. I was the one crawling around the floor, pinning patterns to fabric on the cutting board. Breeches, shirts and knee patches for my bubbies (what I called my two younger brothers), mending tears and worn areas on Mama’s dresses; I did it all. Five years later and my entire sixth grade wardrobe was the product of my improved sewing skills. However, because sewing had become a chore rather than hobby, when I no longer had to sew for necessity, I lost interest in sewing altogether.

For a long time, about a decade to be exact, I did not touch a single sewing machine. But then I found myself heavily involved in theater, Medieval and Renaissance reenactment. With the emphasis on costumes heavy, there was a point when I found myself in need of one and I couldn’t find anything to fit the character I was playing. Once again, out of necessity, I designed and sewed my own costume. Suddenly memories and images from my childhood raced through my mind and I found my interest and passion for sewing resuscitated.

I began to reacquaint myself with my dusty sewing skills and was surprised by how much I had retained. The most shocking discovery was doing things I’d never done under the tutelage of Mama, unassisted. In fact, even Mama was impressed by the talent that I was showing. I swiftly put my skills to work, making and wearing my entire costume wardrobe. Fellow actors would ask me where I got my costume from and I would proudly state that I had made it. Word spread like wildfire and soon I had requests for my costuming work. I started making stock costumes, plain and standard, for the masses. With my spare time I also accepted the more time consuming custom orders. The requests for work branched out from costumes to everyday street wear. I filled requests for dresses, skirts, pants, shirts, robes, and coats. Some people even wanted clothing and costumes for their pets. Others just wanted an existing piece of clothing repaired. All of these tasks I undertook with enthusiasm, however with demand growing I needed help. Mama began helping out in her spare time but soon we had enough business that she began sewing full time. Out of this demand, A Unique Boutique was born, offering custom tailoring and costuming needs. I built a basic website, mostly just so that I could say I had one, but most of my requests come to me via word of mouth. For a steady paycheck, I worked full time from home for an internet company which allowed me to supervise orders and projects from my office adjacent to the sewing room, which was not a single machine in a corner. For the next five years, sewing for profit was fun and a surprising outlet for my excessive stores of creativity.

It was around this time that I began a relationship with my high school sweetheart and moved away to Yellow Springs. There I opened my first brick and mortar shop, changed the name to BouChic Dressmakers, Etc. and even though Mama had gotten a job and relinquished her duties, she'd still come down and help out from time to time. I began learning new skills through classes at both Wright State University and Penn Foster. I began designing my own costumes in my spare time and selling those costumes on eBay and Etsy, reproducing costumes from major productions like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Phantom of the Opera. I have seen my costumes on stage, in parades, on client websites and even at a Lord of the Rings red carpet premier!

To think that I went from sewing buttons onto a makeshift pillow to having a client fly in from another state just for a consultation with me…it is sometimes astounding and always incredibly humbling. Each of my clients are very special to me and I work hard to make them happy!