Welcome to my blog. I have been involved in fashion in one way or another since doing a fashion design course at art college in the late 70’s. Even before that I was begging Mum for an old sheet that I could tie dye in the jam making saucepan and cut up to make something that inspired me.
Mum says she knew I was going to do something like that as the first time she put scissors in my hand I was 2 and a half. She was at a sewing machine and I wanted to make a coat for my dolly. So I cut out a rectangle and cut two holes for the arms then she helped me cut out a little half belt for the back and threaded a needle and helped me sew on two buttons to the belt. I was so chuffed and that’s really where it all started, so I have always had a sewing box and had something on the go.
I went off to Bahrain in the Middle East after college and went to work for an Arab who manufactured uniforms and increasingly was looking after the booming expat society. What they needed was a designer that understood Western styles. It was there that I cut my teeth. I learnt about customer expectation, service, finance, cashflow, employing staff and designing to suit all body shape and interpreting clients wishes and then fitting the garments to all body shapes.
I had a great team of Philippino, Thai and Indian seamstresses. I was in Bahrain for 8 years and had a lot of fun. I was always going into the fabric souq, buying some mad cotton prints and getting my dresses made by the team. We really became great at clothing the expat community as there were no shops and boutiques to speak of, but great fabric markets.
There was one fashion faux pas as I made a gorgeous, bustier fitted dress with a big frill at the hem and wore it to an outside pool party at a hotel. There must have been 20 huge tables round the pool with table cloths that matched my dress. Embarrassment!
I went on a trip to Bangkok and went to the fabric store Jim Thompson which is the big tourist stop. I knew they were famous for their silk but I didn’t know they did lovely cotton as well. Beautiful prints almost like Leonardo and Pucci of the 60’s.
I made a lovely boned dress with full skirt which I wore a lot. When I came back to the UK in 1990, all my gorgeous mad prints got stored away. 20 years later I am slowly revamping them. Unfortunately I am no longer a size 10 but an ample 14.
I showed my team at The Wardrobe Curator. We decided to remove the pockets, make straps so hold up the big boobies, and insert 2″ gussets either side of the bodice, the skirt was gathered and full, so just needed letting out at the waist. Hey presto, a new dress.
Every week at Designer Alterations clients bring us their treasure and ask us how we can restyle and revamp. There is always a solution and some are easier than others, but we do like a challenge.
Julia Dee, Founder of Total Wardrobe Care