There aren’t many specific memories of my adolescence that stand out. There were the usual moments of teenage angst I’m sure and I remember lessons I learned and feeling certain ways but specific memories are few and far between. I lived a fairly bland life. However, there is one thing I do remember clearly. I was 14 and at the supermarket with my mom. Like many moms, she didn’t have a lot of money to spare but she allowed me the treat of a magazine. I chose wisely and picked out the Australian edition of Elle magazine. What was in those glossy pages kindled both my love for fashion and my desire for bra making.
In that edition was an article about Colette Dinigan from Australia who at the time specialized in lingerie. I had always been an avid seamstress which an inkling that I might like to be a home economics teacher but fashion wasn’t really something that played at big part in my life (at the time). But when I saw the delicate lingerie that Colette had designed I was determined to figure out how I could make those for myself. The fact that Colette grew up in New Zealand also inspired me.
It was an ambition that had to be tabled for 5 years. Yes, I still sewed. Yes, I bought more fashion magazines than any teenage girl needs. I even managed to sew enough ballgowns for my friends to make enough money to buy a Collete Dinigan lace evening gown. Which I adored even though it was 2 sizes too small for me. Though in retrospect it was just a slip dress made from eyelash lace.
That article fostered my ambition to not only design and sew on a higher level but also started my love affair with NZ indie designers. I loved to mix my own home-sewn creations with those from my idols. Zambesi, World, Sister by Kate Sylvester even the brand Luna who you might now know as Pattern, Scissors, Cloth. Yet even though I wanted to study fashion I never really wanted to be a designer. I just wanted to create. To bring garments into existence. To know HOW.
My university years took me away from my stopping grounds of High Street in Auckland City to Te Aroha where I stayed while studying at the University of Waikato. It was a small rural town where my parents owned the local supermarket. But it did have one special thing. The Bendon bra factory. (Which unfortunately closed after I moved to the US.) I used to pop into the factory store every few days to see what new pieces they have. One day I spotted a box on the floor by the door where they were selling remnants and supplies from the factory. I picked up some fabric, elastic, and some underwires and finally my bra making journey had begun. I fumbled along for a while trying to figure things out myself and made some pretty terrible things. Luckily small towns being what they are and the fact my mother would tell everyone who worked at Bendon that came through the store what I was making help wasn’t too far away. The ladies from the factory were very supportive and always stopping by the store to give me tips. Eventually with the help of some Stretch and Sew patterns I was able to make a few serviceable bras.
When I moved to the US I started taking fashion classes at the local community college and eventually transferred to FIDM. While at the community college I was able to take a semester of independent study and I focused on lingerie construction. Unfortunately Los Angeles is more of a swimwear town than lingerie so most of the supplies and mentorship available was specific to swimwear so my project had more of a swimsuit feel than the delicate lingerie I was hoping to recreate. I still continued to sew bras on and off over the years after that but it was a very lonely pastime with not many options available for supplies.
However, several years ago I started to notice a surge of bras start to pop up in the sewing blogger community. So I dusted off my patterns and started to create again. Finding supplies at an affordable price was still difficult so I shifted the focus of the my craft supply business to exclusively selling bra and lingerie supplies. The move paid off and I love being able to sell a product I’m truly passionate about. I feel confident that I can make almost any bra that I can visualize and have moved into drafting and grading my own bra patterns. I’m finally the bra maker I always hoped of being.