Monthly Archives: June 2012




I’m sitting here staring at a dizzying array of patterns of all types and thinking to myself that one person generated all of them.  Big, big WOW!  Some of those patterns I totally missed when I was busy collecting them. 

Goose Mother:  Great story, Andrea!  Cleavage makes the world go around!  You’ve produced so many wonderful costume patterns that it’s difficult to keep track of them. 

Andrea Schewe: Simplicity sends me catalogs from time to time so I can have a record of my work.  Some have dates on them and some don’t. I have just pulled them all out and am right now trying to remember the order I made all these patterns!  It’s been a long time since I have looked at these.  The earliest one is 1997 and there are gaps, but it’s all coming back and I have to say … OMG I can’t believe how many different patterns I made over those very intense years between 1997 and 2008! 

Goose Mother:  You’ve also produced a number of well received home decoration and craft patterns and perhaps we can discuss these later and focus on the period costumes for the moment.

 Andrea Schewe:  Let’s see … after the success of the cleavage pattern, the demand for more Renaissance patterns grew.  And, I have to say that I am fortunate that this became my specialty for awhile.  The entire phenomena of the Renaissance Faire is very forgiving.  The historic period encompassed by the Renaissance Faire is huge; it spans 1350 through Queen Elizabeth I.  Then, include all the people who like to costume as fairies and pirates.  As a contrast, the people who like to do other kinds of reenactment such as the Civil War only have a five to six year span to work with. Working within the Renaissance period afforded me a great deal of versatility.

 As I recall, the next two Renaissance patterns I made were in 1999.  One was designed for men and women who wanted to costume as peasants and beggars. (Simplicity 8587).  My research resulted in a summer and winter outfit for each gender.  For the summer, I anticipated they would go bare foot, but for the winter I included a medieval, one piece tie-up shoe. The other pattern was my first for larger ladies. My friend, Martha McCain, nicknamed this pattern “Somewhat Tudor”. (Simplicity 8249)  As you are probably aware, Martha is the person who made all those amazingly accurate and lovely Civil War clothing patterns for Simplicity.  And let me tell you, she really knows her costume history!  As I researched and learned about the Renaissance period, Martha was very supportive, although we tend not to become involved with each other’s work. 

As a part of my research, Simplicity would send me to the movies. Now remember, this was still in the early days of the internet, and if there was a way to research movie costumes on line, I didn’t know about it.  I was sent to see “Titanic.” On a small pad of paper, I sketched in the dark!  I wish I had saved those sketches.  They were so funny looking, but they were good enough for me to go back to my studio and make my version of two of the dresses from that movie; ( Simplicity 8399).  Since that one worked out very well, Simplicity sent me back to the movies again.  This time it was “Ever After”.  Again, I sketched in the dark, but only one dress is similar to one of the movie dresses; the other two I created from period research.  (Simplicity 8735)   This particular pattern was very popular and it was issued in the larger size range a year later. (Simplicity 9228)  I am aware that many people have used different views of this pattern to make their wedding dresses. And THAT makes me VERY happy!! 

Goose Mother:  That is very flattering to be included in a very joyous occasion.  Many brides save their wedding dresses as keepsakes. However, you did other types of costumes outside the realm of the Renaissance.  How did those patterns come about? 

Andrea Schewe:  My amateur singing career was taking off at this point in time and I was hired to do some professional Christmas caroling.  When I arrived at the job, I was given a simple gathered skirt with a big hoopskirt under it to wear along with a short cape and poke bonnet.  We were costumed in this manner so that we would appear as if we were straight out of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.”  I thought this was such a great idea that I created a pattern so other people could have such an easy costume.  (Simplicity 8910)  The interesting story behind this pattern revolves around the models used for the photography.  Simplicity decided they wanted regular looking people wearing the caroling costumes and believed they would save a little money by using people from the office.  Professional models are expensive! But, we now know, they truly earn that money.  As it turns out, it was MORE expensive using amateur models. This was because it took much, much longer to get them to pose effectively and therefore many more photos had to be taken.  Very interesting, I think. 

But, Simplicity had more up their sleeve for me.  Through research, Simplicity learned that the musical, “Grease,” was very popular with high school drama classes and community acting groups in the year 2000.  Simplicity then asked me to make a couple patterns for people costuming a production of “Grease.”  This turned out to be a short-lived line of patterns which Simplicity named “Simplicity on Stage.”  The first two patterns in this line were: (Simplicity 8742) for women and (Simplicity 8745) for men.  I wrote a dedication to my mother that was printed in the guide sheet.  I also wrote up a guide to help someone who has never costumed a play before with advice about reading the script, taking notes on what each character would require, how to work with the director, set, and lighting designers.  Alas, none of this ever was published. And that’s how the year 2000 closed.  However the next year gets even crazier! 

To be continued ….

Honk Honk




Continued/Part IV

As I listen to Andrea Schewe I am wondering where she finds the time to do all she does. She told me she recently dusted off her piccolo and joined a local music troupe at a friend’s urging. She admitted being hesitant about it at first and thought she’d struggle with the task, but says things are going much better than she anticipated.   I’m guessing, but she’s probably the type of person that medical professionals dread; the patient who is told to get more rest and who translates that into a 30 or 40 minute nap where they close their eyes, but mentally plot their next endeavor and then goes on full steam ahead.

Goose Mother:  The beginning of the 1990’s, Simplicity lures you away from McCall’s. Obviously the transition from McCall’s to Simplicity has worked for you; was that always the case?

Andrea Schewe:  I’ve done well at Simplicity and I can’t complain.  When I interviewed at Simplicity, I met with Abbie Small who, at that time, was VP of the Craft and Costume Department (she is now Senior VP of Marketing and Sales) and Betsy Burger, Design Director.  I brought with me my design sketches that McCall’s had rejected.  The design they were most interested in was a set of accessories for baby dolls. That design consisted of bib, hat, carrying case, diapers that would Velcro on and off, and a changing pad.

However, the first pattern I actually made for Simplicity was a “no-sew” costume.  I thought that was really odd, but Abbie informed me that their research indicated that people who do not sew will seek out fabric stores and attempt to put together a Halloween costume.  Of course, this was before ready-to-wear costumes became as sophisticated as they are today.  My first years at Simplicity, I found myself designing more craft and home decor patterns rather than costumes.

Goose Mother:  Simplicity sought you out due to your costume designs, yet that is not the capacity you are filling at Simplicity.  What gives?

Andrea Schewe:  I am fortunate to live in an area that has one of the best Renaissance Faires in the country. Not only are the Faires great fun, they are a wonderful family activity.  Every year,our family would attend.  I noticed that just inside the entrance there was always a booth set up where you could rent a costume for the day.  One costume grabbed my attention. The costume was a lace-up, sleeveless overdress with a chemise under it. I thought this was very clever because it was adjustable and appeared very comfortable as well.

This inspired me to create my own adjustable Renaissance style costume. (Simplicity 7792).  This pattern became one of my biggest successes. It was featured on the front of Renaissance Magazine in white for one of their wedding issues.   

Another year gone by and Betsy Burger came for a social visit. (Betsy and I became acquainted when she was a freelancer and I worked at AmToy.  We established a friendship over the years.)  During her visit, the annual Renaissance Faire happened to be taking place, so we decided to attend.  It was an opportunity to observe what types of costumes were favored by the attendees.  We both noticed that many of the women viewed dressing for the Faire as a chance to be….well, a little bold so to speak; to show a little more flesh than is accepted at the office, shall we say.  I said to Betsy that we should give the ladies what they want (Simplicity 8192).  It was later that I learned that Abbie, Betsy and others from the Art Department had to lobby hard with the President of Simplicity to get him to acquiesce to allowing cleavege to be shown in the photographs.  I think he wanted it airbrushed out. (She giggles)

Six months or so later, I was busy in my workroom at home, working on something completely different and I received a telephone call. Upon picking up the receiver, all I heard was a cacophony of women’s voices in a heady, high pitch of talking and laughing all jumbled altogether making no sense whatsoever and interspaced with the only word  I could make out which was “congratulations”. I had no idea who they were or what I was being congratulated about.  It turned out that the pattern with all the cleavege showing had broken Simplicity’s sales records for about the previous 5 years in all categories.

My husband and I tell our sons that it was “cleavege” that put them through college! (Another hardy laugh).  And, to no one’s surprise, McCall’s and Butterick were showing cleavege shortly thereafter. 

Composition of Simplicity 7729 & 8192