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.