MULTI-TALENTED ANDREA SCHEWE
PART XV / CONTINUED
Goose Mother: It’s apparent that you’ve seen many changes during your career of pattern design. In what ways have the changes affected your design career and how have the changes affected the industry?
Andrea Schewe: It’s hard to accept, but things do change. When I made my first patterns in the late 1980s, patterns were still being issued with a single size in each envelope and all the stitching lines were clearly marked on the tissue pattern, which I still believe is easier for people to use. This changed because it is less expensive to make two press plates for each style with 4 or 5 sizes instead of ten press plates with a single size for printing.
The sewing industry has been shrinking for many reasons. Most women are out working, so they have more money to buy their clothes and less time to make things. Sewing is not routinely being taught in school any longer, so most girls don’t learn to sew. And now the internet is changing how and where we buy our fabrics and patterns. Fabric stores are closing and becoming fewer and far between and therefore people began buying patterns on line. Many wonderful independent designers now issue their own patterns and it’s much easier for people to find vintage and out-of-print patterns thanks to websites like yours. These are all good things for the consumer. But, this means the “big three” pattern companies have reduced pattern production. And in turn, I haven’t been making as many patterns in the last eight years or so.
And another thing that has made a huge difference for me personally, is that the quality and quantity of ready-to-wear costumes has improved greatly. I even occasionally find people who are clearly using my pattern to make their costumes. Take a look at these two costumes I found on line about a month ago and then look at my design; Simplicity 3782 (pictured above).
At first I’m a bit angry, of course. But … no one can stop change. We just have to adapt. And Simplicity has allowed me to adapt. Over time they have asked me to update and improve most of their long time staple patterns.
It started by asking me to redesign the Nativity Christmas costumes. Here are the old ones (Simplicity 8275 and 8276) and my new ones (Simplicity 4797 and 4795). This if often my best selling pattern during the winter months.
And, I got to make a better Santa costume. (old Simplicity 9802 and new Simplicity 2542)
When I redesigned the child and adult animal jumpsuit costumes, I don’t think anyone had redrafted the patterns since the 1950s or 1960s. The sizing and lengths in the children’s size were so off! I made sure the new patterns were the correct sizes. (old Simplicity 9983 and new Simplicity 2853 and 2855)
I was allowed to make big changes when I redesigned the clown costume. (old Simplicity 8288 and new Simplicity 2849)
Also, the women’s and girl’s basic costume dress always sells well. This pattern was interesting to redesign, again because of the sizing. The old pattern was WAY too large. I’ve said before that I wear a Simplicity size 14 and the size 10 of that pattern was slightly large on me. I’m guessing, but I think in the 1980s as the ready-to-wear sizing was getting much larger than sewing pattern sizes and this pattern was made larger to fit similar to the ready-to-wear. However, now the sizing is SO off it just makes sense to me to make the garment fit according to the measurements on the pattern. People just have to forget what size they buy at the store and go by their measurements. Here is the old pattern in girls’ and misses’ sizes and my updated version. (Old Simplicity 9713 and 9708; New Simplicity 3725 and 3723.)
Goose Mother: One of the many reasons I wanted to learn to sew was to obtain better fitting clothes for my body type. I noticed over time the store sizes and the pattern company sizes became farther and farther apart.
Andrea Schewe: And a couple years later I convinced Simplicity to issue this style in the larger size range. (Simplicity 2354)
OH! and there is one other one I remade that I think turned out well and that is the cheerleader costumes. (old Simplicity 8298 and 8294 and new Simplicity 4040 and 3689)
Goose Mother: OK, you’ve given us a summary of some of Simplicity’s basic patterns and how they are updated to reflect current needs. What trends do you notice in the industry and what trends do you perceive on the consumer side? Do you perceive a lot of interplay between them?
Andrea Schewe: My perception is colored by several things. I invite consumers to share their input. It gives me a sense of what they want or need in a design. I’m also in a limited position to learn from the market analysis Simplicity provides. Then, there are designs I personally want a chance to develop that I find challenging and/or intriguing. However, I do see certain trends ebb and flow. I will share some of what I perceive as current trending in the market as our next focus.
To be continued ….