Goose Mother: Simplicity seems to have given you a wide berth in pattern design. You’ve done Crafts, Home Décor, Accessories, Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s patterns. You certainly didn’t get pigeon-holed into one area.

Andrea Schewe: Yes, there’s been a variety of assignments. Let’s see …. back to costumes … and I just ran across an interesting project that I had completely forgotten about.

In the late 1990s, a Native American woman wrote to Simplicity complaining about how poorly representative and insulting the American Indian costume patterns were that all the major pattern companies issue. I think the thing that bothered her the most was the way all the existing patterns had the “breechcloth” tied around the outside of the men’s or boy’s shirts. Even though the breechcloths that Indians wear now-a-days are just two apron-like flaps tied at either side at the waist. In actuality, they should be worn under the shirt so that just the bottom edge shows. This is to emulate a real breechcloth which would have been a very long, narrow piece of cloth that would go through the legs and up and over a belt in the front and the back. This would have been worn alone or with separate leg pieces when the weather was cold. However, Simplicity and this lady wrote back and forth and eventually I got involved and we came up with a pattern for the basic men’s and women’s garments worn in modern Pow-Wows. I made the pattern in adult and children’s sizes and it has been updated once. The original patterns were Simplicity 8281 and Simplicity 8282. The updated versions that are still in the catalog are Simplicity 5446 and Simplicity 5448.

Now to catch up with where we left off in the sort of chronological survey of my patterns. As I’m sure you are well aware, the pattern companies compete with one another. We noticed one of our competitors had a pattern with patriotic costumes that were selling reasonably well, so I was asked to make a similar pattern. This would turn out to be the Uncle Sam, Abe Lincoln, and the Statue of Liberty pattern that stayed in the line for quite a while. I spent some time with my newly discovered skills of researching on-line. I recall examining the folds of the Statue of Liberty’s gown and I think I came up with a better version of that costume than the one we were competing against. It was issued in adult and kid’s size patterns; Simplicity 5987 and Simplicity 5983.

Then in about 2003 Betsy Burger phoned, (she is the Design Director of the Craft, Costume and Home Decor Departments at Simplicity), and told me they had a Gypsy costume that was selling well and they would like me to do my take on a set of gypsy costumes … so, again doing extensive research on the web, I came up with more of a tribal/belly dancing package of gypsy costumes. I found sites that displayed traditional costumes with full circular skirts, balloon pants, little midriff tops and longs head veils. It ended up being so much different than I imagined it would. This design was issued in Misses’ and Girl’s sizes; Simplicity 5357 and Simplicity 5359.

Issuing a design in these two size ranges involves me making a sample size 10 Misses’ and a sample size 10 girl’s, choosing and acquiring fabrics and making up all the photography samples. I have dress forms in all the sample sizes Simplicity needs. But, if you look at this photo (see photo at the beginning of this installment) you will notice I bought one of the inexpensive home dress forms for the Men’s form. This is because my husband just happens to be so close to Simplicity’s sample size that I fit things on him all the time.

Goose Mother: What a good sport he is!!

Andrea Schewe: He is very accommodating in doing fitting sessions for me. Sometimes my husband gets into the fun of it all like the time he dressed up in this gangster coat from Simplicity pattern 4916. We all have fun with the costumes.

The gypsy pattern did really well, but people thought of it more of as a belly dancing costume. Approximately four years later, Simplicity requested another belly dance costume pattern. This time I wanted to design the more classic type of outfit belly dancers wear, which became Simplicity 2941. There are variations on a very full circular skirt, beaded wide belts and bra tops. I used chiffon and georgette for the skirts and scarves. Then another couple years passed and Betsy noticed that a garment that is worn over belly dancing costumes was popular among belly dancers. This was thanks to her web surfing, and she asked if I would design a pattern for these garments which are called Ghawazee coats. I mentioned we would need to have new belly dance costumes to put the coats over, so I ended up designing a pattern with three belly dance costumes and a pattern with three coordinating Ghawazee coats to wear over them; Simplicity 2158 and Simplicity 2159. The other photo below is from an advertising layout for Simplicity which is a composite of those two patterns.

Also in 2003, my younger son, (remember he was in the improvised costume as the little red devil in 1988), graduated from high school. I no longer had kids at home. At the same time, Simplicity was contacted by The International Costumer’s Guild, which is a large group of people who do very serious and amazing costuming for the sheer joy of it. The Guild asked if I could be their guest at their next annual convention.  So, on the road I went!!

Goose Mother: Ahhh, it appears we shall be doing some traveling next time!

To Be Continued ……………………

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