Today’s interview is with a fantastic, successful, lady entrepreneur and seamstress, Lauren Maringola, of Wearing History, a wonderful company producing authentic, reproduction vintage patterns for a wide range of sizes. Lauren M has continually impressed me with her great products, photos, and just by being a generally cool and lovely person. Here, in her own words, Lauren shares her experiences as a costumer and business woman.
How did you get started in historical costuming? What drew you to it?
I’ve been interested in historical clothing for as long as I can remember. When growing up I watched classic films (in fact, I was named after Lauren Bacall), and we watched historical inspired shows like Road to Avonlea. I really wanted to start making clothing like those on the screen for myself and my ever-tolerant cousins, but most of my early designs were held together with scotch tape and safety pins!
How do you see yourself as a costumer? Are you are-enactor, a theatrical costumer, or a just-for-fun type?
I suppose I’ve been a combination of the last two, primarily. I started doing costuming just for fun, but wanted to make it my career, so I went to school for fashion design and got accepted and partially completed the Costume Design for Film and Television program at my college after my fashion design degree was obtained. Partially through the program, however, I found that I had mostly self-taught myself all of the information we were learning and several industry professionals said the extra degree was not necessary, so I stopped going to school and started my own business shortly after college. Since then it seems I’ve done a little of everything that’s vintage/costume related- from making custom clothing, to working on independent film, to sewing costumes for the San Diego Opera, to now having my own pattern line and selling vintage items on Etsy. Strangely enough, I never seem to get tired of it and I still want to make the stuff for myself on my off time!
What is your favorite garment to sew? What is the most challenging?
Oh gosh, you know- if you ask me this question every week you’ll get a different answer. Right now I’m pretty drawn to cute 1940s printed summer dresses, but I’m also wanting some fabulous Old Hollywood style evening gowns, and I just finished an obsession with 1910s fashion… but that’s what I love the most about doing historical and vintage fashion- there’s always another era to get drawn to, so it never gets boring! My most challenging projects I have ever made were a sacque back 18th century gown for myself and a tailored Regency tailcoat for my husband, followed by a custom wedding dress I designed and made for one of my best friends for her wedding which was based off of a 1940s dress worn by the Andrews Sisters.
What is your preferred time period? What draws you to this particular time period, and are there other periods you are interested in as well?
My favorite periods are the early bustle time period (late 1860’s-1870s), the Edwardian/WWI era (1907-1918, especially), and the 1930s. I’m also pretty addicted to sportswear from the earlier half of the 1940s.
How did you start making patterns, as a business? What was your inspiration?
I started making patterns as a business because I had amassed a huge collection of vintage patterns, and it seemed like those interested in vintage sewing had really grown rapidly, and the super cute and rare patterns started getting very expensive very quickly! I started by doing reproductions, but since then it’s morphed- as I get more feedback and grow more in my small business, I want to really offer people what they need and want, that falls within my capabilities. I had sewn with original patterns and reproduction patterns from all the companies I knew, so combined what I learned in fashion school and through professional experience, with what I really felt was needed or wanted as vintage sewing grew in interest, with what I knew I personally would want in a pattern. Now I do both “reproduction” (some line-for-line accurate, some sort of like a souped up version with add on’s like tips on sewing and finished garment pictures) and also patterns that are based on period originals or sources, but updated to what I feel like are today’s need, while still retaining the period accurate look that I’m passionate about.
Tell us a little about your experiences running your pattern company “Wearing History”, good, bad, or ugly!
Well, there is never enough time in the day, and I always seem to be absolutely swamped! It’s really tough being a one-woman run business, and I have to do absolutely everything- from product development, to grading, to making mock ups (often MANY of them to get it right) to drafting, to pattern layouts, to computer generated or hand drawn illustrations, to cover design and photography. And that’s only the beginning! Then I have to keep up with my website, do graphics, answer customer emails, package up patterns and ship them, do my bookkeeping and keep records, and run all over town for supplies and shipping! It’s a whole lot of work, and sometimes I really wonder why I do it. It would certainly be much easier (and more profitable at this time) to work for someone else, but I’m holding on the hope that someday it will all pay off… or I’ll randomly get “discovered” and someone will want to help me finance my dream of doing my own clothing line. 😉
What are some of the products you offer in your shop? Where can we buy them?
I currently do my Wearing History patterns on my website, which are mostly available in multi-size. Some are single size “reproductions”. I also occasionally have other items like vintage style clothing or accessories, or supplies and trims. You can find them at http://wearinghistorypatterns.com I also sell vintage items, like vintage sewing patterns, on my Etsy store at http://wearinghistory.etsy.com
Do you have any advice for those interested in starting their own business?
Do lots and lots of homework first. I was very naive when I got out of college and unfortunately lost a lot of money and racked up a lot of debt because of my inexperience. Take classes on small business at your local community college, and learn things like bookkeeping, because it’s really hard for an artistic minded person to do more “common sense” tasks that involve numbers without a little bit of help from a program or a class. Keep good records and keep all your receipts. Learn about the laws pertaining to your field in your state, county, and city- because your dream may not technically be allowed without some hoops to jump through, a studio outside your home, and some permits. Do it right starting out- because the creative idea is just the tip of the iceberg- the real day to day running of a small business is mostly boring computer work and a lot of record keeping- but it’s the artistic and creative opportunities that make it worthwhile- and I’ll tell you, seeing people sewing up my patterns and sharing photos of what they’ve made is what really keeps me going and positive! Remember to surround yourself with supportive friends and family, and if you can, get a mentor who also runs their own small business to help you with your questions along the way. Having friends and family who also do small business is a tremendous help, because you can ask advice, vent frustration, and help motivate each other on towards the goal. Finally, be realistic about what you want to do- don’t quit your day job and expect to be discovered or profitable without first seeing if what you want to do would be better as a hobby or as a part time job. Make sure your significant other or family are behind you and feel it’s time for you to devote yourself full time to your venture, because running a small business can take a big toll not only on yourself, but on those closest to you, especially if you work at home. Finally, remember that you need some down time- so make sure you make allotments for your personal well being and take a break if you need to in order to avoid burnout.
Thanks, Lauren M!
Connect with the fabulous Lauren and Wearing History here: