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Laura Mae of Lilacs & Lace on Sewing and Style

Today in my series of interviews with sewing bloggers on their connection between sewing & style, I’m delighted to feature Laura Mae of Lilacs & Lace. I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Mae in person at a Bay Area sewing blogger meetup where I swooned over her vintage inspired dress. With every new vintage-style dress she makes, I swoon some more! I’m delighted to share her thoughts on the connection between her ability to sew and her personal style.

lilacs and lace chapman dress

Hello! My name is Laura Mae and I blog about my sewing adventures over at Lilacs & Lace.  I adore vintage styles and take any and every chance to play dress up, much to the amusement of strangers, who are perhaps not aware of the fun that can be had wearing a poofy crinoline. My sewing room is embarrassingly full of vintage and vintage-reproduction patterns, and my closet is overflowing with self-made clothing, yet I am continually searching for my next artistic challenge, to the consternation of said closet.  I am also a fan of knitting needles and vintage sweater designs – the smaller the gauge the better!  My partner in crime is an adorable Chihuahua, Valentino, who also enjoys hand made sweaters and spending time in the sewing room.

Describe your style.
My style is rather antiquated.  In high school I was obsessed with Victorian Pre-Raphaelite art and loved wearing ankle length skirts and dresses.  So it is not all that surprising that when I began sewing apparel in high school, my first projects were all ankle length dresses.  Years later, my style has evolved into more of a 1940s or 1950s look, which I find much more appropriate for a work environment that involves carrying things up and down stairs with some frequency – floor length skirts can get in the way, although they are wonderfully romantic!

lilacs and lace rose knit sweater top
Describe what you sew.
At this point, I would say 70% of my closet is self made garments.  The percentage continues to increase as I rarely find things in stores that tempt me.  The majority of my projects are dresses, although I am doing my best to increase the number of separates.  I have made a few costumes over the years, some vintage styled hats, and a few purses as well.  But, for me, it doesn’t get much better than a well fitting dress made from yummy fabric!

What inspires or influences your style?
Just about anything.  I am constantly inspired by modern pieces, although they tend to look rather old-fashioned when I put them on – not sure how or why that always happens!  I love looking at fashion magazines, floral arrangements, art history books filled with portraits, blogs, Pinterest, and I am fascinated by interior design color schemes.  Everything, really!

lilacs and lace floral separates
I look at every day as a chance to play dress-up. How do you play dress-up?
I absolutely agree!  It’s difficult to remain in a bad mood while wearing a full skirt and a pretty pair of heels, so why not wear them every day?! The only downside to having a rather theatrical closet full of random bits and bobs is that some days I have a personal style breakdown while looking at masses of clothing with no common link.  I am not sure what a stranger would make of the random selection of clothing.  I suppose it is more of a collection of wearable costumes, to fit my mood for a particular day.

How does your passion for sewing influence your style?
Vintage clothing, while beautiful and special, is extremely limiting.  As vintage becomes more popular, items become scarce and more expensive.  And then there is the issue of finding something that fits and that is not going to disintegrate after wearing it for more than an hour.  Being able to make my own garments allows me to wear “vintage” that fits, with seams that I know are sturdy. The downside to making things myself is that I rarely find items in stores that pass inspection – I demand quality, which is often hard to find/out of my budget in a contemporary/fast fashion world.

lilacs and lace navy dress

Does your passion for sewing influence the style of those around you?
Most people really seem to appreciate the effort that goes into my look.  There are some uncomfortable glances from strangers, and the inevitable question “why are you wearing a costume/so dressed up” but most days I get more smiles than stares. I am quite shy with strangers, and the over the top dressing acts as a bit of a shield for me.  That might sound strange, but wearing something considered over-the-top make people focus on the clothes, not the person wearing them. And I like to think that I might inspire someone to pull out a long forgotten or unworn item that deserves some attention, even if it is a bit fancy or extravagant!

What about in the beginning: Did you learn to sew so that you could have a certain style?
Sewing and creative pursuits have always been a part of my life.  And although I was frightened at first of the scary contraption that is the sewing machine (how do you keep you fingers away from the needle going 100 miles an hour?!), I was hand sewing little dolls and doll clothes, and cross-stitching from a very young age.  I honestly cannot imagine my life without a needle and thread.

Thanks for having me, Erin!

lilacs and lace toile dress

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