Silver faux-leather jumpsuit for Angel Olsen
Golden dress for Angel Olsen, 2017
What’s your position at Chai Pani, and how long have you been with them?
I’m a server at CP and have been working with them for over two years.
How did you first get into sewing and what drew you to it? Was this something passed on from family, or did you come to it on your own?
I started sewing when I was a little girl. When I was nine I made a dress to wear to the Renaissance Festival with my parents. It was basically a rectangle that I stapled together with a matching cone hat. I remember everyone bowing to me and I just ate up all the attention. I’d always looked up to my grandfather who was an upholsterer - but as far as learning, it was my grandma who showed me how to thread a needle and that was the extent of my teaching.
I’m more of a hands-off learner and I was lucky to have parents that supported my creative pursuits. As far as taking sewing to the level that I have today, this was more about expanding a skill. I was a drawing major in college, and I felt that I had reached a limit working in 2D. I also have a love for mathematics, and I felt that I needed to be challenged more in my creative work to remain satisfied. All throughout college I worked at a vintage store repairing delicate garments to sell. I would take notes on how some of the pieces were constructed and I would replicate them. It was only a matter of time before I felt that I should teach myself patternmaking the “proper” way. So I bought a textbook and worked through it.
What/who inspires you in your work? Music, other designers, certain eras, moods, etc.?
My work is inspired by the individual I am making it for. I enjoy doing custom garments because they require the attention to the form and lifestyle of the person wearing them. It’s all about making people feel empowered in the garment. I want my clothes to belong to the wearer rather than having much attachment to me. I would also say that it helps that I am very familiar with vintage clothing (after working in a vintage store for many years) and I am able to figure out a silhouette that would compliment that individual.
One of the last things that I made was a bunch of jackets for a client who really likes a military style. Those jackets reference old Chinese military uniforms/ Eastern European summer army clothing. I adjusted them to fit his figure and gave it a more modern/professional look. I am inspired by the work of Djaba Diassamidze Fall 2018, Couture Elie Saab, Madeleine Vionnet draping, standard poodles, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel. One menswear designer I really love right now is Bode Spring 2019.
How has your career grown over the years? How has your work evolved?
My career and my passion have grown one project at a time. It’s a skill that takes a lot of time to get right. It’s hard for me to see it as a career at this point because every project is different and new, and requires the same amount of attention as the one previously. I think I’m getting better at making my garments look professional and I’m gaining more confidence with every project. I have a better understanding for the process and how to properly project a project’s timeline. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from the things that I have created like a shoutout from vogue.com. I have also evolved in that I am constantly distracted when talking to people with a well-made garment on. It’s my current obsession more so than a career. I am not sure how to answer this question further.
What has been the best or most memorable moment so far?
I made a dress for a friend of mine over the summer. It was supposed to be her birthday dress which ended up becoming her engagement dress. I even cut out a little pocket-square for her fiance. I love knowing that my pieces can have a purpose and story to carry with them. That was one of the hardest garments for me to make a pattern for. It was also my first time working with neoprene, which is the same material you use for scuba suits, which required me to have to experiment with sewing needles and I had to think of ways to finish the edges of the garment without making it look bulky.
Another time was one of the first pieces that I made for Angel Olsen. She was going to be performing on The Stephen Colbert Show and I wanted to have a garment for her to wear. I didn’t think I would be able to finish it so we decided to just use the top half of what was an unfinished dress. She paired it with a high waisted pink skirt and she would have to hide the zipper tail that would be attached to the bottom half of the dress later. A bunch of close friends of Angel and I went to the Prospect to watch her live performance. The whole time I was on my toes anticipating a wardrobe malfunction. It’s a strange and exciting feeling to be more excited about how a garment looks on a person performing than the performance itself.
BAILEY’S WORK ON THE COLBERT SHOW
Golden dress for Angel Olsen
Materials: metallic peach/green striped silk shantung
Is there anything you’ve finished recently or are working on currently that you’re really excited about?
I am making two long dresses for Angel right now and some cow-print shorts for my friends 30th birthday party. I am hoping to have Emily Tomasik, another amazing Chai Pani employee, make a little mini clay t-bone steak charm attached to the zipper pull of my friends shorts. The dresses I am making for Angel are going to be dramatic floor length gowns that show off her petite figure. Her stuff are based on the body types of Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida. I am trying to do a variation of this Christian Dior “new look” afternoon dress, 1954 based on a more natural silhouette.
How do you see your brand growing in the future, or what is your dream project?
I would love to continue working with Angel because she appreciate fashion as much as I do and encourages me to explore more. I would love to work as a designer in the future and maybe have a small team of people working with me. My dream projects would include being Queen Elizabeth II personal dressmaker or to create a career like Edith Head, a prolific costume designer. If anyone knows anything about this career path, give me a call. :)
Be sure to check out more of Bailey’s work here.