‘I loved the idea of learning how to fit myself and not having to rely on luck for finding the perfect vintage dress. It was a very body-positive thing for me.’
The fabulous Gretchen Hirsch, better known as Gertie, is in Australia! She grabbed my attention early on with her vintage-style, her knowledge of patterns and sewing techniques, and her bio: ‘Let’s talk sewing, feminism and kitties’. (And her great tattoos!) I bought my first Gertie book in March last year, when I’d barely picked up a needle before, and at the start of this year I finally got up the courage to sew my first Gertie dress.
It was a pleasure to chat with Gretchen ahead of her Australian tour, as she stopped by Victory Lamour to talk about the body positive benefits of sewing, her new Spotlight fabric collection and the pleasure of making ‘slow clothes’ in a world of fast fashion:
What first inspired you to sew? Did you sew with your mother when you were little? I’m doing that now with my daughter.
My mom taught me to sew when I was little, and I loved how she made all our Halloween costumes. I didn’t really become obsessed with it until I was in my mid-twenties and I really wanted to explore vintage style and making my own versions it. I found some vintage patterns and immediately connected with the idea of remaking these classic styles. From there, I read every book and magazine about high-end garment sewing that I could get my hands on.
How did you first become interested in vintage styles and dressmaking techniques?
I’ve had a love for classic Hollywood style since I was a little kid. As an adult, I really wanted to dress in a vintage style, but I found the process of vintage hunting off-putting. Things never seemed to fit me correctly, and all the best dresses were so tiny! I loved the idea of learning how to fit myself and not having to rely on luck for finding the perfect vintage dress. It was a very body-positive thing for me. Once I learned more about it, I loved all the couture techniques that go into vintage dressmaking, like tailoring and using spiral steel boning.
Have you been to Australia before? What are you most looking forward to?
No, this is my first time! I have to say, I’m most excited to meet the sewing community here. The response to my trip has been amazing, and I’m so flattered by how many people follow my work here.
You have a lot of Aussie fans! What was the idea behind your fabric collaboration with Spotlight?
The idea was to make a line of very feminine and fun retro style fabrics that are accessible to a wide range of people. I’ve been frustrated in the past by trying to find the perfect border print or vintage-style rayon challis, and I want to make those fabrics available again.
In today’s world of fast fashion and cheap, disposable clothes, what do you think vintage clothing, home dressmaking or ‘slow clothes’ can teach us?
What I always try to stress in my classes is that sewing is an experience, not an end product. If you’re too obsessed with making the “perfect” project, you won’t enjoy the learning process much. Most of us sewists love the actual time spent sewing as much as we love our finished dresses, and that’s a pretty revolutionary concept in the world of fast fashion.
Above and at top of blog: Examples from Gertie’s new fabric range.
Update: Check out our interview with Gertie for my Youtube Channel, Sewing Vintage with Tara Moss: