Learn How to Create Your Own Custom-made Clothes (Online!)

Redress is always interested in hearing more about designers who are passionate about creating beautiful textile products that empower people and we recently learned of a couture dressmaker / custom sewing instructor just down the road from Raleigh in Hillsborough, NC - Brooks Ann Camper. We asked her a few questions about what made her choose this path and how she feels she can help non-designers create custom clothing that makes them look and feel great. Check out the interview below and connect with Brooks Ann via the links below this article!

Photos by Shane Snider

Photos by Shane Snider

1) What is your favorite thing about being a designer in this area? Do you feel that there is anything about being in North Carolina / the South that is better than being a designer elsewhere?

The South is just better! I got my Masters Degree in Costume Construction from UNC Chapel Hill in 2001 and left the area for New York City where I worked on Broadway shows and other major theatrical productions for a few years. I had a blast and learned a lot, but couldn't see the reason for staying. Was I staying just to add more famous clients to my ‘name drop list’? Was this hectic lifestyle necessary? 

I've also lived and worked in several other (very nice) states, but North Carolina is the only state that I have ever moved BACK to. I've been living and working in Hillsborough for almost 10 years now. I love it here! There’s just a different pace and different opportunities. 

Starting a business in this area has allowed me to be myself.

The people are also THE BEST. I have never had a negative experience with a bride or a student. And even though Skirt Skills is an online course with students joining from all over the world, one of my favorite parts is that I have Open Studio Hours for locals. Students work on the lessons at home, but lucky locals get to meet me and other locals at my studio throughout the course for a more personal experience. Great people call North Carolina home. 

This area is truly something special. I feel like it brings out the best in me and offers me the best people to collaborate with! 

2) What made you start your Skirt Skills eCourse?

Skirt Skills is an Intro to Custom Sewing eCourse. I first learned to sew as an adult working in professional costume shops where all kinds of clothes are custom made and designed to fit all kinds of bodies. It’s a specialized process that is different from both the “fashion industry” methods and the “home sewing” methods of clothing creation. 

One of the things I love about the custom method is that you don’t deal with sizes and you don’t have to compare yourself to an “ideal”. You just learn about what works for you. The custom sewing process can be very freeing and can make you look and feel great!

When sewing started making a comeback several years ago, I realized that no one seemed to be teaching to the adult woman who wants to learn to make her own clothes to fit her own body. Every method started off by comparing her to a “size”.  

I also felt like I needed to do my part to keep these methods that I love so much from becoming a dying art. Everyone is so used to “fast fashion”, it’s hard to remember what clothes even looked like when they were built to last and custom-made to fit. I needed to share the love! 

I've been getting a great response from all my students! Making them look and feel good makes me look and feel good, so it’s a win/win. 

3) What do you hope your students take away from the class? 

I want my students to have fun, while creating something that makes them look and feel great. I want them to have the freedom to make and wear garments that showcase their individual figure and style, rather than depending on “sizes” and other people’s designs. I want them to learn “why” you do each step, rather than just “follow directions”. I want them to see that drafting your own patterns isn't “harder” than learning to sew using someone else’s pattern; it’s just different. Different people learn differently, so custom sewing is a great option for those just starting out in garment sewing, or those who have tried sewing using commercial patterns but did not enjoy or find success in that process. 

4) What is something new you've learned from working with your students? 

I learned that they can do it! With a little desire and determination, custom sewing, designing, and drafting your own patterns is a skill that can be picked up, even with beginners. 

Personally, it is really fun for me to see people of all different shapes learning to celebrate their unique figures and personal styles. Every body is different, so I am constantly learning and experimenting right along with the students.

5) You mention the phrase "custom clothing" a lot - what does that mean to you? 

Custom clothing to me means there are no standardized sizes. The patterns are created to suit a specific individual for a completely custom fit. It also means clothing of a unique design. A custom garment is not something that will ever be mass produced to fit an average of bodies and tastes. It is something unique to the personality and figure of the specific person who will be wearing it. 

Picture by Shane Snider

Picture by Shane Snider

6) Have you ever worked with an Eco-conscious bride? 

I’d like to think that all my brides are eco-conscious in some way. I like to think that the fact that my dresses are 100% locally made in-house, influences their decision to work with me. There is no factory, no sweat shop, no shipping, no sizes, no stock. Each bride is an integral part of the design process and works one-on-one with the person who threads the needle and makes every stitch!

I also use high-quality natural fiber fabrics, most of which are locally purchased. While having something professionally custom-made with fine fabrics can often be cost-prohibitive for everyday clothes, it is nice to take the unique opportunity of your wedding day to feel good knowing where your clothing comes from and how it is made. 

7) Have you seen any growing awareness within the industry on some of the negative aspects of fashion design? 

Well, I don’t really see myself as part of an industry. I work one-on-one with individuals in my own happy little bubble. I know very little about the fashion design industry or the wedding industry! 

I've only been to a bridal salon once and it did not suit my style AT ALL. So I offer brides a more personalized alternative to the ‘salon experience’. 

I've also never been able to complete a garment following a commercial sewing pattern. That process simply doesn't represent the way I love to learn. So I offer an alternative for those who want to learn to sew in a more personal way. 

It’s hard for an industry to be personal. And personal is what I’m all about.

8) A lot of our readers are designers and are working on growing their business. What's the best advice you've gotten along your journey as a designer? 

I think the best advice is go with your strengths and don’t conform to what others are doing. You can’t be your best without being yourself. What makes you different is what is interesting. 

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For more information on Brooks Ann Camper and her bridal business visit www.BrooksAnn.com

She also blogs the process of each wedding dress as it is handcrafted. Follow along at The Sewing Room Blog.

To learn more about Brooks Ann’s Skirt Skills eCourse, go to www.SkirtSkills.com and join the mailing list to stay informed about upcoming sessions. You may also enjoy this blog post about the unique course. 

Brooks Ann also teaches private lessons at her Sewing Room in Hillsborough. Her specialty is helping brides as they make their own wedding dress!