To give you a little "industry" background...I've been sewing since I was five and making clothing patterns for as long as I can remember. My mother was an avid seamstress and made most of her clothing and sewed beautiful clothes for me. My great-aunt was a seamstress and made custom clothing for private clients, in Austria, and this is where my mother learned to sew as a child.
My mother taught me how to make my own patterns using the monthly Burda Moden sewing and pattern magazines from Europe. Every month we would pick up the magazine at a local magazine stand. Needless to say, I now have a priceless and extensive collection of Burda Moden Magazines from the 1960s-1990s.
If you are not familiar with Burda Moden, it is a monthly publication of sewing patterns from Europe. The styles were always a little fashion forward and had a range of styles and sizes to choose from. Inside were fashion pages, some sewing tips, knitting patterns, food recipes, and came with a sewing instruction booklet with English supplement.
Scouring the fashion pages, then studying the flat drawings and sewing instructions, I would make a comprehensive list of everything I wanted to create. I loved gathering the tissue paper and following the road map of making my own patterns; finding the correct pattern sheet, pattern number, color, and style line, and then tracing the pattern onto the tissue paper. I made sure to reference the pattern to include all the darts and any and all technical pattern indicators such as grainlines and notches. Before cutting out the pattern I would make any design changes and then I needed to add the seam allowances. Now my patterns were ready.
I could barely wait to hit the fabric stores to find the perfect color and textile I had in mind. Usually it was the fabric that inspired what I was to be creating. I would have many "how to" questions for my mother, and she would often say, "Why do you always have to choose such complicated patterns to sew!" For me, it was a challenge to learn as many techniques as possible.
But also, I've been formally trained in the design and construction of garments, and in 1987, I received a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, in Los Angeles, California.
Soon after, my husband and I moved to New York, and I began working for various private clients. I remember one client brought me lace from Belgium for her wedding dress, and another client just wanted to have clothes fit her well.
After 4 years, we moved back to Los Angeles. There my career started as a design assistant, and then I moved up to head designer for a better contemporary dress company in the early 1990s. I loved this opportunity and this is where I really learned my love for dresses and where I learned my ropes in the Fashion Industry.
A turn of events, in 1996, allowed me to venture out on my own and I designed and produced a special occasion dress line. With the encouragement of my showroom rep, we brought my small "Brigitte Hart Dresses" collection to New York. It was such a dream come true. My mom came with me and we were still sewing buttons and snaps onto dresses in our hotel room before the show. It was in New York that I made my first sales to boutique buyers from stores across the USA. This is when I developed a niche in the "alternative bridal" market (meaning non-traditional wedding dresses).
This was a huge undertaking for me. I still made all my own patterns, but had others grade my patterns, cut my orders, and sew my clothing. Then it came back to me, where with the help of my mom, we would put all the finishing touches on, oversee the quality control, and ship out up to 100 dresses a month.
After a few years, I needed to put my wholesale business on hold to raise two boys. At this time, I boxed up and stored most of my fabric, samples, and patterns. I needed to downsize and started selling off my samples on Etsy and to private clientele.
Once the boys were in school and after we moved to Northern California, I spent some time in retail management, but I always missed the creative side of designing clothing and the textile arts.
Now, after about 25 years, I have the time to start again. I've taken everything out of storage and have moved into a beautiful studio space. Brigitte Hart Dress Atelier is located in Carmichael, California. Here I cut, sew, and sell Alternative Bridal Dresses and Vintage Inspired Dresses and Separates. I also sell my collection of items on my website at BrigitteHartDresses.com and at various pop-up events throughout the year.
You can also find me on Instagram @brigittehartdresses, and for behind the scenes @truthpeacejoy.
I have other plans and goals, and in the near future, I hope to be selling my collection of dresses and separates to specialty boutiques again.