From Barbie to Bernina
About the age I discovered fashion, I knew I loved it. After that, I wanted to know all I could about how to create it—colors, line, style, proportion, seams, padded lapels, hem facings, construction, fitting, and everything! I didn’t necessarily know what it was called! It all started with my Barbie! I've found it's taken me from my fav prom to couture ball gowns to my comfy life I live today! And I get to show off my own style and look even if it changes from day to day!
So that brings up another chapter in my life
—my relationship with the local Bernina store. From the very first, these people dealt in excellence, and they taught me the importance of not only excellence in service but in quality equipment. Today I still buy Berninas. They are the only machine I sew with. You would, of course, expect me to recommend them highly and I do, but I also tell my students to buy local and buy the dealer. Usually, Pfaff, Husqvarna Viking, and Bernina are the top machines—find a dealer who will stand by the machine, and you have your machine to buy. Of course, if you are lucky enough to be in a location where there are all three—then I would go with the Bernina, and if you are in my fair city, no doubt: Bernina (Bernina of Oklahoma City)!
Erma was a lovely lady. She was from a very simple background, but all her aunts saved up their money and sent her to the Parsons School of Design where she learned to sew, tailor, and design.
She was a very giving and generous person. She never ever put a boundary on what I could learn—she used to say: “The sky’s the limit—you can learn what you will let yourself learn.” She was right. I studied with her for 10 years, ending my classes by bringing in a picture of a project, and we would discuss how I was going to handle certain features, details, and aspects of the design. I would go off and make it up and then bring it to her for examination.
She was a blessing, pure and simple, to my life. She gave me back the gift of sewing that I had as a little tyke sewing my Barbie dresses. Only now I was sewing them for myself. My friends grew tired of asking me where I got my clothes. They would look at me with disgusted faces and shake their head knowing there was no way they could get what I wore. The local fabric store in my city carried very fine designer-type fabrics, so I delighted in getting the fabrics and then doing the design up with my own individual style—often more comfortable, more flattering, and certainly more individualized for me.
I was also lucky that during this time was an extremely inflating economy. It was nice for a while, but soon it became apparent that it was “too nice.” I know that sounds odd, but the energy belt, which is where I live, is fraught with economic highs and lows—it’s the nature of the business.
Funny, though through all the downtimes, I never worried about whether I would be able to sew or not—I knew I would. And as luck had it, my friends came to me to have their wedding and debutante gowns made—what fun was this! Once again returning to my dream of dressing Barbie only here were these darling girls with fabulous little figures, and their eyes full of all the light and promise of a new generation.
So I started my business in the early 80s, in the middle of the worst economy you can imagine. I was told it was NOT the time to start a business—yea, well, good thing I didn’t listen. But because of the economy, I absolutely had to be profitable from the very start.
I did this for 30 years and loved it. One day I was sitting in my studio, getting ready to design a garment for an event that weekend, and thinking—what will I wear—what I can I design to wear this weekend? Then the whole idea of being able to pick and choose what I really want to wear and design for me was so much of a luxury. Other women were going to the stores or online to look for something that might work, or that might be okay or that would be passable, while all I had to go look at my stash or the local fabric store and whip something up and off I go—how spoiled I had become.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that not only am I lucky but that I could pass this on. My teacher Erma had decided to teach and because of that, I was blessed with the knowledge of how to do this. I needed to start teaching.
I approached the local Bernina store where I have purchased my machines since I started sewing professionally, and started teaching there, which is where I teach today.
The most fun I have is seeing my students express their own ideas and seeing them expressed so beautifully technically.