Handmade: Lagenwear designer shares her patterns

Jocelynn Brown

Lagenwear designer Tina Givens has been designing and making her clothes since a very young age. You might say, she was born with a sixth sense – the sense of style.

Born in Zimbabwe to a family of artists, crafters and business owners, Givens, who immigrated to Canada in 1982 at age 17, said, “I’ve always designed my own clothes since age 6. As soon as I learned to sew I was making my own little garments.” Yet, throughout most of her life, she was unaware that the clothes she designs and wears are referred to as “Lagenwear” (or Lagenlook), a popular European fashion statement. In recent years, it has made its way to the U.S., showing up on racks in mostly upscale boutiques.

“Originally, it comes from the German term “Lagenlook,” and it describes the style as a layered look, but I didn’t even know the term until people started describing my personal style as ‘Lagenwear.’ It was – ‘Oh, I’ve been doing this. It’s my style!’” explained Givens.

“It’s not the way they dress in Zimbabwe. I was always different. My inspiration comes from many sources,” continued Givens in her Zimbawean accent. “If you look back to Victorian days, they would always have on a dress and a muu muu. Even in pioneering days, they had bloomers, a skirt and a petticoat. It was how they dressed. I think the difference with that era and today is we layer, but the layers are different lengths, so you can see the bloomers, and there’s, possibly, a tunic and shorter jacket. If it’s just a top and a bottom, I wouldn’t describe it as Lagenlook. I would say this look was very European until a couple years ago.”

In 2006, the self-described “free spirit,” put her lifelong design skills to work when she launched a couture collection of Lagenwear called “Tina Givens,” available online ( and in high-end boutiques across the country. Then, about a year, later, she started getting requests for sewing patterns from women who loved the line but “couldn’t afford the couture prices.” That’s when she expanded the business with the launch of “Sew Tina Givens,” a large collection of her Lagenwear patterns, available online ( and in stores worldwide.

The mother of 14-year-old twins (Amelia and John), Givens, 51, moved to Birmingham a year and a half ago, after 12 years in Raleigh, N.C. Needing a place to set up shop, she chose Royal Oak’s industrial area as the location for her studio, which she calls “intimate and personal.” It’s there where she and “a handful of special people,” work five days a week, creating wearable art, some fashioned with her signature ruffles as added texture to the organic fabrics used to make her sophisticated, but playful apparel. On average, prices start around $295.

Also, every couple weeks, new patterns are launched, adding to the more than 1,000 designs Givens has created in past years. Over 100 are available to the sewing community in sizes XS-2X for $18 each. “We’ve hit the niche market because they’re doing very well. They’re very well received, and we sell globally – in France, the UK, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Turkey, Italy and more,” she enthused, adding that her customer base is both “the woman who sews and makes her own clothes, and the woman who travels and can afford couture prices.”

Givens added, “I think it’s for all ages, but the majority of my customers are 45-plus – I think because at that point, we’re not afraid to express who we are, and we want to be comfortable and stylish!”

Givens’ ready-to-wear collection will be available at Milieu (2163 Cole) in Birmingham, starting in the fall. Owner Denise Howard, who opened Milieu 30 years ago, said, “I’m pleased to acknowledge that we will be carrying it. I really felt like it was a great addition to what I carry. It’s a good fit with our other lines.”

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or

Contact Tina Givens at (248) 227-4995. Email: Visit: or