Handmade: 'Victorian Tailor' tied to preserving vintage fabrics
Vintage linen and lace items are being turned into unique fashion-forward garments and accessories at the creative hands of Celeste Hude, also known as the "Victorian Tailor."
While growing up in Lansing, Hude learned, from her mother and paternal grandmother how to sew and recreate unwanted items into stylish clothing.
"I watched my mother and grandmother take apart discarded garments, like lace dresses and coats, and redesign and resew them into contemporary garments. They did it for themselves and their families," she explained, adding that she learned the "old" way of sewing -- "designing, changing designs, handwork, hand-stitches, pattern making and more details."
"Then when my children were toddlers and grade schoolers, I started doing craft shows and would make things out of lace and linen." People also gave her their lace heirlooms, and she'd design and sew them into garments for either their childen or grandchildren.
During the past 10 years, Hude has been selling her contemporary fashions for women under the name the "Victorian Tailor" in a booth at Maple Street Mall (108 W. Maple) in Mason. She also sells through her online store at victoriantailor.com. Years ago, her work was sold in boutiques in Detroit and the gift shop at Greenfield Village in Dearborn.
She shops for vintage textiles at estate and garage sales, and people sometimes give her lace. "I've been collecting for 30 years, so I have quite a pile of linens and laces," said the Mason resident.
The delicate items, "many imported from Ireland and Germany," are carefully cut apart and recreated into something entirely different.
"I take exisiting antique pieces of lace, design a pattern and sew it into a garment," she said. "I try not to cut the antique piece up too much because it would destroy the integrity of the pieces." One finished garment will often include several different lace patterns.
And, in terms of sizes, her standard is "usually medium to extra large," and she's now doing fewer custom orders.
"I haven't done special orders for a while because it's very hard to do that. I sew these up into one-size-fits-all. A garment will look good on someone who wears a size medium and also someone who's an extra large because of the way it's constructed," she stated. "I've been able to do some 1X's with large linen tablecloths, but the standard is usually medium to extra large. It's much more cost effective if I just make up a collection for spring, summer and fall, and just put it out there for sale," she said.
Customers range from high school girls to seniors -- both with a fondness for the fun, frilly look. Hude said, "They buy them to wear in the summertime over a swimsuit, or to wear to a wedding, or they buy the dress for their wedding gown. But all ages seem to have an event where they need something like this.
"These are typically people who appreciate antique lace and linens, however, you can wear them with jeans and leggings. I get a lot of creative people who wear these items. She said her garments are "very easy to wear," and that she wears them, as well.
Along with wedding gowns, she also makes petticoats, tunics, skirts and bags heavily embellished with ruffles.
Describing herself as a "young 66," Hude is "committed to preserving the loving legacy and provenance of heirloom lace, linens and historic textiles for future generations," as stated on her website.
"I just think they're so beautiful (and) that it's a shame to have them hidden away, unless it's a family keepsake or heirloom," she remarked.
Hude, who has plans for sewing multiples of one or two of her designs, is currently looking for an assistant to help with production. "The first one moved away," she said.
Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact the "Victorian Tailor" at (517) 525-3583 or victoriantailor.com. Email: email@example.com.