Interview with Lisa Comfort, founder of Sew Over It – our vintage designer of the month

Lisa Comfort founded Sew Over It 10 years ago and the indie pattern company quickly got known for creating beautiful vintage inspired designs. The love of vintage came from Lisa who has always adored dressing up. From the top of her immaculate beehive to the perfect flick of her 50s eyeliner, Lisa oozes vintage style, so in this interview, we’ll find out a bit more about her.

Tell me about your love of vintage. Where did it all start?

I have always loved dressing up. It started with my Barbie dolls and quickly graduated to me! Ever since I can remember I have been drawn to glamour and to the glamour of the 1950s, in particular. I think I watched too many films! I was born and brought up in Yorkshire and when I was younger, I used to get the train on my own to see my grandparents in the summer holidays. One famous time I asked my mum if I could have some white gloves to travel in!

I used to wear berets to school and always had the mickey taken out of me on the school bus. Trying to look like a French film star from the 1950s didn’t really go down that well in North Yorkshire in the 1990s, but I didn’t care.

Is there a particular era you particularly love?

It’s all about the 1950s and early 1960s for me as I just love that fit and flare look. I think it is just so elegant and feminine; it creates lovely shapes and is very flattering. I’ve never really worn baggy clothes. Wherever I go I like to dress up and make an effort. It’s that sense of occasion and dressing up I love about those eras and what I want to recreate with my designs for Sew Over It.

Who are your vintage heroes or heroines?

My two absolute heroines from the mid 20th century are Marylin Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Marylin was the ultimate sex symbol of course but if you look at her dresses closely, they were very simple and stylish – and they really made the most of her figure which I love. Audrey, on the other hand, epitomises that perfect French gamine style – no frills, but just that perfectly elegant, almost minimalist style.

When Mad Men came out, I was in heaven because I had a new heroine – Betty Draper. I loved the cool style of New York in the 50s and 60s. I could quite imagine myself sipping cocktails in those impossibly glamorous hotel bars after work.

Most recently, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has inspired one of the outfits in our new vintage collection.

What do you love about vintage clothes?

The fact the shapes are flattering and feminine, but I think I also love the element of dressing up. We don’t make that effort anymore and I wish we did. I want to have a dress for a dinner dance, a dress for work, a dress for Sundays; I’d have a dress for putting the bins out if I could! I just love the idea of a life where I can be glamorous all the time!

Tell us about Sew Over It?

As a teenager I become obsessed with sewing. After I graduated from University I moved to London and worked in the City, but I really missed having a creative outlet so I gave up my office job and went to the London College of Fashion to do a second degree in fashion. I then worked for British designer Bruce Oldfield and bridal couture designer Phillipa Lepley and started teaching people to sew in the evenings. But there were no modern patterns for the vintage clothes I loved.

I tried sewing using vintage patterns, but they fitted so badly, although I loved the designs. Women in the 1950s wore completely different underwear to the kind we wear nowadays and had different proportions.  I wanted patterns with modern size and fit, but the vintage style I loved. There was a gap in the market and Sew Over It was born.

With Sew Over It, I wanted to design patterns for stylish, fashionable clothes that people wanted to wear, create clear easy-to-follow instructions, inspire and help people to sew with online tutorials and source unique fabrics to allow my customers to buy into the same style as me.

Nowadays vintage patterns are just part of what we do but we still create new patterns every year with a nod to my first love.

What were your first patterns?

The Betty Dress - a beautiful 1950’s inspired dress based on the style of Betty Draper! With a fitted bodice and full circle skirt, Betty is super flattering for all figures, nipping you in at the waist and flaring out to create a beautiful silhouette.  We have a special discount code to get 20% off the Betty Dress next week.

Ultimate Trousers - Slim fitting, ankle grazing and flattering for so many figures, the Ultimate Trousers are my go-to trouser pattern. So simple to make I can whip up a new pair in a couple of hours.

Ultimate Shift Dress – If you want to start dressmaking but don’t know where to begin, the Ultimate Shift Dress would make an ideal first project! With no tricky zips or buttonholes to master, you can simply pop the dress on over your head and fasten with a hook and eye.

1940s Tea Dress – This dress is inspired by my love of 40’s fashion. It is so flattering and can be made for the everyday or dressed up for an occasion.

Tell us a bit about how you create the vintage look with your patterns?

I get inspired by the style of my vintage icons, watching period dramas, seeing what people on the street wear, and by what I see in vintage shops. I often take an element from something I have seen but then adapt the style, so it is more wearable today. I don’t want our patterns to look ‘costumey’; I want them to suit our modern day lives but with a strong vintage feel.

You wrote a book about the vintage look. Tell us about that?

In 2015 I wrote “Sew Over It Vintage: Stylish Projects for the Modern Wardrobe & Home” which featured 25 projects, ranging from jewellery, hats, tops, dresses and bags, to cushions, lampshades, placemats, lanterns and a luxury chair pouffe! You can still buy it second-hand on Amazon!

Why do you think people are in love with the vintage look?

It is timeless and suits so many ages and so many shapes. I just think it just works for so many people.

Are there any particular sewing techniques you need for vintage inspired patterns?

Fitting is key so it’s a good idea to make a toile and really hone your sewing skills. As well as designing patterns, I really wanted to help people learn to sew which is why I launched Stitch School. Stitch School is our online learning platform, bringing our classroom to your home.

Our in-house teaching team are expert pattern cutters, teachers, couture designers and technical dressmakers. We deliver useful and clear video classes taught in a friendly way and we’re always on hand for any of our customers' sewing questions.

With over 170 classes to watch it’s a great place to learn how to sew a seam, insert a zip, make your own patterns from scratch, and so much more! We add new classes every month and we have an amazing Stitch School Facebook community.

You have a vintage eBook coming out. Why did you decide to do that?

We know our customers love the vintage look and we felt it was time to go back to roots and create some new designs so this month we are bringing out our Vintage Collection eBook. It was a real passion project for me. I absolutely loved it and I couldn’t be prouder of it. We will tell you more about it later this month and give you all a special discount offer.

What happened to your beehive?

Ha ha! I wanted a change but now I have grown my hair long again and am answering this questionnaire sporting a beehive!

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