The softer side of custom

Alexandra

Alexandra Morphet
(Photo from Alexandra’s website)

I may spend most of my time in t-shirts, but every so often I have reason to wear something nicer. For years, my favorite shirt has been one I bought almost two decades ago at a locally owned store. It’s made of Tencel, which has a lovely drape, with strategically placed darts that make for a beautiful fit. I’ve often wished I had more than one.

As someone who makes her living building custom work for others, I finally realized that I could talk to Alexandra Morphet, one of my longest-standing clients, about using that favorite shirt as a pattern. Alex makes clothing through her business, Bias Custom Clothing.

In case you’re wondering why I couldn’t just make some shirts myself,  I’ve never cultivated the patience to deal with fabric; I find its fluidity exasperating. Give me wood any day.

I understand that having shirts custom made will strike some as extravagant (just as commissioning custom furniture prompts outbursts like “How can working people afford that?” based on no information about actual costs, but solely on the knowledge that something “custom” has been made). These shirts cost more than shirts from chain fashion stores in a mall but less than many sold through mail order catalogs, and way less than a day pass to Disney World (which I have zero interest in visiting, ever). What matters to me is that by hiring Alex to make them I was reciprocating her custom, which has helped sustain my business and provided opportunities for creatively satisfying work.

***

This was the first time I can remember being measured as an adult. It was a fascinating experience to see how many points of the body are relevant to the construction of a shirt. Even though my original shirt provided the basic design, it was off-the-rack. Alex wanted dimensions for everything from the circumference of my upper arm to the distance between my nipples.

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Beware the lady with the tape measure.

Alex often uses fabrics salvaged from other clothing and had a stock of old kimono fabric to draw from. I was fascinated by my glimpse into her craft.

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One way to identify a fabric type is by burning a tiny corner and smelling it (not to mention observing whether it melts).

Alex shirt 2

Yes, this shirt is black, but there’s detail in the fabric, as the close-up below shows (though I snapped the close-up in bright light that distorted the color).

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The black kimono fabric reminds me of the pattern produced by raindrops on water

Alex shirt 3

A sage green fabric with cucumber-like buttons (below, at the online store where Alex found them)

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Alex shirt 1

Sweet details: notched cuffs and side seams

These photos don’t do the shirts justice, but I am not in the mood to put them on right now. Trust me; they fit–and in this age of standardized-everything, I have a newfound appreciation for this rarity.

5 responses to “The softer side of custom

  1. Anything well done is worth the price if it’s right for you.

  2. Beautiful! One of my good friends, who sews and knits, is in the middle of a self-imposed 1 year cleanse of ready-made clothing where she only makes or buys custom what she and her family wear.

  3. I don’t know if it is a sign of the times (I hope it is) or just a trend within my own circle, but there seems to be a growing practice of skilled makers of all types seeking each other out to buy, or trade for each other’s wares.

    I hope we all continue to do this, treat each other fairly, train the next generation, acknowledge and be willing to pay for the extra value and quality that individually made goods provide, and strive to give the same value we expect to receive.

    If we do this, we just might make it.

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