Having developed a fairly ridiculous career in food / cake / cookbooks while on a hiatus from costuming, itís kind of easy to forget that I had this whole *other* career, beforehand. Having finished my 7th - and final - cookbook, it feels great to be back to my first love - spandex costuming - full time!
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In my case, it was the birth of my first career! I was raised first by a single mother, and then by my retired grandparents. Figure skating isnít the most financially appropriate for someone in my position to be in, but somehow we made it work.
The easiest way for us to save money was to make my skating costumes at home. My motherís first attempt was horrendous... Iím still not sure what happened. She had plenty of talent at sewing, but this was... urm, not up to *any* kind of standard. It was a knee length, full circle skirt. The ďpantyĒ part of it was huge and bulky, sagging like a diaper. A black and white checker print spandex diaper. I was so embarrassed to wear it, and ended up getting one store bought ďpracticeĒ dress. At $80 or $90, I was afraid to wear it - it was by far the most expensive item of clothing Iíd ever owned at that point. Instead, I took a pattern from it and made my own practice dress from it... and then another.
Soon - at the age of 11-12 ish - I was taking orders... first for simple practice dresses, quickly evolving to fancier competition outfits. Iíd use some of my profits to buy little ads in competition program guides, and Iíd have my friend Leanne model my work for fliers. (Fun fact: she went on to become ďFord Supermodel of the WorldĒ a few years later!) Eventually, I moved on to design and create custom grad (prom) gowns and wedding dresses around age 16, spending less time on the spandex. Formalwear got boring for me a few years later... I missed the bright colors and patterns of spandex, and the freedom I had with design.
Going back to spandex after that... oh boy, did I ever get some freedom. In addition to skating dresses, I also started to work with drag queens, fitness athletes and professional wrestlers. While skating dresses are pretty wild compared to bridalwear, it didn't hold a candle to ... multicolored hologram flames stretched across someoneís butt! It was also exciting to see my outfits on such mainstream TV as WWE shows. That was definitely a first for me.
I donít remember how I got started into doing synchronized swim costumes - I actually made those before I made any regular swimwear! - but it seemed like the perfect compromise between what I loved about skating costumes (designing around music / programs), and the wrestler costumes (just going crazy with color and design).
Oh, it was fun. In the few short years I did it - before taking a break to write cookbooks - I made hundreds of different competition suits. I made them for recreational and competitive athletes locally... then nationally, then around the world. Iíve sewn for Olympic athletes, and the Canadian National team wore my outfits to the Pan Am Games one year. Very cool. Around that same time, I put out a line of recreational swimwear, and actually had a sales agent. I showed my line in the Toronto Fashion week market, hired models, and worked with big name photographers. Jeanne Beker showed up to a swimwear shoot I was having for my line... way out in the middle of nowhere.
It was all very surreal for me, back then. Truth be told, it feels a little weird to look back at everything I did back then, now.
As has been my pattern since I was a kid - and I've since found out that this is actually very common amoung my fellow autistic women! - I soon succumbed to a combination of boredom and burnout. Iíll basically take something up on a lark, be interested... play around with it a bit, get really good at it, and then... I guess it just all becomes too routine. When it feels like Iíve been doing the same thing for just a bit too long, not feeling any challenge ... I have to move on to something more stimulating / entertaining. So, I did.
I was 25. I was also so fried from all of the long hours trying to just keep up with orders, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with spandex ever again. I stopped taking orders, and I discontinued the 3 sewing manuals that Iíd written along the way. I took up event floral design, then cake design... and eventually on to cookbooks.
Now, Iíve come full circle. I felt like I had all of this knowledge sitting in the back of my head - and in forgotten folders on my computer - just gathering virtual dust and cobwebs. I decided that it was time to revisit those sewing manuals.
In 2012, I started releasing full color, photographic updated versions of my earlier spandex sewing manuals, as well as new titles. Those can be found on my Spandex Simplified website. Iím so happy to be able to teach others how to make all kinds of garments from spandex. Spandex Simplified: Synchro Swimwear is my first re-released* sewing manual, but was chronologically the fourth that I wrote. Originally written in 2004, all of the information provided is still current and applicable.
Aside from the books, other experiences made me realize that I missed custom spandex design. While creating with words is great, I did miss working with brightly colored fabrics, sparkle, and wild designs. So, a few years ago, I made my return to the custom fashion industry, first on a part time basis, and now on a full time basis. I'm currently accepting custom commisions for spandex costuming orders of all kinds: Figure skating, dance, rhythmic gymnastics, professional wrestling gear, swimwear, synchro swimwear, superhero costumes... whatever you can dream up, I can sew!
In 2018, I started my road back to figure skating, which revitalized my love of making skating dresses, specifically. As someone with experience as both a young competitor AND a large, out of shape, returning adult skater, I have unique insight into the needs of the athletes that I design for, and can accomodate clients of all shapes, sizes, and competitive levels!
*Well, this one is "sort of" a re-release. While the other "re-release" books were published and sold well, this one was finished and never published. Time to change that!