CUSTOMARY CLOTHING – “FIT IS THE SALT IN THE SOUP”
It’s hard to describe these two women as anything less than, fantastic. We think that word was actually created for Bree and Juliet who just recently opened up shop on East Burnside with an exciting new venture called Customary Clothing. Between the two of them you can have a custom fitted Elizabethan Corset or a lecture on oceanography. Yes, oceanography. Intrigued? We advise you keep reading then.
E+E: What’s your favorite thing about Portland? We know this is hard… too many to name.
Bree: Outside of the fashion scene… the music. I could spend every night out at a show and I’d never tire. For the last couple of years I’ve been super inspired by the clothing… good or bad… that Portland musicians wear on stage. Fashion is such a choice. I’m really interested in that, even if the choice is to wear a t-shirt off of the bedroom floor and go play music in front of a hundred people. It’s actually inspiring our next project. We’re going to be making custom clothing… whatever they want… for a dozen local musicians to see what our city’s music scene looks like through the lens of fashion. We’ll then take those custom clothes, make them ready-to-wear and sell them as limited runs out of our boutique.
E+E: Do you have a favorite neighborhood?
Bree: This is forever changing. I bore pretty easily. But lately I’ve been spending my down time in the Pearl over at super cute coffee shop which is about to change owners… so we’ll see how long that lasts. I guess I don’t have favorite neighborhoods, it’s more like favorite coffee shops.
Juliet: What I love about the East Burnside neighborhood is its unexpectedness: paper supply warehouse, empty lot,… fine lingerie boutique! I love the openness here, and the big cinematic view into downtown Portland from the bridge: it’s like it gives you a chance to draw big.
E+E: How did the two of you lovely ladies meet?
Bree: Juliet was actually one of my clients from my last shop.
Juliet: We met over a coat. In its most stripped down version, the story goes like this: I had this coat in my head that I desperately wanted, but after extensive boutique and internet searching, I determined that it didn’t exist. I would either have to make do without it or make it; I chose that latter. Some days after committing to the gorgeous (and expensive) wool from which I would make this coat, I had a moment of clarity and I realized I needed to tighten up my construction skills if I wanted it to look as good in reality as it did in my head. So I sought out the best of the best, and… some time later Bree and I decided to make our line! Also, the coat was seriously rad.
E+E: What inspired the concept for Customary Clothing?
Juliet: I think the first question you ask before you start something new is: What do I have to offer that people need? What makes this unique and necessary? A lot of what Customary is based on is the blind spots that Bree and I see in what’s out there to get dressed in. Our rules are pretty simple:
-Make it to fit. Fit is the salt in the soup — it’s the difference between a hit and a flop.
-Get it exactly as you want it. Let people in to chose their own design details so they have the color, neckline, or hem length that they really want.
-Wear what you love. Clothing should have to fight for space in your closet! If it goes on your body, it needs to have a won a place in your heart.
E+E: How did you both get into sewing/designing?
Bree: I have a background in technical theatre… I focused in on costumes towards the very end of my college career and then was offered a contract making period Shakespearean costumes at a pretty reputable regional theatre. Fashion was a bit of a leap for me. It was sort of like being a classically trained pianist that just wants to play jazz. I could make you a custom fit Elizabethan Corset in a day but I’d rather make you a maxi dress.
Juliet: My cv will tell you about years of experience in scientific research, most recently teaching oceanography aboard a sailing research vessel, but the undercurrent for the past decade has been an enduring (and sometimes clandestine) love of fashion and design. I taught myself how to sew when I lived at a research station where the most exciting daily event was a mid-afternoon downpour. The appeal of making the things that I wanted and couldn’t find (or afford) drew me down the road of increasingly complex projects and challenged my skills to keep up.
E+E: Have you always made your own clothing?
Bree: Haha. No. I have made approximately a half dozen garments for myself over the years. I like dressing other people and having other people dress me. I love shopping as well. I’m a New York City girl. A perfect weekend should consist of coffee, crosswords, and shopping. Sewing is lovely but it’s also my day job.
Juliet: As far as making my own clothes, yes sometimes, but I’m pretty omnivorous as long as the clothing is TOTALLY AWESOME. What is it Oscar Wilde says? “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Like that, except replace “the best” with “TOTALLY AWESOME.”
E+E: How would you explain the overall style or theme of Customary Clothing?
Juliet: If I had to condense the theme of Customary into words, I’d say, “classic shapes in modern takes,” and then I’d probably reword it because accidental rhymes make me embarrassed. A quip from Karl Lagerfeld has stuck with me over the years — that people live in the classic shapes, that they’re the workhorses of our closets.
There’s a theory on closet editing that you should go through all of your garments and put a red sticker on each one. When you wear a piece, you pull the sticker off. A year after the initial sticker-ing of your closet, go back through and find the clothes that still have stickers on them. They’re out! Off to your favorite charity, onto the backs of your clothing-swapping friends, into a bonfire, whatever — but if you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to cut ties.
My goal for each Customary piece is that it never has a red sticker for long. A pair of pants, say, that are cut to fit you beautifully, made from a fabric you love, and have the details that you want (pockets in the right places, or a button closure instead of a zip) should work for you (and avoid a closet-purge) for years to come.
E+E: What’s the creation you have been most proud of?
Bree: I’m most proud of the Customary Clothing Brand. I’ve said this over and over again for the last few months but I’m bored of women putting fit issues that are intrinsic to mass produced garments back onto their bodies. Your legs are not too long/short/fat/thin neither are your arms, your breasts, or your belly. The piece you’re trying to put on just wasn’t made specifically for you. It’s cool… you’re not less of a person because of it. Juliet told me once that her Mom would tell her “If it’s paid for and it runs, it’s a good car.” Well… same thing with your body. Customary is all about covering perfectly good bodies of all shapes and sizes in well fitting clothes that flatter.
E+E: What’s your favorite color and style at the moment?
Bree: I can’t get over nude and neon orange. I feel like it’s a fleeting love affair. Perhaps just a summer fling. But aren’t those some of the best and most passionate love affairs?
Juliet: I’ve had a thing for a color I’d call “sunken turquoise” lately. I’m also really into the flattering high-waist we have going on in some of our shorts, skirts, and pants this season – the rise should draw attention to the smallest part of your waist, camouflage any squiggly bits in the low belly, and be shaped to flatter your backside. Audrey Hepburn, yes; high-school babysitter, no.
E+E: Where do you see Customary Clothing in 5 years?
Bree: Who knows! Juliet and I are our own specific shades of Type-A Personalities so there’s no shortage of plans for Customary but I think it’s more important to stay relevant and true to ourselves. Fact of the matter is any interesting person, designer or not, fears stagnation and works toward personal growth. I don’t know who I’ll be in 5 years but I trust that I’ll have a good head on my shoulders and if I’m worth my salt… I’ll still have a fresh perspective on life that will translate into fashion.
We have no doubt these two will be worth their salt. Time to go get a fitting.
811 E Burnside #222
Hours: Thursday – Sunday 12-6pm