BEATRIX ROBERTS / BEATRIX MAKES CLOTHES
Emma Kendall: Interviewer, Writer
Beatrix Roberts: Interviewee
Beatrix Roberts (‘22) started making clothes at an early age. After a brief hiatus, she is back on the sewing grind, showing off her handmade pieces on her Instagram - @beatrixmakesclothes. I sat down with Beatrix who freely shared her thoughts on personal style, fast fashion, and her creative process.
Why don't you just start by introducing yourself and then talking about how you got into making your own clothes?
So, my name is Beatrix. I use she/her pronouns. I grew up in New York but also in Austin, Texas, so I’m kind of from both places. I got into making my own clothes when I was pretty young. I learned how to sew when I was in elementary school; my grandma taught me how to sew with a needle and thread and we would make things together. It was something we did together super often. It was a lot of fun. When I was in middle school, I got really into sewing and specifically fashion design--I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up. I was obsessed with Project Runway, I had a whole sketchbook of all of my designs, I got my first sewing machine and I was making crazy clothes all the time. I made a dress out of laminated book pages, a dress out of duct tape. I was really working with whatever random materials I could get my hands on and just making clothes.
Then, by eighth grade I was really into dance and that was taking up all of my time. So for a while, I wasn’t sewing at all. I would occasionally alter things but I really wasn't making clothes and this past summer over quarantine I got back into it. I just had a lot of time. I found some old fabric in my garage and I was like, okay, I'm gonna pick up sewing again. And I’ve really gotten back into it and have been sewing a ton since--and I don't plan on stopping.
Where do you find inspiration for the clothes you make?
Honestly, I mostly find inspiration from Pinterest--which is kind of embarrassing. And also from fabric; a lot of my ideas come from looking for fabric. I feel like it usually goes that way rather than like, ‘Oh, I want to make this thing, let me look for a fabric that would be good for it.’ So that's where a lot of my inspiration comes from: going to the fabric store or browsing online and seeing a cool print and being like, ‘This would look great as a dress.’ One thing that's really nice about making your own clothes is that I can kind of figure out what works for me and what feels good.
What do your future fashion endeavors look like?
I would really love to sell clothes. It would be so fun to see my work on other people. That would be amazing. I am just not ready for that yet. Something I've learned through making my own clothes is that it's pretty time-consuming and honestly pretty expensive labor-wise. When I'm making clothes for myself, I'm investing in myself. But in order to charge a fair amount, my clothes would end up being pretty expensive, especially because I'm just one person. I don't have the set up of a business. But also, in this era of fast fashion, we're so accustomed to paying so little for clothing--obviously the issue of fast fashion is really complicated. But I would have to charge an amount that I wouldn't be comfortable with right now. One day when maybe I’m more professional and I have a little more expertise under my belt, I would really love to sell clothing. I just got some new fabric from Joanne's yesterday. I have a whole list of projects that I'm crossing off my checklist. So for now my future endeavors are to keep sewing, keep learning, watching YouTube tutorials, figuring things out, trial and error, and just growing as a sewer in that way.
What inspired you to start posting about your clothes?
My best friend Annabel also sews and we took a sewing class together when we were in sixth grade and she made an Instagram account for all of her creations. So that was really what inspired me. I was like, I love seeing her work, I want to get in on that too. And honestly, having a sewing Instagram has been so informative because I follow a lot of other people who sew, so I can post on my story and be like, does anyone know where I can find fabric like this? Or does anyone know what kind of seam would be best for this project? Or just random questions like that. People are always posting their journeys with different projects. And I've found great patterns through that and great tips. On the one hand, it's really fun to share my clothes for the world to see. But also it's been really exciting to engage with a community of people who sew and learn a lot from them, which I didn't expect.
Is there a favorite thing you've made?
I have these pants; they're on my Instagram. They're white canvas pants with black flowers painted on them. And that's my favorite make right now just because that's one of the first things I've made using a pattern. I usually make my own patterns. I'm so impatient when I'm sewing. So I really like to make things up as I go. But with these, I really took the time and used a pattern. I learned how to do a button fly for the top, which is definitely something I need to work on and learn how to do better. But it was a pretty good first attempt. So it feels like those were big girl pants. I'm proud of those. I put a lot into them and I'm excited to have learned a whole new style of pants that I can now make.
What's a go-to outfit for you?
I'm really all about being comfortable. I have always hated jeans actually. I also am a dancer and so often in a day we'll have class and then dance class and be running around. I've been really into yoga pants recently. I'm so glad that they're coming back. They're so comfortable. I just made some new, funky pairs. So a go-to outfit for me is a funky pair of pants that aren't jeans and then a plain crop top of some sort. I am always wearing crop tops, even when it's winter. My friends really make fun of me for it. But that's definitely my go-to. Comfortable is always something I'm looking for.
You talked a little about fast fashion earlier. Has that influenced the way you think about making clothes and your viewpoint on fashion?
Yeah, definitely. I'm still really educating myself on fast fashion and it is a really nuanced issue, certainly. But something that's really wonderful about being able to make my own clothes is that I can see something that is fast fashion online and I can make that for myself, which is definitely a privilege that I have. I feel really lucky to have a sewing machine and access to fabric and the resources to do that for myself. But it also does feel really good that I'm able to be more sustainable in that way. I'm not perfect--I certainly do have fast fashion and it's something I'm really trying to cut down on, but making my own clothes definitely does help with that because I'm able to find things that I love and not have to pay a lot of money. It is more accessible to me because I have the skills, and the tools, and the access to do that.
What is one of your best fashion memories?
When I was in sixth grade, I had a friend named Patina and she and I every weekend would have a sleepover and make clothes together. And she had a dress form which I thought was the coolest thing in the world. I was so jealous. She had this super nice, fancy dress form and a really nice sewing machine. I would go over to her house and we would pick out whatever random fabric we could find and stay up the whole entire night and make a dress. And every morning we would have a crazy creation. This was our routine. Those are memories that I really cherish and think about now making clothes. It's something I've always loved to do and has always felt like a very communal activity. Even now, one of my housemates sews too, and so we will have craft nights where we make clothes together.
Last question: what does fashion and making your own clothes mean to you?
For me, it's really about empowerment and feeling good in the clothes that you're wearing. Something that I love so much about making my own clothes is that it's so customizable and I can make things that really feel right to me. Over the years, I’ve been really trying to focus on wearing clothes that make me feel good, which sounds so intuitive, but it's really not always that intuitive and I find myself buying and wearing things that don't feel good or don't feel comfortable or that I don't feel confident in.
So, fashion and making my own clothes is really trying to figure out what my personal style is, but also comfort level and what physically feels good on my body and makes me feel good. And that is always changing and growing for me. I don't have one definitive style, I'm always changing it a little bit and growing with the new things I'm making. But it’s definitely about finding clothes and making clothes that fit and feel good and make me feel confident and empowered.