Friday, October 12, 2018

The Lost Story Of The Seamstress of Bloomsbury


Model: Greta Gardner
 Photographer: Helena Bromboszcz
I love brands with good quality designs. But I love it even more when that brand has a story behind it. It makes me feel like I'm wearing a part of history. When I found this brand called "The Seamstress Of Bloomsbury" not only was it the amazing photography and clothing that captured my eye but the story of how this shop came to be. Back in 1939, Lillian Wells (the original owner) started sewing at only age 14, though she had little to no education to her name and had to learn how to sew to get by.

Like many young women, she had dreams of meeting the love of her life to settle down and have children with. Sadly, that never happened. But she did leave a name for herself. Designing for Royalty and Aristocratic families from far and wide becoming widely known as "The Seamstress of Bloomsbury"  I spoke with Jack of The Seamstress of Bloomsbury to get to know more about her, the current owner Mike Stephens, and their amazing shop.

Lilian Wells, pinup life, The Seamstress of Bloomsbury, vintage women's headwear,
Lillian as a bridesmaid at a client's wedding she's on the far right.
Your about page really intrigued me can you tell me a little more about Miss Wells? How was she like? Miss Lilian Wells was generally known by her clients as 'The Seamstress of Bloomsbury'. She had a small workroom in Hamilton House in Bloomsbury, London, where she made beautiful dresses for wealthy women and their children. She was an amazingly creative woman with a thorough knowledge of all aspects of textiles and garment patterns and construction, and she shared this information throughout many years of friendship with Mike Stephens, the owner of the current 'Seamstress of Bloomsbury' brand. Mike used the Seamstress name as a tribute to her for all her expertise shared with him over the years."

Mabel Dress in navy floral click picture to buy.
 Model: Greta Gardner Photographer: Helena Bromboszcz
How was it like working with her? She was the most generous and lovely person, never too busy to answer questions or help with advice on garment patterns or construction. And thoroughly knowledgeable in where to source everything from specific buttons or fabrics or trimmings, and even knew many small garment manufacturers who were able to make specialist items."


Lilian Wells, pinup life, The Seamstress of Bloomsbury, vintage women's headwear,
Vanessa dress in red Click picture to buy
 photographer: Helena Bromboszcz
Models: Rockagirl and Greta Gardner
Now that her designs are passed down to him, what elements of your style or inspirations does he try to incorporate? "We have a very comprehensive collection of her original designs and patterns which we dutifully copy as closely as possible, incorporating the original Hooks/Eyes and little Press Stud fastenings wherever possible. The only major changes we make are to the size specifications (as we have no restriction on fabric etc) and women are generally a different shape today."

Lisa dress in pink click picture to buy.
photographer: Helena Bromboszcz Models:
 Rockagirl and Greta Gardner
Can you tell me a little bit about Mike's life and how it lead him to start designing? "Mike had no professional training but was fascinated by the fashion industry and was introduced to a small Greek-owned clothing factory near Old Street in London. This is where he met Lilian Wells who would visit the factory every Thursday afternoon to solve any technical production problems the factory may be experiencing. Mike was in awe of the creative design and technical knowledge Lilian shared and spent many Thursday afternoons at the factory learning the skills needed to develop a small range of his own clothing. After two years he put a collection together under the name of 'Sugar' and found an agent who sold them to Top Shop and several other major fashion retailers ... Mike was on his way, and eventually became a very major designer/supplier to Top Shop, Miss Selfridge, River Island, H & M, etc, etc."

Sweetheart dress in lilac pink click picture to buy.
photographer: Helena Bromboszcz Model: Rockagirl 
What eras or past designers inspire him, and why? "The 1940's was a glamorous era and the favorite of Lilian Wells, and also of Mike's parents and grandparents and this naturally inspired him too. The 1980's saw a resurgence of fashion interest in the 40's with designers such an Ossie Clark, Paul Polly, Stirling Cooper, Biba etc, etc developing beautiful 30's +40s inspired designs, and this also inspired Mike further.

Which one of her designs did he enjoy recreating the most and why? "The Dolly Dress, the original piece was made for a wealthy client from Paris (we presume she was called 'Dolly' as the pattern was marked with this name) and we made a very small quantity of these as the fabric had to be specially embroidered. We sold a beautiful pink one to a UK woman to wear on her wedding day, fabulous."

Click here to start shopping The Seamstress of Bloomsbury!
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