Browsing etsy for 1950s prom dresses, as I am wont to do in a rainy lunch break, I came across Dig for Victory, a shop selling the most amazing vintage-style dresses custom made from vintage fabrics. Sustainable and gorgeous! Eleanor, the designer behind Dig for Victory, kindly agreed to answer some questions:
Do you want to tell me a bit about yourself and your background? How did you come to be a designer?
I’ve always loved dressing up and I’ve always tried to make my own clothes, but untill I bought an old book on pattern cutting five years ago I hadn’t had much success! I taught myself from that book and found a great sense of freedom in pattern cutting in that if I could imagine something – a dress that I’d never seen anywhere else – then with a bit of trial and error I could actually make it. I was studying philosophy and at first I just made clothes for myself but I found that I really loved having something physical to show for my labours and in 2007 I set up Dig For Victory.
Do you have a particular person in mind when you design the dresses? I’m asking because your designs are quite different from each other – some of them are very authentically vintage looking, while others are using the vintage elements in a much more contemporary and playful way.
I think the different styles come from designing in and for different moods – as everyone has times when they’re feeling playful and want to wear something fun and times when they’d rather feel elegant and grown up. I actually started out making clothes for myself to wear when performing with my band, The Bobby McGee’s, and so I began with the more theatrical stuff – the cartoon print romper suits and harlequin dresses. Then after a while it occured to me that, while I loved wearing those outfits on stage and on nights out, during the day I was still wearing vintage dresses from charity shops, so I thought, what if I could make the perfect vintage dress? The one that I was always looking for in the charity shops but could never find…
I love the fabric cupboard section of your website! How do you manage to find such amazing fabrics in such quantities? What’s the best batch you ever found?
I think I’m just very lucky with the fabrics. I tend to meet people selling vintage fabric at markets and car boot sales and I get very excited and tell them about Dig For Victory and they say, ‘well… I actually have a whole warehouse/garage/attik full of this stuff’, and I go round and find the most amazing things. Just this weekend I met a lovely man in Brighton who had 8 rolls of original 1950’s silk taffeta, in olive greens and golds, still on the roll, that has somehow survived for 50 years unblemished. I’m very excited and also a bit nervous to start sewing with that. The stuff on the website is only a fraction of all the fabric I’ve collected over the years so come and visit my studio in Brighton if you want to see more!
What are your plans for the future? what do you hope to be/do in ten years time?
I’m currently looking for a shop/studio space in Brighton where I can work but also where I can be open to the public, so people can come in and browse and try the dresses on but also see how they’re made and make custom orders. The internet is an amazing thing for small businesses, particularly sites like etsy and dawanda, but there’s also nothing quite like going into a boutique and feeling the ambience and trying the clothes on in person, and so I don’t know whether in ten years I want to have my own shop in Brighton or be living in a little cottage somewhere beautiful and just selling online!
What are your current favourite independent designers, etsy sellers, artists or craftspeople etc?
There are some amazing artists and print makers on etsy, I particularly love the animal illustrations by ‘spinster summer’ on etsy and the ‘Being and Tim’ cartoons by Rebecca Dyer (http://www.beingandtim.com/). I would love to collarborate with an artist and have fabric printed up with illustrations like these for a special collection one day. My mum also makes really cool jewellery from recycled childrens toys – wooden jigsaw puzzles and dominoes – and I am trying to get her to set up an etsy shop but she is a technophobe!
This has got nothing to do with the dresses, but I see from your etsy profile that you are in a band. I thought this might be a good opportunity for you to plug them as well!
I think I already plugged my band a little! But we’re great – check out our myspace: http://www.myspace.com/thebobbymcgees
Dig for Victory is UK-based, and as well as the etsy shop, there’s a website, which charges in pounds sterling and has a larger selection of styles, including some fun contemporary party dresses and romper suits. But it’s really the prom dresses that do it for me. I’m almost decided I’m going to get one, probably for my birthday in June, but I love all the shapes, I can’t actually decide which one I want most!
Which is your favourite?