How Claire Walker and Hannah Essex joined forces to ensure they could have it all
10 Minutes with Lydia Higginson
Lydia Higginson talks being on tour with her best friends, finding herself in fashion, and why sewing has blown up in 2020
When I first spotted Lydia Higginson on Instagram, the first thing that caught my eye was her incredible hair and infectious grin.
The second was a pair of apron dungarees, the sort of dungarees that can be dressed up, or down. And, as someone who works from home, they are the ideal blend of dressed and not-quite dressed. I scoured the photo looking for a tagged brand, and then I saw the comments. Like everything else in Lydia’s wardrobe, she made them. And, like everyone else commenting on her style, I wasn’t the only person who was impressed.
The more I read about her, the more I was intrigued by her talent and her story.
This week, I was lucky enough to grab a (virtual) coffee with Lydia and talk through her brand, ‘Made My Wardrobe’, as well as her productions and predictions for the future.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did the project start?
Back in 2016, I was feeling completely disconnected from my body, and I think my clothes were a part of that. So, I decided that by the end of the year, I would give away my entire wardrobe, and, throughout the year, I’d re-make everything in it.
I just couldn’t imagine going into a shop now!
I’ll add that I knew how to sew a little bit! My mum had shown me the basics, and I worked as a costume apprentice. But, honestly, there were so many things I had no idea how to make. I didn’t even know where to start. So, I just started with one garment and moved on to the next. By the end of the year, I’d made close to 70 garments. Each one has a story behind it… how I sourced the fabric, the work I put into making it. I just couldn’t imagine going into a shop now!
Did this help with rebuilding that connection with your body?
It did! I started to really integrate what my body wanted. Do I want to feel warm and cozy? Or maybe lighter and breezy? I really focused on what would feel good. Comfort was a huge factor and the biggest part of my design process.
There’s been a huge surge of interest in sewing and ethically made clothes. Any thoughts on what’s behind it?
I’d say that it’s a combination of things. Firstly, there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the clothes available on the high street, from fit to shape. Also, the process of shopping just isn’t that fun for a lot of us. You know? Going into a changing room, getting undressed under unflattering lights, etc.
I think the other element is the ‘making’ community. Before Instagram, I don’t think makers were aware of this huge community of womxn making clothes, but, now, whenever I make anything, there’s a room full of people cheering me on! We love celebrating each other’s wins. There’s a big sense of support there. If I’m not sure how to make something, there’s someone that knows how.
Let’s talk about the Dressed tour, were you surprised by the reaction?
If I’m being honest, we were blown away by the response.
I created the show with my three of my best friends, so it was a very personal creation. I worried it would be like one big in-joke that the audience wouldn’t get. But, after a few scratch performances, we found that audiences really understood the heart of the production.
How did you come up with the show?
Well, we knew that we wanted to do a project together about female friendship and support. We knew there weren’t enough true depictions of female friendship on stage and that was the starting point.
Originally, we didn’t think it would be about us. But, as we were talking through ideas, it became apparent that telling our stories was the right way to go. We spent a lot of time researching and developing and were led by the process. Our friendship always came first. If that meant that something wasn’t right, we’d address it.
What did you love most about the dressed tour?
Easy. Being on tour with my three best friends.
Did you prefer working on something like Dressed, or Made My Wardrobe?
They’re both so different. I hope I’ll always do a bit of a combo, but lockdown has really given me the time to focus on Made My Wardrobe. It’s one of the only things we can all do at home, so there’s been this huge rise in sewing! We’ve just started doing some sew-along workshops to help others build their skills.
What we can expect next?
Well, half of my work is still in creating costumes for theatre. It’s been heartbreaking to see what’s happened to the theatre industry during lockdown, but I hope it bounces back in some way. There are so many skilled humans unable to do what they love.
The rest of it? I have no idea. I was so overstretched with Made My Wardrobe that I put out two job adverts and ended up with some of the most amazing candidates. They all have slightly different skills, from years of experience sewing to completely new to it.
We’ve also got four new patterns launching: a tracksuit, jumpsuit, sports bra and leggings. We’re also working on creating more sewing kits. Next year, I’m hoping to run a sewing retreat where you’ll go away for a week and make your entire wardrobe, from shoemaking to jewelry-making to sewing. The full immersive experience.
Lastly, can you leave us with some sewing tips?
Attending an online workshop is great! While they’re not possible now, an in-person workshop is also ideal.
The other thing is asking someone who has some experience using a sewing machine. Once you’ve mastered threading your bobbin, everything else is easier!