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Day Four: Old School Couture and Fried Plantains

Day Four: Old School Couture and Fried Plantains

Today, 10 a.m., London — After a ten-month hiatus, I was finally able to sit down in a proper sewing studio with my beloved Juki’s long lost British cousin. I bathed in the silky glow that the ivory in-work wedding gown left on my hungry fingers and delighted in every tiny stitch. 

My new friends, Appa, Nyleeta, and Tina and I took turns sharing our Harrods research with Lucy Tammam (our boss), with wide eyes and enthusiastic hand motions. 

But the excitement did not stop there.

At 11:30 the door swung open to reveal a petite woman with smiling eyes and the grace of an actress. Nan has recently been cast for a major production in Australia that will come with several red carpet events, leaving her in need of some Tammam magic. 

Lucy had us girls stand by and take note of her dress fitting/consultation process. 

“We’re doing this old school couture,” she said. She took some pins from between her lips to tighten a sample dress Nan had tried on. “The way it should be done, really.” 

Here’s how it went:

  1. Client tries on sample gowns to see colors/styles that work for her
  2. Lucy comes up with a sketch
  3. Together they select the fabric
  4. Measurements are taken
  5. A quote is given
  6. A hand shake to finish!

After we’d tidied the storefront from the fitting extravaganza, Appa got to work translating Nan’s measurements into a pattern “perfect block.” I watched from my own project — covering lipstick stains on a sample dress with lace flowers — as Appa created a base pattern, similar to a common T-shirt pattern, that can later be manipulated for the design that was chosen. 

I had a hard time focusing on my own work beach everything going on around me was just so exciting! 

Of course there was Appa, crunching numbers and splicing darts, but the other two girls were to my right designing a social media plan, talking colors and themes like they were building the perfect party. Behind me was Lucy’s associate, Nanna, who has a business preparing vintage clothing, was hard at work on a metallic 1930’s evening gown. 

We worked quietly, with concentrated billows of steam rolling out our ears as we contemplated our tasks, but at lunch the four of us girls sat at a picnic table outside a small cafe and laughed like children. 

Every Thursday Lucy teaches a drawing class in her studio after it closes at six p.m. She invited the interns to come free of charge, and even provided drawing materials for us. 

She made us start by drawing our own hand. I don’t know about you, but I would rather kill a spider with my index finger than draw a hand. They are terrifying! I also have a pretty strong fear of making art in front of people, and ended up with something that bore a stronger resemblance to a spider than anything else, but everyone was habit such a good time it didn’t matter. I attempted a few more arachnid hands and then we moved on to some quick portraits and finished with an intro to fashion illustration. 

On the way home, I met a woman on the train who was gearing up to go to New York next week. We exchanged must-see attractions from our home cities and I arrived home around 9:30 p.m. with some spidery drawings, a London to-do list, and some very tired eyes. 

Grima’s tenant, my new Ecuadorian grandmother, had a fried plantain with cojita cheese waiting for me, which may have well been the most magical part of my entire day. 

I cant begin to express how thankful I am to Grima and her Family for hosting me and allowing me to experience this great opportunity. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Day Six: Tourists -- To Be or Not to Be?

Day Six: Tourists -- To Be or Not to Be?

Day Two: A Secret Mission and 4,000 Dresses

Day Two: A Secret Mission and 4,000 Dresses