Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: An Interview with Sarah from Ohhh Lulu!

Winter Undies
Today I am so pleased to announce that Ashley and I have an interview with Sarah, the mastermind behind Ohhh Lulu. If you're not familiar with Ohhh Lulu, you're in for a real treat!

I started following Ohhh Lulu last year when she hosted a sewalong for the Ginger Bodysuit. I did not partake in it because it has taken me a year and lots of lurking to get comfortable sewing lingerie (and posing in it!) - and now I get to interview Sarah as well! I'm one lucky lady.

The lovely Sarah of Ohhh Lulu
Ohhh Lulu lingerie is a line I've long admired. Her lingerie is delicate, classy with a retro vibe, and also a bit modern. She creates the most beautiful lingerie, but she also sells some of her sewing patterns for those of us who like to attempt it ourselves.

For a bit of background: Sarah focused on Evening Wear and Foundation Garments at George Brown College's Fashion Techniques and Design Program in Toronto. After moving back home for the man of her dreams, she rediscovered her sewing machine and Ohhh Lulu was born. (This sounds a bit like a movie, no?)

In honor of the Show Off Your Skivvies Challenge, Ashley and I asked Sarah all about her process of designing lingerie, tips and tricks for sewing it, and, of course, how she chooses her models.

What made you decide to start designing and sewing lingerie? 
For me, sewing lingerie is a way to incorporate details like ruffles, rosettes, bows, and delicate fabrics onto wearable pieces. I also have always loved having a well-stocked underwear drawer! I started sewing just for myself, then created my line.
Set of Three Nautical Hipster Panties for your Inner Pin-Up Handmade to Order by Ohhh Lulu
Set of 3 Nautical Hipster Panties
Your collections definitely have a distinctive aesthetic. Do you design with a specific fabric in mind or do you design for a certain look and then find fabric to complement that? 
Normally, I will find one fabric that just speaks to me. Then I start pulling other fabrics to complement it. Once I have some fabric combinations that I like and that I am excited about, the garments just come naturally. I have always loved fabric and have been fortunate to work in the textile industry, which has given me a love for fine fabrics and great prints. 
Your designs are accessible and wearable. Is comfort something you think about when designing a new garment? 
Absolutely - when I started Ohhh Lulu, I wanted to provide handmade lingerie that was at a price-point that was accessible to most women. I think great, ethical fashion should be available to everyone! I also like to design pieces that are nice enough to save for a special occasion, but that also can find their way into your every day wardrobe. 
Could you describe the process of designing and releasing new patterns and garments? What’s the best part of the designing and sewing process? 
Preparing a new pattern can be a very long process for me, and one that is ongoing! I consider myself a designer first, seamstress second, and pattern maker third, so patterns tend to take me the longest. I like to keep my pattern styles fairly simple - minimal lines, and easy to sew. 
Once I have the pattern drafted, I test sew the different size grades to check the fit. I then scan my hand drafted patterns into the computer and create a digital version. I then print my digitized copy, and sew each size again, this time photographing as I go so that I can use the images in the instruction. Of course, along the way, I make small revisions and edits to the pattern. 
Designing new garments is my favourite part of what I do. I love fabric shopping, and finding unique colour and print combinations. I am not a skilled illustrator and find that I am better just cutting into my fabric and sewing as the inspiration hits. I like to keep most of the style lines in a collection fairly simple, and add a few specialty pieces, like my new cropped camisoles, or a pair of ornately ruffled panties. 
Once I have sewn samples and chosen the sets that make the cut, I photograph each piece and send samples to photographers. After all of the photos have been edited, I work on writing descriptions - the writing process is actually something I really love! 
What sorts of things do you consider when developing a new pattern? 
Ohhh Lulu 1305 Sophia Ruched Bikini Panties Multi-size Digital PDF Sewing Pattern
Sophia Panties
When I am choosing patterns for release as sew-at-home patterns, I consider the difficulty level. When I am sewing for myself for fun, I generally choose patterns that are relatively quick and easy to sew, but have high impact. 
For me, sewing is something that should be fun, so I like to create patterns that are quick and easy for most sewers. When I am creating patterns for new garments, I also take into account how I will feel sewing that particular style over, and over, and over again! 
What made you decide to release at-home sewing patterns for some of your designs? 
I had been getting a lot of requests from other sewing-enthusiasts through my blog. I really love sewing lingerie, it is something I absolutely enjoy doing, and I wanted to share that with others. My patterns are simple and easy to manipulate, and a great start for anyone who wants to try their hand at lingerie-making.
Ohhh Lulu The Ginger Body Suit and Separates PDF Sewing Pattern
Ginger Bodysuit
How did you come up with the Ginger swimsuit/bodysuit? 
I wanted to make a one piece bodysuit with a really retro vibe. I based it off a basic leotard sloper, and added some bust shaping. It is a pattern that is pretty easy to sew, and looks great as a two piece! 
Any tips or tricks for the beginner who is just learning to sew her own lingerie? 
Start with easy to work with fabrics - that's how I started. Pick up some vintage sewing patterns that will work with cottons and non stretch fabrics. This will let you get a hang of applying elastic, and working with bias cuts... From there, move on to knits and more difficult to work with fabrics. 
Although most of your models are thin, none of them seem to have “unrealistic” bodies, and your photoshoots are never oversexualized or obviously airbrushed (like many commercial lingerie shoots). Is relatability something you look for in a model and a shoot, and how do you choose your models? 
Vintage Style 'Hollyhock' Peach Linen Cropped Camisole with Crocheted Lace
Cropped Camisole with Crocheted Lace
This is something that is really important for me. I have been very fortunate to work with some young, talented photographers who have helped me capture the look I am going for with Ohhh Lulu. I definitely want women to be able to easily envision themselves in the garments. 
Being a petite lady myself, I have focused on smaller sizes as buying off the rack didn't always work for my body, but I also recognize that there is a great demand for more range in sizing at the other end of the spectrum. As my business grows, I hope to offer a larger range in size and reflect that through the models I use as well. 
It always makes me laugh, because when I am designing a garment "sexy" is rarely a word that comes into my mind, which seems counterproductive for a lingerie designer. I think, "beautiful, elegant, feminine, romantic..." I design things that I would like to wear, that I would like to show off, and that I would feel great in. I think that sense of confidence that comes along with that is really what is sexy. 

Isn't she wonderful and so inspiring? After reading her responses, I feel like whipping up a couple of bras will be no problem at all!

I hope you feel the same way because Sarah has generously given all us skivvy sewers 15% off her Etsy shop for the rest of the month! Use coupon code ShowOff2013 and make and show off some more skivvies!

I’m turning the Ginger bodysuit into a bikini - so hopefully I’ll have that done soon! Are you as inspired as I am? Have you made anything from Ohhh Lulu before?


  1. I am so excited to make my first Ohhh Lulu piece for the challenge, thanks for the discount! I just love the whole design of this line, it's really cool to hear more about it from Sarah herself. I never thought I would want to/could sew lingerie myself before I learned about this particular line from your posts.

  2. Great interview! I had not heard of Ohh Lulu and love her retro looking and good coverage lingerie patterns. How nice that we get 15% off!