Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mary's Vinyl Bag History

A tip to anyone that might want to try sewing vinyl bags: 
you need a special Teflon foot and feed dogs... otherwise 
you might go insane!!
 Besides making dresses, I spent a lot of my time in the 80s and 90s designing and producing make-up bags and vinyl accessories. I've literally made hundreds, if not thousands, of these bags. It all started in Portland, OR, when a friend of mine who was a stylist suggested I make cases for make-up artists to keep their brushes organized. One thing lead to another and before I knew it I had a little business! I designed and produced vinyl accessories for local hair and make-up salons, boutiques and departments stores like Nordstrom, Henri Bendel and Barneys.

My studio was piled high with
bags in all shapes and sizes.

We always tried to do things ourselves back then. I kept my distance from the garment district, which was like another world (and not a particularly friendly one at that!) We made our own way- I would hire my friends from the neighborhood who were good seamstresses. We worked for days on end- long hours and late nights. Chinese take-out, rice and beans, and lots of cafe con leche! It's easy to romanticize the scene now, but the bags weren't easy to make and the vinyl fabric is hard to work with- it 's a tug-of-war. As I recall, by the end, I  always had one really stiff neck! I still like to make a limited edition of bags every year.

My first studio in Manhattan on Eldridge and Stanton - 1984                                                                                               We found this huge blackboard on the street in perfect shape. It was great to write orders on. I borrowed a portable Singer sewing machine from my friend since I didn't bring one with me. I really have to hand it to those old Singers!! I made tons of stuff on that little thing until I got my own industrial machine a year later, also a Singer and old even when I bought it. Believe it or not, I'm still sewing on the same industrial machine today!
Red plaid taffeta, black and white polka dots, 
stripes- a new fabric for every season! I used 
whatever I could find that was unique. Sometimes,
I would enhance the fabric myself by quilting 
it or having different bias tapes made.
 Make-Up Cases - 1982
It all started with these. The first store I sold them to was
"Faces" in Portland. I used polished cotton and covered the
inside with clear plastic.
I ran across this shop one day on a 
deserted street near Eldridge and Grand.
The owner let me pilfer through his old stuff
while he reminisced. The indistinguishable
old shops in the Lower East Side were a
great treasure hunt back then.
This is part of an advertisement for 
my plaid bags that appeared in 
Seventeen magazine.

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