My Handmade Style: Katie from Little Red Squirrel

From vintage chic to clean modern shapes, how do these seamstresses create and communicate their own unique style in their projects? What and who inspires them, from film and music to everyday life. And what’s their dream outfit?

This week we’ve got a vintage style maven in the spotlight – Katie from Little Red Squirrel. I just discovered Katie’s blog late last year and wow – this lady is dedicated to creating truly gorgeous vintage looks. Plus she can rock  red lippy to the max. RESPECT. Katie – over to you.

Katie, I’d put you somewhere between a forties vixen and a fifties sweetheart with your fabulous vintage makes. But how would you sum up your handmade style?

Hi Joanne! Aw thanks, that’s really sweet of you! I must admit I am in a long-term love affair with forties and fifties fashion and the looks from both of these eras do influence my personal style very heavily. I make my clothes pretty much solely from vintage patterns and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I suppose I would say my handmade style is a nod towards the class and quality construction of a bygone age. People say “they don’t make clothes like that anymore”, but that’s what I endeavour to do!

Where do you find your style inspiration and how do you channel that into your me-made wardrobe?

I find inspiration for my clothes from all kinds of different sources. I am a big lover of film and television and find that watching certain things really influences what I want to wear! I went through a big Joan (from Mad Men) phase for a while – although I don’t really have the figure for her look! – and more recently I’ve fallen in love with the 1950s London look of Call the Midwife and Sienna Miller’s Tippi Hedren in The Girl. Can you tell that I’m a sucker for a costume drama?! I also find browsing online at sites like Pinterest can be very inspiring, or looking through old fashioned magazines or books from the eras that I love. If I find a look I like I’ll do my best to recreate it in my own way.

What’s your creative process in deciding what to make? Is it a fabric-based decision or a pattern that inspires you?

Mostly I start with the pattern before the fabric. Once I have an idea as to what it is that I want to make I set about finding a vintage pattern that is both suitable and the right size for me (or near enough so I can scale it up or down), then I’ll move on to my fabric choices.

Who are your style icons and why?

I have quite a few style icons; I admire the looks of classic starlets, for example Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, but I think the person who inspires me the most is Dita Von Teese. I adore Dita Von Teese’s style  because she made it beautiful and sexy to be pale and interesting, something that I’m thankful for! I also love that she dresses for every occasion, not because she’s obligated to but because she just loves beautiful clothes. She is glamorous because she chooses to be for her own pleasure, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.

Are there any particular designers or high street stores that you use for inspiration?

The designers that I draw the most inspiration from are Christian Dior at the time of the New Look (I mean who isn’t in love with that suit?) and Adolph Schuman’s label Lilli Ann, which created some of the most beautiful tailoring during the 40s and 50s. I was given my very own Lilli Ann suit as a Christmas present this year and I cannot tell you how beautiful it is, the construction details are just ridiculous! I cannot imagine how much time and effort was put into making such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Work like that inspires me to become a better seamstress!


Lilli Ann

If you had to select one self-stitched garment encapsulates your style – what would it be and why?

It would probably be the matching plaid cape and pencil skirt I made this year. It’s definitely the outfit that I’m most proud of at any rate! This outfit shows a lot about me, my love of vintage style, the new skills I have learned in tailoring and even my obsessive compulsive need to match patterns exactly! I love this outfit and all it’s details and it will definitely set the bar for all my future sewing projects. I just hope I can live up to it!

Why do you sew what you sew? Do you choose projects on a whim or do you look at your existing wardrobe and spot vital gaps to fill? 

During the past year I have pretty much just sewn what I wanted to sew because I didn’t have that much time on my hands for sewing projects as I was travelling a lot. I wanted to enjoy my limited sewing time so I allowed myself to just sew for pleasure rather than  convenience! However, this year I do think I will be looking to fill some of the gaps in my wardrobe, and there are a few!

Do you ever take risks and experiment with your look? What’s worked and what hasn’t?

I took a lot more risks when I started sewing my own clothes, I look back at some of my first ever projects and I wonder what was I thinking?! For example, during my first few months of sewing I made a crepe dress and a pendrell blouse both of which are great patterns but neither of which suit me at all! They have long since been removed from circulation in my wardrobe. It has taken me a long time to develop my personal style – my current look took some work! – and now that I’ve found it I don’t really stray from it. But that’s not to say that in another five to ten years I won’t go through another drastic change!

There are certain looks some of us just can’t pull off… do you have a style bugbear?

I do not have the legs for leggings/jeggings or any kind of skin tight, lycra-esque leg coverings! And also I can’t see myself sewing up a mini-skirt any time soon! I’ve gotten too used to the length of the skirts of the forties and fifties!

What would be your dream outfit, existing or otherwise?

That’s a hard choice, there are so many outfits I’d love to call my own… Well, if I have to pick it would probably be Grace Kelly’s iconic dress from “Rear Window”, a stunning dress from an even better film. Or maybe Jessica Rabbit’s sequined number, just for fun!

Grace Kelly

What other sewing bloggers would you recommend for great individual style?

That’s another hard one, because I read so many blogs! Seriously, I have hundreds on my feed reader, I’m a bit of a blog addict! At the moment I would say that my top bloggers for great individual style would be Pia of for her effortless beauty, Cassie of for her fabulous individuality, Tasha from for her incredible knitting projects and both Johanna of and Emma of for channeling such exquisite vintage loveliness.

Finally, what’s on your sewing table right now?

I’m so excited about the sewing I have planned for 2013, I have a lot of fun, new projects up my sleeve! My first project for the New Year is going to be my first ever pair of self-sewn trousers, something I have been wanting to do forever. Hopefully they won’t be too difficult, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see!

(Ed – 2013 update! Katie did make those trews and here they are! Marvellous – yes?)

Thank you so much for inviting me to take part in your “My Handmade Style” series, Joanne! It’s been a real pleasure.

Why thank you Katie for taking part and letting us have a peek at your stunning vintage wardrobe, as well as introducing us to some amazing new blogs.