Friday, July 1, 2016

Scheduled Boutique Closures for Summer & Fall

Dark Garden 2016 Collection
feature bespoke corsetry & couture
Models: Sarah, Lindsay, Stefi
Photo © Shoot That Klown Photography

We hope you've been having a delightful summer! From Pride to Fourth of July to our upcoming Rummage Sale, there's no end to the special occasions this time of year. Our boutique will be closed for the following events this summer.

Boutique Closures, Summer/Fall 2016

  • Monday, July 4th – Independence Day
  • Sunday, September 18th – Urban Air Market
You're welcome to stop in and see us during regular business hours any other day! That's Sunday through Wednesday, 11am to 5pm; Thursday, 11am to 6pm; and Friday & Saturday, 11:30am to 6:30pm.

Pop Antique with Dark Garden "Madame Gibson" corset
Hair color & styling by Katey McKee, Glama-Rama
Photo © Alyxander Ryan

Cheers,
Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere
Read More

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Update: Annual Rummage Sale!

Our Annual Rummage Sale is just around the corner, and we've got some exciting updates! In 2016, we're livening up the sale with a party atmosphere featuring prizes, giveaways and of course a hydration station to help you beat the heat. We've expanded our raffle, marked down some sexy styles, and, best yet, have a new approach to that infamous 'round-the-block line to get in. You won't want to miss this one, and it'll be easier than ever to get in and shop to your heart's content. Come and get it on July 17, 2016, only at 321 Linden St., San Francisco!

Dollymop for Dark Garden couture ensemble
Model: Lindsay | Photo © Shoot That Klown Photography
The biggest news of all is our line management system! No more lining up at 5am (unless you really want to). Instead, simply sign up for the time you'd like to come via EventBrite. We recommend you show up about 15-20 minutes early. We'll check you in on the guest list and do a preliminary sizing in line before showing you inside with the rest of your group. We also have a Premium Early Access Pass for a mere $25. A limited number of lucky patrons will get first chance at this year's selection, from 10am to 11am.

The line from the 2015 Rummage Sale,
stretching all the way down Linden St.
via @DarkGardenCorsetry on Instagram


You can also buy raffle tickets while you're getting sized outside. This year's raffle will feature not just a gorgeous bespoke corset, but also two tiers of runner-up prizes: a MTO Signature Collection corset, and one of our amazing new Waspie Belts. Prize availability is based on the number of tickets sold, so to sweeten the pot we've got a fun giveaway for all patrons who buy at least 5 raffle tickets. Raffle tickets are only $5 each!

Dark Garden Signature Collection Cincher
styled with lingerie by Dita Von Teese
Model: Euphrates X | Photo © Joel Aron
Speaking of deals, all Dita Von Teese lingerie will be 30% off! Every purchase of Dita Von Teese lingerie will get you a beautiful Dita Von Teese photo card. Spend at least $200 to receive an autographed photo card – but act quickly, we only have 6 of them left! We have knickers, half-slips, and suspender belts in European sizes 8-18, but we're down to our last few in size 10 (size small), and just one 20 and 22. As I write this, we have between 1 and 4 bras left for sizes 32A-C, 32E, 34B-D, and 36B-C. If you don't want to take your chances waiting for the discount and hoping your size doesn't sell out, come in today and play dress up with us!


One of last year's Rummage Sale scores –
Dark Garden limited edition Sweetheart corset
Model Edie Eve | Photo © Isaac Suttell
via @edieeve on Instagram
Don't forget, if you have a Dark Garden corset you'd like to sell at our Rummage Sale, you can bring your consignment corsets in from now until July 3rd. Email boutique@darkgarden.com if you have any questions about corset consignment.

We'll see you there!

Dark Garden limited edition Sweetheart
Photo © Chris Gaede
~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere
Read More

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Private Fitting Clinic with Autumn Adamme!

Dark Garden's proprietress and lead designer,
Autumn Adamme, in a bespoke corset dress
made from upcycled men's shirt and tie
We're currently putting together a syllabus for sewing-related classes. This launches an exciting development for us, showcasing our strength: creating beautifully fit and well-constructed handmade garments in the heart of San Francisco. More will be revealed in the future! In the meantime, we invite you to schedule an appointment for one-on-one fitting and sewing advice with our founder, Autumn Adamme.
Autumn fitting, draping, and hand-finishing a couture bridal ensemble
What kinds of projects can Autumn help you tackle? How about...

  • A garment in-progress
  • A mockup that you've started, but can't muster the courage to go forward with
  • A hard-to-fit client for your personal sewing business
  • Cutting for stripe and plaid matching
  • Fine finishing and embellishment techniques
Autumn's process for hand-placed and -finished textural overlay.
While this is a new service at Dark Garden, Autumn is no stranger to teaching. She's done several very successful workshops at the iconic Britex fabrics, and has both taught at and been keynote speaker for the Oxford Conference of Corsetry. Appointments are available in 1/2 hour increments up to 2 hours. The rate is $85 per hour, or $50 per half hour. Please email boutique@darkgarden.com to schedule, or call the boutique at 415-431-7684.

~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere
Read More

Annual Corset Rummage Sale, July 17

Bespoke High-Back Dollymop Corset
Model: Victoria Dagger
Photo © Alyxander Ryan
The curviest event of the year is nearly upon us! Join Dark Garden on July 17th for our annual rummage sale, our biggest single-day event. Savvy shoppers line up on Linden St. before we open to get first dibs on a selection of archive, unworn bespoke samples, and gently loved pre-owned corsets, as well as discounted stock corsets, clothing, accessories, and studio odds and ends.

Dark Garden Annual Rummage Sale
Sunday, July 17, 11am-6pm
Dark Garden Unique Corsetry
321 Linden St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-431-7684

Signature Collection Corselette
Model: Autumn Adamme
Photo © Joel Aron
Here's what you can expect to find in the way of corsets at our rummage sale:
  • Corset raffle! A single $5 ticket could win you a made-to-order corset from our Signature Collection
  • Unworn bespoke sample corsets, deeply discounted from their list price
  • Pre-loved corsets, sold on consignment from their previous owners
  • 10% discount on in-stock corsets
  • Deeper discounts on select in-stock corsets
  • Fashion show & archive corsets and ensembles
Beyond the corsets, our Rummage Sale also features:
  • Last-season garments and accessories on sale
  • Fabric remnants from the studio
  • Vintage patterns
  • All manner of miscellany
Bespoke Adelaide corset
via @darkgardencorsetry on Instagram
If you've outgrown - or outshrunk - your old Dark Garden corsets, bring them in between June 3rd and July 3rd to be assessed for consignment. You can opt to get cash or Dark Garden store credit if your corset sells at the rummage sale. Corsets must be dry cleaned and in good condition to be eligible; only Dark Garden corsets can be sold at our rummage sale. Please email boutique@darkgarden.com with, "Rummage sale consignment," in the subject line to make arrangements for consigning your Dark Garden corset.

Thank you for making last year's Rummage Sale such a resounding and joyous success. Please RSVP to this year's event on Facebook and share it with your friends - the rummage sale is a crazy day, and it's also an absolute blast. We'll see you there!

Dollymop Lancer Corset
Photo © Joel Aron
~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere
Read More

Friday, April 1, 2016

New Spring Hours & Scheduled Closures

Dark Garden Valentine corset with wrap bolero.
Designed by Autumn Adamme for our Spring 2016 collection.
Photo © Shoot That Klown Photography
Our Hayes Valley boutique has newly updated our store hours for spring. Beginning this week, our retail location at 437 Linden St., San Francisco will be open for business during the following times. Of course, you can shop online 24/7 at www.darkgarden.com!

Sunday through Wednesday: 11am to 5pm
Thursday: 11am to 6pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am to 6:30pm

In addition to these new hours, we have two scheduled closures coming up. The Dark Garden boutique will not be open on Wednesday, 4/13, and Sunday, 5/1. We invite you to explore Hayes Valley during Urban Air Market on May 1st, and return to visit us during our normal business hours another day.

Bespoke High Back Dollymop Overbust with Sleeves
Photo © John Carey

~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere
Read More

Monday, March 28, 2016

Couture Corsetry Techniques: Flossing

Here at Dark Garden, we are all about the details. As well as our exquisitely pattern matched brocades and hand-pieced lace appliqué, we also offer corset flossing. Flossing is a traditional corset technique which combines form and function into beautiful embroidery which can actually prolong the life of your corset. This versatile design accent can be applied to virtually any corset, whether it be a pretty bridal piece or seductive vamp style.

Dark Garden "Paris" bespoke corset
with Moss Stitching and Satin Wings.
Model: Autumn Adamme
Photo © Joel Aron
Historically, flossing served to anchor the ends of corset boning within their channels. By reducing chafing against the fabric, the risk of a bone popping through is diminished. Naturally, this gave rise to quite an array of beautiful designs! As well as this functional style of flossing, we are also offering a curated selection of decorative embroidery options, including moss stitching and lovely sprigs of wheat sheafs.

Dark Garden corset flossing samplers.
via @DarkGardenCorsetry on Instagram.
Dark Garden's corset flossing was developed with the fabulous embroidery expert Diana LaFerry. Bone casing flossing is available in 10 motifs, as well as the decorative styles mentioned above. From classic Satin Wings and Double Fan to bold styles like Double Hex and Black Widow, each bone casing motif is designed for our signature paired bones on each seam. All styles of flossing are available in 11 different thread colors.

Dark Garden Sweetheart corset
with Shocks of Wheat and Satin Wings.
via @DarkGardenCorsetry on Instagram.
Flossing begins at $66 per corset plus $30-$75 for each placement, and can be added to your existing Dark Garden corset, a new stock corset, or a new order. We recommend a starting budget of at least $150 for the addition of simple flossing – but why stop there? Consider the luxury of $1000 worth of hand embroidered flossing. Either way, it's an excellent way to add unique texture and a pop of color to a simple and classic corset design. We particularly love it on bridal style corsets. Let it transform a traditional ivory corset with a uniquely elegant style, lending that heirloom feeling.

Dark Garden bespoke Alyscia coset
Photo © Stereo Photo Album

~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere
Read More

Friday, March 4, 2016

Meet the Makers: Matthew Nash



Dark Garden is a special place, not just because we offer such a unique product, but also for the special people we hire to craft it. In our new Meet the Makers series, we'll take you behind the boutique into our atelier. You'll become acquainted with the artisans who work here at 321 Linden St. to create our beautiful corsets and ensembles. For this, our first installment, we're focusing on Matthew Nash, the mustachioed man who leads our bridal & couture department.


What is your background? Describe the path that led you to Dark Garden.
My first professional job in garment making was as a stitcher with the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, in 1979. They had a summer apprentice program with on-the-job training. I put together a portfolio with costumes I'd made for friends, and interviewed in New York. I was hired though I had no professional experience and no formal training. I learned how to pattern by looking at books, and all the sewing I learned by trial and error. When I saw that there was a whole team of people that builds costumes, it was a turning moment. I realized I wanted to be a patternmaker, not a designer, and be the one who can turn those sketches into a real garment.

Then I was hired as a draper/patternmaker by the Folger Shakespeare's Theater back in DC, where I'd lived previously. I'd never done that before, but it was Shakespeare, so... not that complicated. So I just looked at books, and figured it out! The resident costume designer there used to work in England, in Covent Garden, and he was a patternmaker there. I learned a lot from him. I worked there for about five years.

Then I moved to California, with no job, and sent out resumes up and down the state. I only got one interview in San Diego, but they said I didn't have enough experience. I only had one resume left so I sent to the San Francisco Opera. Everybody said, "Oh, somebody has to die before you can get a job there," but it had just been taken over by Jenny Green from England. She was revamping the whole costume shop. She called me for an interview and it turned out that the resident costume designer that I used to work for in Washington DC used to work for her at Covent Garden. She knew he was a really good patternmaker and that I would have been trained in the style that she was interested in.

So she hired me! My first year I was there, I had 5 pay raises and 3 promotions. I guess I was good at it! There was always a last minute emergency in every production, and I quickly proved what I could do under pressure. I was there almost 30 years as their senior patternmaker.

After about a year working on my own, a colleague suggested I apply to Dark Garden. I hadn't made much womenswear before, let alone corsets, but I interviewed, and they were looking for someone to sew. I'm really a patternmaker, but I gave it a go, and here I am a year later! I learned to put in an invisible zipper and work with "girl" fabrics – charmeuse and chiffon and all that.


How would you describe what you do here?
I make everything that's not a corset!

Matthew in his Tailored Cincher with matching slacks.
Ambyr wears a Dollymop Amelia ensemble.
Photo © John Carey
That covers a pretty broad range of things, doesn't it?
I'm responsible for doing most of the patternmaking and sewing on all of our custom bridal ensembles. We do a wide range of skirt styles, as well as slacks and boleros.

I did menswear almost exclusively at the opera. I think that we could do more menswear here, especially trousers. A lot more men are coming in who want corsets – I see a lot of that! We can make corset vests and trousers as a matched set.

I also have my own business, Timeless Tailor. I do more menswear, costume, and leather work under that name. Visit my website at www.timelesstailor.com.


What are some of your favorite projects that you've done at Dark Garden?
It's great to be able to do ensembles like an elaborate Halloween wedding gown. But then we can also do simple stuff – a great, slinky skirt that fits really nicely and is beautifully finished.

We're working on a really rewarding project right now, with a petticoat, underskirt, overskirt, bolero, corset, and veil. It's based on a computer generated character design. I put a lot of time into draping the skirts, and at the first fitting they were perfect.

Design is all about proportion – that's what I learned at the Opera. No matter what someone's size and shape is, you play with the proportions and make them look the best they possibly can. 'Cause that tenor's gotta look like the soprano's going to kill herself over him! Just... gorgeous.


Describe your work philosophy.
When I was little, my dad told me, "No matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability, even if it's digging ditches. If you do your best, it'll be recognized."

I can't compromise on quality. I do things the way I do them... because it's the way I have to do them. I can't do it to anything less than my very best. It's a curse and a gift!
Read More

Friday, July 1, 2016

Scheduled Boutique Closures for Summer & Fall

Dark Garden 2016 Collection
feature bespoke corsetry & couture
Models: Sarah, Lindsay, Stefi
Photo © Shoot That Klown Photography

We hope you've been having a delightful summer! From Pride to Fourth of July to our upcoming Rummage Sale, there's no end to the special occasions this time of year. Our boutique will be closed for the following events this summer.

Boutique Closures, Summer/Fall 2016

  • Monday, July 4th – Independence Day
  • Sunday, September 18th – Urban Air Market
You're welcome to stop in and see us during regular business hours any other day! That's Sunday through Wednesday, 11am to 5pm; Thursday, 11am to 6pm; and Friday & Saturday, 11:30am to 6:30pm.

Pop Antique with Dark Garden "Madame Gibson" corset
Hair color & styling by Katey McKee, Glama-Rama
Photo © Alyxander Ryan

Cheers,
Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Update: Annual Rummage Sale!

Our Annual Rummage Sale is just around the corner, and we've got some exciting updates! In 2016, we're livening up the sale with a party atmosphere featuring prizes, giveaways and of course a hydration station to help you beat the heat. We've expanded our raffle, marked down some sexy styles, and, best yet, have a new approach to that infamous 'round-the-block line to get in. You won't want to miss this one, and it'll be easier than ever to get in and shop to your heart's content. Come and get it on July 17, 2016, only at 321 Linden St., San Francisco!

Dollymop for Dark Garden couture ensemble
Model: Lindsay | Photo © Shoot That Klown Photography
The biggest news of all is our line management system! No more lining up at 5am (unless you really want to). Instead, simply sign up for the time you'd like to come via EventBrite. We recommend you show up about 15-20 minutes early. We'll check you in on the guest list and do a preliminary sizing in line before showing you inside with the rest of your group. We also have a Premium Early Access Pass for a mere $25. A limited number of lucky patrons will get first chance at this year's selection, from 10am to 11am.

The line from the 2015 Rummage Sale,
stretching all the way down Linden St.
via @DarkGardenCorsetry on Instagram


You can also buy raffle tickets while you're getting sized outside. This year's raffle will feature not just a gorgeous bespoke corset, but also two tiers of runner-up prizes: a MTO Signature Collection corset, and one of our amazing new Waspie Belts. Prize availability is based on the number of tickets sold, so to sweeten the pot we've got a fun giveaway for all patrons who buy at least 5 raffle tickets. Raffle tickets are only $5 each!

Dark Garden Signature Collection Cincher
styled with lingerie by Dita Von Teese
Model: Euphrates X | Photo © Joel Aron
Speaking of deals, all Dita Von Teese lingerie will be 30% off! Every purchase of Dita Von Teese lingerie will get you a beautiful Dita Von Teese photo card. Spend at least $200 to receive an autographed photo card – but act quickly, we only have 6 of them left! We have knickers, half-slips, and suspender belts in European sizes 8-18, but we're down to our last few in size 10 (size small), and just one 20 and 22. As I write this, we have between 1 and 4 bras left for sizes 32A-C, 32E, 34B-D, and 36B-C. If you don't want to take your chances waiting for the discount and hoping your size doesn't sell out, come in today and play dress up with us!


One of last year's Rummage Sale scores –
Dark Garden limited edition Sweetheart corset
Model Edie Eve | Photo © Isaac Suttell
via @edieeve on Instagram
Don't forget, if you have a Dark Garden corset you'd like to sell at our Rummage Sale, you can bring your consignment corsets in from now until July 3rd. Email boutique@darkgarden.com if you have any questions about corset consignment.

We'll see you there!

Dark Garden limited edition Sweetheart
Photo © Chris Gaede
~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Private Fitting Clinic with Autumn Adamme!

Dark Garden's proprietress and lead designer,
Autumn Adamme, in a bespoke corset dress
made from upcycled men's shirt and tie
We're currently putting together a syllabus for sewing-related classes. This launches an exciting development for us, showcasing our strength: creating beautifully fit and well-constructed handmade garments in the heart of San Francisco. More will be revealed in the future! In the meantime, we invite you to schedule an appointment for one-on-one fitting and sewing advice with our founder, Autumn Adamme.
Autumn fitting, draping, and hand-finishing a couture bridal ensemble
What kinds of projects can Autumn help you tackle? How about...

  • A garment in-progress
  • A mockup that you've started, but can't muster the courage to go forward with
  • A hard-to-fit client for your personal sewing business
  • Cutting for stripe and plaid matching
  • Fine finishing and embellishment techniques
Autumn's process for hand-placed and -finished textural overlay.
While this is a new service at Dark Garden, Autumn is no stranger to teaching. She's done several very successful workshops at the iconic Britex fabrics, and has both taught at and been keynote speaker for the Oxford Conference of Corsetry. Appointments are available in 1/2 hour increments up to 2 hours. The rate is $85 per hour, or $50 per half hour. Please email boutique@darkgarden.com to schedule, or call the boutique at 415-431-7684.

~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere

Annual Corset Rummage Sale, July 17

Bespoke High-Back Dollymop Corset
Model: Victoria Dagger
Photo © Alyxander Ryan
The curviest event of the year is nearly upon us! Join Dark Garden on July 17th for our annual rummage sale, our biggest single-day event. Savvy shoppers line up on Linden St. before we open to get first dibs on a selection of archive, unworn bespoke samples, and gently loved pre-owned corsets, as well as discounted stock corsets, clothing, accessories, and studio odds and ends.

Dark Garden Annual Rummage Sale
Sunday, July 17, 11am-6pm
Dark Garden Unique Corsetry
321 Linden St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-431-7684

Signature Collection Corselette
Model: Autumn Adamme
Photo © Joel Aron
Here's what you can expect to find in the way of corsets at our rummage sale:
  • Corset raffle! A single $5 ticket could win you a made-to-order corset from our Signature Collection
  • Unworn bespoke sample corsets, deeply discounted from their list price
  • Pre-loved corsets, sold on consignment from their previous owners
  • 10% discount on in-stock corsets
  • Deeper discounts on select in-stock corsets
  • Fashion show & archive corsets and ensembles
Beyond the corsets, our Rummage Sale also features:
  • Last-season garments and accessories on sale
  • Fabric remnants from the studio
  • Vintage patterns
  • All manner of miscellany
Bespoke Adelaide corset
via @darkgardencorsetry on Instagram
If you've outgrown - or outshrunk - your old Dark Garden corsets, bring them in between June 3rd and July 3rd to be assessed for consignment. You can opt to get cash or Dark Garden store credit if your corset sells at the rummage sale. Corsets must be dry cleaned and in good condition to be eligible; only Dark Garden corsets can be sold at our rummage sale. Please email boutique@darkgarden.com with, "Rummage sale consignment," in the subject line to make arrangements for consigning your Dark Garden corset.

Thank you for making last year's Rummage Sale such a resounding and joyous success. Please RSVP to this year's event on Facebook and share it with your friends - the rummage sale is a crazy day, and it's also an absolute blast. We'll see you there!

Dollymop Lancer Corset
Photo © Joel Aron
~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere

Friday, April 1, 2016

New Spring Hours & Scheduled Closures

Dark Garden Valentine corset with wrap bolero.
Designed by Autumn Adamme for our Spring 2016 collection.
Photo © Shoot That Klown Photography
Our Hayes Valley boutique has newly updated our store hours for spring. Beginning this week, our retail location at 437 Linden St., San Francisco will be open for business during the following times. Of course, you can shop online 24/7 at www.darkgarden.com!

Sunday through Wednesday: 11am to 5pm
Thursday: 11am to 6pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:30am to 6:30pm

In addition to these new hours, we have two scheduled closures coming up. The Dark Garden boutique will not be open on Wednesday, 4/13, and Sunday, 5/1. We invite you to explore Hayes Valley during Urban Air Market on May 1st, and return to visit us during our normal business hours another day.

Bespoke High Back Dollymop Overbust with Sleeves
Photo © John Carey

~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere

Monday, March 28, 2016

Couture Corsetry Techniques: Flossing

Here at Dark Garden, we are all about the details. As well as our exquisitely pattern matched brocades and hand-pieced lace appliqué, we also offer corset flossing. Flossing is a traditional corset technique which combines form and function into beautiful embroidery which can actually prolong the life of your corset. This versatile design accent can be applied to virtually any corset, whether it be a pretty bridal piece or seductive vamp style.

Dark Garden "Paris" bespoke corset
with Moss Stitching and Satin Wings.
Model: Autumn Adamme
Photo © Joel Aron
Historically, flossing served to anchor the ends of corset boning within their channels. By reducing chafing against the fabric, the risk of a bone popping through is diminished. Naturally, this gave rise to quite an array of beautiful designs! As well as this functional style of flossing, we are also offering a curated selection of decorative embroidery options, including moss stitching and lovely sprigs of wheat sheafs.

Dark Garden corset flossing samplers.
via @DarkGardenCorsetry on Instagram.
Dark Garden's corset flossing was developed with the fabulous embroidery expert Diana LaFerry. Bone casing flossing is available in 10 motifs, as well as the decorative styles mentioned above. From classic Satin Wings and Double Fan to bold styles like Double Hex and Black Widow, each bone casing motif is designed for our signature paired bones on each seam. All styles of flossing are available in 11 different thread colors.

Dark Garden Sweetheart corset
with Shocks of Wheat and Satin Wings.
via @DarkGardenCorsetry on Instagram.
Flossing begins at $66 per corset plus $30-$75 for each placement, and can be added to your existing Dark Garden corset, a new stock corset, or a new order. We recommend a starting budget of at least $150 for the addition of simple flossing – but why stop there? Consider the luxury of $1000 worth of hand embroidered flossing. Either way, it's an excellent way to add unique texture and a pop of color to a simple and classic corset design. We particularly love it on bridal style corsets. Let it transform a traditional ivory corset with a uniquely elegant style, lending that heirloom feeling.

Dark Garden bespoke Alyscia coset
Photo © Stereo Photo Album

~Marianne
Multi-Purpose Corsetiere

Friday, March 4, 2016

Meet the Makers: Matthew Nash



Dark Garden is a special place, not just because we offer such a unique product, but also for the special people we hire to craft it. In our new Meet the Makers series, we'll take you behind the boutique into our atelier. You'll become acquainted with the artisans who work here at 321 Linden St. to create our beautiful corsets and ensembles. For this, our first installment, we're focusing on Matthew Nash, the mustachioed man who leads our bridal & couture department.


What is your background? Describe the path that led you to Dark Garden.
My first professional job in garment making was as a stitcher with the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, in 1979. They had a summer apprentice program with on-the-job training. I put together a portfolio with costumes I'd made for friends, and interviewed in New York. I was hired though I had no professional experience and no formal training. I learned how to pattern by looking at books, and all the sewing I learned by trial and error. When I saw that there was a whole team of people that builds costumes, it was a turning moment. I realized I wanted to be a patternmaker, not a designer, and be the one who can turn those sketches into a real garment.

Then I was hired as a draper/patternmaker by the Folger Shakespeare's Theater back in DC, where I'd lived previously. I'd never done that before, but it was Shakespeare, so... not that complicated. So I just looked at books, and figured it out! The resident costume designer there used to work in England, in Covent Garden, and he was a patternmaker there. I learned a lot from him. I worked there for about five years.

Then I moved to California, with no job, and sent out resumes up and down the state. I only got one interview in San Diego, but they said I didn't have enough experience. I only had one resume left so I sent to the San Francisco Opera. Everybody said, "Oh, somebody has to die before you can get a job there," but it had just been taken over by Jenny Green from England. She was revamping the whole costume shop. She called me for an interview and it turned out that the resident costume designer that I used to work for in Washington DC used to work for her at Covent Garden. She knew he was a really good patternmaker and that I would have been trained in the style that she was interested in.

So she hired me! My first year I was there, I had 5 pay raises and 3 promotions. I guess I was good at it! There was always a last minute emergency in every production, and I quickly proved what I could do under pressure. I was there almost 30 years as their senior patternmaker.

After about a year working on my own, a colleague suggested I apply to Dark Garden. I hadn't made much womenswear before, let alone corsets, but I interviewed, and they were looking for someone to sew. I'm really a patternmaker, but I gave it a go, and here I am a year later! I learned to put in an invisible zipper and work with "girl" fabrics – charmeuse and chiffon and all that.


How would you describe what you do here?
I make everything that's not a corset!

Matthew in his Tailored Cincher with matching slacks.
Ambyr wears a Dollymop Amelia ensemble.
Photo © John Carey
That covers a pretty broad range of things, doesn't it?
I'm responsible for doing most of the patternmaking and sewing on all of our custom bridal ensembles. We do a wide range of skirt styles, as well as slacks and boleros.

I did menswear almost exclusively at the opera. I think that we could do more menswear here, especially trousers. A lot more men are coming in who want corsets – I see a lot of that! We can make corset vests and trousers as a matched set.

I also have my own business, Timeless Tailor. I do more menswear, costume, and leather work under that name. Visit my website at www.timelesstailor.com.


What are some of your favorite projects that you've done at Dark Garden?
It's great to be able to do ensembles like an elaborate Halloween wedding gown. But then we can also do simple stuff – a great, slinky skirt that fits really nicely and is beautifully finished.

We're working on a really rewarding project right now, with a petticoat, underskirt, overskirt, bolero, corset, and veil. It's based on a computer generated character design. I put a lot of time into draping the skirts, and at the first fitting they were perfect.

Design is all about proportion – that's what I learned at the Opera. No matter what someone's size and shape is, you play with the proportions and make them look the best they possibly can. 'Cause that tenor's gotta look like the soprano's going to kill herself over him! Just... gorgeous.


Describe your work philosophy.
When I was little, my dad told me, "No matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability, even if it's digging ditches. If you do your best, it'll be recognized."

I can't compromise on quality. I do things the way I do them... because it's the way I have to do them. I can't do it to anything less than my very best. It's a curse and a gift!