From a well-lit corner room in her Langley home, Patricia Francisco can be found working her magic on a sewing machine.
But her workspace isn’t your average seamstress studio. The interesting collection of clothes, ranging from corsets to throwback dresses to turn-of-the-century accessories, is an indication she isn’t confined to handling alterations and your average tailor jobs.
Francisco is a master of working with clothes from a bygone era.
“Custom sewing work has been a lifelong passion of mine,” Francisco said. “Although I’ll do alterations, I really prefer creating something to satisfy my artistic side. It’s an opportunity for me to share something I love.”
Francisco’s sewing and alterations business, Patrician Designs, offers a variety of services and then some. While alterations tend to pay the bills, Francisco’s skills truly come into play when working with decadent dresses and their accompanying pieces. Francisco typically has projects working with bridal gowns, Victorian dresses and Edwardian dresses, which emanate from the turn of the century to the World War I era. She’s even had a customer ask her to make a Russian court dress, which comes from the days of czar rule. She also does work with the steampunk genre, which Francisco describes as “neo-Victorian.” Essentially, it takes Victorian dresses and gives them a modern twist, sometimes drifting into the sci-fi genre. Think of the 1999 film “Wild Wild West.”
According to other seamstresses on the island, she has a particular skill set not often found on Whidbey Island.
“I wouldn’t just say she has unique skills for someone on Whidbey Island, but in the Pacific Northwest,” Langley resident and seamstress Sue Ellen White said. “She’s spectacularly talented and skilled. She’s perfect for someone who’s into steampunk, reenacting and people who just love period costuming.”
Francisco’s work isn’t costuming. Costuming, according to both White and Francisco, is done to make articles of clothing look authentic from afar, but up close the typically poor stitching work shows since it’s not a crucial theater detail. Francisco’s work, White says, shows craftsmanship and precision in the stitching and fitting. Francisco has an associate’s degree in applied science in apparel design.
Her skills as a modiste, a female tailor, have earned her a regular niche costumer base that comes from far and wide. It’s essentially a scene of its own; regulars at the Port Townsend Victorian Festival tend to call for her services, as well as people from distant places such as Dallas and Dubai. Francisco works with people through Skype to get their dimensions so she can properly fit them, but she’s also open to in-person consultations. She might even teach them a thing or two.
“I want to show people the work I do,” Francisco said. “What I do is kind of a dying art, since many of the women who do this are older. And that’s a shame, because every custom piece is the only one in the whole world. That’s what I love about it.”