There are “strokes of genius” and then there are “stitches of genius.” Karen Oliver has the latter. This FOF sews and crafts nearly her entire wardrobe, hundreds of gorgeous garments and jewelry that look like a million bucks but sometimes end up costing as little as $14 dollars.
Karen taught herself to sew at the age of 13. “I wanted nice clothes, but my parents didn’t have a lot of money to buy them for me,” says Karen. “The beauty of sewing is you can say, ‘I want that skirt in that green,’ and chances are you’ll be able to make what you’re thinking about.”
Once a week, Karen hits up her favorite fabric and bead stores in the Garment District, including Mood Designer Fabrics and M&J Trimming. (One time, she scored a yard of luxe Loro Piana cashmere for just $19 dollars!) Sometimes she goes to buy fabric with an idea in mind, other times it’s not until she sees a fabric that the inspiration takes place. “My philosophy is, ‘how hard can it be’?'” says Karen.
Nearly every evening, Karen takes out her portable Bernina sewing machine and gets to work on the dining room table of her 1000 square-foot apartment. Sometimes she sews or beads through the wee hours of the night. One time, she stayed up the entire evening helping her friend, an editor at People magazine, sew something to wear for a gala. “The mark of loving something is you’re never tired while doing it,” says Karen. “I’m never tired when I’m creating.”
Take a look at Karen’s hand-crafted outfits below. Do you have a favorite?
Skirt, jacket and belt: Made by Karen in a french silk faille from B&J Fabrics.
Blouse: Milly from Bloomingdales.”I would have made it myself but I ran out of time.”
Earrings: “They’re from a little shop in Paris. I’ve had them for 35 years.”
Necklace: “It’s vintage. My mother got it at an antique shop in Carmel, California.
Tunic and wrap: Made by Karen. “The tunic cost me $14 to make and took about 3 hours.”
Choker: “I bought it in Cannes.”
Necklace (middle): “I got it in Mexico.”
Chain-link necklace: Made by Karen
Greek-key belt: Made by Karen
Vest: Made by Karen with French-lace detailing
Skirt: Made by Karen in cashmere. “I make this same skirt in every color. It fits just right.”
Blouse: Yves Saint Laurent
Necklaces: Vintage Chanel. “Yeah, I have Chanel pieces. But, I do them with my own twist.”
Coat: Made by Karen. “It’s a knock off of a coat I found from Zara.
Belt: Yves Saint Laurent
Skirt: Made by Karen. “It’s the same skirt [as in outfit 3 above], just in a different fabric.”