by Ellen March
When Lisa Vaughn garnered national attention for her handmade cloud-print dress, the Houston meteorologist was shocked and flattered. Although she doesn’t credit sewing for her successful career (she holds two masters’ degrees after all), she does sew almost everything she wears. She manages to sew every day despite her demanding schedule, whether making something for work or for play. Read on to learn how Lisa stays true to her humble beginnings one stitch at a time.
SN: When did you learn to sew? Who taught you?
LV: I started sewing in junior high when I was about 13 years old. I remember wanting flamingo pants, so I made them
– and I’m glad there are no photos. But I didn’t make quality clothes until I was an undergrad in college. My sister and I are self-taught. We did have a lot of guidance from our mother and our aunts who sewed. But really, we would just [find] an easy pattern and read the instructions, make mistakes and learn from them.
I almost never make something that requires a zipper. I prefer knits because I need my clothes to stretch. I wear a bulky microphone pack and IFB box on my bra strap, which adds 4” to my underbust measurement. (Not kidding! I’ve measured, of course!) Also, knit dresses ride up when you sit down and show too much leg when seated. On our TV show, I often have to sit on a couch that’s too low to the ground, so I need to be able to yank my dress down to cover my thighs.
SN: When did you begin showing off your garments during your weather segments?
LV: This is the funny thing. There was no “big reveal.” I’ve been wearing my own clothes on TV since I started five years ago. I was super broke all throughout college and during my first TV job. I really didn’t have any nice clothes in general, much less clothing for television, and I certainly couldn’t afford to go shopping. I’d go to Walmart and buy $1/yard fabric to make a dress. I never thought my sewing was extraordinary. I figured lots of people did it.
SN: Do you always wear something you’ve made during your segments?
LV: Not every day. But nearly everything I wear has been altered or enhanced or modified by me, even if it’s store bought. I like to buy things from a thrift store that are too big, because I know I can make it fit. I’ll cut off the bottom of a long dress and make it into a skirt. I’ll add sleeves to anything sleeveless because it’s always cold at work. I like adding peplums. I love to add lace to sleeves using a huge stitch, so I can rip it out easily [for different looks].
SN: I’ve always wondered–are you expected to wear something different every day?
LV: I do feel pressure to wear something different every day. Obviously I do repeat the clothes I wear, especially if it’s a dress I love and it looks good on me. But really, I’ve stopped worrying so much about repeating my clothes. Men wear the same suits every week. And if someone comments that I wore the same dress last week, I say, “Yes, I have a washing machine. And this dress looks good. And I’m proud of it because I made it.”
It really is a thrill, though, to make clothing that’s convertible. I made a dress with a removable peplum that attaches with Velcro, like a belt. I made bell sleeves that Velcro on. I modified my full-body Spanx [to incorporate] a long zipper, so that I can use the restroom without taking off the whole thing. On TV, we have a 6-hour morning show. I might get just a few minutes to go to the bathroom. The “hole” in shapewear is a complete joke. Side note, I stopped wearing shapewear and I wear pantyhose now, since it is cold in the studio.
LV: It’s something I truly enjoying doing, so it doesn’t feel like a chore (the way exercising does). I get home after a long workday, turn on some trashy TV in the background and get to sewing. I sew every day. I don’t necessarily make a brand new project daily, but I’m always working on something or altering something or adding lace or trim.
SN: Do you credit sewing for any part of your successful career?
LV: That’s a hard question. I’ve just been going about my business for the last 4 to 5 years, posting my projects on Instagram for my friends and my 200 followers. I honestly don’t consider myself a great seamstress; I wouldn’t win any awards, trust me. For me, sewing has always been utilitarian — get it done, make it presentable. And I’m obviously not the only person who sews, nor am I the greatest. So, the national attention [I received after making the “cloud” dress] was crazy to me. It was fun and exciting, but I was truly shocked because I don’t think what I do is extraordinary. Lots of folks sew. But
, I think the intrigue was that I was on television and I make my own clothes [that I wear on TV]. Many people think we have a stylist and get free clothes and that we’re wealthy. Well, that’s all false.
SN: Tell me more about the famous cloud dress!
LV: I Googled “cloud fabric by the yard” and found it on Etsy. I was inspired to make a cloud dress after I saw Savannah Guthrie from the Today Show wearing a cloud-print dress. I used an old Lands End dress as my pattern. It was my favorite dress but was getting old and Lands End was no longer selling it. So I remade it.
SN: What’s your favorite garment you’ve sewn?
LV: My wedding dress! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever made in my life. It was incredibly frustrating to sew with beaded fabric. Also, I gained about 5 or 10 pounds before I had to wear it. That’s not a huge amount, but the dress was custom. Long-story-short, I had to let-out every seam by a tad, and I had almost no seam allowance to work with. Talk about stressful! I’m very proud of the result. (By the way, I don’t think I’m fat, and I’m not complaining about my weight. But you understand what a few pounds can do to a perfectly tailored dress!)
‘s your biggest sewing inspiration?
LV: What inspires me is walking into a clothing store, seeing something I like, checking a price tag and nearly fainting. I will think to myself “I can make that.” I can’t describe the feeling I get when someone tells me my wedding dress looks like it cost thousands of dollars (it cost $600 to make). And most of my work dresses cost between $5 to $20 to create. (I don’t consider my time to be part of the cost, because I enjoy doing it.)
I love having a completed project and something I feel proud of when I’m done. Other seamstresses inspire me, like my older sister. She’s a far better seamstress, because she takes her time and does it correctly. She teaches me. I’m all about cutting corners to get it done. Pun intended.