If you’re local to the Dayton area, there’s a 900% chance you know Tracy McElfresh, owner of Tracy’s Sewing Studio. If you’re not local, I’m delighted to introduce you! I met Tracy in 2013, when she co-owned the pop-up shop Sew Dayton. At that point, I was newly engaged and asked for her help with a custom wedding dress design. The dress turned out beautifully, and Tracy has worked wonders as a fit specialist on several other pieces since then.
Tracy’s designs are so much fun – whimsical, colorful, bold. You can see what she’s up to on her Instagram page tracysews, and I’d highly recommend checking out her website, especially if you’re lucky enough to live nearby. Her sewing studio is located in Rosewood Arts Center (another local gem!). If you visit her Instagram page, you’ll also find her recent tour of my closet, which we had a great time recording!
How would you describe your style?
T – I want people to see me coming. I’m bright and bold, fun and retro. I adore time period pieces and love to mash it all up together and create my own now.
What’s your favorite type of garment to create and why?
T- This is up for debate! Swimwear is so much fun to design and costs so little in materials. It is an advanced sewing so it’s always a challenge and everyone knows I love a good challenge. A close runner up is the custom dress. I love them long, short, punky, clean, preppy, maximalist, bright, black, and full color. I don’t discriminate. I love to follow the lines in a dress. The way they fit and hang really gets me.
What inspires your designs? Can you give us an overview of the process from that first stroke of inspiration to a finished piece of apparel?
T- Generally, I will have the fabric first and look for a design that is suitable for the weight and drape of the textile. I kinda let it speak to me. I like to learn about the type of fabric and see what I can piece together that fits. I have a huge selection of vintage patterns and marrying decades together is exciting to me so I often lay everything out and see what catches my eye.
The clothes you create are so much fun! How do you keep your designs both whimsical and functional?
T- Anytime I’m designing I like to “get weird.” Out of the ordinary is my idea of expressing my heart. And if my heart is too weird, garish, flashy or just too much for someone, that’s fine. I’m delighted when my style provokes deeper thought from people. When people ask why things do and don’t work that I’m wearing, I am in a comfortable zone and love to talk about it. Keeping clothing practical and wearable has simply come with years of experience of fit, fabric behavior, color matching, and through many, many failures along the way.
Which pieces have you created that you’re most proud of?
T- The large bug collection. It started with the butterfly dress in 2014. I bought the fabric already printed from an artist. By 2018 I learned how to make my own surface textile designs (fabric prints) and made my own cicada hoodie and moth dress. At the time, no one was designing these. I also love the red and white tent skirt, the swim suit replicas and anything mod 1960s fashion. Wait, what was the question?
If I could spend a week anywhere, it would be…?
T- I would love to get inspired in Paris, France. The food, the clothing, the culture and art! That would be amazing. [Editor’s note: We’re now 2 for 2 on Style Profile guests choosing Paris! Clearly, our guests have excellent taste.]
All images appear courtesy of Tracy’s Sewing Studio and may not be reproduced elsewhere.