Toledo startup Oh Sew Betty! offers customized dressesWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
With her online business, Toledoan Betty Floored gives brides and bridesmaids customized dress options with a retro feel.
Floored’s business Oh Sew Betty! at www.etsy.com/shop/bettyfloored offers customized, tailored clothing and pillows to people all over the world. She has standard dress designs listed, but customers are welcome to mix and match tops and bottoms or make other suggestions.
“A lot of times, I have girls come to me saying, ‘I have an idea for a dress. Can you make it?’” said Floored, who is a founding member of Glass City Rollers, Toledo’s roller derby team.
Floored asks for specific measurements and pictures so she can better tailor the dresses to the women’s sizes.
“I make dresses for all sizes and I don’t charge extra for plus sizes,” she said, adding that pinup, retro styles flatter all figures. The dresses cost around $120-$200 and take two to six weeks to make.
Floored went to the University of Toledo to study art education.
“In college, I did a lot of sculpture and a lot of photography,” she said. “I always had a kiln and a darkroom at my fingertips and then I graduated and I didn’t have any of that.”
So in 2009, she decided to ask a friend to teach her how to use a sewing machine. Floored’s first project was a T-shirt quilt. She then moved on to bags and before long she wanted to make a dress.
Floored went to a local fabric store and bought a one-hour pattern and stretchy, jersey material. When she asked the sales associate for help reading the pattern, Floored said, “She said to me, ‘You picked a hell of a fabric because you’re either going to really hate sewing after using this … or you’re gonna love it.’
“Of course, the one-hour pattern took me three weeks because I wasn’t just satisfied with the little pattern. It was like, ‘Oh, it has little cap sleeves; oh, I want elbow sleeves,’” Floored said.
She ended up wearing the dress to her belated graduation party.
Floored, a substitute teacher, said she learned something new with every subsequent dress. Eventually, her skills were noticed.
“I would wear [the dresses] out and everyone would ask me where they were from and [said] that they liked them. And I would tell them I made it and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, you make them? Why don’t you make them for other people?’” Floored said.
In December 2010, Floored started Oh Sew Betty! Her business received a big boost in April when her page was mentioned on the popular blog Jezebel, after one of its writers bought a dress. Floored received 15,000 hits in a month.
“I had no idea. I made a dress for a girl and she was really nice and she lived in New York and I was really excited to make a dress for a girl in New York first off,” Floored said with a laugh.
Floored makes bridesmaids dresses for women of all sizes.
“A lot of times, you’ll have a bridal party with girls of all sizes,” she said. “I have made quite a few bridesmaid and wedding dresses. But the wedding dresses that I’ve made have all been alternative.”
These include a leopard print dress with a blue sash for a Las Vegas wedding and a black frock for the commitment ceremony during Toledo Pride 2012. Floored is also working on a heather blue wedding dress.
Rachel Richardson, founder of Art Corner Toledo, asked Floored to create a purple bridesmaid’s dress for a June wedding.
“[Floored] was thorough and thoughtful and made sure to give me exactly what I wanted,” Richardson said. “This wedding was extremely important to me and the color of the dress was especially crucial. Betty took that part very seriously.”
Floored has one simple request of bridesmaids and brides — send pictures.
“I’m like, you’ve got a professional photographer! Let me see how pretty they look,” she said.
The dressmaker is also into alternative craft shows, something she is bringing to Toledo on Nov. 17 when she and the UpTown Association host an event called Maker’s Mart at 1717 Adams St.
“There’s like this whole handmade movement that’s happening,” Floored said. “It has nothing to do with doilies and dolls.”
Floored also recently started the group Handmade Toledo. According to its Facebook page, it’s “giving Toledo makers, doers, crafters and D.I.Y.-ers a place to call home.”
With the help of Handmade Toledo, she hopes to have a springtime craft show, themed “crafternoons” and provide information at a future website.
Eventually, Floored hopes to have her own retail space that she will share with other artisans on consignment. She doesn’t, however, plan to expand into pants or menswear.
“Not my thing; don’t care about that stuff,” she said, adding, “I’ll make menswear if the men are dressing as women.”