Angela Clayton – 18 Year Old Seamstress & Costume Maker

(Originally Published September 2015, SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #21, Written by Rita Farro.)


Angela Clayton in her home studio

Angela Clayton in her home studio.

Who are you?

My name is Angela Clayton and I’m 18 years old. I’m a self-taught seamstress and costume maker – which is pretty much what my life revolves around these days! I was born in Arizona but I’ve spent the last eight years of my life on Long Island in New York, where I live with my parents and our two miniature dachshunds.

Angela Clayton modeling her Tudor Costume

Tudor Costume

Who inspires you to sew?

I’m more influenced by the things that inspire me, like paintings and nature, rather than specific people. But I’ve been lucky enough to have really supportive parents, who encourage my interests. Without that I’m not sure if I would have pursued my passion towards sewing and have the motivation to keep doing it.

What kind of sewing do you do?

I mostly make historical costumes, which are based off of paintings and artwork from hundreds of years ago.  I do some fashion stuff, which is more modern.

How did you get interested in making costumes?

I was a really creative kid and my mom thought I would enjoy sewing, so I started playing around with a machine and fabric at a very young age. I didn’t have a lot of patience at that point, and considered pins and patterns my nemesis because they took so long to use. So my projects back then consisted of sloppily sewn tubes and garments I “drafted” by laying on the floor and tracing around myself.

Just before I turned fifteen, I became really interested in cosplay, which is when you dress up as characters from movies and books. I couldn’t find costumes I liked online, so I decided to make my own. I started teaching myself the things I wanted to know through a lot of trial and error.

I don’t do the whole dressing up as characters thing very much anymore, but it really helped me discover my love of making costumes. I enjoyed that part so much that I eventually transitioned into sewing original designs and historical costumes, which is what I’m focusing on right now.

Angela Clayton modeling her Fairy Costume

Fairy Costume

Do you live in the country, or the city?

I live in a heavily wooded area, I wouldn’t quite consider it the country but it’s definitely closer to that than a city. I love where I live. I love watching the trees change colors and the seasons change. I find nature in general really inspiring.

How does sewing impact your life?

I’m not sure how, but if definitely impacts me a lot. It pretty much is my life at this point. I spend hours every day in my sewing room working on my costumes.  I make sewing videos, and have a blog about my progress, so it eats up most of my time. I’m not sure what I would be doing if sewing wasn’t in my life. That’s hard for me to imagine.

What is the best thing you ever made?

I don’t know about best, but I really like the Fall Flower Fairy dress I made last year. I’m also pretty pleased with a recent costume I did, which is a Tudor ensemble based on dresses from the 1500s. It has thirteen pieces to it, and the fact that they all work together to create a finished “look” pleases me to no end. I tend to like costumes that are complete looks, from the head to hem. So projects with a lot of pieces (especially headpieces) tend to be some of my favorites.

Angela Clayton's sewing room.

Angela’s Sewing Room

Where do you sew?

I have a sewing room! It used to be the family guest room, but a couple years ago it got turned into a brightly colored slightly cluttered studio. It’s a very functional space but it’s also a fun room to be in. I have a lot of little knick knacks and stuff on display, which keeps me happy and inspired when I’m working. I think that is really important when you are trying to do something creative for long periods of time.

Angela Clayton modeling her Orchid Inspired Dress.

Orchard Inspired Dress

What does your day-to-day look like?

I don’t think my day-to-day is very exciting – some days I’m planning future projects, so gathering reference pictures, sketching, and making fabric estimates. Most of the time I’m just working on whatever I have in progress, which can vary from draping and fitting a pattern, to making a bodice, to hemming a skirt or embellishing trim. I tend to get started around ten or eleven, and work on costumes for four or five hours. Then I do a bit of writing and editing in the afternoon, and I might do some hand sewing in front of the TV later on. It depends on what I have in progress and how enthusiastic I am that day.

Your photographs are stunning.  Do you take them yourself?

I take the majority of my own pictures, and do the setup and editing for all of them. For self-portraits I precariously balance a tripod on my ironing board. A lot of my costumes don’t allow for a huge range of movement, so it’s not the easiest process but I manage! For outdoor pictures I do the set up and editing but get one of my parents to help out and actually take the photos.

Do you sew and design for yourself or competitions? Is this a business?

Right now I just do it for myself. I’m trying to improve my skills and build a portfolio of original work, so I can hopefully get a job in the theater or film industry. My You Tube channel shows a lot of my work, and has been very popular.  In the future I would love to sell things, or to take on commissions. I think that would be a lot of fun. But at the moment I have the opportunity to focus on personal projects, so I’m trying to take advantage of that by only making things I want to make, instead of making things for other people.

Do you have any sewing machine needle advice for our readers?

Change them often!  Regardless of what type you are using, a sharp needle will give you better results, smoother seams, and cleaner topstitching. It’s something I need to be better about, because I’ll think my needle is fine but when I change it out I notice an obvious improvement. Definitely replace needles between projects, at the very least.
All photos provided by Angela Clayton. See more of Angela’s work at: