Beatrice Forms is not just a tool. It’s about finding inspiration from what makes you unique.
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Who we are
The folks behind Beatrice Forms are Alison Hughes and Nathan Barefield, a husband and wife maker team. A little about our journey…
In 2014, after ten years of the Silicon Valley hustle, we quit our tech jobs at Apple and moved to a small farm in Colorado in search of a calmer life in nature. Instead, we found ourselves jumping headlong into rehabilitating nine acres of farmland, raising dairy goats, and transforming our barn into our dream workshop.
In that workshop 3 years ago, we founded a product design studio called Little Barn Industries. There we helped startups bring their ideas to life. Our consulting business built upon everything we had learned over the years, from engineering consumer electronics and software to tailoring custom overalls and building steel bicycle frames.
It didn’t take long before we couldn’t stop thinking about our own idea to help garment makers take on one of their biggest challenges: making clothes that fit. As passionate craftspeople with a heartfelt understanding of what a good tool can do, we thought “Hey we’re the right people for this job!”
At this stage in our lives, we can’t think of any pursuit more gratifying or humbling.
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- Personal expression connects us and gives our lives meaning.
- Truly seeing ourselves and others empowers us.
Making teaches us empathy. And it’s fun, duh!
It all started way back in college in the early 90’s...
I was DJ’ing, going out dancing with my friends, and vintage was all the rage. But all the cute tops and dresses in the thrift shops were huge on me and hung awkwardly on my narrow, forward shoulders. Being the crafty maker type, I borrowed my best friend’s sewing machine, altered away, and created a personalized wardrobe that fit. For the first time in my life, I truly felt like myself in my clothes. I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2013. My body is “maturing”. Things are sitting a little lower and I’ve got new curves. Fit is affecting the way I feel about my body more than ever.
Thanks to many years as a software engineer slumped over a computer, my upper body had transformed into a crumpled mess, making ready-to-wear clothes even more uncomfortable. Necklines choked me and sleeves pinned my arms like a straight jacket. Fast fashion and poor quality had already completely turned me off from clothes shopping. The fit stuff wasn’t making it any more fun.
Help! Sewing machine to the rescue!
I set out to solve my fit problems by sewing my own wardrobe. Unlike my college years, I now had the power of the internet to help. Online, I discovered this inspiring new movement of independent pattern designers and global community of sewists just like me! Yes, I could do this!
The modern style of these new patterns excited me but the options for customizing fit were extremely cumbersome and intimidating. Like many, I avoided fit for a while with potato sack silhouettes and stretchy knits, but eventually felt stifled in terms of style.
When I finally did take on fit, my sewing hobby transformed from a fun, intuitive challenge that I could solve with my hands into a demoralizing, abstract math puzzle. Hello muslin spirals and hacked taped pattern chaos! (Thank goodness for pdf patterns, right?)
I thought maybe what I needed to my conquer fitting woes was a dress form because you always see the pros using them. After a bunch of research, I realized these commercial designers were using standard forms to fit an “average” person - that was NOT going to solve my problem because the reason things don’t fit me is that my body is not average. Nobody is an average. I realized I needed a "body double".
My paper tape form, circa 2013.
Again, the existing solutions were disappointing: cast your body (um, nope - gross), custom form from measurements (too expensive, inaccurate), padded standard form (also inaccurate) or paper/duct tape forms. I went with the cheapest option - paper tape - and while it was a total eye opener for me in terms of fit and body acceptance, it was a royal pain to make. It lacked many critical features like being pinnable. What I really wanted was a beautiful tool that would inspire me to create beautiful things, not a lumpy, hard-as-a-rock paper mache project.
My nerd-side kicked in. In my former job at Apple, I made technology work for creatives. Why couldn’t I make technology work for every day sewists like me to tackle fit?
I consulted my husband Nathan who, lucky for me, happens to be a mechanical engineer. As a maker himself, the project excited him. We cobbled together the tech on weekends and in a month, we were able to cut a "mini me" out of Home Depot sourced pink insulation foam from a 3D model captured with my iPhone. Indeed, it could be done.
After moving from San Francisco to Colorado, the custom dress form project kept calling to us. Two years later in 2017, we finally made the leap of faith. Our families thought we were nuts. We realized we needed to quit our tech jobs so that we could spend all our time building things that empowers makers like you, our true passion. Beatrice was born!
Alison and Nathan
Umm, probably shouldn't take fashion advice from these people.