She drapes the cream-coloured fabric on a shoulder, creating a squared-off edge, leaving it with a nod as she turns back to her large wooden work bench.
Jody’s studio doubles as her shopfront in thriving south-east Melbourne, where the sound of foot traffic is punctuated with the clang of passing trams.
Her large shop window is playfully arranged with some of her latest pieces. A rack displays samples of her many dresses and skirts. But that’s where Jody’s studio departs from the usual. The eagle-eyed will notice the differences only on closer inspection of her pieces, where wide belted inserts and smartly cut lines create trompe l’oeil silhouettes that flatter any figure.
“I’m fitting to the client, this is the point of difference in my business,” says Jody, “I’m playing to individual shapes rather than forcing women into the industry’s notion of size.”
This core philosophy inspired Jody to start her own business. Most pieces found on racks in stores are designed at a sample size. Subsequent sizes are produced with little thought as to how the fit will adapt to different body types, big or small. Add to that the variability in different designers’ sizes, says Jody, and most women are left feeling confused and frustrated.
To combat this, Jody is changing the industry from the inside. The designer makes to measure, working from a number of basic shapes that she then adapts to fit each body. Jody will also create individual pieces from scratch. Her work looks seemingly simple with flowing lines, exquisitely cut panels and smart finishes. There’s even a hint of Roland Mouret in way the female form is celebrated. But as each of Jody’s pieces are made to fit a specific body, her tricks to flatter are carefully executed.
Dresses with a midriff panel that Jody positions higher or lower depending on the client’s shape—a more rounded stomach will benefit from a higher placement to create more of an illusion of a waist. Double layered dresses and skirts that flow like molten lava over a pleated underskirt, to lengthen the frame. Geometric shapes and forms cut to compliment the client’s figure, leaving the eye bouncing from shape to shape
“I really try to work across seasons,” says Jody, who bemoans the industry’s emphasis on fast fashion that moves quickly onto the next colour or cut. Her pieces can be teamed with tights or a shirt for cooler months, or worn alone. A piece of statement jewellery can take a frock from an afternoon at work to a night at a bar. “You don’t need to have a million pieces in your wardrobe that you wear only once a year.”
Jody grew up influenced by vintage clothing built to last. Her grandmother worked in an op-shop and Jody combed through these stores, picking apart old pieces to learn how they were made and teaching herself to sew. “I was recycling the recycled from an early age,” she says of her earlier creations, vintage pieces reworked to reflect her own architectural style with a mix of colours and textures.
Her skills were put to good use at a formative time in her early 20s when she worked at various costume wardrobe departments in Sydney, both in theatre and commercial costume-hire. After moving to Melbourne and studying costume history and design at Swinburne TAFE, friends and strangers would stop to ask about her unique pieces she was wearing and word-of-mouth spread.
While Jody’s skills have been sharpened over the years, her resourceful approach and her play on textures is just as strong today. Now, however, instead of deconstructing op-shop pieces, she’s sourcing high-quality fabrics from Italy, Japan and custom-made hand prints in Australia.
For Jody, it’s all about spreading her message of individuality and quality over quantity. It’s the antidote to fast fashion, it’s all about “slow fashion” as she aptly calls it.