From a well-lit corner room in her Langley home, Patricia Francisco can often be found working magic on a sewing machine.
But her work space isn’t your average seamstress studio. Her creations, ranging from corsets to throwback dresses to turn-of-the-century accessories, reveals she isn’t limited to handling alterations or tailoring.
“Custom sewing work has been a lifelong passion of mine,” Francisco said. “Although I’ll do alterations, I really prefer creating something to satisfy my artistic side. It’s an opportunity for me to share something I love.”
Francisco is a master of working with clothes from a bygone era.
Her sewing and alterations business, Patrician Designs, offers a variety of services and then some. While alterations tend to pay the bills, Francisco’s skills truly come into play when working with decadent dresses and their accompanying pieces.
Francisco typically has projects working with bridal gowns, Victorian dresses and Edwardian dresses, which emanate from the turn of the century to the World War I era. She’s even had a customer ask her to make a Russian court dress, which comes from the days of czar rule.
She also does work with the steampunk genre, which Francisco describes as “neo-Victorian.” Essentially, she takes Victorian dresses and gives them a modern twist, sometimes drifting into the sci-fi genre.
Think of the 1999 film “Wild Wild West.”
According to other seamstresses on the island, Francisco has a skill set rarely found on Whidbey Island.
“I wouldn’t just say she has unique skills for someone on Whidbey Island, but in the Pacific Northwest,” said Langley resident and seamstress Sue Ellen White. “She’s spectacularly talented and skilled. She’s perfect for someone who’s into steampunk, reenacting and people who just love period costuming.”
Francisco’s work isn’t costuming. Costuming, is done to make articles of clothing look authentic from afar, but up close the typically poor stitching work shows since it’s not a crucial theater detail, according to White and Francisco.
Rather, Francisco’s work shows craftsmanship and precision in the stitching and fitting. Francisco has an associate’s degree in applied science in apparel design, White said.
Her skills as a modiste, a female tailor, earned her a niche costumer base that spans far and wide. It’s essentially a scene of its own; regulars at the Port Townsend Victorian Festival regularly seek her services, as do customers from places including Dallas and Dubai.
Francisco works with customers via Skype to obtain their dimensions for proper fitting. She’s also open to in-person consultations. She might even teach them a thing or two.
“I want to show people the work I do,” Francisco said. “What I do is kind of a dying art, since many of the women who do this are older. And that’s a shame, because every custom piece is the only one in the whole world.”
“That’s what I love about it.”