I first discovered Susie Prue through Etsy-- her avatar, featuring her perfectly crimped, 20s style waves, intrigued me to no end. I actually wrote and asked her how she did her hair! She was one of our early customers, which was extremely flattering as her taste was obviously impeccable. She has just opened her own store (hooray!) where she has collected the best in vintage clothing and added some outfits of her own design. It is hard to pigeonhole her original yet utterly timeless style-- does "New Orleans Flapper Fairy Tale" give you an idea? You'll just have to check it out here. Meanwhile, a snowed-in Susie Prue took the time to indulge my Interviewer urge. I hope you have fun learning more about this very stylish and very talented woman... we could all take a few cues from the irrepressible Susie Prue!
Violet Folklore: You have such an amazing sense of style. Where did you get it? Who/what has influenced you?
Susie Prue: thank you so much! my grandmothers were huge influences on my sense of style. i was very lucky to grow up with both of them within 20 miles. my grandma p (who is still with us) had dress up clothes for us since we were at her house almost every week. my favorites were the pink and blue ruffled petticoats and a black early 60s dress with a circle skirt and a giant rhinestone buckle. i'd put all of them on at once and she'd let me sew sachet bags from quilting scraps and fresh lavender, and tell me stories about growing up in chicago. my grammie b grew up dirt poor in el paso with seven brothers and sisters. she and my grandpa made their own fortune, and in the 50s and 60s she treated herself to custom made dresses and gowns, almost all of which i now have. she also saved all her purses, gloves, hats, aprons, etc and i incorporate them into my daily attire. even as a teen, she would find ways to sew herself the most lovely outfits, an imitation of her silver screen idols. the pictures are amazing. she passed away from colon cancer a few years ago and i miss her terribly.
Violet Folklore: I know from reading your blog that you are a fan of classic cinema. For myself and for our readers who may want to explore the films of the 20s and 30s, where should we start?
Susie Prue: i had an uncle who was a movie buff and he got me into "the thin man" series, my all time favorite films. one look at myrna loy, even at age six, and i was smitten! the comedies drew me in when i was young and though my tastes have expanded, my favorites are still the ones that make me smile: katharine hepburn in "bringing up baby" and "the philadelphia story", louise brooks in "the show off", carole lombard in "hands across the table", and all the dames in "the women". they don't get dull regardless of how many times i watch them. for more serious fare, jean harlow leaves me stunned in "hells angels" and "the cabinet of dr caligari" has a hypnotic effect. sometimes when i watch that one, i have to remind myself to blink!
I Long For the Circus, by Susie Prue
Violet Folklore: How did you start sewing and designing clothes? Could you tell us a little about your creative process?
Susie Prue: i started designing clothes when i was about 15. i got into a vocational fashion design program with these incredible industrial machines and i could whip out a dress in a day! i wanted to learn to sew since i couldn't buy stuff like they showed on the paris runways, especially on a normal teenager's income. that's when i started upcycling my thrifted finds. my process is so surreal - once i pick up a garment or fabric, it takes control. i follow where it leads, with only a vague idea of what the finished product will be. even when i try to plan, things tend to pull me away from my original vision. i think i work better that way. the past 10 years (before my accident - i was hit in a crosswalk almost three years ago and my right ankle was irreparably shattered), my life was so planned and controlled. i had itineraries for my speaking engagements, presentations and training tours planned out six months ahead of time! i think this is the universe helping me to let go of the analytical side and re-engage with my artistic soul. i'm working on my purple and white chakras much more these days and that's a very good thing.
Pink Pixie Princess Dress, by Susie Prue
Violet Folklore: You work at the neatest place (Luna Park Cafe in Seattle)-- could you tell us a little about Luna Park's history, and what it's like to be the lead hostess at such a venerable institution?
Susie Prue: luna park was seattle's version of coney island, built out from the duwamish head onto a gigantic boardwalk stretching into the puget sound. it ran from 1907 to 1913 boasting "the infant electrobator", the giant "shoot the chute" slides, a water park, and a carousel with over 200 animals! only the wooden pilings remain from the original structure. luna park cafe opened in 1989 and houses many of the original signs and memorabilia from the amusement park as well as gobs of other kitschy retro things that the owner, john bennett, has collected over the years. he used to repair and restore vintage jukeboxes and coin amusement rides so we have a 1958 seeburg jukebox and table jukes at every booth and the counter. we have a coin operated big band, "peppy the dancing clown", and the batmobile which is strong enough for adults to ride (although since it just jolts around, it's best to do it BEFORE eating). oh, we serve a bitchin' breakfast and the best milkshakes in seattle (hand dipped)! i am so proud to be a part of the cafe. it helped me to connect with the west seattle community in a much deeper way and really get to know my neighbors. i also have a strange connection with the aesthetic of the place, which our customers really love. i started there last march, thinking i'd just fill in for a few weeks until i got back into the "corporate" world. nearly ten months later, i can't imagine leaving for anything! the best part is i get to work mornings there and spend afternoons and evenings thrifting and sewing. and no one minds when i limp!
Susie Prue at Luna Park Cafe
Violet Folklore: Are you a Seattle native? What do you love the most about Seattle?
Susie Prue: i grew up in the seattle area but lived in portland, oregon from 1995 until 2004. The scenery has to be the best part about seattle - we get the mountains, the forests, the sound, and a bustling urban epicenter with pretty much anything you need. I also love that they named the light rail service "south lake union transit" without realizing that it's acronym was SLUT. come to seattle and ride the SLUT! classic seattle!
She makes everything look so good... Susie Prue in a Violet Folklore dress with her own awesome accessories!
Violet Folklore: We're so excited about the launch of your store. What is your vision for the New Year?
Susie Prue: hopefully lots and lots of sales, ha ha. my goal for the store is to have fun vintage and truly one of a kind creations that any girl can afford. i am hoping to create some themed lines, once my creative process is a bit more honed (a silent film theme will be the first), and get some of my decorative items (floral birdcages, feathered picture frames and my oh-so-adored "cupcake stands") into the store. the vintage will always be there since i'm a thrift store junkie and buy everything i like even when it has a 22" waist. i'm hoping it will be a true reflection of what's going on in my cluttered mind and heart - uniquely susie prue!
one more goal for my etsy store - i hope it continues to allow me to meet incredible people like you and amber. i'm so thrilled about the dear new friends i've been able to make, the lives and ambitions and stories i've become privy to. who knew there were so many kindred spirits out there? i feel so lucky to have stumbled into this little community. i want my store to enable me to be a more active part of it.
Thanks so much to Susie Prue for doing a seriously awesome interview! By the way, Susie also writes her own badass blog, which I read religiously. Check it out here... and meanwhile, happy holly days to all of you!