Sewing for New Kids on the Block

Have I ever mentioned that 17 is my lucky number? And that I see 7.17 every single day? 7.17 is actually my birthday, but for some reason these numbers mean something lovely in my life, and whether it’s subconscious or not, the 17th always ends up being a good day in my book.

So this was one of my favorite seamstress gigs. The tour’s production manager greeted me and had me start a load of laundry (ooh ahh so glamorous!) and told me to grab some food since it’s going to be a long day. When you’re the main seamstress, you’re often in at 9 a.m., and out around 12-1 a.m. Who did I see the moment I entered catering? MRS. SUE!

Back when I became part of the crew for Beyonce’s Nashville stadium show, Mrs. Sue was the first person I met. The woman behind the iconic looks you see gracing pop stars for the past 20 (+?) years. An eloquent speaker and a savage seamstress, Mrs. Sue knows everything. Curious how to get that heavy metal zipper to lay flat and completely invisible underneath 8 layers of chiffon without losing any fabric to seam allowance? Ask Mrs. Sue. Having trouble with eliminating bulk in those bias tape edges? Ask Mrs. Sue.

Whatever it is, she knows exactly how to approach it, and has a track record to prove it. After quick hugs were exchanged and I managed to choke down some breakfast (salad, typical me), I made my way to the shared Paula Abdul/New Kids on the Block wardrobe room to help pop open road cases and set up shop.

Working alongside Mrs. Sue, my other local wardrobe buddy Sheila (see tours: Prince, Marilyn Manson, etc.) and newest addition to the team LA Natalie, we tackled the vests you’ll see worn by Paula’s backup dancers. Although there were 2 girls and 4 boys, all wore the same men’s vest, meaning the girls’ looked boxy and masculine. Oftentimes when you go on tour, it can take 2-3 weeks to filter through all the requests for alterations in terms of fit, look, tacking, durability, etc. Mrs. Sue chalked out the new outline for the girls’ vests, and I took scissors to that bright white line. Adhering bias tape to the outer-facing edge, we were able to turn those masculine, shapeless vests into flirty ones made for our two slender female dancers. I spent the rest of my time with Paula’s wardrobe fixing the stitching on ties, pressing shirts, and prepping for quick change – the normal stuff. Paula dipped in midday to check out the vests (and hunt for her favorite hairbrush), but made sure not to leave until she flashed every single person in the room that sincere and joyful smile she’s famous for.

It was great to see Mrs. Sue again, and it excited me to see that one of Paula’s statement pieces was a sequin-covered jacket very similar to the type I started tailoring for Any Old Iron, a local-and-incredible label here in Nashville that specializes in sequined statement badassery for those who want to be noticed. Seeing complex pieces and thinking ‘hey, I just worked on something really similar’ instead of ‘WOW. I can’t wait until I learn how to work on pieces like that,’ reminds you that you’re really not far off from where you want to be.

Enters Melanie and Patrick, and when I didn’t think the day could be going any better, it got better. See, Melanie, an epic stylist and fellow Cancer, and I clicked wholeheartedly and immediately, and she pulled me through the pipe and drape and sat me down at her beautiful new Singer machine. There’s something about Melanie. When she speaks, she isn’t going to talk to you about clothes. She’s going to talk to you about her heart. Your heart. What you’re called to be doing. The people you should be surrounding yourself with. And the plans God has for you. The air gets a little thicker as Melanie and I share stories about life – where we’ve been, where we hope to go.

I was now sewing for New Kids on the Block. Patrick has been touring with NKOTB from the beginning, and in fact, Melanie pointed out that if you watch some of their very first tour videos back in the 80’s, you can see teenage Patrick rocking out to some New Kids songs. Nothing goes out that Patrick doesn’t approve, and coming from a man that must own a thousand hats and two thousand pairs of shoes, he knows how things should look. First task:

Take in (either Jonathan’s or Jordan’s, I never read) white jeans. So what’d I learn?

When you’re working with two backside jean darts (darts for slender waists, not-so-shapely bums, and high-waisted pants/shorts), for every 2″ you take in in the waistline only (1″ per side), your apex must extend an additional inch. I’ve pasted in a Google pic from Sewalong.com for those seeking the classic ‘flat butt adjustment’ we all know and love. Learn it. Use it. Notice we don’t take all excess fabric out of the center seam. While this works for women who don’t need more than an inch removed, it can warp pockets for anything beyond that, and create a look that’s too feminine, or peachy ;).

flat-fig-1-2

See that green line marked ‘overlap’? That’s your dart, from apex to waistline.

**My only change from this diagram is that for those who are active in their jeans, we clip the dart open, press, and top stitch each side. So the end result is: 2 dart seams on either side of the middle seam, and 2 topstitched lines 1/2″ on each side of each dart seam. This ensures your dart seam allowances lay open and flat so your boy can break it down.

 

 

 

 

I steamed my little heart out getting wifebeaters, v necks, jeans, and jackets pristine and ready, and Melanie and I started prepping for quick change (Flamex, racks of clothes, shoes, tables, and mirrors). With there only being 2 racks of wardrobe changes, and the crew on this tour being ridiculously helpful and calm, show call prep was literally stress free. It’s a well-oiled machine that fans don’t know exists, and it’s 100% necessary for a SAFE & successful show.

As soon as I saw Carrie Underwood I knew she’d be sneaking up there to sing a little with the boys. And then Big n’ Rich too, who seem to find their way onto everyone’s Nashville show stage these days.

Aside from this basic alteration, the only other sewing I did was fixing a tear in music director Greg McPherson’s jeans (nothing special, and in fact, we did it ‘rockstar style’ with the seam to the outside to match all the other tears he was rocking). Greg stepped out from the band riser to play a piano lit on fire while Donnie sang (in his flame-proofed, plastic-feeling pants).

Most memorable moment (aside from Melanie and I rockin’ out right behind the stage to “Step by Step”) was blasting out into the crowd to catch a jacket. In that exact moment that I walked out beyond the barriers, confetti cannons filled ALL of the airspace inside Bridgestone with paper. Not a cue I was prepped for – you couldn’t see a thing! There was something about that moment.. surrounded by content, helpful people, doing exactly what you love, that felt like there was cause for celebration. As I frequent arena tours more often, it’s starting to feel less nervous about doing something wrong, and more like home. When touring crew stop by to give you a quick hug and say “I remember when you helped me on the Bieber show here” it reminds you, you’re probably right where you’re supposed to be.

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