September 21, 2015

Meet a fellow vintage blogger: Art deco fashion loving, super talented Finnish sewer Rhia

Unquestionably one of the most enjoyable aspects of this exciting ongoing vintage blogger interview series is the many diverse corners of the world from which those who take part in it hail from. Today I have the immense pleasure and honour of sitting down - via email, that is - with none other than Rhia, a wildly talented, sweet as can be, passionate vintage adoring seamstress from Finland who blogs about her love of the past on her blog, the Evil Dressmaker.

{The awesomely stylish Rhia sporting the one genuine 1920s dress currently in her wardrobe - and looking thoroughly amazing in it, if I may say so myself!}

Rhia is one of those ladies that you instantly admire. She is an accomplished sewer, a devoted vintage lifestyle enthusiasts (with a particular penchant for 1920s and 30s garb), a historical costumer, a makeup maven, a choir singer, and so very much more.

She radiates passion, loveliness, skill and it is instantly clear that she pours her heart and soul into everything that she does. I am much the same way and so adore it when I get a chance to talk with others who live their own lives and celebrate their own passions with this kind of devotion and wholehearted-ness.

Join me, won't you, as we get to know one of Finland's most beloved old school fans better in today's fabulously fun new vintage interview post.

You are an incredibly talented seamstress, could you please tell us about what lead you to start selling your vintage style handmade garments?

I suppose my own business has always been my dream, so I think it was pretty much my goal since the moment I started studying to be a seamstress. Vintage jumped on board much later. I also want to bring people better quality than you’d find from the average chain brands.

{A tremendously talented sewer, Rhia made this spot on 1930s looking vintage reproduction dress herself that many people have since thought was the genuine vintage deal - a testament to her incredible skill as a historical seamstress.}

You have a lovely Etsy shop, where else do you sell your wonderful creations?

Occasionally I can be found at local sales events and fairs. I also have my little workroom boutique where I have my collection on display and customers are always welcome to drop by when I’m working there.

Do you have a favourite decade (or two) to sew from?

The 30s and 40s are my favourite inspirations for sewing. Both decades have loads of buttons, pretty details and interesting cuts – all of which I love immensely!

{The picture of timeless elegance, Rhia dazzles in this sophisticated 1940s look, which includes a terrific pair of shoes from the Finnish designer Minna Parikka.}

Are these the same years that you most gravitate towards wearing yourself?

The 1920s has always been my favourite era, but during the past couple years I have also started to gravitate towards the 30s. I think that the 30s style actually fits me better than 20s, and these days I mostly love to wear 30s looks. Not that I have many authentic 20s garments mind you. They are very difficult to find here, unless one is prepared to order online and contend with the high price of such.

You also really enjoy making and wearing historical (aka, pre-20th century) costumes as well. What is your favourite pre-20th century time frame to dress from?

When I was a younger my favourite era was Rococoo with huge panier skirts and high powdered coiffures. Now when I actually started making historical costumes my favourite era turned out to be Regency (early 1800s, Jane Austin era). I really love the empire-line dresses and delicate styling. My other favourite is late 1800s, the bustle era, with very narrow skirts with huge behinds (yes, in my opinion, women have to have a proper backside Winking smile ). But when I think about it, I can find something to like in every era.

Do you take part in many historical reenactment events?

I haven’t really until recently. Last Spring was the first time when I actually took part in any reenactment events. That was the 1700s Spring Ball, then a little over a month ago there was a 1700s fair that I took part in. Those are the only proper reenactment events so far, but next year I’m hoping to do more. I also like old era dances (renaissance and baroque), which I hope to learn better. They are fun and very different to modern dances.

{The breathtaking Regency ensemble that Rhia wore for a 1700s ball that she attended earlier this year.}

What were some of the strong influential factors in the development of your love of sewing?

My mum and granny did a lot of sewing and doing all sorts of handcrafts when I was a kid. I must have been quite young, not even in school yet, when I made my first doll costumes. I have made clothes for myself as for long as I can remember, even before I learned anything about patterns (they were horrid, absolutely horrid I tell you). So I suppose it sort of grew on me. We always had many handcraft tools at home such as weaving looms, knitting machines, sewing machines, etc.

Did/do you have any sewing mentors who have helped shape your path?

I suppose my mum and granny were my mentors in many ways. At least they encouraged me to do handcrafts from very young age, starting  with pinecone cows and cutting rags for loom weaving materials. My schoolmate from commercial school encouraged me to apply to a vocational school of handcrafts, because she knew I love handcrafts.

My biggest mentors were two of my teachers in that school, they were really inspiring and good at what they do. I am very grateful especially to my knitting and textile information teacher. She was the best teacher I’ve ever had, she managed to turn the dullest lectures into very interesting ones.

Have you been a passionate vintage lover for a long time?

Actually no, I have only really been into vintage for about 4 - 6 years or so now. I’ve been interested in vintage fashion for as long as I can remember (first the historical fashion, and later the 1900s decades), but I never really realized that I could actually wear that stuff. I found a Finnish vintage forum in 2010 and joined in.

Then soon after that I started really collecting more vintage garments and wearing them. I had some 1960s and 70s clothes even before that, but I didn’t really call them vintage at that time. I found lots of like-minded people from that forum and made friends with them.

{Rhia looking sublime in one of her favourite 1930s dresses.}

In addition to sewing and wearing vintage styles, what are some of the ways that you weave your love of the past into your daily life?

I also love old architecture, art, music, furniture, magazines, cars, you name it. I’m not purist in any of those fields, so I like stuff from many eras. But all old junk fascinates me in a way. The quality of work and materials, the design aesthetics and so on are somehow appealing. Old technology, old methods, ways and materials are interesting. I like reading about old technology and history. I collect old black and white photos and stereoscopic pictures, hat pins and powder cases. So our home is filled with my “junk” as my boyfriend likes to put it. Recently I have also started to experiment with old food recipes.

Are you member of (the Finland based vintage enthusiast group) Fintage?

Yes I am. It is actually registered association and we got members all around Finland. I’m the vice president. Earlier this month we had shoe fashion show in local museum. Members of the association modeled the vintage shoes in a show, which I curated. Fintage also arranges two major local vintage fairs a year and takes part in smaller vintage related events mainly in the southern part of the country.

What are some things about yourself that you'd like to share with my readers, who may be meeting you for the first time here today?

Tough question this one! Perhaps that I might make loud noise but I don’t bite. I might come across as a very serious person, when you read my writing, but when you see me in the photos, you might realize that I’m actually a bit of a joker. I always reply to comments left on my blog and I hope my rambling is both entertaining and interesting. Readers are also welcome to request posts on topics they'd like me to write about.

{A huge (fellow) fan of costume parties, this is the outfit that Rhia sported last year for Halloween. She was an un-named Star Trek character being attacked by an alien disease.}

What inspired you to start your awesome blog, The Evil Seamstress?

I started reading blogs in 2008 and soon found out it was quite fun thing to do. So I just decided that I’d give it a go and see if I get any readers. First it was more like a public diary. Then I started to move towards daily outfits and tutorials and other craft related stuff. Now it seems to be a combination of both, but I try to keep it interesting.

You are anything but evil, lovely lady, do people ever make unfair snap judgments about your blog, shop, or even yourself because of the word "evil" in that name?

During all these years, only one person (one of my customers, and older lady) so far has actually had any criticism about the name. Most often the comment is that I don’t look evil at all. I think people generally get the idea. It’s a joke about me poking customers with pins. But I don’t really do that - usually I just poke myself with them, pretty much daily actually.

In addition to sewing and fashion, you've very keen on makeup and beauty related topics as well. Can you share more about that love?

My other, all though a bit neglected profession, is makeup artist. I studied that in private school about 10 years or so ago. During my years in seamstress school I got this idea about being able to give customers a whole look, not just clothes. So a couple years after getting my seamstress papers, I went studying to be makeup artist.

However I don’t really have as much time for makeup stuff as I would like. It’s one profession which requires quite a lot of following the current trends, new inventions and keeping up with the industry to be able to give customers what they want. So for now I just settle for posting little snippets on my blog and creating fun looks on my own face. I would really love to learn more about making FX-makeup and prosthetic stuff.

{A fabulous vintage safari style outfit that Rhia wore for a day out at a botanical garden, complete with classic red lip for that hit of lady explorer glamour.}

What are five of your current must-have beauty products?

1. Wine red lipstick which is my makeup staple. My current favourite is Shu Uemura which I’m running low.

2. Setting lotion for my curls. Still in the process of finding the perfect one though, since it must be fragrance free.

3. Tinted lip balm for those days when I can’t be bothered with lipstick. Again, I need it to be fragrance and flavour free, so I’m currently using a local pharmacy brand called ACO.

4. MAC Fluidline eyeliner gel with MAC eyeliner brush. It took several years to find this and I’m not going to change any time soon.

5. Crystal deodorant is absolute must during hot Summer months. Unlike usual deo, you can use it everywhere on the body, like feet and under boobs. Yup, no more smelly boob sweat.

Any makeup secrets or favourite brands that would benefit the stylish gal on a tight budget?

If you are looking for eye shadows with loads of pigments but can’t afford high quality expensive brands, go for theater makeup. They are usually as loaded full of pigment as stage makeup that is made for professional use, and is more affordable than higher end brands. Packages might be uglier, but you get larger amounts of the actual product with same price.

 My favourite stage makeup brands are Grimas (from the Netherlands, very good eye shadow selection at an affordable price) and Kryolan (from Germany, they have a large variety of shadows, powders, makeup bases and quality bushes) which I can buy locally. Check local theater makeup sellers or fancy costume shops for local or international brands.

You can turn any matte finish eye shadow into shimmering one just by applying loose iridescent pigment on top. Going for multi-use products can also save money. Matte lipstick can be used as blush, choose colour that works both ways. Cold brown eye shadow works as contour shadow and ivory or cream shimmering loose pigment works as highlighter, an eye shadow and can be mixed with lipstick to create more shimmering look.

Once I made a whole party makeup looks with just a compact powder, one large eye shadow palette (The legendary Coastal Scents pallet) and lipstick, because I left all my other makeup at home by accident. Coastal Scents pallets are not as good pigment-wise as I would hope for, but if you are looking for massive amount of shades on a tight budget, they work fine. And you can make colours stand out better by applying eye shadow base.

You are such a renaissance woman with a wide variety of interests, what are some of your other passions that we haven't covered here yet?

It's quite a compliment to be called a renaissance woman, as I have always admired people who have many talents, but I suppose I qualify. A couple years ago I finally found the kind of exercise I like, ballet. I’m fascinated by the fact that it can be very relaxed in motion, but still always makes me sweat like crazy. I am hoping that some day my feet are strong enough to try out the pointe shoes.

A year ago I finally took the bull by its horns and joined a choir. I have always wanted to sing, but never had the courage to start doing so until then. I have also taken lessons on singing and I enjoyed every moment of it. It’s so different to anything else that I do it’s sort of way of relaxing to me. After joining in the choir I also managed to finally tackle my other long term dream: to learn to play saxophone. I managed to rent an alto sax via a choir member, but I’ve put that hobby on summer break for now. I’m not particularly good at it yet, but it makes me smile which is the main thing.

But wait, there’s more! I have one more part time profession. On weekends I turn into a glittering burlesque performer Sea Breeze and take my clothes off on stage. I did the International Stockholm Burlesque festival in 2014, which is the biggest Swedish burlesque event, as well as the Helsinki Burlesque Festival and a bunch of smaller local events. I also perform at private parties like birthdays and such. I perform both solo and as a duo with my lovely friend Lolita Love.

Have sewing and/or anything else pertaining to vintage become your full-time job or do you work in another field as well?

Sewing is my only job right now (besides the occasional burlesque gigs) and it’s my own business via co-op. Unfortunately that doesn’t support me full-time yet, so I’m constantly looking for another part time job to supplement my current income.

{Much like here in Canada, winters in Finland get mighty chilly! Layers, wool, fur, tights, and a hat are all a must, as Rhia demonstrates in this lovely cold weather vintage ensemble.}

On your blog, Evil Dressmaker, which you write in both Finnish and English, you share a wide range of awesome tutorials, what have been some of your favourite so far?

My favourite tutorials to write have been fabric covered buttons and a Christmas wreath.  However it looks like my readers have liked most the skate shaped Christmas decorations.

Where do you see the vintage scene going in Finland in the next decade? How about the rest of the world?

It’s becoming more and more popular and it’s slowly turning towards mainstream. Although I doubt it becoming completely mainstream, I suspect that during the next decade it’s getting more and more difficult to make reasonably priced vintage finds.

On the one hand it’s good that people realize old garments are not just something to fill the dump sites with, but good quality and long-lasting garments. On the other hand that also means higher prices and less selection. Also the older the garment, the more difficult to acquire. I think 20’s and 30’s are soonish going to be almost impossible to find.

I think that is happening everywhere, all around the world. I don’t know when we will see the peak of it. Very slowly people are realizing that the modern clothing industry produces very low quality garments and people have started wanting better quality. Basically anything made in 1990s and before that is better quality than modern. And until the fashion industry stops manufacturing low end stuff and starts returning to better materials, I don’t see the end of vintage wearing scene happening anytime soon.

Any exciting plans for your shop, blog, or any other area of your life in the coming months that you'd like to share with us?

I haven’t been able to update my Etsy shop for awhile because I’ve been busy with other stuff. I have been making a test collection of tango clothes. We don’t have any shops in Finland specializing in tango clothes, so my friend, a teacher of Argentinian tango, asked if I’d be interested in that kind of project. So we designed a collection together and I have been selling it in several tango events here in Finland. It has received pretty good reviews so I might continue doing that.

Sewing and handcraft-wise I’m planning new stuff for the blog too. I’m a huge fan of sci-fi and I’m planning on creating some new cosplay outfits, so readers might expect to see cosplay-related posts in the future. I’m also planning some more tutorials on sewing. And if I have time, I’m making similar Christmas-calendar type of set of posts in December (keep your fingers crossed!) to what I have done before. So stay tuned!

Connect with Rhia on:

{Rhia as her burlesque character, Ms Sea Breeze, along with her friend Lolita Love, who also adores all things vintage. Together the beautiful pair form The Valentino Sisters burlesque act.}

♥ ♥ ♥

Seriously, you guys, is Rhia one over-the-moon cool - and incredibly talented - lady or what? I am so honoured that she jumped at the chance to be interviewed for this post series and truly want to thank her for such a stellar, in-depth, engaging conversation. I know who I will be looking her up right away if I ever have the good fortune of being in Finland!

In the next exciting interview, which falls in October, my very favourite month of the year, we will be zooming back to North America, where I'll chat with a dear friend of mine who is as wild about Halloween as I am! She also happens to be a goth gal who adores vintage, a passionate feminist, a whip smart educator, and one all-around awesome person - amongst her many other fantastic points.

I wholeheartedly mean it when I say that I can hardly wait to her interview this woman in a few weeks time - and for those who may be wondering, no, the timing of her post appearing in the very same month as All Hallows' Eve is not entirely a coincidence. :)


  1. Another great interview! I enjoyed reading about someone who's interested in older periods - I think mid century feels more common so it's fascinating to hear about someone who prefers 20s and 30s styles. Also, those Minna Parikkas!! It's my dream to own a pair one day... Rhia does, indeed, sound incredibly cool and talented!

    1. I couldn't possibly agree more!!! I also notice that folks in certain central and northern European countries often have a huge passion for earlier (1920s - early 40s) periods in a way that isn't as widespread in North America, the UK, and Australia - generally speaking of course (there are fans and wearers of such the world over).

      Many thanks for your great comment and for being such a fantastic supporter of this interview series. I appreciate it immensely, as I'm sure all those who take part in it do as well.

      Big hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

  2. She is very inspirational and lovely! I've followed her blog for years :) great interview!

    1. She really is and I think that her favourite decades suit her to an absolute tee. Some folks just look right at home in certain eras, IMO, and Rhia has utterly nailed those that work sublimely for her.

      Big hugs & happy start of autumn wishes!
      ♥ Jessica

  3. I also loved tinted lipbalms and architecture, magazines, etc, just like her, so I loved reading about her! She does look amazing and she is so talemted - I also though that the amazing dress was original! She is not evil at all, but I got what she said about the name, and that just one person complained :) She is beautiful and I want to visit her shop on Etsy very soon!

    1. Hi lovely Denise, it really, really looks the part for sure and just highlights what a fabulously talented seamstress - and a skilled vintage fashion expert - she is.

      Big hugs & many thanks for your great comment,
      ♥ Jessica

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you very much, sweet lady! It's a joy to bring you guys a new edition every month (or thereabouts) and get to know so many of our fellow vintage/fashion/crafting loving peers better through it.

      Many hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

  5. Denise @BuyRVintageJunkSeptember 21, 2015 at 4:37 PM

    How nice to be continually introduced to alot of the wonderful and creative people you have met, Jessica. You ask interesting questions and we, your readers, learn more about you, too.
    Rhia has such talents and I'm on my way to her Etsy shop to see what she has to offer. :)

    1. That is a wonderfully lovely compliment, dear Denise, thank you so much. It is a joy for me to chat with fellow bloggers like this and to bring my readers these posts every few weeks. I love how we all share points in common as vintage fans, yet are each so splendidly, beautifully unique as well. It helps keep this interview series fresh and extra fun.

      Big hugs & happy last day of summer wishes,
      ♥ Jessica


  6. Hello Jessica! How nice to come back to your blog after a few days and thank you for this post, this blogger is a really interesting woman, I like his style and his humor, an essential ingredient for femininity! His clothes are beautiful and attention to detail!
    Kisses, see you soon


  7. Yet another wonderful interview! Rhia looks perfect in 20s and 30s styles. This series of posts is such a good way to introduce us to other bloggers and spread each person's views of Vintage style. x

    1. Thank you very much, sweet dear. I'm delighted to know that you see things that way, too, for that is such a driving force behind this series for me. We, as vintage lovers, share oodles of points in common, yet we're each wonderfully individualistic as well as it's important, I feel, to shine a spotlight on that fact as much as it that collectively we adore, and enjoy wearing styles from, the past.

      Many hugs & happy last day of summer wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

  8. Another fabulous introduction to a blogger that I wasn't familiar with! I love seeing ladies that dip into 20s and 30s style. She's an amazing seamstress, and I love her style. I'm off to check out her blog right now.

    1. Thank you very much! Same here - massively! It lets me live out my passion for the styles of those two decades, the bulk of which look atrocious on me, vicariously and also just to enjoy seeing them appreciated close to a century later. Rhia shines sublimely in looks from the 20s and 30s (and 40s) and is a true sartorial inspiration for anyone who may be looking to sport styles from such decades themselves.

      Big hugs & happy end of summer wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

  9. Thank you so much again Jessica, for the opportunity to join in on this fantastic series of Vintage Bloggers. These kind of things are truly a great way to find good blogs to read and to get to know interesting people. It was just so much fun to answer all the questions you so carefully thought through.

    And huge thank you to all the readers for such lovely comments! Hope that you find something to tickle your fancy in my little domain at Evil Dressmaker-blog.

    1. You are so very welcome, sweet Rhia. Thank you again for a stellar, in-depth interview that stoked the fires of my love of 20s - early 40s garb all the more in the process. It was a sincere and beautiful joy to talk with you and I look forward to continuing to eagerly follow your blog and Etsy shop for a long time to come.

      Keep up the awesome work & have a gorgeous autumn!

      Big hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

  10. awesome women! fabulous frocks!!
    as a vintage winter lover i especially love the winter ensemble! thank you jess for presenting her!!!

    1. Rhia truly is!!! I loved getting to know this dynamic, inspiring lady better. She's such a cool person with boundless amounts of talent!

      Tons of hugs,
      ♥ Jessica

  11. What a wonderful interview! How very interesting,thank you so much for featuring Rhia. I have a new blog to follow as she just seems to wonderful.

    Great job!


    1. It was my sincere pleasure! I love that I was able to introduce you two. With fewer and fewer active vintage bloggers any more these days, helping those who are still keeping their blogs going strong connect with one another has become an even greater driving force for me (and my own site, I mean).

      Joyful start of autumn wishes, my dear friend!
      ♥ Jessica

  12. Hey, this is great! I have the pleasure of knowing her from Fintage (and we even went to the same ballet class last year), but I learnt a lot from the interview! Looking forward to the next one. :)

    1. How splendidly lovely that you've met in person! I love that there is such a connected community of vintage fans in Finland. I've said to my husband a time or two before that a lot of other countries, my own included, would do well to follow in Finland's footsteps there.

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment. I look forward to bringing you the next vintage blogger interview in less than a month's time.

      Have a fantastic start of autumn!
      ♥ Jessica

  13. Two of my favorite things: 20s-30s clothes, and Finland! :) Thanks for sharing this lovely interview, Jessica! I am now off to stalk Rhia on her blog and all social media. :-D

    1. It's my sincere pleasure, dear Grace. I'm delighted to have been able to introduce you two. Rhia is such a fabulous lady and I couldn't be more honoured that she jumped at the chance to be interviewed here.

      Wishing you a beautiful week,
      ♥ Jessica

  14. What a fascinating woman! You really bought her to life for me with the questions that you asked. I am off to find her blog and read a bit more!

    1. Thank you very much, dear Kate. That's such a lovely compliment to both Rhia and I. I'm delighted to have been able to introduce two and hope that I can continue to bring further new (to you) bloggers your way as this fun interview series continues.

      Many hugs & joyful start of October wishes,
      ♥ Jessica