We had the good fortune of connecting with Julianna Aberle-McClellan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julianna, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
When I was eight-year-old I taught myself how to sew by reading my mother’s singer sewing machine manual and making Barbie clothes. When I look back I can see how I was drawn to sewing as a child.. I can remember the first time I made shoe covers so my Paul Revere costume would be pulled together. (No tennis shoes showing for me!) When I was in high school I went to see the movie Pretty in Pink. That movie changed my life. It showed me that I could use something from our past to make something for now. It’s funny that Andie cut up two dresses to make one and now I specialize in restoring, restyling or redesigning vintage gowns. When I am creative and working it feeds my soul… There’s this energy that is created as a new piece comes to fruition. On those days when I’m working on my art are the days I am the happiest… The days that I feel most fulfilled… The days that I come home both at peace and energized….It feels like all is right with the world on those days…And those are the days that those around me benefit the most from my restored energy. Seeing the face of performers or clients step into one of my creations is what’s magical. Helping to create that magic is breathtaking. I can’t imagine not being a part of that, and I would not be whole if I did not spend my days at work being creative. I choose a career in the arts to be whole.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been called the Dress Doctor by friends. I build costumes for theatrical productions and restore, restyle and redesign vintage wedding gowns. I am an artist whose medium is fabric. There is so much energy living in the fibers of a vintage gown. Clients will bring their heirloom gowns to me to bring them back to life. As I work on a garment my own energy or the energy of my team also lives in the garment being created.. I was theatrically trained so I build garments in a way that they can be altered in the future and a future generation can wear the families heirlooms. I am most excited about new vintage gowns coming into my studio. To study them, see what mysteries they hold, and bring the past into the present. I started working in costumes almost 30 years ago. I was mentored in some of the best costume shops in the country including, Denver Center Theatre Company, Santa Fe Opera, The Goodman Theatre, The Guthrie Theatre, Cleveland Ballet, Glimmerglass Opera, and many others. These are the shops where I learned how to do alterations, build costumes that will last and alterable. I was introduced to silk chiffon and fell in love with the fine fabrics. It was not always easy, but I loved the work and so I think that made it seem not as much like a job. There were many days when it felt like it was time to find another career, but the collaboration in theatre always propelled me forward. Some of the lessons I have learned have been great life lessons. I have learned to be authentic in my own skin. I had a supervisor who once told me he could tell when I was stitching something I really loved. My sewing was just better when I loved what I did. So I started to ask for assignments that I really wanted to do, many times challenging work. Being an artist is not always monetarily easy but it brings passion into the world. I have learned that taking responsibility for mistakes and finding a way to fix them earns trust. It is about integrity and allowing people into my world, even when I don’t feel proud at the moment. I have learned to follow my heart and listen to my gut. When I am faced with a choice I always choose the one that scares me a little. Because deep down I know it is the choice that is going to push me into growing. I have some really exciting projects when I have done this.. I want people to know that our heirloom gowns are our past, The day that two people commit to marriage, the celebration full of love, joy, and hope. That energy lives in the fibers of those gowns. To wear these gowns again, in whatever form, honors our ancestors. I take great care when creating something new and build the new garment with positive energy…plus I always hide a little heart in each garment. It is a great treasure hunt.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The first thing I would give to anyone visiting me from a lower altitude is Lots of water and Zaca chewables.They really help with altitude sickness. We would have to start our week on the Banjo Billy Ghost bus tour in Boulder. It is such a fun tour! EstesPark, with a trip to the Stanley,’s ghost tour The Russian tea house in Boulder. For lunch Echo Lake, with a possible drive up mtn Evans if they were up to it. And of course a picnic. Red rocks would be on the itinerary. If there was a concert we would try to go.. Oherwise just go sit in the seats one morning to check out the glory. We would also visit the Denver Art Museum, visit The Capitol and stand on the step with the Mike high marker, Go on a hike outside of Bailey and have a late lunch at Coney Island Hot Dogs. If there was a show at the dcpa we would check it out.. or go to Clock Tower Cabaret for an evening out. Other places I would take them to eat Root down Hops & Pie Denver Biscuit Company Chicken Rebel Luchuga’s Lohi Steakhouse ( can you tell what area of town I live in?) I would probably have friends and family over for some grilling and hot tubbing on my back deck so we could just chill out.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Jim Glavan for showing me the beauty in the work that I do, Susan Mickey for convincing me I am a designer and Bob McClellan for lifting me up for 21 years.
Facebook: Julianna’s Wardrobe
Tayler Carlisle, Jay Knapp & Hannah Morvay