We live in a throwaway culture where we buy our children new clothes every season (and simultaneously drop off a garbage bag of outgrown things to the Goodwill). But it hasn’t always been this way. The Victorians repurposed much of their clothing as did many other cultures. Thankfully, not all of that tradition is lost. Today I am delighted to share with you the hand-sewn heirloom creations of Peaches Barnes.
I have had several phone conversations with Peaches Barnes over the past six months as I have sought to learn more about her French, hand-sewn portrait dress business of nearly 40 years. She’s been featured in Southern Lady, Veranda, and Victoria magazines so I was honored that she indulged a lifestyle blogger from Dallas.
As many of y’all know, my late grandmother hand-sewed many of my dresses, and also had a deep respect for Southern tradition, so I formed an immediate connection to Peaches and her charming Georgia accent. Every time I got off the phone with her I also had a smiling sense of satisfaction that the tradition of Southern heirloom sewing was still alive and well.
Each of Peaches’ delicate creations is made to order from the absolute finest materials and French lace. So much detail and work goes into each design that Peaches only accepts about 35 customers a year. Yes, she knows she could outsource her designs and grow her brand if she desired, but her goals are one of a devoted artist. “There is only so much I can do,” said Peaches to me one afternoon. “God is the authority of my work; he brings the clients for me.”
Peaches knows her client profile quite well. And it’s not necessarily the people you might think. It’s the young mother with wonderful taste who will save up to buy one of Peaches’ dresses (instead of four of another brand) because she knows it will be worn for multiple Christmases, Easters, and weddings. It’s the interior designer who recognizes beautiful design no matter where it lies. The grandmother who wants to give her first grandchild something so special that will be passed down for generations.
Just like the Victorians, a Peaches’ gown can be worn for years which makes the investment so worthwhile. Dresses can be modified with different collars, ribbons, and underdresses to make them appear a different color. (You can change out a cream slip or underdresses for a pale blue or pink slip and you’ve got a totally different dress!) The underdresses or slips are so beautiful they can even be worn as dresses.
Throughout the life cycle of the dress customers send it back multiple times to be hemmed by Peaches as needed at no charge. At the end of the life cycle of the garment, the dress can be recycle into an a bigger garment for a portrait dress.
I am putting red ribbons in Louise’s dress for Christmas. Later Peaches’ talented daughter, Charlotte, will embroider their signature bluebirds on a collar. Peaches takes such joy in recommending different ideas to her customers throughout the years.
Some dresses to highlight: Louise’s day gown (starts at $350) can be worn with buttons down front or back for different looks. Remember, this gown can be worn until three or four years old.
The high-yoked West is one that can be worn from 2 years to 6 years old. This Weston dress was the most popular dress of 2017 and twirls beautifully. (The sleeves!) Just about any of the designs can be made into beautiful baptism gowns. A wonderful tradition to start if your family doesn’t have one. Oh and Peaches does the most beautiful garments for boys as well that make for timeless portrait attire.
Peaches books months, sometimes a full year out, but she purposely under books so she can open spots up if she has time. To secure a spot on her list it is $100 deposit. (You don’t have to decide on the exact dress though until she calls you.) See Peaches’ website for more dresses and photos.
Thanks so much to Peaches for this beautiful, heirloom gown I will pass down to my grandchildren!
Photos (unless otherwise noted): Ali Wood Photo