Interview: Rachel of Fallow Fields Clothing

One of my most-worn pieces (and my husband’s favorite shirt I own - I’m not kidding!) is an ivory linen-blend top made by my now-friend Rachel Vineyard. I wish I could remember how I first found Fallow Fields Clothing on Instagram, but back then she was known as FindingLovelyThings. She shared incredible vintage and sometimes her own personal style (which is stunning, by the way).

Now I own the same top in black and wear them both to death. It is so rare and so fun to know exactly who made a piece, and Rachel equally enjoys knowing who will be wearing what she makes.

You can find Rachel’s creations on instagram (@FallowFieldsClothing) and even sometimes on @NoihsafBazaar - so clearly, she’s made it.

Early on in my blog brainstorming, I knew I wanted to feature Rachel and learn more about her creative process as well as her journey from finding lovely things to making lovely things. She kindly agreed, and I have really enjoyed getting to know her through this interview. I hope you will enjoy reading her words as much as I did!

When and how did you learn to sew?

I was around fifteen when I started to play with my mom’s sewing machine. I believe the first thing I made was a messenger bag made from placemats! My mom helped me figure out how to create the form and match all the pieces, and I did the sewing! From there, I started altering things I found at thrift stores, making something that was way too big fit me just right, or raising a hemline, slimming down a sleeve, simple things like that. Once I went to college, I didn’t sew for several years, until my aunt gifted me a new sewing machine as a graduation present! That was when I started to construct my own clothing.

Gosh…the first few pieces were TERRIBLE! I made little shift dresses from old fabric I found laying around in my mom’s attic. I remember one pattern in particular, it was purple and baby blue striped. I didn’t know how to finish seams very well at that time, so it was really messy…but I didn’t care! I thought it was so cool to be wearing something I made with my hands! Turns out, I still feel that way about the things I currently make! Some friends and I went to Portland this weekend, and I felt so proud to be wearing Fallow Fields clothing the whole time…from a dress for a show we saw, to my PJs, to a matching set to romp around the city. It brings me sew (pun intended) much joy to wear something that my own hands created.

Tell me about your "day-job."

For my day-job, I am a mental health counselor! I work at a wonderful agency in my town and split my schedule between a posh little downtown office where I see adults for all kinds of presenting issues - all the way from people wanting to focus on their self-growth to people struggling with more severe mental health concerns. The other days of the week, I work at a local volunteer-operated clinic that meets the needs of our community and provides a variety of services to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access due to financial strain. I truly love it. Counseling is my true passion and I might even say “calling” in life, and I am devoted to that position and role first and foremost, even over Fallow Fields! I feel really lucky to be doing something I love, and making a difference in the world, one person at a time.

How do you shop for yourself? What questions do you typically ask yourself when deciding on something new?

These days I shop for myself online, primarily! I used to enjoy going out to thrift stores and scouring racks for the perfect thing I was on the hunt for, but I’ve found that I don’t quite have the time to do that these days, or maybe just don’t prioritize it like I used to as my time is so precious and I’ve enjoyed spending it other ways lately. I try to keep a pretty minimal wardrobe and typically follow a “one in-one out” rule for myself but also try to be flexible and not too rigid with it. I always try to purchase second-hand if possible, so I take a peek on Noihsaf Bazaar, Ebay, Poshmark, etc. to see if I can find what I’m looking for secondhand first. If I can’t, I’ll save up my pennies and make sure I can wear something lots of ways before pulling the trigger and making the purchase. My favorite go-to’s for clothing these days and where my favorite pieces have come from are Everlane, Dôen, Christy Dawn, and Babaá sweaters! Can’t go wrong with those in my book.

How do you decide whether or not to keep something (either self-made or purchased) in your own wardrobe?

Because I try to keep a pretty pared down wardrobe, I have a pretty strict policy with myself right now on fully loving something and using it really often, or letting it go! I find, along with lots in the ethical fashion community on Instagram, that sometimes I don’t “get it right” and may purchase something that doesn’t end up meeting my standards for one reason or another. That’s why I love having options like Noihsaf around so you can make your pennies back pretty easily if you aren’t 100% pleased, or if an item just isn’t working for ya. I try to be unbiased towards both RTW items and my handmade items too! If I made something and it took lots of time and my energy, and I’m just not reaching for it, I know it is time to let go and send it out into the world with love! I think this method is working for me right now. I appreciate all the thoughtfully made, ethically produced items out there right now but know how much better having a paired down closet feels for me as I get dressed each day.

How do you feel when you're creating a new piece?

I love designing new pieces! It is a practice I find I am having to schedule time for lately, as I’ve gotten so many wonderful orders from wonderful women who follow Fallow Fields and want to support me! It is so exciting to have a vision in mind for a new piece and see it actually come to fruition in the way I had hoped. I felt that way about a jumpsuit I designed a few weeks ago and hope to make more of them soon! It is so satisfying to create in general, and especially to create wearable garments that are just what I was hoping they would be. Sometimes I think about how creation is an ongoing process and realize that there will always, literally always, be new thoughts, ideas, designs coming into play. It feels exciting to “catch” an idea of something and get started on the process of bringing it to life. I think a lot about Elizabeth Gilbert and her idea of “muses” who come and visit each of us for a time. She tends to posit that if we are open and accepting of the inspiration and dedicated to bringing it to fruition, it will come! But if we turn away and don’t honor or value the inspiration that comes our way at times, it will keep on moving and find another person who is willing to collaborate in creating. She wrote about this process in reference to writing, but I think the same is true for designing!

What are your main sources of inspiration when designing? What about for your personal style?

My inspiration these days comes from all over! I have always loved flowing fabrics that drape my body in elegant and simple ways. I think Fallow Fields is a representation of that. Caring for my body, honoring it, and clothing it in breathable, roomy fabrics and fits that don’t pinch, scratch, smother, cinch, or restrict my body in any way feels best and pretty much always has. I will wear more fitted items at times, like high rise vintage Levis with little “give,” but I almost always pair that with something flowy on top. I like the balance! Pair that balance with a pair of chunky clogs or ankle boots, and you’ve got a dream look for me! I have pretty much always been drawn to natural, textured fabrics, even in the early stages of style development in middle and high school! I loved linen, even then, and was often drawn to it while out thrifting.

I think my favorite look is something a bit oversized, with both traditionally masculine and feminine elements that are totally wearable in a variety of situations. That is important to me, to wear something that I would feel comfortable seeing clients in, that could transition to dinner or a drink out with friends. I love neutral colors, which I am sure you can gather from noticing the colors of the fabrics I’ve been using! I feel best in something neutral, as that feels timeless and ageless to me, and makes me feel strong, confident, creative, vibrant, and open to whatever the day will bring.

I went through a stage in life where I didn’t care about how I clothed myself, I thought spending time thinking about it was frivolous and taking away from things that truly mattered. At this point though, in my 30s, I’ve landed on the belief that being thoughtful about how I clothe my body can be an act of self-care. It can be an act of celebrating and honoring my body, which I think is so important in this particular time, in this particular culture, in this particular society that has a bazillion rules and regulations and expectations on a woman’s body and how she should or shouldn’t care for it, how it should or shouldn’t look, or what she should or shouldn’t do with it. Dressing myself in a way that honors my own intuition feels like a political act at times, feels like a small way to resist cultural norms and standards.

As far as personal style goes, I am incredibly inspired by designers like Elizabeth Suzann, Jesse Kamm, Pyne and Smith Clothiers, Christy Dawn, Miranda Bennett, and so many others. I love the place that women have been able to fill in the designing world over the last several years and love getting to support woman-owned and operated businesses when possible. I also love the “wearability” of all the above designers rather than some of the more traditional runway designers whose items feel best suited for just that, a runway. I love that my striped Pyne and Smith dress can carry me through an entire day of activities, no matter what is on the agenda. While these designers certainly influence my designs, I try to be mindful and careful about duplicating. I have made a few ES pieces for myself that are self-drafted, but I don’t make those for production in an effort to honor and support the beautiful work she and many others are doing right now.

What is your favorite material to work with and why?

My favorite material to work with right now is linen! Absolutely linen! I love that linen has an old-world feel to it as its been used for CENTURIES to clothe bodies. Isn’t that amazing? A fabric that has been used for so long is still being used to care for and cover our sacred bodies through all this time and in so many geographical locations. I love that linen is a natural fiber that comes from the earth and can easily go back to the earth when it’s time and purpose is complete. That’s important to me in a day and age of mass production and all the waste that fast fashion brings to our oceans and rivers…all the waste that sits without the ability to easily decompose for years and years. It is really frightening to think of what sort of earth we will leave for our children and their children. This is one reason I am drawn to using linen and other natural fibers! So far, I’ve been using linen and linen blends from a major fabric store in my town, but I am on the hunt for a more sustainable option in the future as that feels way more in line with my value system overall. Baby steps!

Do you feel like your pieces have a signature touch? If so, what is it?

I think my clothing has a signature touch that can be evidenced in the high rise on all trousers and skirts, the delicate, draping necklines and plunging V shapes I love in the back, and also in the “flow” of my clothing. As I mentioned earlier, I love to wear things that let my body breathe and move with me without restriction. I think Fallow Fields represents that! I am still learning about various types of stitches, and am planning to play with a few more experiments even today! I truly am a self-taught seamstress, so I find myself sort of stumbling into different techniques and stitches. I learned to do a french seam a few months ago, and that was so fun! I previously left the interior seems raw (HA! I would never do that now, but what a sign of progress and growth in my skill level lately!). I recently bought a serger, which was so confusing to operate at first, but I think I’ve got it down now. The serger allows me to finish seams professionally and ensures durability, which is important to me as I send things out into the world. I’m having fun with the learning process and keep challenging myself to try new things!

Is there a part of the process that you don't love, and if so, what is it?

I think the only part of the process I don’t like right now is threading my serger! As I mentioned, it is tricky, and I get it right about half the time at this point. My husband has often come into my little sewing space to find me on my knees staring into the depths of my serger trying to figure out what the heck went wrong. It is so tedious but makes such a difference in the seams!

What about your favorite parts?

I enjoy connecting with so many people via Instagram and honestly love learning the names of the women who buy my things and where they live. As I make the tracking info, I find myself imagining this person and what it will be like for them to receive their package. It’s a weird little thing I do, but I do feel really connected to the people who buy my clothing when I type in their address and write a little thank you card. It adds a personal touch, and I do try to be thoughtful and mindful while connecting with others. Gosh, connection is what I’m always driven towards (Enneagram type 9, for all you Enneagram folks out there!) and this little business fuels that drive in new and powerful ways. My favorite part of the process is getting feedback from the people who order and receive their items. It is so heartwarming and exciting to know that Fallow Fields will be worn and represented in so many places and on so many different women! I love that and feel so excited to see what continues to unfold with Fallow Fields in the coming days!