Women Who MAKE: Veronica Sheaffer
I’m always enamored with off-beat style; individuals who own their look and aren’t afraid to be themselves. This goes in fashion and interiors. Of course, I love a dash of vintage, romance, humor and tradition thrown into the mix for good measure too. Luxury bridal and clothing designer, Veronica Sheaffer, represents thinking about fashion in your own way and is currently multi-tasking with a mission across several platforms. Her current fashion message, “the world says you’re old, but you’re still hot AF.”
Not only does Veronica have a line of custom bridal and intimates, a fashion blog for women over 35, and an incredibly well-decorated apartment, she’s also given away her entire wardrobe (undies too!) in an attempt to create a high-fashion wardrobe for herself (a personal project after so much sewing for others). Veronica can also spot good vintage from a mile away, and happens to be from Sandwich IL, which is known for a huge summer flea market series – don’t miss it if your local!
I’ve been admiring her bridal line for several years and it was a treat to visit Veronica at her home and studio. We even collaborated on a very fringy DIY coming up soon! Photos are by Chicago-based wedding and portrait photographer Anna Sodziak. Enjoy the interview and remember you are HOT as F**K.
Centered By Design: Women Who MAKE Interview – VERONICA SHEAFFER
- Name: Veronica Sheaffer
- Age: 37
- Current title/company name: Designer, President / Veronica Sheaffer Inc.
- Years in operation: 7+
What are your first memories of making/being creative?
I would play around with cross-stitch when I was in grade school, which is probably my first experience with a needle and thread, but before that – probably second and third grade – I was making my own paper dolls with endless wardrobes. I’ve always loved clothing and fabric and making something, anything, is so satisfying. In high school I started acting, which took me to NYC when I was eighteen (I studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts), and I stuck with that for many years. If I think about the arts that I love most – sewing, fashion, interior design, acting – they’re all very transformative. I supposed that’s at the root of my interests, although I’m not sure what that says about me, haha.
How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?
When I was studying in NY, I somehow landed a receptionist position at a television post-production house, and that led to a series of “day jobs” in administrative positions, while I tried to make a go of acting. Of course I hated it at the time, but I learned so much. One of my early employers sent me to an email workshop (this was obviously a million years ago), and that was such a gift. All of that experience made the day-to-day tasks of running a business, and interacting with other businesses, second nature. The actual confidence to strike out on my own is baffling to me, since I spend half of my time thinking of myself as a failure. I guess I should thank my parents for stuffing the confidence deep into my psyche somewhere.
Tell us about the process of launching your business. Best parts? Biggest challenge?
A friend and I took a leap and made a couple of women’s ready-to-wear collections, while I was still acting a bit. We did pretty well, considering I had zero experience with production (I had only sewn for myself up to that point), and that led to some requests for custom bridal gowns. I loved making those really special, emotional pieces, and my reputation in bridal started to grow quickly. It was only a couple of years before I launched my first full collection (2010). I was writing a blog at the time (My Hands Made It), which was fairly successful, and that helped spread the word. It was right at the beginning of the big blog/DIY/wedding/Pinterest boom – the timing was great. Then I had a baby, haha. Running a business and being a mom is HARD. There’s never enough time! Truly, there is not. You have to be so fluid – constantly making adjustments – because the day never goes as planned. NOTHING goes as planned. I’m so beyond lucky to have a husband who is fully invested in whatever I’m trying to create – he helps me so much.
What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?
I’m probably most inspired by interiors. Nothing gets my heart racing like flipping through an interior design magazine. Wait. Should I be an interior designer?? I’m really excited by proportion and balance – that’s what I’m doing for my clients, essentially – and I love details. That’s sort of funny to say, because my three-year-old is always noticing and talking about “details” – I guess I’m rubbing off on her.
Bridal wear and intimates is quite a niche field? How did you first get started?
Bridal sort of found me, I guess – a friend asked me to make her gown, and things just took off from there. I’ve always loved the beauty of it and the emotion and really connecting with my clients. And intimates was a natural extension of that.
Photo of some of Veronica’s real brides in their custom gowns:
Selection of photos from editorial campaigns:
What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs?
Never have a “good enough” attitude. You can always do better. You can always know more. And maybe don’t rush it so much.
Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?
I’m a maximalist at heart and more of a minimalist in practice. In my head, I want to cover everything in all the stuff, and when I start working, I end up stripping most of it away. I’m not an ACTUAL minimalist, but my end product is always much simpler than what I had imagined. So maybe my philosophy is to listen to the materials and take the cues (a lesson from my years as an actor, I guess).
Imagine your business in five years. How would you like to grow?
I have ideas for the next five years, but they change constantly. I’m always open to new opportunities.
I’ve started a couple of new blogs recently. How Old is Too Old is all about fashion and beauty after 35. I write it with my amazing friend Molly Marcucci, and we have so much fun. It’s ridiculous and funny, but also speaks to the incredible pressure women feel as we age. It’s a hot topic right now for good reason.
And I just launched a new project called Wardrobe | Myself where I’m getting rid of almost all of my clothes (undies even) and sewing an entire luxury wardrobe for myself. I’ve spent years putting all of my energy and focus on my clients, and I really need to take a moment to give myself some of that same love and care (and relieve my family of the constant stress of deadlines in the process). I’m very excited to see this through.
Was there a moment you felt like you got your big break? What was it?
I’ve been down so many paths in my life, and my career is always evolving, so I wouldn’t say I’ve hit one specific “big break.” I’ve been fortunate with press – my features in New York Magazine’s The Cut and Chicago Magazine were both really important opportunities for me – but I always believe there’s something new on the horizon.
Collaborating creatively with other entrepreneurs has been key for my business. Do you have a collaboration to share that’s helped propel your business forward?
In the bridal industry, you are constantly collaborating. We do styled shoots all of the time – with gown and accessories designers, photographers and florists, stylists, hair and makeup artists, planners, etc – and everyone is an entrepreneur. It’s a tight, supportive industry, and I’m so thankful for that community.
Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design/creation process center you in any way? If so, how?
Without question. Beautiful design is so important, but the quest for beautiful design is so exciting. Using your mind and your eye to solve puzzles everywhere you look – it’s fascinating to me. And then using my hands to focus and create is so calming.
VERONICA’s Chicago Favorites:
- Favorite spot to get inspired: My home.
- Favorite florist: I have so many favorites, but Caitlin Kerr of The Foxglove Studio is such an artist. Her arrangements aren’t about being perfect – they’re gorgeous and fluid and wild. I love working with her.
- Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture/thrift: I grew up in Sandwich, IL, a little farming/antiquing town about an hour’s drive from Chicago, and I always find amazing pieces out there. There are a number of antique stores, and I know them all so well.
- Favorite place for coffee: I always love a latte at Lula Café, and I’m also very into the boozy Neal Cassady’s Coffee at Uncommon Ground on a lazy day.
- Favorite place for a sweet treat: I tend to go out for breakfast sweets mostly, and any place with an almond croissant gets high marks from me – Soho House has a great one. Everything at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate is amazing, of course. The sugar cream pie at Hoosier Mama is so decadent and so delicious – I like to grab one to serve after a big dinner, to really seal the deal. I just had an angel food cake with lemon icing at Beatrix that was so good. This list could go on and on – I really love sweets.
You can see more of Veronica’s bridal work here: https://www.veronicasheaffer.com
Thanks for reading another installment of Women Who MAKE! If you’ve got someone to nominate for this series please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
XO – CLAIRE