The old axiom says that if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That may not hold true every single day for SOU alumna Delaney Matson, but she is coming pretty close.
Matson, who graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts with an emphasis on costume design and construction, is now heading up the sewing shop at Colette Patterns, a leading independent pattern-design company.
She has melded a lifelong love of sewing with the business and technical skills she picked up at SOU to craft a career. While sewing has always been central to her life, she says SOU allowed her to combine multiple passions.
“I really love sewing, costuming and fashion,” Matson said. “I also had wanted to be a history major, and I didn’t know what to pick. Historical costuming is where the two blended, so that’s where I found myself.”
Matson took her theatre and sewing experience into the work world after graduation but says it wasn’t a straight path to find a job that suited her passion and paid the bills. After graduation, Matson moved to Portland and worked briefly as the manager of the costume and scene shop at Portland Community College. “When I left that job, I left theatre and haven’t gone back,” she said. “But I have continued to pursue sewing.”
A position at David’s Bridal kept sewing in the forefront, and when Colette Patterns had an opening, Matson leapt at the opportunity. Working at a fabric store in Ashland introduced her to the Colette brand and its people. “I had always wanted to be part of the Colette team, so I kept my eye out for a position there,” she said. “When one came open, I jumped. And I’ve been there ever since.”
Although hired as a tailor in the sewing room, Matson has moved up quickly at Colette. As sewing manager and technical editor, Matson sews all the samples for photo shoots that advertise the company’s new patterns in its monthly magazine, “Seamwork,” and she ensures a level of quality control for each pattern on the market. “I make all the samples for the photo shoots, but I also test the patterns to make sure that the measurements are correct and that the pattern sews up correctly,” she said.
Matson said the skills she mastered at SOU have been absolutely critical to her success at Colette. “We focused on vintage sewing and historical sewing techniques and how these are applied to a more modern audience,” said Matson of SOU’s costume design and construction program. “We learned flat-pattern drafting, where we had a list of equations and we put in our measurements to figure it all out. Now there’s computer technology that makes it easier, but learning how to draft it by hand, knowing what makes a true fit, and translating that information, I use that every day,” Matson said.
According to Matson, the hands-on nature of costuming in the SOU Theatre Arts Program gave her the kind of in-the-trenches experience she needed to be successful. “I do a lot of alterations, and in theatre – especially in costuming – you are constantly having to alter existing costumes to fit the next actor,” she said, noting that studying “fit issues” has helped her ensure proper fit across all of Colette’s patterns.
But Matson is not one to rest on her laurels. She is currently spearheading a product-testing program at Colette to help understand the user experience. “Everybody sews really differently, so I’m trying to gauge how people sew at home so we can reflect that in our designs and in our accessibility,” she said.
Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine