Tuesday, February 18

Student stitches together a business with her passion

Fourth-year theater student Mercedes Stanfield makes clothing alterations for other UCLA students to make money. She started her business out of her Courtside dorm room in spring 2016. (Esmeralda Lopez/Daily Bruin)

Dimyana Hanna was shocked to find a 7-inch gash torn into one of her favorite pairs of jeans.

However, after browsing the UCLA Free & For Sale page, the fourth-year neuroscience student came across a post from Mercedes Stanfield, advertising an on-campus sewing service. Eight dollars and 24 hours later, Hanna said her jeans were as good as new.

Stanfield, a fourth-year theater student, has been sewing for over a decade, including stitching costumes for theater productions and recently making clothing alterations and repairs for UCLA students from her dorm room.

“(Sewing is) therapeutic to me, and it’s also a way for me to be creative,” Stanfield said.

[Related: Mother and daughter sell handmade crochet tops on Free & For Sale page]

Stanfield began making clothing alterations in her Courtside dorm room spring of 2016, after she’d reached the maximum number of work-study hours for the quarter and found herself out of a job. Her fiance suggested she turn the clothing repairs and alterations she did for her family into a way to make money.

Since she started advertising her sewing service on the UCLA Free & For Sale Facebook page, Stanfield said she’s made alterations like rip and tear repairs and hemming for over 20 customers.

Stanfield posts on Facebook a couple times a week to advertise her business and arrange clothing alteration appointments with customers. The Facebook page is where Carolina Rubini, a second-year economics student, found the alteration service. After putting a dress up for sale because it was too big for her, Rubini said Stanfield texted her and told her that she could fix it.

“Her work is amazing, honestly,” Rubini said. “At first, I was kind of skeptical because I didn’t know her or her work.”

Although Stanfield’s business is rather new, her passion for sewing is not. From a young age, Stanfield was interested in fashion design and began sewing when she was about 9 years old, after her parents got her a sewing machine for beginners.

Stanfield began teaching herself how to sew, working on a variety of projects, from crafty trinkets such as pencil cases and makeup brush holders, to bigger affairs such as costumes made from scratch. Stanfield said teaching herself how to sew was a gradual process of trial and error, and she didn’t have anyone in her family with sewing experience to help her.

One of her first projects was a blouse for a stuffed cat named Cleo. The blouse, she said, was a tiny T-shirt made from baby pink sequined fabric.

“It was the most basic garment you can make but I did it all by myself and I was only 9 or 10, so it was really exciting,” she said.

[Related: Q&A: Student talks crochet, selling stuffed animal creations at UCLA]

Stanfield said one of her sewing projects that gained popularity among UCLA students was her custom Mickey Mouse ears. Stanfield originally made the ears for herself and her friends for a trip to Disneyland, but later decided to see if she could sell them. Stanfield said although the Mickey Mouse ears are not quite as popular as her clothing alterations, they are fun to make because the process is more creative.

She also works in the UCLA Theater, Film and Television Costume Shop, helping to design and work on costumes for TFT productions. Stanfield recently worked on the costumes for TFT’s productions of “Three Sisters” and “Gamers.” Since she is studying costume design, her tasks on the shows included modifying garments and adding finishing touches, such as lace trim, to costumes.

Stanfield has a meticulous approach to her work, said Paul Girard, the costume shop academic coordinator. He said he rarely has to ask Stanfield to redo anything.

“Whenever we ask her to do something, she just sits down and gets right to it,” Girard said. “She’s happy when she’s working.”

The work she does in the costume shop is similar to the work she does back in her dorm. Currently, she and the other designers in the shop are working on costumes for the remainder of TFT’s fall 2016 season, including two shows from The New Play Festival, which Girard said feature fairly modern clothing that needs to be altered.

One of Stanfield’s favorite theatrical costumes, she said, was Violet Beauregarde’s outfit for a high school production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” In the show, Violet Beauregarde blows up into a giant blueberry; Stanfield said it was a fun challenge trying to figure out how to make the costume work on stage. She ended up using an inflatable Halloween pumpkin costume disguised underneath dark blue velvet fabric.

Stanfield enjoys being able to combine her passion for sewing and fashion design with her love of theater, she said.

“(Sewing is) not something that I have to focus on,” Stanfield said. “It’s something that’s really innate.”


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Reddit
Quad editor

Warner is the editor of the Quad. He was previously the assistant editor for the Music | Arts beat of Arts during the 2017-2018 school year and an Arts reporter during the 2016-2017 school year.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.