Dark Garden Boutique Review - The San Francisco Couture Corset Atelier

 

Photography by Greg Autry**

San Francisco is known worldwide for being unique, cultured, and sophisticated. Those looking for clothing to set them apart with flare and confidence, find San Francisco has its very own designer and Boutique, akin to those in New York and Paris.

 

 

Autumn Adamme, is the Owner and Proprietress of Dark Garden, a destination boutique located at 321 Linden St, in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, California.  I was very excited to have an opportunity to interview Autumn recently, and to see first-hand, how everything was made by hand, on site in the heart of San Francisco.

 

 

On the day I went to the store Autumn was getting models ready for an evening event at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, `Sunlit Memories and Dark Gardens at The deYoung.’  I first met Autumn two years ago, at the Dickens Fair and have seen Performance pieces by Dark Garden often at the Edwardian Balls since first meeting her.

 

 

 

We talked and I shot pictures during the day, and then took a jaunt over to the de Young Museum for the evening’s festivities. Autumn Adamme is a whirlwind, and Dark Garden is in demand for events all over the City. The “outfits” for the `Sunlit Memories’ were inspired by floral arrangements and the crowd, as well as the models, at the de Young Museum beamed with excitement.    

 

 

 

Dark Garden is the store people around the world go to for Corsets. Clients include Dita Von Tease, Catherine D'Lish, Christina Aguilera, Marilyn Manson, Kelly Osborn, Tilda Swinton, Lana Wichowski, Mosh, and many more.

 

 

 

Autumn has been enthralled with small waists since first seeing Wonder Woman as a little girl. Learning to sew from her mother she began making clothes for her dolls. She began making clothes for “real” people at the age of eight when she got her first Singer sewing machine, which she still has.

 

 

 

 

At San Francisco City College and then the College of Alameda, Autumn studied fashion design, fashion history, millinery, and technical pattern drafting, all while working at fabric stores and retail clothing stores.  She started Dark Garden at the age of eighteen, and opened the store in its present Hayes Valley location, on Linden Street, in 1997.

 

 

 

“I started as a historical costumer and was making corsets for every costume. I developed a real skill for corsets specifically and then fell in love with the shaping that could be created. I started focusing on bespoke corsets in 1993 after a photographer named Peter Dasilva saw one of my corsets on a young woman in a night club and asked to photograph her. That ended up leading to our first catalog in 1994 and soon we had clients on three continents.” AA

 

 

 

In the late 1980’s Autumn opened a booth at the Dickens Fair with live `mannequins’, on Pier 29, with her friend and mentor Jane Xavier Dougherty. Again in 2000 Dark Garden opened another booth at the Dickens Fair with `live mannequins’ in the shop windows.

 

 

 

The `Mannequins’ will continue at the Dickens Fair, although in 2016 there will no longer be a “booth” at the `Fair,’ feeling the customers will be better served at the store.  

 

 

 

During my day at the store, models were in various stages of makeup and dress. I would “snatch” a model here and there for a quick snapshot. Models  Annabelle Zakaluk, Sarah Rice, Stefi Pelletier, Monica Lenk, Terra Williams, Lyndsay Fergusen do an amazing job representing the brand. It is obvious they have so much fun wearing the clothes, and interacting with the crowd at the Museum.

 

 

 

 

The Corsets by Dark Garden are designed and made by a team of professional pattern makers, seamstresses, and a myriad of talented artisans, all of whom live in the Bay area. A few of the other talented team members include, makeup artist Annabelle Zakaluk , hair designer Ruby Mae Collins, designer and Hat Millinery by Kalico Delafay.Never content, Autumn also recently hosted one of Paris’ preeminent couture corset designers, Mr. Pearl.

 

 

 

The store on Linden Street truly has the feel of a Parisian Atelier, with the showroom space in front and a mezzanine upstairs. The work-rooms are adjacent to the showrooms, in back and upstairs. In addition to Corsets, Dark Garden showcases Bridal, Couture Dresses, and Costumes.

 

 

 

 

We're focusing on increasing the offerings in our boutique, will be making more of our merchandise available on our website and will be redefining our brand. We've always been very focused on making our store a welcoming and friendly place where everyone can access their beauty and confidence,” AA

 

 

 

Corsets come in three ranges.  Ready to Wear starting about $ 320.00, available “off-the-rack” in 15 styles in four signature fabrics – cotton poplin, silk satin, silk brocade, and leather. A new line of styles is unveiled each year at the Edwardian Ball.  The average RTW order runs about $ 450.00.

 

 

 

 

Dark Garden prides themselves on the authenticity of style and materials, the highest in quality of manufacture and detail. And, that they are 100% made, in San Francisco, California. These are functional corsets designed not only to look good, but to last.

 

 

 

 

Like Channel and Dior, the Classic’s stand the test of time. I found myself entranced, standing in the back workrooms, watching ladies lay out patterns and cut fabric, and watching the precision of a seamstress sew and cut and fit. It was amazing to me.  

 

 

 

Made to Order Corsets start at $ 395.00, and allows the customer to choose one of the ready-to-wear styles, and to slightly alter patterns for fit, or you may want something outside of the signature fabrics. Made To Order Corsets average around $ 650.00. These are mid-range corsets even though many customers feel they are getting custom work.

 

 

 

`Bespoke’or more commonly called `Custom Couture.’ Starting  perhaps around $ 1,445.00 the orders average about $ 4,500.00 for Wedding ensembles, and have gone as high as $ 20,000.00. Never fear ladies, you can also get all the accessories your heart desires, styling and coordinating everything from panties and stocking, to shoes and head pieces.

 

 

 

 

`Bespoke’ is a process that requires time and collaboration.  The customers arrange appointments in advance, where a professional fitter takes all measurements, designs and style are discussed and agreed on. Sub sequentially a Pattern-Maker drafts a pattern, with two mockups made for fittings. Interim fittings follow up to check neckline height and strap length where appropriate.

 

 

 

This sort of couture work was once very common in places such as Paris and Vienna, less so today. It is almost unimaginable in today’s world, and found exclusively here at Dark Garden in San Francisco, California!

 

 

 

 

What I found most intriguing during the day shooting pics around the store, and talking with Autumn when time allowed, was watching the customers and the sales staff.  Women came in honestly expressing concerns about body image and how they felt about themselves and what they were looking for.

 

 

 

 

I was truly surprised to see the amount of time and earnest attention each of the staff at Dark Garden spent with each and every customer.  All the staff was body positive, choosing to educate and inform first, knowing that the corsets sell themselves as soon as people try them on.  Each and every customer I saw come in, were beaming with delight when trying on the corsets.

 

 

 

 

It is my goal to highlight fashion and art that I find unique and intriguing. Autumn Adamme and Dark Garden represent what I consider the finest in quality and design and I highly encourage everyone to stop by, talk with the staff, and try something on.  Let me know as I will be very interested to hear about your experiences.

 

 

 

 

Now a little secret `just for my readers.’  On July 17, Dark Garden will have a Rummage Sale at the store. Get there early for great deals and tell them that Greg Autry sent you.  Be sure to check out the Dark Garden Website and Blog for store hours and directions, and more up to date information.

 

 

Watch for my upcoming Splash Magazine Articles about Fashion and Art. Articles in progress include a story about the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, a unique San Francisco Bridal designer, as well as stories about Julian Ritter’s art at the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition, on San Francisco’s Treasure Island.  

Keep those cards and letters coming in and connect with me onFacebook and Twitter.  

*All Images Copyrighted ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

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