Meeting My First Fashion Love, Betsey Johnson

It’s often said that one should not try to seek out the heroes of her youth, as it usually leads to disappointment and disillusionment.  How many movies have been made about the adult who meets the idol of his youth only to find out he is a drunk and a jerk?  I’m happy to report that is not always the case.

I was taught to sew at a very early age, and by the time I was in high school I was making the majority of my clothes.  The early 1970s were a great time to be a kid who sewed because crafts were in.  Not only that, but Butterick patterns were continuing to expand their Young Designer series of patterns.  And starting in 1971 my favorites were the Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat patterns.

Betsey came to fashion prominence in the mid 1960s as a designer for Paraphernalia, but I was only ten and not exactly into fashion, so I have no memory of that famous boutique and clothing line.  But by  high school I was ready to join the crazy fashion parade of the early 70s.  I would go to the local textile factory outlets and buy the wackiest knits I could find, all destined to be made up Betsey-style.

I had plans to be in Charlotte yesterday due to the Vintage Charlotte market that is held twice a year.  When someone tweeted that Betsey Johnson was to be making an appearance at the Charlotte Belk store the same day I could not believe my luck.  I made plans to attend and to see if I could get in to meet her.

Despite a long line and a long wait, my desire to meet Betsey prevailed.  When she appeared, it was in a rain of rose petals.

Betsey then took a seat and began to meet her fans.  Before long it was my turn.  I’d had the presence of mind to bring along one of my vintage Betsey Johnson patterns for her to sign.

When I handed the pattern to her she said that she had not seen one of those in years.  She showed it around to her “entourage” telling them how she designed sewing patterns in the 70s.  Then she asked me if I was still sewing and we had a nice little conversation about home sewing and how much fun it was.  She said she wished she could get back into it herself.

Even though there was a huge crowd of people wanting to meet Betsey, she took the time to have a real conversation with me.  I’m sure that I’m not the only person who left feeling like this was a woman who genuinely cared about the people who came to see her.   She was open and enthusiastic, exactly the way I’d always known she would be.



Filed under Designers

19 responses to “Meeting My First Fashion Love, Betsey Johnson

  1. Wow! That is so amazing. What a great experience for you. She’s so cool.


  2. I’m so happy for you! What a thrilling thing to have happen! I love her happy, fun designs!


  3. How WONDERFUL for YOU, Lizzie!!!… is so great to meet a Mentor-and she is a very genuine Lady-fun-real-and i am sure she really appreciated you-i love the return of the in store designer appearance…a wonderful tradition!


  4. Jenny

    How wonderful!!! So awesome!


  5. That’s just so great Lizzie.


  6. You prompted me to google for Betsey Johnson patterns images. What fun to see some familiar ones and some I don’t remember at all. Etsy and Ebay both have quite a number for sale, some for as much as $40,


  7. Lucky you to have that wonderful meeting–with her Butterick pattern to boot– I bet that’s one pattern you won’t be parting with anytime soon!


  8. And then maybe if you thoughtfully pick the right heros it all works out in then end. Congrats on an epic story.


  9. So pleased you got to meet one of your fashion heroes. She’s an amazing woman and still so full of energy by the looks of it!! Great story and photographs too! xx


  10. OMG!!!!!! I am getting a huge vicarious thrill from this! I loved sewing BJ patterns in the early 70s and still adore, covet and collect her work. She is an inspiration, as are you Lizzie!


  11. Oh, that’s great, Lizzie! No feet of clay there. 🙂


  12. Lucky you, Lizzie! Now if Bonnie Cashin would just show up somewhere…


  13. Carrie

    What a thrill (for you, of course, but also vicariously for me!) Do you still have any of the Alley Cat pattern outfits? Bet that, combined with your “wacky knit” choices, they were fab!


  14. This post made me happy! What a great story, Lizzie!


  15. I have a couple of those Betsey Johnson vintage patterns that I made up for myself in the 70’s. I wore and loved those dresses. A few of the scraps of cloth still hang around the house as bits in an old quilt. Thanks for the memories.


  16. How lucky for that event to coincide with your plans! I love it when things like that happen!

    I can only imagine the creativity of teens in the 70s! And the fun fashions you must have made! It’s so wonderful for you to have finally met someone who played such a wonderful role in your childhood and fashion tastes! Also BRILLIANT item to bring for her to sign! The event looks like a whole lot of fun too!


  17. So very cool! It’s so nice to hear when a celebrity meeting is not disappointing! (I can probably count on one hand the number of famous people I’ve worked with who are not disappointing to interact with.) I love that you had her sign your pattern! And I’m sure she will never forget meeting you because of it. =)


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