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Miss Fancypants: Trish Stenzel

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Kitty Hill

Budding fashion designer Trish Stenzel has long admired the sultry style of the 40s and 50s—think Jayne Mansfield, Veronica Lake and saucy pinup art—so it’s no surprise her Miss Fancypants collection has such retro flair.

“My underwear and swimwear reflect an aesthetic of a bygone era that oozes style and a certain sex appeal. Back then curves were celebrated, not frowned on. I absolutely love vintage patterns from the 40s, 50s and 60s, and women’s home journals from the same era, and I am a bit of a vintage fabric addict.”

 

Photo: Luke Holdstock

Stenzel was marketing manager for an appliance and electronics distributor when she jumped the ditch from Wellington to Newcastle in New South Wales last year in search of some sun and surf. As part of her new-found work/life balance, she rediscovered a love of sewing by perfecting some flattering yet comfortable underwear.

“In the process, the idea of Miss Fancypants developed and began to take shape. I thought, if I can make a pair of undies that didn’t ride up, that didn’t look like a pair of nan’s passion-killers, surely I can’t be the only one wanting to wear these? So I started to develop the brand with the aim of making this my new lifestyle venture in Australia—vintage-inspired handmade undies.”

And here’s where Stenzel’s background came in handy. Despite her enthusiasm for making clothes as a child, Stenzel’s parents didn’t take fashion seriously as a career option so she studied commerce instead and says the past 15 years in various sale and marketing roles have set her up well.

“The importance of establishing a business plan, doing the market research and developing a strong brand identity were not lost on me when I first started. I saw these as key aspects that would be vital to the long-term success of the Miss Fancypants brand.”

Photo: Luke Holdstock

Even so, when she starting selling her underwear at a local craft market she was in for a surprise. “Customers loved the fit and coverage of my Norma Jean style, but were asking for lycra versions to go swimming in. I completely underestimated the Australian beach culture—they live and breathe the beach. Getting two new ‘cossies’ each season is the norm for many women. So after a couple of months I expanded into swimwear and have not looked back.”

The range is now available online at www.madeit.com.au/missfancypants and Stenzel has just completed her first orders for a couple of retail stores. And while she intends to launch a small collection of skirts and high-waisted sailor pants, staying true to her vintage-inspired ethos, she first needs to tackle her supply issues.

“I still hand-make everything myself! The plan is to start employing local outworkers over the next six months to do the sewing for me so that I can concentrate on design, sales and marketing.” And perhaps searching for a little more inspiration?

“I am currently obsessed with vintage crimplene fabric from the 50s and 60s, the stuff that old-school men’s bathers were made from. I get so excited when I find another piece collecting dust at the back of a shelf in a curiosity store. I use these fabrics to make my Gidget two-piece bikini. Because they are vintage there is usually only enough to make a couple of suits, making them even more special and unique.”