HandMaids creates artful wearable styling in Westmoreland

by: Rita A. Leonard, At HandMaids custom sewing and dressmaking shop in Westmoreland, owner Raye Rieder, left, and her daughter and assistant Toni Rieder, display a unique sample of Raye’s “classic wearable art.”

Genteel tailoring and artfully styled clothing are the creative wares produced at 'HandMaids', a new Westmoreland dressmaking shop, located where the former Enchanted Owl toy shop previously was located.

Owner Raye Rieder and her assistant - and daughter - Toni, opened about six months ago at 7325 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue, a half block south of Wallace Books. Raye says she is delighted to be a part of the neighborhood. 'I love the friendliness and helpfulness of this community,' she says. 'There's a wonderful sense of village here.'

Rieder works primarily with women's apparel and accessories, but also creates some men's custom clothing - especially for the hard-to-fit man. 'Most of my clients come in with specific needs or fabrics, with an idea of what the finished product should look like,' she says.

'We collaborate on designs, and I make suggestions on what is suitable for each figure type. Sometimes we even shop for fabrics together. I make detailed samples for each client before cutting their own fabric. These are the samples that are displayed in my shop.'

A lifelong seamstress, Rieder is also an experienced weaver and fabric artist. She earned an Art degree from Western Oregon State College and an MEd from Linfield College. She is a docent at the Portland Art Museum, and also supports local artists by providing space in her showroom gallery to display their talents.

Currently she exhibits watercolors by Bill Anderson, jewelry by Jules (formerly from Eastmoreland), and handbags by Cindi from Clackamas. 'I'm hoping this gallery will become an eclectic mix of artistry from local artists who are looking for an exhibition presence in the Portland community,' she says.

Rieder tries to purchase all her fabric and supplies locally, at places such as the Button Emporium and the Mill End Store. 'I love the Mill End Store,' she says. 'They're so helpful in all the different departments, and really meet the needs of their professional clients. I think buying locally is so important.'

Sometimes customers bring in special vintage items or fabrics for Rieder to transform into clothing. She has worked with a collection of silk fabric samples from one client's Asian travels, and designed other outfits to honor the cultural styling of Africa and Europe. 'I enjoy the challenge of creating new things for a specific purpose,' she says. 'I consider it 'wearable art in progress.' Everything here is custom-made for quality. I do a lot of hand-finishing, and even make items reversible for more wear.'

The clothing created at HandMaids is classy, rather than trendy, and is made to last across the seasons. It's also made to expressly fit each client's figure. 'The cost of having something handmade and custom fit is comparable to purchasing high-end clothing from specialty boutiques,' explains Raye. 'The difference is production line clothing vs. individually-created pieces. However, I'm always willing to work with a customer to make it affordable for them; allowing them to do some of the prep work such as pre-washing fabric or cutting out patterns.'

Rieder also makes hats, totes, decorator pillows, and other accessories. Her handbag label is 'ma sacoche', which has been sold at Oregon's High Desert Museum in Bend, as well as at an international museum gift shop in San Diego's Presidio Park.

Rieder's current goal is to establish herself as a 'classic wearable art' artist with Local 14, which hosts an annual juried Women's Art Show and Sale at Portland's World Forestry Center. 'My main focus is to create my own clothing lines and custom sew for clients,' she says. 'Eventually, I'd like to support area fabric artists with a local Art Show to highlight their many talents.'

HandMaids' Internet website can be accessed at www.handmaidsstyle.com; there, clients can explore creative options in the studio/gallery. The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am till 4 pm, or by appointment. You can also contact Rieder by phone at 503/235-0147.