If there was an award for a fashionably charming individual on Instagram, we would hand over the blue ribbon right this very minute to Sarah Grey (www.instagram.com/greysfabric). the owner of Grey’s Fabric & Notions shop in the South End. The fact that she includes the word “Notions” in the name of her shop brings to mind a place that June Cleaver would have frequented. The 35-year-old East Boston resident is fond of retro fabrics, fountain pens, vintage blues music, and greyhounds. She even makes most of her own clothes. All of which makes her this week’s Instagram star.
Q. Have you always been a bit of a retro gal? Was there a life-changing moment that brought you to this place?
A. No one particular event. I’ve often admired the glamour of eras gone by. Gil Elvgren pin-ups, for example. Pin-ups are tricky because my love for a cheeky grin and pose needs to be tempered by a sufficient amount of awareness about history and context. I love me some red lipstick, but I’m not afraid of the f-word (feminism) either.
Q. The only thing I can sew are buttons that pop off my pants as my waistline rapidly expands. Could you teach me to sew an article of clothing?
A. Yes! Sewing clothing takes patience and concentration, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Start simple, though. I sometimes get customers who want to start with bridesmaid dresses. That’s what we in the industry call a bad idea.
Q. I did a bit of cyber sleuthing (OK, I just looked at your website) and read that you were working on your PhD in critical theory and new media aesthetics when you took up sewing. What did your parents have to say about the career switch?
A. They were very supportive. I’m sure that on the inside they were a bit worried, since opening a small business during a recession is not the wisest of ideas, but I’ve always got that PhD to fall back on, right? Oh, wait, the academic market is even worse — never mind. I better keep the store running.
Q. Given your photos, I can probably name some of your favorite designers, but since I have you right here, why don’t you do the honors?
A. Well, I could stare at Valentino for hours. I find the silhouettes from Fall 2013 particularly inspiring. Similarly, Erdem Resort 2013. The way they elevate simple bodice/skirt combinations is just brilliant. As a short person, I have proportion on my mind a lot, so seeing things that are cut just perfectly makes me swoon.
Q. Finally, why greyhounds?
The activist answer is that they are treated very badly by the racing industry and need a loving home after they are discarded by the track when they are no longer moneymakers. The pet-lover’s answer is that they are so sweet and gentle and just love to snuggle all day. The fashion-y answer is that they are the most elegant accessory ever. I just hope that their delicate beauty rubs off on me instead of making me look like a clumsy fool by comparison.
More for Grey’s Instagram account:
@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.