Interview: Seams Like Old Times

Shelley Johnson, also known as the New Vintage Lady, is an animator, designer and graphic artist who has created a universe surrounding her love for vintage. Her quirky website features a weekly comic strip, “Vintageville,” depicting modern life in the vintage world.  Shelley also blogs about sewing technique and makes retro styles available in plus size patterns for sale on her Etsy shop.  


LUCIE BEATRIX: Were you artistic as a child?

SHELLEY JOHNSON: Very much so. I would draw on the walls and then my mother gave me paper to use. My mother was a seamstress, and a school teacher so she always had lots of craft supplies around. Id make little bags and dolls and I clearly remember sitting outside on a blanket making them at our old house.

How long have you been a cartoonist? 

Since I was 9 ish, I guess. I’ve always doodled but putting them in story form didn’t really occur to me until I was older. I’d watch cartoons and see that they not only were cartoons, but told stories. That was a revelation to me.

Did you ever do cel animation before computer? 

I have my masters degree in 2D animation. That’s how I learned. It angers me that 2D is looked at as some kind of dinosaur, especially in the US. I really don’t know why. Comparing 2D and 3D is like comparing a photo to a painting. Each offers a different aesthetic.

Are you self-taught when it comes to sewing?  How did you learn? 

My mother always had a sewing machine. She sewed professionally for a while, so I was always around it. Though, I never learned from her. I was too ‘cool’ to learn sewing. Then, in my mid 20’s I began to look into making my own clothes as I got more and more into vintage styles. I’d call her for sewing advice and then when she passed away, I got her supplies. I use her machine to this day.

Later on, I took an internship at a sewing school called Stitch Lounge in San Francisco. I was there a little over a year, and got a lot of the basics filled in for me. Before that, I felt like I could speak a language but was illiterate. You know? Then about 6 years later, I feel pretty seasoned, though, I still have a lot to learn.

You make vintage styles accessible for plus sizes.  What does having a positive body image mean to you? 

I might be a bit controversial in this, but to me a good body image is about finding a fit that’s right for you. I don’t fall under the ruse that just because it’s made in your size, you should wear it. My thoughts on that are accept your size, whether it is apple, pear, big butt/shoulders, whatever, and dress it as stylish and as proud as you can. There are styles I love but I know they would look horrible on my body type and why invite that insecurity. Wear the clothes, don’t have the clothes wear you.

Who are your role models? 

I don’t know if I look up to any person, but I do have ideals that I follow. Express your opinions if you have knowledge to back them up. Be willing to say you are sorry if you have done something wrong. Laugh at yourself, that way you take the power of the situation back. Be comfortable being alone at times. Daydream.

When did you become a vegan and what influenced that decision?

I was vegetarian at 19 and a friend of mine told me he became vegan because he was inspired by me. Well, I couldn’t let him outdo me! I became vegan in…2008? I believe. It was not as hard as I thought it was going to be, nor has it been that much of a change. I totally don’t miss cheese and I thought I would.

What are some of your goals in the next 10 years? 

Wow, that’s so far ahead. I haven’t thought that far a head. I have a book Id love to publish. Its got magic and dragons and stuff. I have another story involving griffins I’d like to get out of my head. I want to do an animated web series and continue the one I started a year ago. Stuff like that.

What sort of tools (or apps) could you not live without? 

I am a purist when it comes to my tech. I don’t use too many apps on my phone because I’d just get bored with them. But what I use the most are google maps (I’d literally be lost without it) and a photo timer app for my phone’s camera.


Describe your personal style and what you look for when you go thrift shopping.

I rarely find anything that is in my size when I thrift, so I look for jewelry and interesting fabrics in the linen sections. My personal style is the look of the everyday 40s woman. Now, that’s what I make and style my clothes for, but Ive got lots of tattoos, so I’m not exactly period correct, but if I had to be, I could rock it.

What is your favorite time period? 

The mid 30s to the mid 40s. I love the streamlined looks of skirts and dresses and the utilitarian looks of the war time 40s. Less is more, make due and mend, etc.

What are some of your favorite old movies? 

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of old Hollywood. I don’t have that movie star worshiping gene. I’ll list some of my favorite movies, judge me as you will. 12 Monkeys, Harold & Maude, Edward Scissorhands, Stranger than Fiction, Grand Hotel (an actual old Hollywood move!), and A Mighty Wind.

What quote do you turn to in stressful situations? 

What does not kill you can only make you stronger.

 What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


Keep up with the New Vintage Lady!


Vintageville Comic Strip:


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