by Liv Moe, Photos by Jesse Vasquez
Some fifteen or so years ago Kris Laskey was relaxing at the now-defunct Greta’s Café at the corner of 18th and Capitol when was approached about her bag. “It was this totally gee-gawed up purse made out of a tapestry, with crosses hanging all over it and Jesus on one side,” says Laskey. “This guy said ‘oh, my god, where did you get that? I’ll give you fifty bucks for it.’ and I said ‘where’s a paper sack?’” After obtaining a paper bag and empty the contents of her purse into it, the transaction was complete. Laskey was $50 richer and the road to Butt Ugly began.
“People like to yell things at me when I ride down the street on my bike like, ‘Hey, Butt Ugly,’” Laskey recalls as we sat in her tidy living room crowded between two large round racks of recent creations. Laskey’s, entire house revolves around sewing. The sole bedroom of the small apartment has been relinquished as her sewing room, with her bed residing in the kitchen. Lush textiles, thrift store finds, and items for sale occupy nearly every inch of free space with close to all decades from the 20s through the late 1970s represented.
An avid thrifter, Laskey combs second hand shops in search of textiles not normally employed in fashion design. Things like 60s and 70s religious tapestries, stained table cloths, astroturf, vinyl window shades, and afghans often find themselves in Laskey’s rotation. “I always want things that people don’t want. Like this – referring to a skirt made out of a chevron pattern afghan – someone spent a lot of time on this.” After trying out various names for her clothing line like Shine, Shine, and Sarcastic Resort Wear, Butt Ugly just “stuck” Laskey recalls, “I like making things that make people laugh.”
Though Laskey suggests that her clothes have no “hanger appeal,” her devoted group of followers would tell you differently. Over the years Laskey’s creations have amassed a following not only throughout Sacramento but across the US, with even the staff of Martha Stewart knocking on Laskey’s mailing box, in need of her patented shift dresses. Laskey seems amused by the attention she receives. In recounting a move which led to the Stewart staff being unable to find her, Laskey says “that was fine, too.” The quote captures Laskey’s attitude about what she does perfectly.
As her apartment would let you know, Laskey is obsessive about sewing. So much so that it’s not unusual for the only words she utters over her three days off a week from her day job to be “latte, please.” Laskey’s whole social life revolves around her craft in a manner befitting the myth of the fine artist or eccentric genius. Sewing is absolutely all Laskey wants to do. The dedication is apparent in her designs. Though a typical shift dress may only take her an hour to put together, finding the perfect buttons to compliment the garment might take an additional three. This level of care devoted to the creation of an article of clothing is rare in today’s fashion culture– especially in a garment which may set you back only forty bucks.
Affordability is extremely important to Laskey in crafting her designs. “My intention is to have a place where I can sew for the girls Downtown who don’t have a lot of money in their pocket,” says Laskey. Second only to affordability is the perfect balance between sexiness and comfort that Laskey’s creations achieve. “I’m really turned on by housedresses… Sophia Loren in those movies with the house dress on with a little slip showing is the sexiest thing in the world.”
Beyond the cut, the fit, the affordability, and the comfort of Butt Ugly designs lies the last dimension of her work, and one she seems particularly proud of when discussing her clothing. Because most of the textiles Laskey uses to craft her designs are obtained second hand each creation represents a different era and in some cases even a personal history.
One of own my recent Butt Ugly scores was a blouse constructed out of an embroidered table cloth and on the left shoulder of said blouse lies the most dainty little coffee ring stain. When I first laid eyes on the shirt I loved it but when I saw that coffee stain I knew it had to be mine. Whenever, that blouse comes out of the closet I think about the multiple meals that had been consumed over the piece of linen on my back and it makes me happy for the second life the textile has taken on.
Laskey snickered when we discussed the dichotomy between the actual physical presence of her work and the appearance the name implies. Like calling a bald man Curly, Laskey’s Butt Ugly designs are anything but.
Call 916.452.4921 if you would like to be added to the mailing list to find out about upcoming Butt Ugly sales.