CITY OF TONAWANDA — What makes Cats Like Us even more one-of-a-kind shop in the City of Tonawanda is that they carry items made by local designers, and each designer has their own unique story.
Like Lori Brett’s.
Lori calls herself “The Drowsy Seamstress.” When severe narcolepsy kept the Kenmore native from continuing to teach GED classes in the Ken-Ton school district and at Erie County Community College, she began doing alterations and making dresses for friends. She got into contact with Julie Ann through a mutual friend and started to work on her first dress for Cats Like Us — a 1940s day dress made from a bright red and yellow apple-patterned vintage fabric, which she recently just completed using a 1902 Singer sewing machine.
“I went online and found a manual for (the sewing machine),” Lori said. “It was only a matter of a screw driver, some pliers and a little bit of patience getting it to work.”
Because of Lori’s condition, she can only sew for a few hours per week and takes frequent naps. But she’s never had any accidents while sewing, she jokes.
“The good thing about using a treadle-powered sewing machine is that if I’m not moving my feet, the machine’s not moving,” she laughs.
Lori spends much of her time sifting through vintage apparel in need of repair at Miss Josie’s Antiques, located a few blocks away from her Tremaine Avenue home. She has become a pro at restitching seams, repairing zippers and sewing on buttons.
“I learn so much doing repairs on things, like how a garment was constructed,” she said.
Although a vintage clothing collector, Lori tends to favor retro clothing because it defines her waist and works better with her shorter frame.
“Retro clothing is a great way to get the look you want while preserving your sanity with fabric, care and fit,” she said.