Episode 7 : Q & A with Charlene from @Handmade.Retro.Top.Shop
Updated: Aug 17
Hello! My name is Charlene, owner of Etsy Shop “HandmadeRetroTopShop” (www.etsy.com/shop/HandmadeRetroTopShop). I’m 46, a mom of two fine young boys and married to the ever-talented Joe Andersen. I design and create clothing & accessories, heavily influenced by the 1940’s and 1950’s eras. I also model for Taschenkinder Handbags and Purses (www.etsy.com/shop/Taschenkinder).
I’m on Instagram as @handmade.retro.top.shop where I share my current activities and customer photos. Also, I’m on Pinterest as “HandmadeRetroTopShop”.
Pictured above: My Ava Halter & Jayne Retro Shorts, Taschenkinder’s Sophie purse in Red, and Nikola Sandals customized zero drop
G’day Charlene, Thank you for being on board
Hello, Alex and Jade! I’m so honored that you asked me to be interviewed. I love what you do on Instagram and in your blog to spread more information about barefoot shoes!
How’ve you been, and whats a normal day like for you?
Currently, I’m taking a lot of deep breaths after finishing the Christmas holiday-buying season. This past year I added more items that support each season, including Flannel Circle Skirts, Cloche Hats and Twill Jackets for winter, so there was really no down time. And now that people will have their sights on spring, Dapper Day and Rockabilly festivals soon, I have a lot of cute shorts, swing skirts, Playsuits and halters to stock up on. Whew!
Pictured: My Retro Jacket, Miriam Wiggle Skirt & Cloche Hat, and The Drifter Leather “Grace” flats in Black
A typical day for me begins with packaging up overnight sales and answering any customer questions. If I’m not in the middle of a custom order, I prioritize what needs to be made - whether remaking a popular item or creating something brand new (with an exciting new print or venturing into a new design).
(-STOP- eat a steak...okay...back to work...)
I model my own designs whenever I can. So, as soon as the sun (or cloud covered sky) is perfect for the backdrop, my husband, Joe, helps me to capture the fun of my item with his photography. Since I model for Taschenkinder, I include their purse when my outfit can showcase it nicely. Many times their purses inspire me to do something beyond what I normally would for my own clothing line, so it’s a very important part in feeding my creative spirit.
Pictured: My Miriam Wiggle Skirt, Taschenkinder’s Olive purse in Wine Red, and The Drifter Leather “Passion” Ballet flats in Vintage Red.
Joe and I homeschool our boys, so we’re all together during the day, getting outside several times for some fresh air, bike rides, park time and inspirational beauty.
Pretty much, if I’m at home and not busy with something other than my business, I’m cutting, sewing, pressing, measuring, updating listings, answering Etsy questions, wrapping up sold items, posting on social media, and more of the whole cycle again. I absolutely love what I do, so I never think of it as work or as a business - I guess that’s why it works!
I work standing up with my sewing machine on a high table, so I’m ON MY FEET ALL DAY!! ...see where I’m going here?!?😀
(-STOP- eat a steak...okay...a little more work)
In the evening when it’s too dark to sew, I love hanging out with my family, binge watching TV shows and movies, playing video games, and of course online fabric shopping for my next creations.
Can you expand a bit on your craft, how you got into it, and how you got into pinup/rockabilly culture if its related?
My current love to create retro/vintage-style clothing goes back to when I was a little girl who was incredibly inspired by a WWII themed restaurant my grandparents used to take me to. The memorabilia, the music, and the fashion really struck a chord in me.
Fast forward to when I met my husband, Joe, in 1995. He was in a Rockabilly band, which was an immediate connection for me....the music, the dancing, the tattoos, and of course, the clothing! I fell in love with him, and I fell in love with the whole style.
Celebrating the female form, I make clothing to accentuate curves with the utmost comfort. I love making simple, feminine halters, tops, skirts, shorts, Playsuits, capris, jackets and accessories, like hair wraps, that are reminiscent of the 1940's and 1950's eras.
Pictured: My Miranda Hair Wrap, Vivian Retro Circle Skirt, and The Drifter Leather "Grace" flats in Black.
Each design starts with what I desire for my own wardrobe. So, I create it, wear it, and love it before I design it for others. I just want to sew what I love and share that love with others.
Do you have any fitness regimes, or foot health regimes?
I am ON MY FEET ALL DAY (see the theme erupting?!?) with mild activity walking to and from the ironing board many, many, MANY times a day. We all get outside and walk, bike ride or play pickle ball every day. No formal exercise, just mild, enjoyable activity together.
What I wear on my feet is important - and that’s barefoot, zero drop shoes.
How did you stumble across barefoot shoes, and what are your thoughts?
I laughed when you ask about “stumbling” across barefoot shoes!😆
Years ago when we took a look at health and lifestyle choices that could be improved, we were drawn to the concept that to have a natural, proper angle to the ground is important - for digestion, spinal health and posture, toe alignment, etc.
Joe and I both tried it over a decade ago and began with Softstar Shoes. Once we wore them for a few days, we couldn’t go back to “normal” shoes without them feeling odd and rather annoying! We’ve been barefoot/zero drop wearers ever since - our boys as well. However, with that switch came a concern on my part with a wide enough range of style of shoes to accompany my retro look. Luckily, Mary Janes and ballerina-type flats were available to a small degree, but I knew I wanted more variety. I even tried making my own....once!....don’t ask how it went.😬
Biggest question: Could I truly look vintage while wearing barefoot shoes and sandals?!?
Pictured: My Audrey Retro Circle Skirt, Cloche Hat, Taschenkinder’s Olive purse in Black, and Softstar “Merry Jane” shoes in Black.
Which barefoot shoes do you wear most often?
Since I started buying Softstar’s “Merry Jane” shoes as soon as they came out years ago, I have a whole lot of those which I wear many times a week. They can be dressy or casual and are very comfortable.
My goal in 2019 was to find all the barefoot shoes and sandals (and handmade businesses that could transform their shoes to zero drop) that would fit alongside my handmade retro clothing line. With my modeling taking a more important role, I really needed the proper footwear to make my whole look cohesive.
I was ECSTATIC to find many, many more than I thought I would! The Drifter Leather, FaerySteps, and Crupon Sandals were my new favorite barefoot handmade leather footwear shops. Nikola Sandals (feminine, retro-looking sandals), HannaKo (saddle shoes) and QuieroJune (ultra-feminine t-strap shoes) all customIzed their shoes/sandals to fit my zero drop request. Each one mentioned made beautiful, perfect footwear for me.
Pictured: My Lucille Halter Top, Jayne Retro Shorts, Taschenkinder’s Sophie purse in Red, and Nikola Sandals zero drop sandals
Currently, The Drifter Leather has been my main go-to choice for completing my look for taking HandmadeRetroTopShop or Taschenkinder photos. I also wear them during the week, especially when I’m dressed up more. I’m slowly building my collection of whimsical, girly Luna shoes from FaerySteps - where I get to add fun ribbons!! These are perfect for when I want a super cute, fun look. They’re also great for walking trails and handling various terrains with their substantial but flexible Vibram soles.
I live in Florida, so I wear Nikola Sandals almost every day, especially when going to the park or on a bike ride. The customized zero drop soles, which shape to my foot, become very flexible in a short period of time. It’s also a very durable sole which is great for being on gravel and rough terrain. The leather uppers relax to my natural toe shape and offer plenty of toe spread. Every barefoot shoe and sandal I own I love and am so happy that there are people out there that create stylish, timeless, feminine footwear.
Have you faced any injuries yourself, and what advice could you offer for people facing injury?
For many of you who are reading this, you know that I suffered from countless diseases and ill-health from my childhood to early adulthood, including Lyme Disease, Depression, Chronic Fatigue, Degenerative Disc Disease, Amenorrhea and Trichotillomania.
I spent years barely surviving and it wasn’t until 1998, at the age of 25, when I realized that diet could change everything for me. Eliminating foods that made me ill brought Joe and I to (what’s known today as) the Zero Carb, All Meat or Carnivore Diet (you can read about my turbulent health journey at https://meatrx.com/?s=Charlene or in Dr. Shawn Baker’s new book The Carnivore Diet). That’s what worked. Period. That was more than 20 years ago. And that’s why I can run a business the way I do now!
Pictured: My Daisy Mae Halter Top, Vivian Circle Skirt, and Crupon Sandals
What are your plans/goals for the future?
A very special and surprising offer came about recently. Taschenkinder, the German handmade leather handbag company, asked me if I’d like to design a purse model named the “Charlene” that they would carry in their shop (and also in my Etsy shop, if I decide to). So, with great enthusiasm, I accepted and am on my way to designing a purse that will (hopefully) be loved by many! Production should start sometime in 2020.
As far as HandmadeRetroTopShop, I always am pushing myself to experiment. I listen when customers ask for things - like recently adding the option for pockets in my skirts, making jackets and hats for cooler weather, and adding Wiggle skirts to my lineup. Done! I love to expand and try new things. It sure keeps design (and life!) interesting.👍🏻
Thank you for stopping by, and all the best in the future!
It was an absolute pleasure to be here. Thank YOU so much for your support in the barefoot world. All the best to you, Alex and Jade!
I’d like to thank all the people and small handcrafted companies that keep quality products and beauty alive in the world!
My Barefoot Shoe collection:
Softstar Shoes (www.softstarshoes.com)
The Drifter Leather (www.thedrifterleather.com)
Pictured: FaerySteps “Luna” shoes in Victory Red and Taschenkinder’s Sophie purse in Red
My Zero Drop collection:
Nikola Sandals (www.etsy.com/shop/nikolasandals)
My Purse Modeling:
My Etsy Shop: