Korri Burton of Uncommon Closet in Chicago tells us all about creating and tailoring clothing for the queer community, particularly folks whose gender identity falls outside the binary.
It’s 2021 and we absolutely do not have our shit together, as usual.
But hey, at least the Trumpster Fire isn’t in charge of our country anymore. Except that he’s not the problem, exactly. There’s the millions of votes that got him there, the other politicians who share his views, and the ideology behind it all. And those things haven’t gone anywhere.
Neither has the pandemic, but luckily there is an endless amount of streaming content to keep us occupied. In Cindy’s house, it’s been Sharknado, The West Wing, Call the Midwife, and Bridgerton. On the gay front, we’ve also consumed Gentlemen Jack and Killing Eve.
Amanda’s been, like, a super gay, and limiting their media consumption to queer shit only. Like The Legend of Carmilla because who can resist a good lesbian vampire story? Or Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which can be forgiven for the awful painting because it’s a beautiful piece of cinematic art.
Speaking of gay shit, let’s talk about queer folks, weddings, and what the fuck to wear to them!
Meet Korri Burton, Queer Tailor at Uncommon Closet
Korri (they/them) is the owner of Uncommon Closet, a custom clothing and tailoring shop in Chicago focused on the LGBTQ+ community. Korri says it’s ingrained in their soul to be “exploding in fucking rainbows” at all times!
At their shop, Korri and their team do alterations, mending, custom clothing, kink wear, wedding dresses, suits, sweatpants — basically, if it’s something wearable, it’s something they can do!
Korri started out in costume design but decided that theatre wasn’t the place for them and started working in an alterations shop.
After witnessing a woman with a suit getting the side eye in the shop, as well as a general feeling of discomfort around bringing chosen family and friends there, Korri thought, “I can do this — but GAYER!”
So they opened up Uncommon Closet in October of 2017. The first year was slow but in the second year, Korri started hiring their staff, most of whom also come from a theatre background. Work started picking up and the shop became a labor of love and a home for the whole team.
Korri describes their shop as an island of misfit toys – a safe place for all who enter. In addition to being hella gay, Uncommon Closet also caters to the kink community. Everyone on the staff has gotten kink training and they happily work on kink wear.
What can straight folks learn from LGBTQ+ weddings?
Korri tells us that LGBTQ+ weddings tend to be more customized compared to straight weddings, which usually stick to traditions more closely. Queer weddings a more frequently secular and filled with personalized details.
Wedding parties at LGBTQ+ weddings usually run the gamut of gender identity and presentation – and that can lead to a beautiful mashup when it comes to what everyone is wearing, especially in comparison to the standard bridesmaids in matching dresses on one side of the aisle, groomsmen in matching suits on the other that appears in many heterosexual affairs.
LGBTQ+ weddings are also hard won. Marriage equality is new to us and we live with the very real possibility that they may be taken away again. So when we do get to have them, there’s a sense of victory and pride in addition to the usual love and joy – something we talk about often on this show!
What it’s like to be a queer wedding pro planning your own super gay wedding – during a global pandemic.
Korri and their fiance, Lily, have put their plans on hold for now, but are hoping to get hitched at a haunted house next fall.
Yep, that’s right – they’re planning a goth-inspired haunted house wedding and they are so excited!!
Friends of theirs – a polyamorous triad – are an officiant, a photographer, and a videographer, respectively and they’ll be a sort of one-stop-shop for Korri and Lily’s wedding.
We wanted to know if the event will feature actual hauntings and we found out that this place is decorated with real cow bones and there are some people who believe ghostly cows are, indeed, roaming about. We fully expect there to be some mooing.
It’s been difficult to plan while COVID rages on, but they’ll be deciding soon whether to postpone the wedding until 2022. Their biggest concern is, as it should be, making sure they can celebrate safely with everybody they love.
Ok, but what do a queer tailor and their fiance wear at their wedding?
For them, it’s a perk of Korri’s business. Their dress is already in the shop for alterations and Uncommon Closet is making their fiance’s dress as well. And that means a little bit of torture for Korri, who is taunted every day at work by a garment bag labeled “Top Secret” that they’re not allowed to peek inside.
How to Get Your Wedding Alterations Done Safely During a Pandemic
Korri’s got some great advice about navigating this tricky topic:
First, talk to your tailor about what their guidelines are during COVID. At Uncommon Closet, guests aren’t allowed unless it’s someone you live with or you are both having alterations done. That’s to limit the potential for spreading the virus during appointments – not just for your safety, but also to minimize the number of people popping into the shop’s pandemic bubble.
Appointments last from about 15 minutes up to an hour and a half and since it’s such a hands-on service, it’s even more important to minimize the number of people in the shop. There are temperature checks at the door, too, and they request folks to stay home and reschedule if they aren’t feeling well.
Masks are required for both clients and staff at all times. Depending on the task they’re completing, they’ll wear face shields as well when it’s possible.
Another way you can minimize risk for both you and your tailor is to know what you want before you show up. That helps reduce the time spent asking questions and figuring out what needs to be done and consequently shortens appointment times.
What are some of the most common alterations?
Hems, bustles, and taking things in or letting them out are some of the most common garment adjustments. Korri’s team has become quite skilled at adding panels to let a garment out beyond what’s available in the seam allowances.
Korri and the Uncommon Closet team have a ‘make it work’ approach. They’re willing to do alterations, such as taking in the shoulders of a suit jacket, that many other tailors won’t touch. And that matters to the LGBTQ+ community because it’s the best way to make a suit jacket from the men’s section fit a body with curvier hips.
Custom Suits for Queer Bodies!
We were so excited to hear about Korri’s partnership with Sharpe Suiting to get custom suits onto bodies that are usually excluded. Founded by a transgender man in LA, Sharpe Suiting was developed specifically for bodies of all shapes, sizes, and genders, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Having a designer that understands your body AND how you want to present yourself to the world is amazing! Even Korri got in on it and now has a suit for themself.
And you might be surprised to find out how affordable a custom suit can be. Sometimes, a ready-to-wear suit that has to be altered can cost just as much as having one made to perfectly fit your body. An extra perk is the flat rate pricing they offer on custom suits – tailoring included.
If you’re wondering about how much alterations are going to cost, you’re going to want to listen to the next chunk of this episode because Korri’s talking us through it in great detail. And if you’re shopping – especially if you’re thinking about hitting up a sample sale – don’t buy it if it doesn’t fit you!
Plus, we talk about how to make your custom suit even gayer!
So, what does Korri do when they’re not at the sewing machine?
They play a LOT of video games. Deep Rock Galactic is their current favorite – and they’ve logged 650 hours on it! Which, coincidentally, is about how much time you’ll spend planning your wedding if you don’t have a wedding planner.
Korri is also a crafter: they knit, crochet, weave, spin on a legit spinning wheel, cross stitch, embroider, etc. They have also created a carnivorous plant terrarium. This discussion somehow evolves into a sidebar on venus fly traps and the musical Little Shop of Horrors.
Kink is not just something their staff are aware of; Korri’s in the kink community outside of work, too. As they put it, they are “just being fucking decent!” to the people who walk through their doors.