The dress diaries: What’s your Sarsparilly story?

Maria Murphy

Posted on March 26 2018

Just like each one of our vintage and retro-inspired dresses, Sarsparilly women are unique, stand out from the crowd and define beauty in so many ways. To be a Sarsparilly woman, it’s all about wearing your true colours. 

One of the most humbling parts of having my business is seeing just how impactful my vintage dresses and skirts can be on my customers. It’s incredible to think that there are hundreds of my designs all over the world, bringing plenty of joy, happiness, and smiles to a lot of beautiful people.

What’s also lovely is the long-term relationships I’ve developed with my customers. By working in fashion, dressmaking, and being a part of the retro, vintage and pin-up community, I’ve met some seriously remarkable women. This community is so empowering, strong and supportive of one another and it’s incredible to see women joining forces and banding together. Girl power, or what?

I want to introduce you to Nicole Henares—a special customer that has stuck by me since I started Sarsparilly back in 2016.

Meet Nicole

Nicole Henares is a high school English and English literature teacher, writer and poet based out of stunning Half Moon Bay—a 45-minute drive south of San Francisco, California. She studied at UC Davis, the National University, La Jolla and at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Nicole has three gorgeous cats called Shakespurr, Mr Paw, and Magic and is a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for Harry Potter. Whilst we’ve never met in person (I’m hoping this will change), through designing many custom dresses for Nicole, we’ve developed a wonderful friendship.

She came across Sarsparilly accidentally, when trawling through some retro fashion blogs. After stumbling across Junebugs and Georgia Peaches, who featured my My Pretty Pony and Look at the Stars dresses, it was love at first sight.

Nicole Henares, Sarsparilly, Vintage, Retro, PinupRight at home. Nicole is the perfect representation of what it means to be a Sarsparilly woman.


Daring to be different

Nicole confides that her childhood was particularly difficult. After experiencing many personal traumas, and battling with weight issues and yo-yo dieting, she struggled with cementing her identity and found it hard to find her true self.

However, it was North American fashion designer and ‘girl punk’, Betsey Johnson that brought Nicole out of her shell.

Betsey Johnson, dresses, designer, fashion, Sarsparilly

Betsey Johnson, dresses, designer, fashion, SarsparillyBetsey Johnson designed the clothing that Andy Warhol Factory muse Edie Sedgewick wore for her final film role in ‘Ciao! Manhattan’ and is known for doing cartwheels and the splits on the runway at Fashion Week shows.


Betsey’s over the top, embellished and exuberant styles along with her mantra of living by her own rules truly resonated with Nicole. Inspired by her story, her incredible SoHo store that she opened in 1969, and her daring designs, Nicole was in awe of how clothes could be used as a political statement, a form of expression and as she beautifully put it, “wearable art.”

Betsey Johnson, dresses, designer, fashion, SarsparillyBetsey Johnson’s designs are flamboyant, over-the-top and unique. Photos: Livingly.com


Change starts in the classroom

So how did she get into teaching? Nicole desperately wanted to write for a living, but couldn’t see how it would be a viable career. However, after watching Stephen Herek’s film, Mr Holland’s Opus, everything clicked into place. Just like her mother, she wanted to be a high school teacher.  

With everything that had happened in her past, and the negativity that clouded her, Nicole wanted to make a difference to childrens’ lives – and teaching was the way to do it. Nicole truly cares for her students and worries for their wellbeing and futures. The political climate in the States is volatile and unsettling, especially for school students and their teachers. Gun violence is rampant, people are divided over race, sex and class debates, and the #metoo movement making serious waves.

Nicole Henares, Sarsparilly, Vintage, Retro, Pinup
Nicole in her ‘Good Witch Glinda’ dress, along with some of her students. 


The magic of a dress

Nicole explains that when she wears one of her Sarsparilly dresses, it makes her feel happy and makes other people happy too. “These dresses give me whimsical empowerment,” she reveals.

“When I step into my dress, I’m not only stepping into what I’m wearing, I’m stepping into myself.”

When I quizzed Nicole on her favourite dress, she couldn’t bear the thought of picking one. “They’re all my favourite!” she exclaimed. When prodded, she named the Headlines dress, the Restricted Section dress, the Cosmic Ballet dress and a bunch of others.

Instead, she told me a story about her first day back at work at her high school in 2016. On this day, she proudly wore her “kawaii” (meaning cute in Japanese) Harry Potter-themed Accio! dress. It was the first dress I ever made for her.  

Nicole Henares, Sarsparilly, Vintage, Retro, PinupNicole in her Harry Potter-themed Accio! dress - the first of many I’ve made for her.

“I used to wear a lot of black, and my students would ask me if I was gothic,” said Nicole. I guess maybe I was at the time. So when I finally found my femininity and my love for dresses again, I vowed that I would use fashion as a statement and reflect the real whimsical and quirky me. On the first day of school in 2016, I wore my Harry Potter-themed dress and the kids loved it.”

Nicole explained that she often references Harry Potter in her teaching. There are many morals and underlying valuesfrom being different to the value of friendship and finding oneselfthat she identifies with. Nicole also has an affinity with Harry Potter’s author, J.K. Rowling, whom she believes is a fantastic feminist role model and ambassador for women all over the world.

Nicole Henares, Sarsparilly, Vintage, Retro, PinupFrom L-R: Nicole modelling our Star Man Dress, our Golden Ticket Skirt and a custom designed Sci-Fi dress.

When I asked Nicole what a Sarsparilly dress represents, she simply replied,

“a magical superhero’s cape; a dress that not only makes me feel amazing but others too.”

What I love about Nicole is her passion, bravery, vivaciousness, and zest for learning. She’s a woman that has faced her fears head-on. And, rather than rejecting her differences, she’s embraced her idiosyncrasies wholeheartedly. She’s the perfect representation of what a Sarsparilly woman should be.  

If you’d like to share your Sarsparilly story on our blog, please contact us here.


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