Plain Jane Custom Design; Julie Lehnis
By Brian Gulash

At some point in your life I’m sure you or someone you know has had trouble finding clothing that fits. Let’s be realistic, regardless of what manufacturers of massed produced clothing may think, no two bodies are really the same, and we spend most of our lives in clothing (most people are even buried in some sort of body covering) so shouldn’t we be able to look and feel good in it? Well I have the solution; a new company called Plain Jane Custom Design is taking the phrase “fit to be worn” to a-whole-nother-level. Plain Jane’s concept is far from new, the idea of affordable clothing that fits just right has been floating around in women’s minds since the ready-to-wear clothing industry exploded, but now thanks to owner/designer Julie Lehnis the idea has become reality. Plane Jane Custom Design is located in a trendy neighborhood in Lincoln Park (1450 W. Webster), clients can set up an appointment, come to the locale, choose from a variety of pants and blazers, choose the fabric for their garment, get their measurements taken, have fittings done so that their selection fits perfectly, and wam-bam-boom you have your perfect fit pants, jeans, and/or blazer; oh, and the cherry-on-top is that your new clothes were made right here in the states. Plane Jane does not discriminate against those who do not live in Chicago, for more info. on the company, or to purchase online visit the website Okay so are you getting the idea, that right here in Chicago you can get great clothes that fit you perfectly? And what’s even better is that you get to meet the woman behind this great company; recently I talked with Julie Lehnis (owner/designer of Plain Jane Custom Design) and this is what she had to say:

Chicago Fashion Magazine : Are you a Chicago native?  If not where did you grow up? 

Julie Lehnis: I grew up in Olympia , Washington (about an hour South of Seattle) - I have lived in Chicago for 5 years and LOVE IT!

What are some of things you like about the city?

The neighborhoods - there is such a different feel to each neighborhood that gives it a small town feel in big city!  I love the people...they are so friendly and passionate about the things they love...

CFM: Tell me about your background.

I was raised in Olympia , Washington and went to Arizona State University for college. After college I worked as an event planner at a resort in Phoenix , AZ and my work brought me to Chicago on business. I fell in love with the city and moved to Chicago  in 2000.  I have always loved fashion but have struggled for most of my life with finding my own style as many of the hip trends have not complimented my body style! What I wouldn't give for pants and jeans that fit me perfectly!  In 2004, I left my job as an event planner for a popular venue in Chicago to pursue Plain Jane Custom Design.  All women should love their bodies and have clothes that fit them just as they are! That was the mission behind Plain Jane Custom Design.

CFM: Who or what helped fuel the fire of starting your own business? 

Well, three things really...1. I had ENOUGH of going shopping just to come home frustrated and empty handed 2. I started asking other women if they had the same problem and they would answer YES, YES, YES before I could even get the question out of my mouth  3. My parents - I have been an entrepreneur in spirit since the days of making rose water with roses from my dad's garden and selling bottles of it on the street corner!  Like many entrepreneurs, business ideas came and went quicker than I could write them down but once made my mind was made up about Plain Jane Custom Design, my parents became my biggest fans!  It sure helps to have a cheering section when you are putting your entire life into a new business!

CFM: What inspired the location of your company?

  I am an aerobic instructor at the Bally Total Fitness that is right across the street from my space...I always thought it was a cool building, in a great location and it had a Lincoln Park address...what could be better!  I knew this was the neighborhood that a majority of my customers would live in!

 CFM: Who or what inspires you, and how?

Women inspire me...I am so lucky to be part of a gender that is smart, creative and generous!  There have been many times where I wanted to give up but there were always women right in front of me telling me that Plain Jane Custom Design was a dream come true for them and women who would offer to help with PR, Marketing, grunt work (and there was alot of it) - I am just inspired by women and how we help each other to succeed in whatever it is we are pursuing!

CFM: Where do you see yourself and/or your company going in the future?  JL: Eventually, I would like to move the Chicago store into a space that is conducive to having a storefront AND a place for production of my clothing line.  I will never forget attending an AIBI session with the owner of Caroline Rose where she said the most important change she made in her business was to move everything under one roof - I didn't understand then but I could not agree more!  As far as Plain Jane on a national level,  I envision Plain Jane Custom Design stores in major cities around the country so that all women can enjoy the feeling of having jeans and pants that really fit!

CFM: Can you give us an advice about clothing ware.

JL: Wearing clothes that FIT is the key to feeling good - whether you think you have 5 or 50 pounds to lose you should ALWAYS invest in pants and skirts that fit your body exactly how it is!  Too many women I know buy clothes with the mindset that they can squeeze into them but when they lose some weight the clothes will fit perfectly...good concept but you feel cruddy those first few times you wear them because they don't fit!  Coming form the former queen of black, black, other piece of advice is color, color, black for the bottom but add some color in your shirt, jacket, shoes or accessories - you will feel more fashionable and like you are not trying to hide in your black!  I don't give advice unless I know it to be true and coming from personal experience this is what has worked for me!

Photos by Scott Harrison