Tami Elizabeth is a queer designer and stylist living in Michigan. She’s using her vibrant, empowered sense of fashion to “put a big rainbow bubble around everybody,” and we couldn’t be more obsessed with her if we tried.
TomboyX: How did you get started in the world of fashion design?
Tami Elizabeth: I learned how to sew from watching my grandmother. I can remember her saying, “if it's not made right, if I find a stitch that's off, I take the whole thing apart.” It's got to be made right if I'm going to be selling it to people.
I have a shop called Sug's Shoppe, and I've had it for a decade. About six years ago, I started designing dresses and kimonos using upcycled and eco-friendly materials. It's something that I have been working at on and off for a very long time. I’ve also been a nurse for ten years, and this year I successfully have stepped away and am able to work on my business without working as a nurse; that's always been my end goal.
TBX: When did you start doing styling work?
TE: I got sick in the beginning of January–COVID round two. I was really scared because my first round of COVID caused me to have myalgic encephalitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, which for me means I get fevers constantly. The first time I left the house after being sick, I was going to see my therapist, and I hadn't seen her for three weeks and I was excited. I wanted to get dressed up. I was wearing a Savage X Fenty catsuit, and I put a dress over top of it, put boots on and a fur jacket. The TikTok I made got like 2 million views. It blew up my account and people kept asking me for more “get ready with me” videos. The repeated comment that I kept getting was, “I wish you could help me, I wish you could be my stylist.”
I said to my therapist, “I don't know what it is, but I have this feeling…like, I feel elated. I feel like something really exciting is about to happen, but I have no clue what it is. Kind of like a premonition.” The next week, that video went viral, and a week later I got ballsy and I messaged a bunch of companies with my media kit and Savage X Fenty was one of them. And then they hired me, and then my shop started selling out. I feel like I'm a rocket. I have to pinch myself every day.
TBX: How do you feel about the role of social media in your success?
TE: It’s such a fun challenge. I started trying all the different things that TikTok has, like I'm fucking phenomenal at lip syncing now. I'm great at transitions. I really thought TikTok was going to take off for me at first, and then I had about a year and a half of no views–I'm pretty sure there was something going on with the algorithm, because I was politically very vocal.
All of a sudden, my video goes viral and I was like, “well, shoot, I guess I'll do more ‘get ready with me’ videos.” Then one day I put a scarf in my hair and everybody was like, “where did you get a scarf that big?” I showed them the seven that I had made in my shop that had been there for the last six years that nobody's bought. We sold out within an hour. Then I started selling out of tote bags.
TBX: What’s your styling process like with clients?
TE: First I spend about 45 minutes getting to know them. I have them tell me about where they work, show me two of their favorite outfits, tell me any questions they have or things that they’re a little nervous about with clothing. Things like, “I have a big chest and I don't want attention on my chest.” I get to know them and I can narrow down what kinds of things I'm really looking for for them. At the end of our meeting, I send them a link to a little group chat that I have for all of my style clients, and they can feel free to send messages and share opinions. Then I send an email of shopping links and I try to get them a wide variety of pieces that I think they would enjoy.
I’ve found that I just enjoy talking to people and making them feel better about themselves. It ends up making me smile more, I think, than them when I finish a call because I feel like I've made a difference.
TBX: What’s your favorite thing to wear right now?
TE: I'm obsessed with rompers right now, and I have one that’s a tangerine orange color. It's a sweater romper. I layer things to a point where people are like, “you look so cool, but how the heck are you going to the bathroom?” I love wearing harnesses. I'm a very thin person; I've struggled with an eating disorder for the majority of my adulthood. A lot of the clothing I wear is boxier or bigger just because I'm smaller and I get a lot of my stuff thrifting and stuff, so I make shape with harnesses. I also just really enjoy wearing a nice suit.
TBX: If you were king of the universe, what would you change?
TE: I just want to protect all my LGBTQIA babies. I'm having a hard time with the current state of the world. I just wish I could put a big rainbow bubble around everybody. I get people who come on my page and they're like, “you're always so happy, what do you think about what's going on in the world?” Honestly, for my own mental health, I just want to provide the happy. I just want to bring smiles and I want to make people feel loved and that they're important. Even when I'm not feeling the greatest, I still get ready and I still talk to my friends online and tell them I love them because I don't think people hear it enough.
You can follow Tami on Instagram @sterk.acres and TikTok @sterk_acres. Check out her original designs and styling services at her website.