Before she started her own bridal shop on Northwest 23rd Avenue, Portland native Lynn Medoff lived many lives. After a stint as a newspaper journalist and a set painter for a film studio, she was working as a volunteer for the Peace Corps, when she began creating clothes.
“I was in a village where there wasn’t any electricity,” she remembers. “The sewing machine was one of those pedal ones.”
But she fell for sewing, and 20 years ago opened the Lena Medoyeff boutique (swapping out the pedal sewing machines for electric ones), known for colorful, feminine separates and stunning silk wedding gowns sold across the globe. Still, the boutique’s sense of style hasn’t changed much over the years. Medoff still works with the same French and Indian mills as in the beginning to get that magically soft fabric. Local seamstresses still make the dresses by hand. Internet sales aren’t going to happen anytime soon.
The only difference, according to Medoff, has been an Instagram account, started a few years ago, resulting in wedding dresses becoming over half of Lena’s overall production. “I realized that there was a market, at least locally, for women who wanted to get married in a dress where they felt more like themselves and not in a costume,” she says about her initial concept for wedding dresses. “They wanted their everyday dress made into a long dress. I started intentionally designing clothes with that thought, and suddenly people from all over the world wanted our simple long white dresses.”