Heather Stubbs is the Victor Frankenstein of lingerie.
Surrounded by skulls and candles in her Morningside laboratory, she grabs a pair of scissors, a needle and some thread and gets to work.
For hours, she rips, cuts and stitches to the sound of bloodcurdling (fictional) screams. Her macabre creations are guaranteed to make women moan and men fall to their knees.
“I can’t see a shirt without thinking how I could slice it up and incorporate it into something sassy like a bodysuit or a garter belt set,” she says. “It took a lot of mistakes and sacrificial materials, but it has been a very satisfying learning process with plenty of loud music and morbid films in the background.”
The 31-year-old is the proprietor of Pretty Perverse, a Pittsburgh-based company that specializes in horror- and heavy metal-themed bralettes, panties, garter belts, tops and dresses. The sexy numbers are made using vintage Halloween fabric remnants, monster movie and concert T-shirts and other morbid textiles.
Stubbs, a self-taught seamstress, started the business in 2013.
Growing up in Chester, Va., she recalls making Halloween-print shorts for her toys on a kid-sized sewing machine. As a teen, she rented slasher flicks from the local video store, which entranced her just as much as the mannequins sporting lacy teddies and fuzzy robes in the storefront windows at Frederick’s of Hollywood.
Combining dainty materials such as chiffon and lace with sinister prints came naturally to her.
She experimented with different patterns for a year or two before launching her Etsy shop. She’s sold nearly 500 pieces since then — online as well as at horror conventions and at the now-shuttered House of the Dead in Lawrenceville.
Sizes range from extra small to 5X, depending on the item. Stubbs starts out by making and posting a sample and then, when someone places an order, tailoring the design to their bodily dimensions.
“People can send me their own shirts, as well, which I love because I’m making their personal belonging into a wearable piece that makes it extra special for them and their partner,” she says. “I like figuring out how to break up the T-shirt design to get a little creepiness on each part.”
On average, she invests three to six hours in one design, but many of the more intricate getups are days-long affairs. When she’s not stitching witch gutchies, she’s bartending at Cattivo or taking trips to spooky locales such as The French Quarter in New Orleans and Pittsburgh’s own Evans City Cemetery, filming site for George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.”
Pretty Perverse customers hail from all over the world, including South America, Australia, Europe and all but five of the United States.
Online reviews include pictures of proud women modeling their undead undies and touting the quality and craftsmanship of the Hellraiser nighties.
“This has got to be hands-down the most sexy article of clothing I’ve ever owned,” beamed one reviewer about her jack-o’-lantern-themed mini-corset. “It is very skillfully created and sturdy! Such a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece. I couldn’t be happier and can’t wait to order more!”
Although women often are portrayed as hapless victims in horror movies, Stubbs is happy to fight the damsel-in-distress stereotype through her line of eerie intimate apparel.
“Some associate being empowered as a woman with being more masculine or comparing our success with that of men, and while that is totally cool, I stray to the opposite side and feel very empowered by embracing my femininity,” she explains. “Lingerie plays a part in taking control of and enjoying your sexuality.”