I recently bought a dress pattern. It’s a very nice dress pattern, Myrtle by Colette Patterns. But here’s the problem: I don’t wear dresses.
I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of person, but occasionally I find myself with a dress pattern, a pile of fabric and notions, and Grandiose Plans to make a dress. “This dress will be different”, I tell myself. “This is the dress I will wear!”
Sewing for me goes something like this: I adjust the pattern to fit my body, which involves much wailing and gnashing of teeth, since I’m three sizes larger on the bottom than on the top. Besides the full bust adjustment, I have to do something for my hips and butt and thighs, so that I essentially take the pattern as a sort of amorphous idea of what the final thing should look like, then chop it into a million pieces and use advanced calculations to put it back together. By that time, I’m sick of the whole thing. And it looks nothing like the ‘pattern’. (I would love to just sew together two bedsheets and call it a ‘dress’, but that hasn’t become a style yet.)
Then I start sewing, which usually involves ripping out and re-sewing some portion at least once. I am impatient at the machine and that is how I work. There are always those last-minute ‘adjustments’ because the machine ate some important piece of the material, or I ripped out a seam and accidentally put a hole in the fabric in an important place, or I just got carried away and sewed something shut that was supposed to stay open. Finally, after much fiddling and tears, I try it on. It usually looks pretty nice. Or, sometimes, it’s an epic failure. But I’ll confine my comments below to the ones that actually turn out.
At last, I hang the dress in my closet. The next time I come across it is during my annual “weeding of the closet” when I donate things I haven’t worn in the past year. That is when I’m honest with myself and I realize I will never wear the dress, so it goes in the donation pile. I’ve done this several times already. I am tired of donating my handiwork to charity and never being able to enjoy it myself. But I don’t like wearing dresses – so why do I keep making them?
I think that part of sewing and doing other crafts is aspirational. I wasn’t buying a pattern to sew a dress. I was buying a pattern to be someone else. To live someone else’s life. Possibly even to have someone else’s body. To be the sort of person who wears dresses, who glides through life wearing heels (sensible ones), accessories, makeup, a stunning hairstyle, etc. I do none of those things in real life; that is not who I am. When I’m honest with myself, I also realize that it’s not who I really want to be, either. It’s like dreaming about being a movie star – it sounds glamorous, but then I realize that I really wouldn’t want to be one.
I know what I like to wear. My wardrobe is entirely made up of pants and knit shirts. My ideal outfit will always be jeans hung low on the hips and a t-shirt that is super soft from lots of wear. (I’m much like the woman in this Carol Rossetti drawing. If you haven’t looked at Carol’s drawings, you really should.)
This is not to say that I will never make a dress again. I once sewed a Renaissance costume (Simplicity 3809) just because I wanted to try something challenging, and it had boning in the vest. I wore it to a few Halloween parties. There’s nothing wrong with sewing whatever it is I want to sew, but I need to be realistic about garments that I’m sewing with the intention of wearing them. This is especially so if you’re not awash in cash to spend on things you will never actually wear. I would never go into a clothing store and buy a dress, because I know I would never wear it. But if I sew it myself, I somehow expect that will magically transform me into a dress-wearing person.
I am sure I am not the only person who has bought a pattern and all the supplies and then realized I was just kidding myself if I thought I’d ever wear it. There are so many dresses featured on sewing sites and blogs, and I just get sucked in to how much fun everyone is having making them. But I know my style, and dresses are not part of it.
We should all sew for our own style, even if it’s not what other people would say is the “right” thing to wear. If I had my druthers, I’d wear most of the oversized flowy stuff in the J.Jill catalog, even though most people would say that’s not ‘right’ for my body. (The main reason I don’t wear their clothes is that they clearly do not cut their clothes for the ‘generous pears’ among us. I would have to buy clothes about four sizes too big to wear it with the same effect as their models, only they don’t actually sell stuff in that size. Not to mention, the shoulders on the shirts would be dropping down to my elbows if I did that.)
Dress the way you want to dress. Wear crop tops. Wear big bold prints. Wear horizontal stripes, if that’s what you want to do. Maybe you’ve been putting off making your dream garment because the Fashion Police would tell you it is all wrong for your body. Well, it’s time to rebel against The Fashion Man and wear what you want to wear. Part of looking good is being confident. I am most confident when I look like I am dressed to do home improvements – wearing that worn-in pair of jeans and the 60’s rock t-shirt with the paint splatters on it. Put me in a dress and I’m so self-conscious and uncomfortable that other people pick up on that vibe and ask me if something is wrong.
I am going to focus my attention on sewing the patterns I’ll really wear in the fabrics I like. I encourage you to do the same.
The upshot to this is that I have a copy of Myrtle that I’d like to give away. To enter the drawing, leave a comment below about a pattern you’ve purchased or a garment you’ve sewn only to realize that you’d never really wear it. (If you haven’t had that experience, leave a comment about a garment you’ve bought only to realize later that you would never wear it.). The giveaway ends on 20th October at midnight EST. Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is for US residents only.
The Curvy Opinions series is about sharing personal experiences and providing honest individual perspectives. The posts will sometimes be controversial and not everyone will agree with them, but they will always be positive! We would love to know what you think in the comments.