Lots has been going on in the old noggin about clothes, sewing and personal philosophy. I often wonder how my budding interest in personal style lead me back into wanting to sew apparel, but I think I can credit the amazing number of sewing blogs out there (so much inspiration!) in addition to a quirk in my personality: I like to make things. I like to problem solve. I aim to be self-sufficient. When the bumper fell off my car on the freeway, you can bet your okole that I didn’t call Triple A. Not when there was a wire hanger and some paperclips in the trunk.
Self-sufficiency may seem like merely a nostalgic notion (something our grandparents did), but what if it is or could be a defining feature of our lives? Sure, there are plenty moments in my life where I defer to the expertise and resources of others (I’m not going to change my car’s timing belt, for instance), but in my daily living, I don’t want to outsource if I can help it. I want to understand how things work. I want to know that I am not just capable but able, that I am not a victim, stunned to the world around me. It makes me learn patience, as sometimes by trying to make something better I make it worse. And quite frankly, by virtue of where I live and my good credit, I have the privilege to outsource if I needed to (say, I screwed up the plumbing). I learn to complain less, recognize the worth in doing something well. I like knowing that I am not the kind of person who throws something out, trades in for something seemingly better. If it's worth it, it's worth mending. My relationships, I hope, reflect that.
And this is only one small bit of what I’ve been thinking. Sewing, like many acts that involve creation, is much larger than the mere act of stitching. In March, Zoe at So, Zo… embarked on Me-Made-March (inspired by the Makeshift project), where she wore handmade items every day for a month. The project, she hoped, would “encourage sewers and refashioners to rely on their creations to perform the function they are intended for: to clothe you.” Yes! I thought. That’s exactly the point. This echoes my sentiments on having a practical wardrobe.
Why stop there? At Male Pattern Boldness, there have been phenomenal discussions on sewing as protest, social class and whether we should dress for others. Sarai at Colette Patterns talks about redefining luxury. Gertie at Gertie’s Guide to Better Sewing talks gender, politics and pencil skirts. Tilly, who signed on for the Refashion pledge about the same time I did, has some wonderful thoughts on how sewing changes the way you shop. And fellow grad student Jessica at A Yen for Craft has eloquently argued about the significance of homemade objects and how the process, in and of itself, is rewarding.
There are so many I’ve left out, but these topics floating in the blogosphere makes me realize that there is a shift going on in the way we think about how we clothe ourselves and the way we live. I don’t think we need to be overtly political, but awareness is absolutely essential. Self-sufficiency is one way to give you that awareness. Even when you fail, you learn to appreciate the skills of others. I plan to do plenty of failing in May, because I’m joining Zoe’s Me-Made-May project!
There are several who have signed up for the full version, wearing all handmade items (except for bras, socks, etc.) but Zoe has given us a lite option, in which we can more or less define the challenge for ourselves.
So, for Me-Made-May-Lite, I only have one basic premise: Each day for the month of May, I will wear at least one item that has passed through my sewing machine.
I feel like I’m cheating, but it’s a compromise between wanting to participate and being realistic. Beyond the time element, my sewing skills are not up to par to even wear one handmade item (from scratch, that is) per day. My skirts? Count ‘em: One. Two. Finito. Ha! I’d be naked well before Memorial Day. And then there’s the sad truth: there are things I botch beyond repair, so I need the wiggle room, maybe even a few Get-Out-of-Jail free cards.
But this will allow me to include items that I’ve bought and mended or refashioned in addition to some, small homemade items I’m working on (Mad Men headbands, anyone? How about this lovely scarf tutorial? Don’t forget about the bloomers!). This incarnation of the challenge will allow me to do several things 1) improve my sewing skills and begin to understand fit better, which will allow me to sew more handmade items with less frustration 2) help me fill in the gaps in my wardrobe with my existing alteration/refashion pile 3) aid me in my goal to have a practical, perfectly fitting wardrobe and 4) be a part of a community of like-minded people.
So, in the coming weeks I plan on posting a number of small projects. Here’s to May, here’s to self-sufficiency!
Marilyn Monroe checking her makeup. - Marilyn Monroe checking her makeup.