Thoughts about Sewing, Empowerment, and Body Image

 

As we near the end of Me-Made-May, it seems like a good time to share some thoughts about sewing, empowerment, and body image. Although I get a huge boost of self-sufficiency when I’m wearing the clothes I made, I actually don’t think much about sewing as it relates to how I feel about my body. Except for when I’m making pants. I originally wrote these thoughts as part of a proposed series on the Colleterie, which didn’t get off the ground, but it seems a shame not to get them out into the world. I thought about a lot of this again just recently when I was working on my trousers.

 

blue stripe trous and wool knits 4

 

I’m lucky that when I was growing up, my parents always stressed that I’m just fine the way I am. I’ve never had a really negative image of my body. But I have always had trouble finding pants that fit at all, or were remotely comfortable. I would describe my figure in a nutshell as small and pear shaped. When I’m good about exercise, my thighs get firmer, but they don’t exactly shrink. In fact, in High School, when I was doing lots of power yoga every week, and in the best shape I’ve ever been, I just about gave up wearing pants altogether. It wasn’t worth it; they were just too uncomfortable. I have a vivid memory of sitting in class wishing I could just grab the top thighs of my jeans and yank upwards, and that the seams would pop down the sides, releasing my legs.  I never actually tried it, but after that I stopped wearing jeans.

 

grey pants side

 

Since then I’ve explored my style, how it relates to my body, and to how others see me, through my sewing—starting with long skirts. As you know if you’ve read this blog for a while, I’ve also been working on and off for years on pants that actually fit me. It wasn’t until I was making the purple pair that I realized how much not being able to find clothes that fit or flatter could affect my conceptions about my body. Those purple pants aren’t perfect, but they show off my shape and are comfortable—a miracle to me. When I’m standing in front of a dressing room mirror and no pair of pants I try on looks good or feels right, I think that encourages me to feel like I need to change, like my body is not right. I was fairly amazed at how, looking at my legs in these new me-made pants, it was so much easier to say, “I love my body! It’s so cute and curvy!” It’s not my body that needs to change—it’s the pants. From my hair to my thighs, I’ve had the best experiences with my body when I realize not only that I can’t change something, but that I shouldn’t be trying to change it, that the beauty the universe gives me is for me to embrace and to work with, not to fight. And I can only do that if I’m willing to think outside the box, to take the time and develop the skills I need to get what I really want and need.

 

purple cords side

 

To me sewing, and making anything, is all about empowerment. Since I sew, I can break free from the consumer culture that gives me limited choices, while at the same time encouraging me to find fault with everything, in order to sell me more cheap stuff. Sewing is a way out of that cycle, and also a way in to a deeper and better understanding of my own body and taste, my personality, my unique self. Perhaps the best part is that this kind of freedom is available to anyone who wants it, anyone who’s willing to can their own jam or sew their own jeans.  Let’s go get it, people!

 

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A New Month, A New Challenge – Spark Your Summer

The thing I love about setting a particular goal or participating in a challenge is that it can push me to take something I am vaguely thinking about doing and make it something I am actually doing and concretely thinking about.

I loved participating in Me Made May’12 this last month.  I was surprised by how much pride and self-sufficiency I felt wearing at least one me-made garment every day, even though I didn’t make anything new for the challenge!  It also got me thinking about what I really wear and how I want my style to evolve.  Although I’m not sure I would want to spend as much time thinking about my wardrobe all the time as I did in May, it really pushed me to better define my style (see this post), to figure out what I really need to make (pants!), and to meet some other sewers/thinkers/bloggers, all of which has been wonderful.  In another unexpected spillover, after MMM ended I found myself coming up with new combinations of my not-self-made clothes to better fit my style – bonus!

 

 

So when my new friend Alessa, along with Ali and Sarah, announced a new challenge for June, I was pretty much in at the word go.  Plus, this one is a little less involved, you just sew one special garment in June, something you’d like to wear all summer.  It’s good timing for me, since I have fabric I batik dyed last summer that’s supposed to become a dress in time for a special event which starts June 20!  I’ll be making my self-drafted sundress, with a few modifications from the first one.  And, I’ll be home late tonight!!  One thing I have really missed during MMM is my studio – sewing starts tomorrow!

 

 

Again, it seems to me that there’s no reason you have to sew to set yourself a helpful challenge for this month.  What about a cooking one?  An art one?  What are your broader goals and how can you set a specific goal to help you get there?  What would you like to do more of?  Why not set aside a specific amount of time for that every week?  Whatever you decide to do, I’d be willing to bet you’ll get some unexpected lovely side effects.