I worked diligently for two days this past week creating a dress. Pinning the pattern to the fabric, cutting out the pattern, then assembling the pieces. Sewing in the side zipper, making a hem, and attaching the straps. The final product is a vibrant cotton sundress in a watermelon print, a fitted bodice and full flowing skirt from a re-printed pattern from the 1950’s. The shape is classic, contrasted by color and print of the chosen fabric.
As a little girl, I was always partial to dresses. I loved the way I felt when I wore them: pretty and elegant. I would draw dresses constantly, too. I never lost my love of them. Now, when I try them on in stores, or I make them, I pay attention to not only how they look, but how they make me feel. Not every dress makes it past my final criteria: how do I feel in this dress? I prefer making them for myself, because that final part of my vision is incorporated from the beginning. My watermelon dress is the epitome of summer. Light, breezy, colorful, unique and fun. Exactly how I like my summers.
I have started to wonder what it is about our clothing choices that make us feel good about ourselves. While fashion can be considered superficial, it is largely an expression of self, a subtle (or not-so-subtle) way to make a statement. Most of my life, I wore clothing that made me feel good. The kind of clothes that would have been dearest to the heart of that little girl, all those years ago. Lovely dresses, and pretty shoes. I felt good about my decisions, took pride in balancing professionalism with the unique and vintage. But something happened along the way. Perhaps it was a criticism, or a backhanded comment. Too many articles about what women should and shouldn’t wear, maybe. I made a compromise about how I dressed myself, and it influenced how I felt about myself.
I’ve read a quote from Gabrielle Roth many times. “In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?” I think I could add to this list a question I’ve needed to ask myself at times: When did you stop wearing what you love?
Having once compromised this aspect of self expression creates within me a deeper commitment to expressing myself in all aspects: art, clothing, words, and deeds. I will dance, sing, be enchanted, find comfort in silence, and wear what makes me feel good. I wish you the same!