Sewing for yourself is hard. Don’t you think? Measuring yourself, trying to get the right fit, trial and error — it’s a whole different kettle of fish from making things for your kids. And then there’s taking the photos for your blog. Ouch.
My very first try at sewing for myself was a couple of years ago, soon after I started sewing for my kids on a regular basis. I took a look around the internet for ideas, and came across Made by Rae’s Washi Dress (of course). Probably just about everybody involved in the sewing world has made at least one of these babies. And since everyone raves about the flattering fit, I figured this would be a good place to start.
I sort of measured myself and settled on a medium. I chose quilting cotton with a rather bold print from Joann. (This was way before I knew that quilting cotton isn’t a very good choice for garments for a wide variety of reasons.) I dove into sewing with the confidence of someone who doesn’t know any better. When I finished the dress and tried it on in front of the mirror expecting to be dazzled by my own talent and awesomeness, I was pretty much horrified by what I saw. It looked just awful. How could this be? This dress looks great on everyone in the world except for me! Without skipping a beat, I took it off and stuck it as far back into the the depths of my closet as I could and tried my best to forget about the whole thing. I was mostly pissed that I had spent so much time on something the turned out to be such a complete and total failure. Sound familiar?
A year or so later, I saw that Rae was hosting a workshop with April Rhodes in her studio in Ann Arbor all about sewing garments for yourself. A light bulb went on, and I decided see if I might be able to get a spot. Wouldn’t you know that I got in! I bought a pile of fabric, tossed my machine into the back of my car, kissed the kids goodbye and set off on a road trip to Michigan.
Before I knew it, I was talking with the one and only Rae about her patterns and how to make them look good on me! That weekend, I sewed my first Josephine top (I’ve since made two more and have another in mind for fall) and it actually looked good. It really changed my attitude about sewing for myself and gave me the confidence to look at my own body not as the enemy, but something that can look great when treated the right way. Thanks, Rae!
Anyway . . . now it’s almost time for our annual family photo, and I’d been looking around for something to make for myself that would look good alongside the dresses I’ve made for the girls and the Negroni Shirt that’s in the works for my husband. I tried making muslins from a couple of different patterns and was striking out. Then I had a brainwave. I donned my spelunking gear, tunneled to the back of the closet and excavated that old Washi Dress failure — just to see. I sheepishly put it on . . . blinked a time or two . . . wait a minute . . . this dress looks pretty good on me!! What???
I took a dose of courage and showed my husband. He actually said “Wow, that looks great on you! Much better than the other things you’ve been trying — don’t you think?” Yes, I agreed!
How could this be? Has my body morphed into something much more acceptable over the past two years (um, no), or have I changed my outlook?
Mostly for the sake of my two daughters, I’ve been making a real effort to nip my own body shame in the bud and to start seeing myself to the beautiful fox that I am — rather than the loser who really should shed that last ten pounds of baby weight in order to be deserving of happiness. I need to set a way better example for my girls. And, do you know what? It actually worked!
So I grabbed the double gauze I bought on sale from Imagine Gnats and got to work. I skipped making a muslin since I’d already made a Washi that fit pretty darn well.
I looked around on Rae’s blog for tips (always a good idea), and settled on using a partial lining, rather than the facings included in the pattern. She made a series of videos that walk you though the lining process that make this process a total breeze.
In the end, it turned out to be a little bit tight in the bodice. Maybe it’s the difference in the fabric from my original . . . who knows? Next time, I’ll add a little bit to the bodice width. But it’s not fatal, and I’m wearing it anyway! In fact, this dress is a bit wrinkly in these photos because I’d worn it to a dinner party the night before.
Isn’t shirring fun? This is my new favorite thing to do. It makes anything fit like a glove with very little effort (and no math!).
I debated about whether to include the notch on the neckline, but I decided to go for it in the end. For me, it makes this dress a bit PG-13, but I’m cool with that 🙂
Let us be courageous! Let us sew for ourselves with abandon! Because sometimes, it turns out pretty well!