This week it’s been hard to work out whether I’m saying goodbye or waving hello. I’ve had a strange relationship with clothes over the past decade and a half. For personal reasons I won’t go into, I developed a hoarding obsession with vintage clothing after living a large chunk of early adulthood being denied such frippery. I went bananas and couldn’t be sated and was constantly searching for my next hit or acquisition of beautiful used garments. And shoes. At this point I stopped sewing altogether as I wanted my clothes to have a history and nothing I could produce could satisfy this.
Then seven years ago I became extremely unwell (also won’t go into that as it’s not really important) and as a result have experienced extreme changes in my body. I’ve likened it to sending a vehicle to the mechanics and being given a completely different one in return (which isn’t really road worthy)
Here is a photo taken around the time of taking my ‘vehicle’ in for repair, making daisy chains in the grounds of Salford Royal Infirmary circa 2012. This is basically the body I had been used to living in for 40 years, it didn’t alter, it didn’t require any thought in the past when I did sew with regards to adjusting patterns to fit, I just made that shit straight out of the packet with not a thought or concern that things are any different for anyone else, you pick a number and go for it. Same with buying vintage clothes, I’d eyeball it and just know. Never been into changing room shenanigans.
Then quite rapidly through a combination of altered immune state and drug therapy I have this vehicle that I’m currently driving which is decidedly less easy to cater for clothing wise. I haven’t had a button pressed in my mind yet that says ‘accentuate those curves’ which kind of what the general concensus is. Make oneself ‘look’ slimmer and not to wear lots of cloth or anything that makes one look even bigger. To be honest I don’t really much care about how big I look. I couldn’t give a flying fuck to be frank. I’m more concerned with keeping my body operational and functioning with what I have left rather than worrying about what I’ve gained and how it makes me appear.
As a textilophile, yes, I’ve just made it up – I do care about what clothes I put on said body and comfort is key. Also natural fabrics are preferable so I dipped my toe into purchasing some lagenlook pieces which whilst nice they’re really pricey. Neutral linens, the go to lagenlook staple however lovely, aren’t the same as the 60s and 70s prints that have floated my boat in the past. I craved colour and vitality which ready to wear garments weren’t giving me so I started making again, about 4 years ago. I initially just drafted my own patterns and experimented (still am) but these days I am embracing using other designer’s patterns. This throws up another set of filters as I’m learning to adapt those patterns to accommodate my now non-straight from the packet shape. Having been dealt a fuller breast nowadays, I’m finding this fitting aspect the hardest adjust to and to make it a bit more interesting for me I can shrink for a few months by a couple of inches intermittently. These are the pufferfish years and I’m really enjoying the challenge of potential mastery of fitting but as I don’t like clingy clothes you’d probably be thinking why bother? Well the answer to that is, I still like something to fit well on the shoulders and then triangle out, lots of fabric, somewhere comfy to live. With pockets.
This is my ideal dress at the moment. It has enough space for growing and doesn’t look too bad if I shrink. It fits on the shoulders and this is the constant I have to follow presently. Which brings me to the purpose of this post. The present.
Having to wave goodbye to the old body has meant reaching a point where unless I let go of all those beautiful and treasured vintage items I can’t fully embrace the journey now and onwards. I did say my collection was huge? well if I didn’t, it was, and when I say was, it is gone as of yesterday. To a local Sue Ryder charity shop which has a vintage section and I’m really feeling a lot lighter now.
Well, that’s not quite true. Nothing is ever cut and dried and sorted out in the theatre of the mind. I’ve been feeling rather low and tearful actually and despite making a no fabric buying pledge in May have assuaged my need for comfort in cloth and purchased this barkcloth beauty to make a special celebratory dress. Just to celebrate letting go.