Once a collegiate runner, now a mother to two, my body has undergone many changes over the past several years. I have struggled with body image off and on throughout the years, and trying to fit into various fashion trends has only exacerbated the issue. After the birth of my second child, I decided that I didn't want to deal with trying to find postpartum and nursing friendly clothes that I actually liked in stores. Instead, I determined I was going to start making my own clothes.
Here’s the funny thing about fashion: Certain looks become popular despite the fact that they only work really well for certain body types. It seems that, too often, women choose what’s “in style” over what actually flatters their figure. In today’s consumerist society, you can all too easily purchase an article of clothing with little thought or consideration as to whether or not it looks good on your body, fits your overall style, or will be a piece that you keep in your closet for years to come. But when dressing yourself and curating your wardrobe, it’s so important to consider your body.
This can be a challenge, because don’t we all just want to be able to look good and feel comfortable in whatever style is currently trendy? I have come across plenty of pieces I absolutely love that I absolutely do not love on me. I’ve had to learn to let go of these styles and, instead, learn what styles do work best for my figure. This can be tricky, though, when too many brands are churning out ever-changing styles, sizes are inconsistent, and lots of shopping happens online.
Creating the “Perfect Dress”
Enter: sewing your own clothes. Before you balk at this idea, let me assure you that it’s not as impractical or impossible as it may sound. While it does take far more time and effort than simply clicking “add to cart,” it’s so worth it. By sewing your own clothes, you can easily tailor your wardrobe to fit your body and your needs (i.e. pregnancy and nursing friendly) and create a closet completely curated to your unique taste. You may even find that with it comes a new confidence.
After the birth of my son, I realized that most of my clothes no longer worked for my state in life. I wanted pieces that were comfortable yet chic, practical yet pretty. I wanted a wardrobe that made me feel feminine, put together, and at peace with my body. Most of what I owned wasn’t doing that. So, I purged my closet and pulled out my mom’s old Singer sewing machine. I daydreamed about the “perfect dress,” found a pattern that very closely matched my vision, and, with the help of a friend who has been sewing for years, got to work. From start to finish, the process was a joy. When I began, I knew that I would eventually end up with a new dress. What I didn’t know was that I would discover a new appreciation for my body.
One of the first steps to sewing an article of clothing is taking your precise measurements. From there, you cut and sew and hem the fabric so that it fits those unique measurements. It was so refreshing to know that the dress I was sewing was being crafted to fit me. I wouldn’t have to worry about the shoulders being too loose or the bust being too tight or the length being all wrong. As I worked on the dress, I learned the lines and curves of my body in a new way. And I didn’t resent any of it because I wasn’t trying to fit into something – I was fitting the fabric to me! I also found it incredibly fun to decide on everything from fabric (I chose fabric that complemented my skin tone and matched my overall style) to buttons (my daughter definitely helped choose these) to the style of the sleeve. Every aspect of the dress suited my body and individual style.
I realized that, in the past, my insecurities had come not from my body but from the way mass-produced clothes had fit my body.
When I first wore the dress, I felt like Cinderella must have felt wearing her one-of-a-kind ball gown: completely myself and utterly confident. I realized that, in the past, my insecurities had come not from my body but from the way mass-produced clothes had fit my body. Wearing clothes that were not made for me made me think that I needed to somehow change my very structure and form. In reality, it makes far more sense (and brings so much more peace) to change your clothes. Fabric can be tailored; your bones cannot.
Once I felt that freedom of wearing something made specifically for me, I found that I desired to create more. I immediately got to work on a dress for my daughter and another for myself. These gave me the conviction that I could, over time, actually sew a vast majority of my closet (and my children’s closets). Not only will it continue to help heal my body image (and hopefully prevent my daughter from ever feeling as if she is flawed for not fitting into fast fashion), but it also has proven to provide quality, long-lasting pieces in a very cost effective way.
Where To Begin
Still think you could never sew a garment for yourself? I promise, you can! Find a sewing machine (chances are your mom has one collecting dust) and a pattern that you like (search online or in a store like Hobby Lobby). Choose your fabric, stock up on the necessities (thread, pins, scissors, bobbins, etc.), and, with the help of someone who knows what they’re doing or even just a YouTube video (trust me, there are plenty), get to work! Be patient with yourself, don’t sweat the mistakes (you can always undo stitches), and lean into the thrilling process of learning a new skill.
Clothes are meant to highlight your beauty, dignity, and worth. If you feel that mass-produced fashions are making you feel less beautiful and more insecure, consider learning the craft of sewing this summer. In creating something lovely for yourself, you might just uncover how lovely you truly are.
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