It's a pretty good book that got me thinking about a few things. (Like it has been for a lot of sewing bloggers since it came out.) I am almost always disappointed when I buy clothes in the stores, and this book made me stop and evaluate what I buy vs what I sew, why I sew, and how I feel about beauty.
What I buy vs. what I sew:
I buy the following items: shoes, socks, coats, jeans, under garments, sweaters, and knit tops. (I still hate sewing with knits, but I am working on it.) When I buy things, I expect them to last for ever, or at least as long as the stuff I make for myself. The things I buy tend to be utilitarian and practical, and I buy the same things over and over again to replace things that have worn out. (I have certain brands and styles that I think work with my wardrobe and last a decent amount of time.) I don't have a ton of clothes, so things tend to get worn a lot and have a limited life-span. Things that wear out quickly won't be purchased again. I am most disappointed with knit tops, because even the more spendy ones seem to be cheaply made.
I sew blouses, dresses, skirts, night wear, and trousers (not as often as I should on that last one.) While my purchased items tend to be practical and somewhat plain, I go for lots of color and pattern in my sewn items. And I expect them to last for awhile. I will repair something until it starts to look dingy, at which point it goes into the "work clothes" drawer. (These are the clothes I wear while throwing pots, painting, or screen printing.) After that, they become rags. Clothing that I make or purchase that doesn't work out for me, goes into the secondhand market via Saint Vincent de Paul. I try to make things that will get a lot of use, but sometimes things just don't turn out. (Sometimes I think I must be buying patterns while drunk. What the hell was I thinking?)
Why I sew:
I was taught to sew by my grandmother at an early age and went to junior high at a time when everybody was still expected to take a sewing class. (We also had to take cooking and a shop class on electricity.) My stepmother also helped me with garment sewing in high school. As a punk rocker in mid 80s Southern Oregon, I made my own clothes and modified my thrift store finds. (And did so for my friends. That's how I earned my spending money in high school.) As an adult, I may not look like a punk rocker anymore, but the idea that "anyone can do it" has stuck with me, and I would feel adrift if I could not have at least some involvement in clothing myself. I am also completely uninterested in wearing the same styles as 100,000 other people. A bazillion other folks wear the same style of jeans that I do. But nobody else is going to pair them with a sea foam Colette Patterns shirt with a modified collar and sleeves. It's not about refusing to look like anyone else, it's about getting to wear exactly what I want.
But what causes me to want to wear the clothes I do? I recently had a bit of revelation where I decided that I was no longer going to care a rat's ass about beauty. I'd so much rather spend my time focussing on enjoying my family, being smart and funny, being a good mentor to my Boys and Girls Club teens, and learning how to make cool things. That's who I want to be. I am not beautiful. Don't care. When I am told that everyone is beautiful: I DO NOT CARE. I have other things to worry about. If my looks were never commented on again, I would be happy as a clam. I want to spend my energy on things that actually matter. I don't think my husband has ever spent a day of his life thinking about how he looks other than making sure everything was clean. I want that too.
But how do I justify that view with my continued desire to sew and make fun, well-fitting clothing? Well, if clothing were just about beauty than I would be sunk. But it's not. Clothing is also about expression, feeling comfortable and enjoyment. I like wearing loud colors with crazy patterns because it makes me feel good. I want to feel good, and in the end - for me anyway - it doesn't have much to do with feeling pretty. It has to do with creating something that serves a purpose and appeals to my sense of aesthetics.