Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It Fit I Think

Last Tuesday night Emma thought her blouse muslin that she has been working on since May was finally a perfect fit. She has taken it apart, drafted new pattern pieces, and basted it back together untold numbers of times.

Wednesday, as I was preparing to leave for the grocery store, Emma and I discussed which fabric from her stash she would use to make up the blouse. She planned to put the sleeves in her muslin and try it on one more time before taking it all apart and using it for a pattern to cut out her fabric. Her eyes sparkled with anticipation.

I left for Kroger. As I pushed my cart down the frozen food aisle, I got this shocking text from Emma: "My shirt is a failure, and I'm giving up on it."

I doubt seriously that the muslin's problem warranted the term, "failure,". I think that word was drawn straight from Emma's secret cache of perfectionism vocabulary. Either way, I think she made the right decision in officially tossing it aside for the moment. She needs a break from it. At her next class, if the teacher says to give up on it, that will be fine with me. She has done that for two of the other ladies already. She says that sometimes the time and effort to make a particular pattern work for you are just not worth it, and you are better off to cut your losses and try another.

Life is hard.

I laugh to think how ignorant we were when Emma started. We had planned for her to be able to draft patterns from scratch for several 50s-style dresses for her upcoming pilgrimage to Rome, make them, and fit them. Maybe it would be more accurate to describe us as ignorant and hopelessly idealistic.

Still, I see progress toward the goal. During last week's class, Emma talked to the teacher about drafting a pattern to add sleeves to a purchased Lanz of Salzburg cotton lawn nightgown. It's a worthwhile project, because it's a lovely gown with pintucks and lace that normally retails for $60; we found it discounted at Marshall's for $16.99. I listened to Emma explain to the teacher how she wanted the sleeve to look and how she would accomplish it. The teacher affirmed her plans. As I listened to them, I reviewed Emma's participation in the classes from the beginning and was satisfied that the time, effort, and money invested so far have been worth it.

I do not sew, but even I have learned so much from attending these classes. Foremost, I am beginning to understand why the clothes available in stores are so lacking in style. The designs are determined by what can "fit" the masses as cheaply as possible. That just about rules out anything tailored. Women, including me, get frustrated trying to find something "off the rack" that looks decent on a non-standard body. Out of desperation we have unwittingly lowered our definition of "fit" to include flapping, binding, puckering, bunching, and gaping. Any of those conditions means that the clothing should be altered if possible, left on the rack if not! What a revelation to me!

But like I said, we are desperate, so we wear it anyway. It is a great loss, because clothes that truly fit make a dramatic improvement in your appearance. I've seen it in class as the ladies try on their muslins after each correction.

Because of the difficulty of procuring clothes that fit, and the American preoccupation with comfort, many young women now deem most occasions appropriate times to wear t-shirts that expose their muffin-top bellies and jeans or sweat pants with a back view that showcases what my dear husband delicately refers to as their "plumber's smile". Thankfully, I rarely see older women exposing themselves the way the younger ones do, but even the grandmas wear jeans and t-shirts now, or worse, sleeveless shirts that flaunt their ham-like arms.

No wonder so many people need medication for depression.

Seriously! I watched my own 18-year-old son's expression change from somber to beaming with delight when he walked down a grocery store aisle behind a little old country lady who was poor financially but rich in style. She wore a nicely-fitted cotton dress, pretty but practical low heels with stockings, and her long white hair was arranged most attractively on top of her head. They never spoke, never made eye contact, but she turned Nathaniel's "down day" into a "zippity-do-dah day".


Emily G. said...

I know the feeling of hours of work thrown aside. I have a pretty nonstandard figure by to-day's standards, and sometimes fitting is just hellish. These days, I do not have hours and hours worth of time to fit and refit. I have to either use forgiving patterns, like that Regency drawstring dress I made, or stick with already fitted, tried and true ones I've made before. Though the trouble is, even some of those don't fit right any more. I have a 1910's tea gown pattern I am itching to get into, but fitting is scaring me. I sew in tiny spurts between keeping Maria from destroying the place. I do not have time to try on and pin and so on and so forth. I guess Emma should enjoy being able to do that while she can.

Wendy Haught said...

Dear Emily,

Is it the Sensibility tea gown? I love that one.

Emma really wants to get this shirt right. She has a lot of ideas for variations if she can make it work. Frankly, I think she just had too much on her mind with the Rome trip looming.

I get such a kick out of Maria's adventures and you trying to keep her from having them!

But you're right about Emma enjoying the time while she can. I don't see how she will be able to sew much once she has a Maria of her own. Her only hope is that she likes to stay up late and work. She was up at 1 a.m. sewing a zippered pocket in her slip (for her passport and euros) the morning she left for Rome.