Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Perfect Never Comes

Yesterday, I spent some time on Pintrest looking at the clothing boards of my friend Patti and my daughter Jessica. While I still don't see Pintrest as something I want to do - and I could change my mind - it's an amazing tool for discovering the particular interests of that person and what the two of you have in common.

The jacket above is an interesting mix of military inspiration, feminine fit, and flirty details. It seemed the perfect example of adding a new twist to a favorite shape... at least for me... because I really like and look good in this shape of jacket. When I went to the site to find more information - in particular what the main fabric was - the jacket wasn't there any more. For us sewists, that's not a problem - we can sew it - but I can only imagine how frustrating it might be if you want to buy the jacket.

Two of my favourite skirts are Marcy Tilton's Vogue 8499 and a downsized version of Koos' out of print Vogue 1244. Both have a belled shape to the bottom which led me to sew Marcy's Vogue 8876 dress. The skirt above reminds me of these patterns. It has extra details with the pleats at the back and large pockets and buttons in the front. I wish I could see it from different angles because I'd really like to know more about it HOWEVER... once again... it reminds me that "it" - with it being our style or a fabulous garment or a great look or... - is all about the details. It's about taking a simple shape, adding seams, embellishing with bits and buttons, and creating a fabulous look.

I've sewn more dresses in the last year than I've owned in all the years before. It's been one of the fabulous bonuses of learning how to sew clothes that fit from shoulder to bust to waist to hip to hem. The patterns I've worked with the most are fairly similar in style, typically fitted through the bodice and flaring from the hip much like the one above. The asymmetrical lines of this dress illustrate how that simple shape can be taken in "new" directions.

These hand warmers remind me of something Kat Wise might have made and possibly that's where the pin is from. I found that a frustrating aspect of Pintrest - that you can't always get back to the original source to find the details you want to know. Again... in this case... it's not an issue. I can sew. I can make lovely hand warmers like these if I want to but what impacted me the most was how fun and flirty they felt, alive, unique, individual. It made me think about why am I constantly attracted to these shapes and colors and yet these are not the shapes and colors I'm wearing on a daily basis?

When I saw my daughter's Pintrest pages, two thoughts occurred to me. The first was that our style and taste in clothing and accessories is far more similar than either of us has acknowledged in the past and the second is that while clothing is obviously a shared passion, neither of us is dressing the way these pictures indicate we want to dress.

For me, it comes back to yesterday's conversation about lack. For a long, long time, I had to make do with on sale and classic styling rather than trendy or individualized clothing and that has become so ingrained that even now when I'm sewing fashions again... and buying fabric at tremendously great sale prices... there is this invisible rut that I'm stuck in and a level on which I'm afraid to commit.

Holding something so precious that you never use it in "real" life is a waste of precious time. We only have one life. I can remember my longing for certain styles in my teens and twenties and thirties and forties and here I am at the start of my fifties and I'm still longing. Not so hard. I am making some progress and I've come to realize that some of those longed for styles just haven't happened because they aren't actually me, they just represent a part of my personality that wants more expression BUT... and this was my point... even if you don't sew, why would you make do and settle for less than your shining best when you don't have to and for those of us that do sew and have completely within our control the opportunity to be our unique and individualized self, why aren't we?

So what if fuchsia is this year's color and might not be next year's. I love fuchsia. It's always my color. So what if this particular style of jeans is in one year and out the next. If they look good on me and I can sew them to fit then they're always in for me. And that's not really the issue.

The real issue is not about am I willing to be different and develop and wear my own style. I am. The real issue has to do with some hard to pinpoint combination of a perspective of lack with feelings of fear of loss, failure, rejection or any number of other common fears with poor self worth on some level, the combination of which creates a reluctance to sew that favourite fabric in a style or size that might be gone tomorrow. What if it's amazing and then it's gone?

Even though I'm perpetuating that belief on one level as I come to terms with why it exists and how do I move past it, on another I so strongly disagree that I've been giving myself the lecture I'd give any one of you if you'd shared the same awareness. Why wait? Why not be amazing now? Why not grasp every opportunity to be fun, flirty, alive, unique, and individual because... if not now, when? Apparently, I'm not alone. Stephanie Marston writes:

... I interviewed hundreds of women from all walks of life, in a multitude of situations, from across the country. Every woman was interesting in her own way; each woman's story was unique. Yet there were common themes. After each interview, I was elated. I felt as if I'd hit pay dirt. Although the women often faced daunting issues, each was now circling back to reclaim dreams and needs she had lost along the way. What I found, with few exceptions, was that women experience midlife as a time of renewal and rebirth. Some expressed this more tentatively than others, but most all characterized this as one of the best times of their lives. The depth, strength, resilience, generosity, resourcefulness, and wisdom of these women were inspiring. - page 4, If Not Now, When?

I try not to dwell too long on regrets. If I have an opportunity to change the situation or to share what I've learned from that regret, I do otherwise, what's in the past is in the past and it can't be changed. The best choice is to move on however, some regrets can still have a future and one that I've given a lot of thought to is why don't I wear the kinds of clothing I pour over in the stores and admire on other women? Why the disconnect? Are those pieces really my style or are they simply pieces I'm meant to admire and move on from or are they pieces I need to gather my portion of inspiration from and incorporate into what works for me? If it is my style, I might not be able to afford to buy it but I can certainly afford to sew it and all those details are fun and challenging. It's sewing I'd enjoy. So why not? Wearing what you want to wear is not the near to impossible task. For most of us, knowing what you want to wear and then actually wearing it is.

It's never too late to be what you might have been. - George Eliot

Over the past few years I have gotten closer to that goal and while I want to stop and celebrate that success I also want to act on the advice I gave my daughter. Don't wait for the perfect moment, the perfect body, the perfect size, the perfect whatever because perfect never comes. Something always gets in the way. Instead, make today the perfect day. Choose.

I had time to spend on Pintrest yesterday because I was mostly a lump on the couch resting up from my busy weekend of baby snuggling. One thing I thought about was what to sew with the fabric I bought. You may have noticed that clothing in Myrna sizes has been conspicuously absent from the blog for a while. I've lost weight - fifteen pounds so far - and I'm not sure how to deal with the loss because I didn't set out to lose weight. It suddenly decided to disappear. Is it stress? Is it a change in diet? Is it a shift in my metabolism? Is it coming back? Will more disappear?

You see my dilemma. Do I sew now or do I wait and how long should I wait for? Is there any possibility that I'll actually hit that goal weight that I gave up on and if so, it's three sizes smaller so... perhaps I should wait... except... as you all know.... my wardrobe is minimalistic and fitted and already even my t-shirts are starting to be too baggy. Soon I'll literally have nothing to wear so I need to come up with a plan and I want that plan to be about living fully, brightly, boldly, beautifully and about not holding precious. I want to "use the good china" so to speak. I think that translates to sew something fun in the size you are now and if you change sizes, sewing something else that's fun...

... and that's what I'm going to do... right after I finish my grandson's coat. I think I've finally figured out how to get a pocket and zipper into each of the front princess seams without stitching the pocket closed while stitching the zipper in. I hope.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - the picture lesson


  1. "each was now circling back to reclaim dreams and needs she had lost along the way. What I found, with few exceptions, was that women experience midlife as a time of renewal and rebirth"

    I find it interesting to read how this is worded... see how the first sentence portrays a different perspective from the second. The first sentence speaks of loss, while the second speaks of renewal and rebirth.

    If most of us (esp women?) follow this pattern of growth, is it helpful to characterize our earlier years as a time when "dreams and needs [are] lost on the way?"

    This is all kind of subtle, but for me this too is a matter of perspective. Yes, I find that midlife is a period of renewal and rebirth, but it doesn't follow that my past was therefore a time of "loss". For each of us, we were what we were, and did what we did, as our best responses to our lives at that time. All our experiences are woven together and shape the people we are becoming -- full of promise, ready for another stage of life. :)

    I agree with you -- regrets are a waste of precious time and energy!

    1. I didn't read those sentences as contradictory but it's certainly been interesting to consider. For me, it's not that all that came before was wrong or lost; it too was wonderful and meaningful and yet it's equally true that in the midst of building a career, making a marriage, raising a family, and all those other myriad ingredients of a shared life where the work load is predominately on the wife and mother, that I lost track of - or didn't make time for - aspects of myself that are important and now that I have more time to devote to the task, I'd like to rediscover and rebirth those aspects.

    2. Heh, another day to think about things and now I know what I meant by saying the author's 2 statements showed different perspectives. The first sentence which refers to dreams lost seems to me to be a "glass half empty" perspective, while the second one shows a "glass half full" perspective. Both statements may be true but, like you, I prefer to see a glass as half full!

  2. It looks like many of the items you have posted are accessories: scarves, bags, handwarmers. I wonder if you could sew some of these to add fun and style without worrying about fit?

    1. Definitely. I enjoy creating accessories, especially bags, so I don't mind veering over in that direction for a period of time but eventually I'll need to get dressed. This morning, I've been pondering creative t-shirts as a way to be more expressive in the direction I wrote about.

  3. wow! once again you've given me a bit to think about. I frequently have wondered why I don't do more "exotic" things with the clothes I make... I love the looks (ex. the jacket with the soft ruffles at the top of this post) and then stop before making something like that. I believe I'm cautious because I fear the look is "inappropriate" for a woman my age (I'm 20+ years older than you are, Myrna!). I'm going to pin up a print of that jacket in my sewing studio and see if I can come up with a version that I would be comfortable wearing! I'm also delighted in the comments by Marianne and Kathy... I have some wonderful accessories that always get favorable comments... and I know that my own mid-life experience was wonderful... no regrets, but a sense of "I am who I am, and I love it!" Thanks, as always, Myrna, for providing such thought provoking posts.

    1. Inappropriate for our age is certainly a phrase that's come up now that I'm in midlife. There seem to be very few "rules" to follow in that most of them are not universal and so it becomes a process of figuring out for yourself what works and what doesn't. Seeing that I constantly step back from what truly intrigues me has me thinking about appropriate more from the perspective of what nurtures my soul and makes me feel joyful than about age and style lines. There is - of course - a way to blend the two and that's the journey but... perhaps more nurturing is the first step.

  4. Great post. I think you should probably make a few things in a few different sizes (incrementally smaller). I have 3 sizes in my wardrobe at all times. Then things fit no matter where I'm at on the continuum.

    1. LOL - I have a few clothes that are too small but I have never had a big enough wardrobe to travel over three sizes although if I just sew in the size I'm in and keep the garments that truly delight, I'll end up with a range of sizes if my weight changes. It normally fluctuates within a size range but I haven't switched sizes in a long time. Novel. Interesting. I'd be happy to go down a few more but not if they're coming back. I'd come to accept myself where I was.

  5. Great post. I agree with the observations about midlife renewal. The tricky thing is that it doesn't happen overnight. Dante was right: "in the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods..." It can take time and a lot of dead ends.

    On a practical note, my guess is that your weight loss has to do with making the anti-inflammatory changes in your diet. I dropped 10 pounds right away when I did that.

    My eye is often drawn to shapes, colors, etc. that I don't wear. I no longer worry about it--I figure it's like a shiny fishing lure that just happens to catch my eye.

    And th

    1. Exactly... lots of dead ends... and wishing you hadn't hit them but also learning from the experience.

      I'm not sure about the changes being due entirely to diet because I've been really quite stressed out over some other things for the last few months however... that said... in the past I've typically gained weight when I'm stressed and my husband is following the same diet and has also lost weight so maybe that's it. Did you lose more after the initial ten? Did you go down to the "range" for your height?

      It was HUGE when I realized that just because I like and appreciate that texture/line/color/shape/style does not mean that it's something I long with the greatest of longings to wear. It's just beautiful. And I can admire it. And I can take what's useful and interpret it in a way that works for me. That's what made sewing those six patterns that might or might not work so fun a while back and why I've been thinking about series work with clothing - half a dozen t-shirts say - as a wonderful form of exploration and discovery.

    2. As someone once said, just because we appreciate the Eiffel Tower doesn't mean we need to bring it home with us.

      I've stalled out with those 10. Technically, I'm at the upper end at my range for my height and thus need to lose more.

  6. Hi Myrna! really, i think the thoughts expressed in this post are so, so common among many many women - not just us middle-agers, either ;) As always, very well written and so well put.

    However, to your point about how to get beyond the old 'tapes'.

    If you want to start wearing the good stuff, wrassling with 'do i really want to dress this way i think i do or not?' 'how do i deal with fluctuating weight?' etc. questions - then start taking pictures of yourself in your outfit of the day (OOTD) *every* day, and go get involved with the You Look Fab forum for advice adn to keep you honest. I know you're not keen on challenges/commitment, don't like taking pics of yourself, and so on. But you have to get grounded in reality and diligently *doing* some of this stuff you've been thinking and analyzing over in order to really come up with the answers you seek.

    And, just my opinions and observations here of course, but i've found that there's a difference between 'perfection fit which intimidates everyone in the 'how to fit' workshop' and 'fit which is good enough'. My weight fluctuates A LOT, since modern medicine hasn't been able to keep my thyroid levels stable for the last 20 years, so i'm not just blowing smoke. I've adjusted my ideas about fit, style, and how i sew to accommodate these predictable fluctuations.

    For example, i love the dress(es) you've run up in Vogue 8691. If i'd made myself a similar dress (in a knit with lycra) and lost fifteen pounds, i'd simply run a line of hand done running stitch up the sideseams from somewhere around the waist to a couple of inches around the elbow, maybe take in the armscye around the shoulder if it needed it (the same way - line of hand done running stitch), toss on my fabulous frock and get on with my day.

    Will certain sewing instructors and devotees be mortified? Could be. But i don't care, and have neither the time, money, or inclination to be sewing up all type of alternate wardrobes. If other people want to, more power to 'em! Variety is the spice of life, i say. And none of them have ever confronted me with my evil sewing deeds, either (so far! ;)

    But, again, the only way you'll find out how you want to handle all this is to start experimenting and to keep track of what you're doing and how you feel about it. Have fun - it's a hoot, and you learn the answers to all these questions that've been pestering you. :) steph

    1. LOL - I wouldn't be upset if what you just said was that I keep getting stuck in the same rut because that's exactly how I feel. I think it's more than simply gathering information. It's about acting on that information. I need to talk less and act more. Luckily, I have a pretty informed idea of what styles look good on me and which ones I keep coming back to so the question is what is it that stops me from going crazy, being exuberant, moving a million miles an hour, full speed ahead, charge. I don't think I'm alone in that question and I think those truths are only revealed to us bit by bit, perhaps as we're ready to hear them.

      Even two weeks ago, I probably wouldn't have written that low self esteem might be a factor but I've come to see that by considering that phrase and how it might apply to me and by realizing that we all struggle with self-esteem in certain areas and by considering what fears and which paradigms might be influencing me, there's an opportunity for change. And then again...

      ... just get over it and accept reality might be the best choice. No matter what I might natter on about, I keep coming back to simple lines, clean shapes, monochromatic colors, texture, and defining details. If the garment that I'm looking at can be described with those words, most likely I'm that girl. If it can't be - or if a word like frilly that definitely doesn't apply to me was added to the mix - could be I'm not that girl. I think that's fabulous learning.

      That first jacket ? ? ? LOVE it on the hanger. On me, I might feel it was too frilly; I might need to do those edges differently. Looking at it closely, it has those peplum overtones I was just experimenting with; the ones that made me say no more peplums. VBG - I've realized I like to experiment.

      Your method for dealing with fluctuating weight is fabulous. Me too! I have clothes that have been taken in and taken out again just as you're describing, most typically skirts, and most typically by machine rather than with a hand running stitch. I'll think about how it could apply to tops and dresses because that's one of the fabulous things about my very stable shoulder width. If the garment hangs from the shoulder, and the shoulder rarely changes, then it's possible to alter that garment at the side in most - but not all - stages. A lot of weight and one or more cup sizes is hard to adjust for.

      I've never had weight just disappear before without any effort on my part. It's an interesting experience. Deciding to approach it from a fun perspective is probably my best choice. More fun definitely won't hurt the situation.

    2. "I think it's more than simply gathering information. It's about acting on that information." well, it all depends on what type of info you're talking about. Theoretical info, you got quite a bit. Practical, lived experience info about what type of clothing you're happy wearing, how to create a closet/wardrobe that meets your needs 'thru thick and thin, hot and cold' - well, it's sounding like maybe not so much. And as you say, without acting you can't get that info. Just saying what you did, from a little different viewpoint :)

      Also - i've no doubt all these psychological issues and etc. can and do have ramifications in the closet. At the same time - you're trying to make clothing that you really like to wear, that expresses your authentic self, that copes with varying body weight/shape, and that conforms to some ideas you have about growing in your own creative process.

      Getting any ONE of those goals nailed down is a huge accomplishment. All four, all together? In the same closet? Frankly, in my experience that type of thing takes decades. I'm not saying that to warn you off, far from it! Just that it's one of those types of goals.

      oof, i gotta go - allergies have kicked up a migraine today. I hope this is helpful and that i do not sound short - as you know i loooove this topic, love your creations, and want to keep you fired up to keep on keepin' on :) take care, steph

    3. I do have lots of theoretical info and I think I also have lots of practical info about the type of clothing that gets me through a day and a week. They are exactly that practical clothes. Simple. Classic. Clean. It's my love of accessories that spikes it up. I even know what I'll wear and feel good in for dress-up and there are - naturally - strong similarities between those two categories. It's about taking those shapes and playing with them more and...

      ... LOL - if it's going to take decades to connect the dots between practical and playful that would be why I never seem to nail it especially if we add in the moving target component of the maturing personality. Bottom line - I'll never nail it but I have had and can continue to have a lot of fun in the process and I think a focus on enjoying the journey is more important than getting it completely right. I'll revisit the topic. I always do because it interests me why we do what we do in the way that we do it.

      I'm sorry you're not feeling well today. Take care.

  7. Lot of interesting and thoughtful comments.
    " Don't wait for the perfect moment, the perfect body, the perfect size, the perfect whatever because perfect never comes. Something always gets in the way. Instead, make today the perfect day. Choose."

    "For each of us, we were what we were, and did what we did, as our best responses to our lives at that time. All our experiences are woven together and shape the people we are becoming -- full of promise, ready for another stage of life. :)

    I agree with you -- regrets are a waste of precious time and energy!"

    " start taking pictures of yourself in your outfit of the day (OOTD) *every* day, and go get involved with the You Look Fab forum for advice adn to keep you honest."
    Off to investigate :-)

    1. I think the comments section adds a wonderful element to a blog and I particularly like this format where replies can be made. Thanks for sharing what impacted you. Happy investigating.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.