A few weeks ago, Sew Sister of http://eastgatehill.blogspot.com/2013/07/sewing-in-70s.html did a very interesting post that spurred me to do a lot of thinking. This is the comment that touched off so many thoughts,
"Do you call the 70's vintage? There aren't too many photos of me in clothes I made myself. I used to hate people asking me did I sew my outfit? I always pretended I didn't. Before I wore my sewn clothes I always washed them so they they looked worn...Crazy really, but I think I equated home sewn clothes with being poor 'you couldn't afford to buy shop bought ones' also I hated the attention!"
I have sewn since I was a child. By the time I was five years old, my grandmother had an embroidery needle in my hand, and quite honestly, I loved it. Actually, I loved being with her, so it really didn't matter what I was doing, but needlework did come easily to me.
My mother did do some sewing for me when she could, but, most of my clothes were passed along to me, or came from a barrel at the mission center. I remember very few of my clothes, a piece here or there. The pieces I remember the most were the garments that I absolutely hated having to wear. Either they didn't fit, they were too long, or, at least in my mind, ugly.
By the time I was a teenager, I had mastered sewing enough that I could make my clothes. To pay for fabric, I babysat(to the tune of $1.00 an hour!!!!, oh the good ol' days), or I knitted scarf, hat and mitten sets. As long as I was able to cover the cost of my yarn and have a few extra dollars, I felt like I was doing pretty good. Looking back, I probably made about ten cents an hour on those sets, but it helped me to afford what I really wanted. I cut grass and I also sold greeting cards door to door. Like Sew Sister, I too equated my sewing as just being too poor to afford the clothes that the other girls could go out and buy. Rather than tell the world that I made what I was wearing, I preferred to just keep that information to myself. The other girls at school knew that I sewed as we all took Home Ec classes together and sadly there were times when I was talked about and laughed at. My feelings were deeply hurt. Today we would call it being bullied. My feelings of insecurity though started many years before I was able to do that much sewing. I think, I hope, that parents mean well with statements that they make to their children, but it can so easily happen that a statement made in haste can cause years of damage to a creative soul.
Fast forward many years, I met and married my husband. We had wanted to start a family right away, but sadly, I miscarried. I was so very depressed. My husband asked what I would really like to do. That was easy, I had always wanted to have the opportunity to go to design school. He said, "so you will." I was in heaven. I graduated at the top of my class and won quite a few awards and scholarships. After I graduated, I worked for a dress manufacturer as an assistant designer. From there I did costume design work and taught. I spent time working in the costume department at the Chicago History Museum and ultimately designed and made wedding gowns for about twelve years. All along, I would rarely tell anyone that I sewed. Clients were referred to me by a friend who worked at a high end fabric store and then by past clients. My husband and I would attend a party and from time to time someone would comment on how much they liked what I was wearing and my response was always a simple thank you, nothing more. My husband would ask me why I wouldn't say that I had made my garment. I just couldn't. By this time I could afford to buy my clothes, I just preferred to make them, but old ghosts die very hard and shells can become quite thick.
A few years ago at the insistence of the acupuncturist that I see, I opened my blog. I have said before that when I started I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what I wanted to write about. It didn't take long for very old dreams to rise back to the surface. Then a friend of mine encouraged me to enter a contest. She felt that I had the ability to win. That was the Passion For Fashion Contest held by the American Sewing Expo. Not only did I not win, I wasn't even in the top six. I felt like a failure(old ghosts) and cried through every mile of my five hour drive home. There was no way I was going to put myself through that again. But then one day, a lovely lady who follows this blog sent a message and although these are not the words she used, the essence was, "I believe in you." I shared this with my acupuncturist and she encouraged me to give it another try. As the time grew closer and closer, I felt more and more like backing out. The thought of, "what if you fail again?" ran over and over through my mind. Along side that thought ran, "but what if you win?" But what if you win won the battle and I once again tried, and once again, I didn't win, nor did I place in the top three, but in my heart I won the best award and that was the audience choice award. When I drove home, I didn't know that I had won this award, but I was in a better and stronger place. Yes, I wished I had been recognized, but I didn't shed tears :) I knew that I had done my best and a few of those old ghosts took their leave.
Since then I've grown stronger and dared to try. A few days ago I was catching up on some old magazines and I came across this ad in the Sew News magazine,
and the thought hit me, "you were the winner!" Rather than the winner just being a face that is unknown to me....it's my face!!! Incredible!! And once again, it wouldn't have happened without such an incredible out pouring of help from all of you.
And then there was this,
Once again, I decided to take a chance. I sent in a garment for the preliminary judging and I was chosen as one of the twelve finalist for this year's Passion For Fashion Contest. If I'm honest, yes, thoughts that I refuse to give a voice to have made their way into my mind. But when they do, I quickly voice over them with something positive.
to attend a luncheon. I was asked, "whose dress is this?" I knew full well what she meant and quite honestly I was shocked that she would think that it was a designer piece. I replied, "it's mine." She replied, "oh Rhonda, I know it's your dress, but who is the designer?" And I quietly replied, "me." This lady went on to tell I think, just about everyone there that day that I had designed and made my dress. No bullying, no ugly remarks, just awe. And a few more ghosts took their leave.
I've learned that a thick shell may seem to protect us, but in the end, a seed can only grow if the shell is removed. Thank you to all of you who have been a part of cracking the shell.