One of the most revolutionary “Hollywood secrets of the stars” I’ve ever read (well, maybe the ONLY one) was the interview where Jennifer Aniston was asked where she gets such flattering tee shirts. Instead of directing people to a $300 tee (like Gwyneth, bless her heart), probably made by an 8yo in China who wasn’t getting an education, Aniston admitted, “The trick to t-shirts is I that I usually tailor them. Which is silly, but it works.”
What the WHAAAA?!? SHE HAS SOMEONE MAKE THEM LOOK JUST RIGHT FOR HER. Like, a regular tee shirt, just MADE BETTER. But for whatever reason, making the leap from understanding that, and actually DOING IT FOR MYSELF has been really hard.
I hadn’t thought about this in a long while until I wrote recently about that moment when hand-making ALL your clothing becomes the new normal. My mother left a comment about how even when she buys off the rack now, she chops and snips and adjusts to make the thing she found in the store be THE thing she wants to wear all the time. As she put it, “It’s a little daunting to wield those scissors the first time. But when you see that now you have a garment you’ll actually WEAR, you become courageous.”
I’m sure the delay in my getting this idea from my head all the way into my gut, from an idea that I embrace conceptually to a deep part of me that is a reflex and a foundation for other ideas as I grow, has been some kind of self-worth/getting older/blah blah blah thing. I recognize now that I frequently saw my own hand-made things as LESS: less worthy, less valuable, less special, more easily replaced, not as needing of care. The transition isn’t that suddenly now I know that I can alter clothing or patterns to make something JUST for me–it’s finally seeing the items that I made with my hands as being as good and worthy as something bought at a store. It has also been a process of letting go of some designer’s idea of how long/tight/short/whatever that particular garment ought to be, and knowing (like Audrey always knew) what looks best on MY form. And that what looks best on me IS right.
I have become, in recent months, obsessive about fit. I still love the nit-picky details of construction, and the immediate biochemical feedback I get when I nerdily master a new sewing technique. I doubt–I hope!–that never goes away. But I have found the same reward, now, in exploring the idea of FIT in the garments I’m making. I feel like I’m excavating a whole new layer, and it’s exciting in a way I didn’t expect. I want every item in my closet to FIT ME, to flatter me, to be something I look forward to wearing. And if that means that I have fewer items in my closet, then so be it. I’d rather have a few things that fit FABULOUSLY than a zillion that I skip over while looking for something better.
Even when it’s not completely handmade, everything we wear can be made JUST FOR US. With patience and with a willingness to take a little extra time to alter and tweak and refine, everything can be tailored to our shapes. The same is true for every pattern you make: it’s a template for making a garment, not a definition of the garment to be made. You can use that template to adapt the fabric to your own form. It’s not about how GREAT you are at the machine. It’s about the value you put on the things you are creating, and your desire to make it BEAUTIFUL.
That feels like a shift in paradigm. I don’t think it is. It’s not new, I’m sure of that. But it sure does feel like a shift to solid ground. It feels courageous.