Say it with clothes

As part of research for my Honours thesis I have looked into clothing as a form of communication. I’ve long suspected that what we wear speaks as loudly as our words, and it was a pleasure to see that confirmed in academia. Clothing can tell those around us about our affiliations, our activity, even something about our personality. Just look at advice for dressing for an interview to see how much what we wear matters in shaping what others think of us.

What specifically intrigues me, though, is how what you wear speaks to you. It can, to a large degree, shape what you feel about yourself. In the years I worked as fulltime parent, when social isolation was one of my greatest enemies, I had a rule to never wear track suits. My aim was to always dress casual but nice. I often got it wrong, but looking back, days that I didn’t dress well, I didn’t feel good about myself inside.

I also, over the years, discovered the power of clothing in helping against the occasional bout of the blues. Colour psychology is important here: on a day when you have to drag yourself out of bed, choose brighter colours, and those on the warm side of the spectrum.

Finally, I discovered that when your view of yourself is a little off track, you can start dressing the way you see yourself, which reinforces the skewed self-image, which reinforces the dress tendency. One of the most uplifting things I did in a recent phase of reconsidering the direction I was heading professionally, was to realise I was dressing like someone I wasn’t. Part of recalibrating myself involved reconsidering my wardrobe. I started loving what I wear again. Every day, choosing my outfit for the day is a joy. It’s a way of being creative, a way of expressing myself, of sharing my joy in being me with everyone around me.

rainbow_trousers

You look awful!

dreamstimefree_247594I am doing a thing: I am looking at those around me, and I am making an effort to not judge. That guy with the clothes: you know, the one that makes you roll your eyes? I am putting brakes on that eye-roll. That girl with the stuff, you know what I’m talking about, the one that makes you smirk. I am giving that smirk a glare and making it scuttle back into its cave.

I am doing this thing because I have learned that someone, somewhere, is going to do the same about me. They are going to look at my face, and if they want, they will have grounds for nudging a friend with an elbow and waggle an eyebrow in my direction. They are going to spot my shoes, my shirt, my hair, my socks, and I guarantee you “they” will have among their ranks members who will find reason for disapproval.No matter what you wear, how you cut your hair, what makeup you do or don’t wear, you look awful to someone somewhere.

And I am they, to someone else, and I decide to rather realise everytime I feel that impulse to disapprove that among “them” there are also those who think what I disapprove of is great, is desirable, is to be emulated. In that way, I hope to become more and more the “they” who respects everyone’s right to tell the story of who they are through what they look like. I want to become part of the “them” that is a safe space where that story is not ripped to shreds with looks, and giggles, and nasty little bladed comments.

Making your own dungarees

Some time ago, I posted about making myself dungarees.  I got so many hits from people looking for dungarees patterns and instructions on how to make them, that I felt pretty bad all they’d get here was my ecstatic ramblings about how glad I was to have managed to make my own.  Therefore the next time I made myself a pair, I took loads and loads of photos so I could give what help I am able to.

Some things need to be noted here: if you are not already familiar with sewing your own clothes, I’m not sure how easy this will be for you to follow.  Also, these dungarees will be different from the standard denim ones.  I made a pattern to my own taste, which suits my personal needs.  If it suits yours as well, you might figure out from my notes how to make something similar for yourself.

This pattern might not be perfect first go.  It wasn’t for me.  I would suggest you make your first pair of dungarees from cheap fabric, try it on, and then make adjustments to the pattern where needed.  That’s what I did, and I now have a pattern which is perfect for me which I can use over and over again.

Lastly, there are A LOT of photos in this post.  On a dialup connection, you might well have huge trouble downloading it.  Sorry about that, but it’s just one of those things.

So, on to the pattern and instructions:

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Dungarees: I has them!

If you’re looking for directions on how to draw a dungarees pattern and sew your own, go here.

Back in South Africa, I lived my life in denim dungarees.  I had long ones for winter, and short ones for summer.  I wore them so regularly that I remember how weird it would feel to have pressure on my waist when I wore normal trousers.  Dungarees are obviously held up by the shoulder straps, and I wore them so much that anything else was strange.

They were too heavy to pack for Ireland, so I gave them all away.  “New country,” I thought, “new dress style.”  That was five years ago, and I’ve been struggling with clothes ever since.

Nothing felt right.  I kept buying this, and trying that, and not feeling really comfortable and natural in anything.  Recently I’ve started wearing the odd skirt and a few dresses again.  Yes, it’s been nice, it feels feminine and flirty to don a shortish skirt and stockings.  However, it still felt as if I was wearing someone else’s clothes.

I realised at a stage that I missed my dungarees, realised what a big mistake I’d made to leave them behind.  I started looking for dungarees here, but no luck.  I could have ordered them online, but with me sometimes wearing a 12, sometimes a 14, I was wary of doing so.  The other thing is that I believe fashion has veered toward tighter fitting clothes.  Even if I checked exact measurements for hips, chest etc. and ordered accordingly, my idea of a comfortable fit might be nothing like someone else’s.

Yesterday, all my problems were solved.  I got a sewing machine.  His name is Harold, and he’s gay*.

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