Sewing Makes You Love Yourself. When I read the name of this challenge, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Organized by Athina Kakou, Lisa Kish, and Hattie van der Krohn, the SMYLY challenge (#smyly2018) is all about sharing your sewing story. Whether sewing has helped you get through a tough time in your life, encouraged you to break free creatively, or transformed the way you think about your body, we all have a deep connection with this practice that is worth sharing.
Participate in #SMYLY2018 from January 1 until February 28th to be eligible for prizes. Sew something that makes you feel amazing and share your SMYLY story. I am one of the sponsors for this challenge, so you can enter to win my PDF pattern collection! Winners are chosen in a random draw. You can learn more about the Sewing Makes You Love Yourself (SMYLY) challenge here!
My SMYLY Story:
For me, fashion has always been a means of personal expression. I loved playing dress-up as a young kid and I would often take items from the costume box and wear them to school. It never occurred to me that I looked silly! I would simply wear what felt good to me each day. Thankfully, my parents let me do just that and never tried to make me look ‘cute’ or ‘normal’.
In high school, crushing self-awareness hit me like a freight train as I grew taller than most of my peers and struggled hard with acne. I also noticed that I didn’t dress like other kids. What used to be a fun way to express myself became embarrassing and so uncool. I desperately wanted boys to like me and so I started wearing a new style.
Dresses got shorter and tighter. Mini skirts, black hair, and studded chokers. I was hiding my skin behind too much makeup and my body issues behind overly-sexy clothing. Not revolutionary, I know, but I thought that feeling attractive equaled looking sexy.
It is interesting how things change. One moment I’m an awkward teenager who shows a lot of skin and thinks she’s some kind of goth. The next I’m an awkward adult dealing with real-world expectations of what a woman should look like. I’m suddenly aware of looking too sexy. I’m afraid of my body. I try to dress ‘professional’ and look ‘presentable’, all the while feeling like an ugly duckling posing as a swan. Don’t we all wish we could go back in time and tell our 20-year-old selves how amazing we looked? I get those ‘10 years ago today’ posts on Facebook and all I can think is ‘I looked so good, but I remember feeling so ugly’.
Stomachs should be flat, buts should be bootylicious, arms should be toned…but not too toned. Backs are sexy, thighs should have a gap, knees are gross, and chins should be hidden. Skin must be radiant, hair free, and fresh. You must be fresh. Your clothes need to tell a story – the story that you have enough money to look like everyone else.
I spent my early 20s trying to make all those things happen. It didn’t help that I gained the usual 15 pounds of ‘not a teenager anymore’ weight and was convinced that I was fat. So there I was, fat-obsessed and working a job that did not inspire me. Scared of my body. Afraid that everyone could see my tummy, my acne, my chin, my leg stubble. Trying to dress to fit in but not knowing how. I never did understand how to get ‘the look’ that other women had. I never felt like myself in my clothing.
Enter……*drum roll please*…..SEWING! I had learned to sew as a kid and sewn lots in high school, so the act of sewing was not new to me. Back then, I had used sewing as a connection back to my former childhood self. The one who wore costumes to school. I loved creating what was in my head and not worrying about making what everybody else had. It was freeing and fun and creative. I am kicking myself for not recognizing it at the time, but I am grateful that sewing came back to me and I was able to find that connection again.
In my longing to look like every cool girl I saw, I was following a lot of fashion blogs. Is there anything more simultaneously inspiring and crushing than comparing yourself to others on the internet? Needless to say, I was not getting anywhere with my personal growth by reading those, but I did happen upon a sewing blog one day. What a rabbit hole! I was thrown into a world I didn’t know existed and I was so taken. These women are making whatever they want! They look normal! They were talking about how clothes made them feel, not how they looked…I was hooked.
I immediately started sewing with my Sewaholic Minoru Jacket. I then started my blog to journal my makes and, well, the rest is all here for you to read!
Sewing brought me to a place where I didn’t feel inadequate anymore. I can make anything I want and wear any style I please. Nothing is out of reach or in the ‘I could never pull that off’ category. I know now that confidence is what makes people look good in clothes, not the perfect body. I accept that my skin is scarred from acne. I know that a flat stomach is not my life’s purpose. I look at people of all shapes, ages, and ethnicities and think that they are beautiful. I look at myself and think that I am beautiful.
For my SMYLY make, I chose the Closet Case Patterns Nettie Dress. I owe so much of my sewing and business confidence to Heather. She is an inspiring woman and a has been a great role model for me for the past few years. I chose the Nettie because it was a sewing dare from Gillian in 2016. I was initially hesitant to make the Nettie because of its form-fitting shape, but I was surprised to find that I loved it! Now, I have a second Nettie in a horizontal stripe, no less. You all know that women are not supposed to wear horizontal stripes, right? Because we don’t want to look wide. People will be completely bamboozled and not know where one side of you begins and the other ends! *insert eye roll here*
I love this dress because the stripes accentuate my curves! I went with the longer sleeves, the high neck and back, and I added length so it would hug my whole body. In a soft bamboo, this dress is totally ace.
I hope you share your SMYLY story and sew something that makes you love yourself! Find out more about the challenge and how you can participate here!
Join the newsletter
Subscribe to get updates about new blog posts and patterns from Helen's Closet!