Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why you should NOT create and/or design your own projects (To be followed by Why you SHOULD be a dressmaker)

Previous (related) post: Why you should create/design your own projects

Below is a post from my old blog, written in July 2011.

Trial by Fire (and Error)

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, things can go horribly wrong. Failed relationships, disappointments... make you wanna "make lemonade". That lemonade isn't always as sweet as you'd hoped.

On that particularly dismal trip to Hot-As-Heck, NC in the summer when I was 16, my mom distracted "my grandmother" (my own awkward name for her, since it never rolled off my tongue to call her "Grandma", or anything like that.) outside for a bit, my Dad pushed aside a large dresser to reveal a door in the front room that lead deeper into the house. Behind the dresser, in neatly appointed rooms covered by a thick layer of dust, lay the year 1965 or so. Furniture in conversational positions, and a lovely baby grand piano, showing signs that a real life had been lived here. Organized and bright, these lonely rooms had been untouched for at least a decade, I suspected. And the "kid's" rooms (my Dad and his brother) were just as they left them even longer ago. At times, my grandmother talked about her "kids" as if they were still boys, and her husband (my grandfather) who had died before I was born, as if he were still alive. My Dad showed me the rooms, whispering quietly, unemotionally, and factually about what each room represented for him. We tiptoed out, put the dresser back as it was, and pretended to be sitting quietly when she came back in.

Back to the present:

Wiped out after a dressmaking project that went wrong, I decided to work out my dissapointment with a personal project. Because I had used an expensive fabric from my personal stash (a luscious, black double silk organdy) as a lining to help "save" a dress that ultimately didn't work for a client, I decided to reclaim some of that fabric for a new dress, which I would name "Things we lost in the fire". My obsession with flame motifs led me to buy a lovely cotton emblazoned with a firey mix of reds and oranges, and apply it to a summer dress. Set against a smooth, jet-black cotton, I sketched and imagined until a creative frenzy sent me to the dress form to messily drape the design.

These approximate shapes gave me rough templates for cutting my pattern pieces...

I adjusted the pattern to my shape, cut the dress pieces, assembled the dress, and was pleased.

That is, until I put it on. Somehow, I had created what looked like a grandma's nightgown with flames. Hot flashes? Ode to menopause? Not what I was going for. Knowing I would never wear it, I resolved to find the version of this idea that I would/could wear. Okay, the silk organdy has no place on this dress, either. I wanted to place it as a bottom border, sorta giving the illusion that the fabric had been singed as the flames traveled up the dress. Okay, so I could see it in my head... but on the body? Just Terrible.

All of that to get to this. Black skirt, to be worn with a black tank and my favorite red wedge sandals. 

Now, if only I had a tattoo...

I still wear that skirt happily, four years later, on the HOTTEST days of the summer. 

Let the above be a lesson to ya, and if that's not deterrent enough,  here's why you SHOULD NEVER create or design your own projects:

You hate originality.  You are not a fan of looking any different, more creative, more fitted, or polished than anyone else.  You just want to blend in, and you want the same for your accessories and home decor items.

You have NO spare time at all.  Hey, know that 20 minutes you spent staring into space/glazing over/Facebook posting/contemplating the laundry?  Don't use that. That time doesn't count. There have been novelists who have written important work in their "spare" time, or by using stream of consciousness techniques, but seriously, they must have been superheroes, since we all know that isn't even possible. Right?

You can't find any stores that sell fabric you like or can afford in the garment district.  There are so many stores, and darn it, you've explored them all, which took WEEKS, actually.  All for naught, because... You loved NOTHING.

You have no new ideas, no old ideas, and NOTHING inspires you.

You feel NO satisfaction when you make something yourself.

You'd rather long for things you can't have.  Maybe you could make them... but who feels like trying?

Really don't...  Have I convinced you?

*This post was written with love (and intended humor!)

Next post on related topics: Why you should be a dressmaker (will be posted in the near future)


  1. I quite liked it until I realized it looks like your skirt is on fire. But, you were going for the Mockingjay look, right?

    I did some dressmaking as a teen for cash, but it was really not a good return on my time. Also, people were not so sure about leaving their fabric and pattern with a 16-19 yo.

    I thought I was bad at marketing b/c people wanted to pay so little, but then I worked in the costume shop of CA Shakespeare Festival with Actors Equity union stitchers. It wasn't just me. The expectations for what people want to pay seamstresses was just too low.

    1. Definitely. The value people put of custom dressmaking is ASTOUNDINGLY low. You need to be in the right market for it, for sure. And it is TOUGH work! But yes, there is humor in the skirt. It is meant to look like it is on fire. It is funnier on a hot day! Maybe I could also wear tights, boots, and a black sweater and wear it on a REALLY cold day! Whaddya think?

    2. I nearly spit out my coffee when I read a biz article about American Apparel in which a hedge fund called the AA stitchers 'unskilled labor'. No, hedge fund managers on the whole have been outperformed by housewives like me. Perhaps we should call the HFMs unskilled labor?

    3. "Unskilled labor?" The emperor doesn't understand how he obtained his clothes...


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