The Dress That Nearly Killed Me
I’ve been writing on this blog for so long I can’t remember what I’ve shared and what I haven’t. Have I shared how much of a fan of Project Runway I am? I probably have. I’m a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE fan. It’s my favorite reality show EVER and every time it’s on I am glued to it, commenting my opinions about every piece of clothing that is made. I don’t care about any drama. I’m there for the creativity. Every time it’s on I say, I wish I was on that show too. I really do.
I may have missed my calling when I didn’t go to fashion design school and chose to study journalism at a state school instead. I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had chosen that path. Did I tell you how I almost went to FIDM? Yep. I almost did. But I didn’t. At the last minute, I changed my mind because I didn’t think I was good enough to get a job and I was worried I’d end up in retail working at Clothestime for the rest of my life with a huge debt.
So when Bug showed me this picture I thought in my tiny I-think-I-could-be-a-fashion-designer head, “I can do that! We just create a bodice, overlay some lace, sew some ribbons on top to look like boning, add a tulle skirt and some ribbons for straps, and tah-dah, DESIGNER DRESS!”
What I did not know at the time of looking at the above photo is that THAT designer dress cost $4,900 and probably for a good reason. I cannot make that dress. It’s not as easy as it looks. I am full of crap and I need to be taken down a notch or two.
(I need to insert here that the dress that Joon is wearing on the right is my dress that we decided to Frankenstein into a skirt for this dress. It was a mistake but I’ll get to that later.)
And so I was taken down a notch or two.
First I created a bodice out of the only off-white fabric I had on hand: wool felt. It wasn’t a bad choice. It draped nicely on Bug’s body and held its form but it wasn’t the best for fitting because it does have some give and it can stretch out. I must have draped and pinned and sewed and ripped and repinned and re-sewed that wool felt a million times. Making a bodice with a shelf to hold very small a-cup boobs was much more difficult than I realized. I did it wrong about four thousand times.
Maybe now would be a good time to admit I don’t really know how to sew properly. I know how to use my sewing machine and I do make things from time to time but I’m not actually a seamstress with a working knowledge of how to construct clothing. I tinker. I alter already-made clothes and I can whip together a pillow or even a stuffed owl but I have never really followed a pattern successfully or really made anything fitted outside of a couch cover that was admittedly pretty wonky.
After the four-thousand ill-fated attempts at the bodice, I decided to ask my mom for help. I also came down with a cold during this time and developed a five-alarm sinus infection. But nothing could stop me from finishing this dress.
Not even a teenager who has self-diagnosed herself with misophonia could stop me from finishing but believe me she almost did. She just about broke me with this project.
Let’s talk about misophonia. It’s an uncontrollable anger over sounds. Yes, sounds. Bug can go from perfectly pleasant to break-down-on-the-floor weeping over the sounds of someone eating or putting the dishes away too loudly. It happens when she’s hungry or having PMS. She’s impossible. Everything sets her off and asking her to stand still to be fitted in a dress is like asking a rabid squirrel to sit nicely and have a tea party. It’s crazy-making.
Bug tries really hard to control her anger but she doesn’t always win. During PMS week she is a wreck. And the thing with these mental illnesses is that you can’t really accommodate them. The more I accommodate, the worse she gets until she’ll be living like a hermit peeing in a jar. I say this because I have experience with this. Her dad has it.
It was probably one of the reasons why our marriage didn’t work. It’s very hard to live with someone who is so sensitive to sound they are constantly in a bad mood. I never really understood Toby and how angry he would get until I had a daughter develop the same irrational sensitivities.
The difference is that Bug knows this about her dad. She’s seen misophonia in action all her life. She might have even learned it this way. She’s had her feelings hurt from her dad’s sudden outbursts many many times so she knows not to act this way. It’s just a lot harder to do when it’s happening than you realize. Bug tries so hard to stay calm and often retreats to her room in tears instead of venting her anger. Her friends don’t understand her. Her own family doesn’t understand her. I barely understand her and we are the closest. She tells me everything and my heart breaks for her when she tries to explain the hell that she is in because sounds set her off.
We are on a three-month waiting list to speak to a child psychologist about this and we probably will have a whole toolbox of coping mechanisms soon but presently we are just bumbling through.
Thankfully with this mental illness also comes lots of mental brilliance. Bug is incredibly talented and artistic as you already know. She has a lot of creative outlets for her frustrations and she finds joy in many many things. It’s just the down days that are hard.
Unfortunately, life does not schedule around down days. Sometimes you have to sew dresses when you are suffering from PMS, misophonia, AND a sinus infection that feels like a tent stake is being hammered through your eye socket and into your teeth.
Eventually, it came together. Meanwhile, Bug dyed her converse dark burgundy to go with. Color will always keep Bug happy. She even created a tiktok video about it that kinda-sorta went viral.
Sadly her converse faded to pink but I think they still looked cute. I love that wearing heels is no longer in fashion. Good riddance to sore feet and dancing barefoot, I say. Tennis shoes are way better for dancing.
Also, sadly, the dress didn’t live up to either of our standards. The skirt was too heavy-looking for the delicate top. I thought I was going to add more heavy black lace to the chest to create that milkmaid look but Bug was over it and not going to sit for another fitting. We fudged the waistband by adding a lace strip but it just didn’t quite hit the mark. The bottom was way too chunky for the top. I should have remade the skirt in tulle and skipped re-using my old dress but at this point, it was too late. We had no more days to sew.
I should also note that a teenager who doesn’t like to stand up straight doesn’t really help a dress look its best but I think she was slouching because she didn’t feel confident in the dress and I get that.
I understand this because my mom used to make me dresses when I was a teenager and many of them didn’t turn out. We would pick out a pattern together and I’d pick the fabric. Invariably I’d pick the wrong kind of fabric and the dress that looked so graceful and flattering on the model on the pattern envelope would look stiff and thick and awkward on me. Then my mom’s feelings would be hurt when I shoved the dress to the back of my closet and refused to wear it. So much love and time is invested in handmade clothing and so many times those investments are not returned. It’s hard.
So I forgive Bug for not standing up straight. I get it. I’m just surprised and flattered she actually wore it to the dance.
In certain angles it is a very pretty dress. It’s definitely something I am proud of. I tried to do something really hard with limited experience and looks okay. It’s not great. I wish I could re-make it with a new princess style skirt and maybe I will someday.
I’m so proud that she wore it. She even told her friends that she made it, even though she didn’t actually sew a stitch. But if you count all the hours of sitting around in pokey-pins and all the decisions that she yayed or nayed, she was very much a part of it’s construction. It was a joint effort.
She did end up wearing her boyfriend’s jacket over it but I don’t care. She wore it. We made it together.
And she had a good time.
Now I just need to find some sewing classes to attend because I don’t think this fashion designing bug is going away anytime soon. It didn’t kill me.
Raarrr! Masks: a DIY
Who goes there? Coronavirus Raarr MONSTERS?!! Let’s get our growls out!
I decided I’m going to share this. It’s hard giving up good ideas (remember Merbaby?). I hate it when I’m shopping and I see something I thought up in a box on the shelves but it is what it is and I am in no position to copyright and patent and trademark anything right now. If you want to do it for me you know how to contact me. Also, it’s not like someone else hasn’t thought of this already. If they haven’t, why not!?? If you have kids who like “teef” as I do, you should get busy with your sewing machine and make one of these! It’s very fun and what else are you doing? Watching Tiger King? Just get your sewing machine out already and do it.
I know I say everything is easy but really, this is. Except for step six. I hate step six. I guess I’m just not that experienced as a seamstress. But whatever. Now’s a great time to polish up my skillz. Woot.
So here is what you’ll need:
- a 9×16 inch piece of solid cotton fabric (Prints just don’t do the “teef” justice.) (Smaller if you are making for a child. I’m not going to do the math for you because I suck at math. Just wing it down a third or so, depending on your kid’s face size. What can I say, some kids have BIG faces!)
- white craft foam (Who knew! Everybody has some stuffed in a craft drawer somewhere. If you don’t, get some already!)
- the bottom cut off an old t-shirt
- a sewing machine (Everyone else might as well pass on this whole post.)
- sharp sewing scissors (You don’t have any? It’s about time you ordered some!! And when you get them put some tape on there that says FABRIC ONLY. It’s time to adult up.)
Okay, let’s, get to it!
My Aunt Keren was a professional seamstress when I was growing up. She taught me to sew. I used to spend long hours in her sewing room. I got my first Barbie doll (and only Barbie doll until recently.) at age 14 and I used to make clothes for the doll with the scraps leftover from my aunt’s sewing projects. I had a whole drawer in her sewing room that was the Barbie doll’s apartment. Wallpaper on the sides of the drawer, a check box for the bed. It’s hard to believe I was so into that doll at age 14. I guess that’s what happens when your mom won’t let you have Barbies as a young child because she’s worried about body dysmorphic disorder–which I totally got anyway despite her best efforts.
My Aunt Keren taught me how to harmonize. We used to sing hymns together to the sound of her whirring machine and her bird, Jasper, singing in the background and mumbling about what a pretty bird he was… oh memories! Anyway, one of the many lessons that my aunt taught me was to iron and be tidy when you are sewing. Snip your threads as you go because lose threads later are signs of a mess. So I do that still and I have pride in it. Funny how these lessons stick. Just like I always wash my paintbrushes carefully… teach your kids these lessons, they stick!
Okay, off soapbox.
Step one and two are to sew a 1/4 inch hem on the short ends of your 9×16″ rectangle. This will create the finished edge of your filter pocket. Then fold your rectangle in thirds with the hemmed edges overlapping about an inch. Cut your 1″ inch thick ring of t-shirt fabric and cut it in half.
Step 3: Take your two lengths of t-shirt string and pin the ends into the corners of your rectangle. These are going to be your straps that you tie the mask on with. Yes, they are way too long but that is good because it leaves plenty of room to customize later. The most important part of this step is to make sure that the straps are out of the way of where your side seams are going to go.
If you are having trouble visualizing where these straps go, just scroll down and take a peek at the finished product. They are kind of like two very long mirrored “Cs” (Coco Chanel style) that are going towards the center with their ends stuck in the corners.
Confused yet? Sorry. I should have just made a movie but my laptop is out of scratch disk space so I got no time for movie editing until I fix that problem. So basically pin everything together and sew a 1/2 inch seam down the short ends of your folded rectangle. AND! Don’t forget to remove your pins before you sew over them and break a needle. Been there, done that a few times. It sucks.
Step Four: Turn it inside out! Now do those long straps make sense? Then iron everything, like Auntie Keren says.
I should probably mention that I don’t think you should iron craft foam. I think heat can melt it. This does create a sanitation problem (I also don’t recommend washing in hot water or worse putting in the dryer) but we all know this mask is for fashion and not for doing surgery. It will keep you from touching your mouth. It won’t keep you from catching COVID. It just slows the spreading. Capeesh? Okay. Moving on.
Step Five: Add the TEEF! Maybe this could have been done earlier in step two. Yeah, that would probably be smarter. Hopefully, you read all the instructions before you start and you will do that but if not, Have no fear! It’s still doable at this step. How do I know? Because that’s what I did! :P
Step 6: Now it’s time for the hard part: sewing pleats. I don’t know why I struggle so hard getting my pleats even but I do. It doesn’t help that the pocket section makes it even thicker in the middle. I think putting aside your perfectionism is the best approach here. Just add three pleats as evenly as you can and sew it. A good tip is to NOT use contrasting thread. It’s gonna be messy if you are a beginner level sewing non-expert like me. Get over it. Maybe someday I will be better at this step.
When you are done with the pleats you are done!
If you make one of these please send me a picture! I would love to see all the coronavirus monsters out there killin’ it!