Wait, who are you?
I'm Sarah L. Crowder.
Sometimes I write things, & I used to act. I enjoy pretending to be a T-Rex, wearing cardigan sweaters, & extolling the virtues of the Oxford Comma. Afraid of clowns, spiders, & sticky jam hands. Unapologetically fat.
I’m on Ello.
Previously on CNS…
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- January 2016
- November 2015
- October 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- January 2015
- October 2014
- September 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- December 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- October 2012
Author Archives: Sarah
Today for Me Made May I’m wearing a modified Made by Rae Washi Dress in an excellent fat cat print. And yes, I specifically matched my accessories to the cats’ glowing eyes! The fabric was part of a Halloween collection of prints, but I wear this dress all the time. It’s always Halloween in my heart, you see.
A Month of Clothing Philosophy — Part Two
The Power of Frustration
I realized something in kindergarten: I didn’t dress like the other kids. There were only six of us in my class, but five out of six — boys and girls alike — wore jeans and t-shirts almost every day. I always wore a dress. Always. Rain, shine, snow — it didn’t matter. I usually wore shorts under my dresses for the sake of modesty, because I was just as likely to jump, climb, and run around like any other kid, but I don’t think I owned a single pair of pants from ages 4 to 12.
This wasn’t something my parents forced on me; it was just a preference. And seeing other kids dressed differently didn’t change my habits one bit. I genuinely didn’t care that I stood out, and if you think peer pressure eventually changed my stance…you would be very wrong.
I was already a pretty eccentric kid, but in my teen years I eventually went a little…well…goth. Size wasn’t as much of an issue yet (though I was always near the top of “straight” sizes, usually a misses 12 or 14), but living in a rural area in the late 1980s limited my clothing choices pretty severely. My family was also, frankly, rather poor — which was also a consideration. So even if Hot Topic had existed, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to shop there.
I was already thrifting some of my clothing, but except for one trip a year to the city, all of my new clothing (and that wouldn’t amount to much) came from JC Penney and Walmart. So, yeah — I could find a black t-shirt, but not a cool black t-shirt. Not the black t-shirt I really wanted.
I love to explain to people that I very nearly failed the sewing module in home ec in junior high, but only four years later I was working in theatrical costuming. This is all true. The difference is that at 13 I didn’t care about sewing, but at 15 I did. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t find or afford the kind of clothes I wanted to wear that I became very motivated to learn how to sew.
I started out with simple projects, using my grandma’s sewing machine. I finally convinced my family that I was serious about sewing, so my parents and grandparents went together to buy me a sewing machine for my 16th birthday. My grandma worked in a garment factory that made postal uniforms, and could get lots of scrap fabric for free — some of it uncut yardage — so I had plenty of material to practice with. My main problem at that point was stretching my allowance to buy other fabric.
I was fearless then. No one told me how hard zippers were or buttonholes — I just jumped in and practiced until I could do them correctly. And it really paid off. I was finally able to make my dreams of sartorial darkness a reality.
One early success was a pair of black (of course) crushed velvet shorts that I wore with tights and chunky boots. I remember how hard I worked at getting the buttonholes just right on a princess seamed floral sundress that had red roses on it the exact same color as my favorite lipstick. And I remember the first fitted skirt I made (also black, of course) because it was the first skirt I ever owned that fit at both my waist and my hips. Even at that size, there was a 12 inch difference between my waist and hips — and almost no ready-to-wear garment would work for that, unless it had an elastic waist.
Sure, sometimes my skills fell short of my imagination, and sometimes I just plain failed. But just trying was satisfying, and when things really did work, it was amazing.
My frustration had opened a window of almost endless possibilities.
This is my second year participating in Me Made May, and I want to do something a little different this time. I will spend this month not only wearing my own handmade clothing, but also examining my relationship to clothing in general, and why it’s so important to me, in a series of essays.
A Month of Clothing Philosophy — Part One
The Metaphorical Elephant in the Room
Long ago, in the halcyon days when my beloved E.K. lived right down the street instead of across the country, she once called early on a Saturday morning with some spontaneous plan for the day. She said she would be right over to pick me up and I said, “Give me 30 minutes — I have to get dressed.”
E.K. laughed and said, “You actually do that, don’t you? You ‘get dressed,’ but I just put on clothes!”
It was true then and it’s true now: I get dressed. I dress with thought and purpose, and spend more time thinking about, making, altering, and spending time with clothes than many do. (You’ll notice I don’t spend much time shopping for clothes, but we’ll get into that later.) And yet I’m not a fashionista. I don’t usually post OOTD snaps on social media, and although I often receive compliments on my outfits in real life, I’m not especially flamboyant or colorful. It’s likely I’ll never sport the candy colored hair and exquisitely chosen accessories necessary for social media success amongst the clothing elite.
I do get derisive looks from strangers, however, and have been on the receiving end of unpleasant stares far more often than I would like.
You want to know why? It’s simple enough: I’m fat.
I’m what I think of as “medium fat” — mammoth by Hollywood standards, of course, but completely functional in the real world. I’ve never needed a seat belt extender on an airplane, for instance — and being spared that particular indignity may be what brought home the concept of relative privilege for me. I may get less abuse than many fat people, but I still get some — you know? I “read” as thinner than I am, which also gets me better treatment. I have a strong jaw and prominent chin, so my double chin is less apparent. I’m not very busty (and am in fact three dress sizes smaller at the bust than at the hip), so I seem smaller than I might otherwise. I’m pear-shaped with a definite, smaller waist. I have a lot of relative privilege. I know that.
But I am definitely, demonstrably fat. I am plus sized, if you want a coy term. I am not euphemistically curvy, “overweight” (over what weight, exactly?), or — god forbid — fluffy, a term I despise more than almost any other. I’m simply fat, and when I use that word to describe myself I mean it just as a physical descriptor — like short, or pale. I don’t mean it as an insult.
It took me years to find this level of self acceptance, but fat is finally a neutral term for me, and it’s what I call myself.
So, now that we have that out of the way, we can begin to examine why I come to clothing with a different perspective than many, and why dressing well is both a creative and a political act for me. I’m not only here to shock the bourgeoisie (as fun as that can be), but I’m here to be visible, to represent an unfairly vilified segment of society.
Clothes can be a serious business, and they’re serious to me. Representation is important.
Clothing is important.
Gearing up for Me Made May today! Clockwise, starting with the fox print, these will eventually be: a Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt modified with the Jennifer Lauren Handmade Gable Top neckline, Style Arc Ethel Designer Pant, a self-drafted swing tank, and a Seamwork Kenedy dress.
Odds are I won’t actually get all of them finished by the end of May, but I’m going to try!
(Can you tell that I’m too lazy to change the thread on my serger? There is a definitely a specific color story happening here.)
Um, I am not doing a very good job at keeping up with these posts. And this month I didn’t even do a very good job at keeping my list! I’d like to order the failure platter with a side of shame sauce, thanks.
Anyway, as far as I can tell I:
- Used my last birthday goodie from last month, a $5 off coupon at Jason’s Deli. (The potato soup is back! It’s my favorite thing there, but it’s seasonal.)
- Got a free jar of salsa, a free Larabar, and a free package of fancy Jell-O pudding mix at Kroger.
- Sewed a top using fabric scraps and fabric from a failed sewing experiment — and a free sewing pattern download. I even used a leftover piece of bias tape and thread I already had on hand. Although my time and labor certainly count for something, speaking only of supplies, I managed to make myself a free shirt.
- Read 17 free eBooks from the library, and one truly dreadful free book on my Kindle app. Seriously, I regretted it. Even though it was free. Ugh.
While we’re still keeping our failures in mind (I say “our” like I’m referring to myself in the royal “we,” I guess), I didn’t earn as much as usual this month, either — and wasn’t able to transfer anything extra from my income into savings. Perhaps I should add a slice of humble pie to my order above, too.
There’s always next month!
I didn’t keep track of things very well last month. I was kind of overwhelmed with client work, but that also means I didn’t do much of anything besides work.
So, as best as I can recall, last month I:
- Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
- Stocked up on gluten-free crackers and wraps at rock bottom prices at Aldi. We don’t have an one nearby so we rarely shop there, but sometimes stop by the one near my in-laws after a family lunch.
- Had another free drink from Starbucks, but for my birthday.
- Had a free small popcorn at the movies — again, for my birthday. I sign up for lots of loyalty programs just for the birthday goodies.
- Managed to put 12% of my net pay into savings in March. Maybe not great, but not terrible.
- Read 24 free eBooks from the library, and 2 free books on my Kindle app.
Maybe I’ll keep track more diligently this month. I can at least try!
I’ve decided to do Me Made May again this year. Here’s my official pledge:
‘I, Sarah L. Crowder of codenamesarah.com (and @codenamesarah at Instagram), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’17. I endeavour to wear at least one self-made garment every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday for the duration of May 2017.’
Once again, I’ve chosen a Monday / Wednesday / Saturday schedule because I usually only leave the house on those days, and also because I have less self-made clothing than I used to have. I only made a couple of things from last May until now, and have changed sizes (again!), so several older things no longer fit correctly. Several other garments are almost worn out, too — so I am having a bit of a shortage!
I’m going to use the month as an excuse to sew as many things as I can — not in a high-pressure sort of way, but in a “let’s see how much I can get done without stressing” sort of way. I hope to make a couple of knit tops, a knit dress, at least one skirt, and a pair of lightweight summer trousers. That seems ambitious, I know — but it’s barely more than one thing a week — and I plan to start my sewing in April, anyway.
I’m not promising photos, but I’ll try to post some either here or on Instagram. I may repeat garments, too. I want to be productive, but also…relaxed. Here’s to a fun Me Made May!
I was still keeping my list, though.
In the last few weeks I:
- Used DuoLingo daily to re-learn French. I do this all the time, actually, but I’ve never thought to add it to the list. It’s free basic instruction, and although the Owl mascot is a passive-aggressive super freak, it’s a fantastic resource.
- We went out to eat for Valentine’s Day…but we used a coupon.
- Finally bought a piece of software (Scrivener) after a couple of years of dithering around. I’d almost purchased it at least three time before, but it was 50% off, so I finally did it. Here’s to (hopefully) more organized novel writing!
- Bought a cardigan sweater at the thrift store on clearance for $0.77. Like new, less than a buck!
- Gave Lennox a haircut. He has very long hair, so I just trim it right across the bottom. It’s just like trimming bangs, except on a longer scale. And it took me all of the length of an Onion A.V. Club video to do it, so it saved a few bucks and a lot of time.
- Downloaded a free Kindle First book. Although it’s an Amazon Prime benefit, I don’t always find the monthly book selections interesting enough to bother getting one. It doesn’t matter if something is free if you really won’t use it — or read it, in this case.
- Used a $10 coupon (sent for my birthday) to order my favorite peach tea in bulk at a discount.
- All that being said, sometimes you have to compromise. My husband and I share a car — which is very frugal, of course — so I often don’t have have the ability to run errands when it is convenient (especially with regards to my energy level). And there are plenty of errands which are impossible to do on foot (especially since moving to this crappy neighborhood) and just too difficult to do on public transit. (We live in Houston, not Chicago. Transit here is marginal at best. I ride the bus often, but it’s rarely convenient.) So a simple grocery trip must either be done late in the evening (when I can barely do anything) or on the weekend, when the stores are packed (when I may have a panic attack from the crowd). So this really sucks! I hadn’t had groceries delivered in years — not since I worked a regular office job — and I had no idea that the options had expanded so much. I ordered from Instacart today, and it was an excellent and not-too-expensive-in-a-pinch option. Since the first delivery was free, the service fee and tip was less than a cab ride — and the personal convenience was worth every penny to me, anyway.
- Used a $20 Amazon credit to order take out one day when I wasn’t feeling well.
- Read 15 eBooks from the library, and 3 free eBooks from Kindle.
Not too shabby, I guess.
Check me out: I was a featured writer on Ello yesterday! Hey, it pays to be a big fish in a very small pond.
I’ve also added a new writing section here on CodeNameSarah, which I’d intended to do for a long, long time. I’ll continue to update that page from now on. Because apparently I’m a writer again. Yep.