A Month of Clothing Philosophy: The Metaphorical Elephant in the Room

I’m wearing a Comino Cap top for Me Made May today. The fabric is a tentacle patterned knit from Spoonflower.

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…

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.)

Apparently April was pretty distracting, too?

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. Got a free jar of salsa, a free Larabar, and a free package of fancy Jell-O pudding mix at Kroger.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 got distracted in March.

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:

  1. Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  2. 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.
  3. Had another free drink from Starbucks, but for my birthday.
  4. 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.
  5. Managed to put 12% of my net pay into savings in March. Maybe not great, but not terrible.
  6. 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!

A sophomore effort.

me-made-may'17

 

 

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 think it has been a few weeks, maybe?

I was still keeping my list, though.

In the last few weeks I:

  1. 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.
  2. We went out to eat for Valentine’s Day…but we used a coupon.
  3. 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!
  4. Bought a cardigan sweater at the thrift store on clearance for $0.77. Like new, less than a buck!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Used a $10 coupon (sent for my birthday) to order my favorite peach tea in bulk at a discount.
  8. 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.
  9. Used a $20 Amazon credit to order take out one day when I wasn’t feeling well.
  10. Read 15 eBooks from the library, and 3 free eBooks from Kindle.

Not too shabby, I guess.

Small successes adding up.

Quick update…this week I:

  1. Used a reward on my Starbucks card for a free drink.
  2. Finally replaced our most worn (and slightly, I am ashamed to say, holey) sheets with some very soft organic cotton sheets from Target on clearance.
  3. Ordered a case of Swiffer sheet knock offs from the Dollar Tree. I haven’t paid full price for name brand ones in years, but someone keeps buying them out as soon as they’re restocked at the closest store! At least we have room to store them.
  4. Went to Target and actually purchased only the things on my list. That always feels good…but doesn’t always happen.
  5. Read 4 eBooks from the library, and one free eBook from Amazon Kindle.

Over the month of January we managed to save $525 over the normal amount we normally put into our household savings. So that’s a success for sure!