In one of his essay-like chapters of Love is a Mix Tape (Crown), Rob Sheffield reflects on how Renee, his curvy wife, began to make her own clothes, leading her to a real empowerment. “The more she sewed, the easier it got for her to move and breathe, since she now had clothes she could move and breathe in, and feel totally hot while she did so. It was really intense to see how much control over her body she could have by taking control over her clothes. It took a lot of time to make them all, but she could sew for hours. While she worked she would lose all her nervous energy and glow like a conquering goddess… Renee’s sewing was a way for her to follow the changes in her body. She felt her hips growing more and more Appalachian, marking her as one of her people… There was a lot of history in the hips, and Renee was learning her history. With that sewing machine, she was making history of her own (pg. 114-115).”
I read this passage and immediately marked it. Both for Renee’s power and presence and ability to champion her self, but also for Rob’s ability to see it, appreciate it, celebrate it. Renee’s sewing reminds me of the only times that I am sad about my body changing as I grow older. Those times usually occur in a dressing room as I realize that yet another designer just doesn’t understand breasts and hips (and also doesn’t understand that women with breast and hips really want fabulous clothes, too). I’ve learned in recent years not to even covet the styles that I used to love, but, sometimes, I just can’t help it. I fell in love with this dress in a catalog this spring, and I had to have it. Launch party and two weddings, I thought. And so I ordered it and then eagerly awaited its arrival at my door. When I pulled it on, I realized that the band they had to cover the breasts (Yes, you can see how small it is in this picture. I just wanted to think that it was an optical illusion because why would they make a dress in my size—a size that clearly indicates that I am not stick-thin—with the bust piece sized for a Barbie doll. Seriously.), was the width of an Ace bandage. And the last time my chest could be covered with an Ace bandage was in 6th grade. Staring at that beautiful mineral color, I thought, “If I knew how to sew, I could probably make something happen here.” And then I was reminded of Renee who never got herself into that predicament in the first place. I must learn how to sew, and then I must become a fashion designer with a line called Apples and Pears.