Last night, I went with my friend Claudia to see Love, Loss and What I Wore, the Off-Broadway adaptation of the Ilene Beckerman memoir. The book is a small format book  anchored by illustrations of clothing from pivotal moments in Beckerman's life. Each garment illustration is accompanied by an essay that like the drawings, is evocative of much more than it's simple form might suggest.

The play, written by the Ephron sisters is essentially a reading. With similarly evocative stories from other women expanding the Beckerman stories, much the same way that as you read her book, your own stories related to clothing begin to fill your head.

Before the play begins, charmingly, the music on the PA system is all clothing related. Just a fun touch, you get the sense of joy the music director had in selecting the music.

When the actresses walked from the wings to their seats onstage I realized that I have spent too much time hanging out with my fitting fanatic friends on online sewing discussion groups. As the actresses walked onstage, all I could thing was that each of them needed for their dresses to fitted better to their bodies. I didn't stand up and shout "Darts! You women all need darts!!". But as I listened to one of the riffs about trying on clothing in dressing rooms, I realized that the inevitable self loathing that comes from standing in a dressing room, being made to feel horrible because a garment is made to fit a body that isn't shaped like yours, is no longer part of my life.

For me, one of the great joys of making my own clothing is that a garment that does not flatter has stopped being about what is wrong with my body, but about what is wrong with the garment. Well placed darts can make a body that curves, look curvy in a good way, rather than mis-shapen. A store bought dress may pick a fight with the shape of your body. A dress I make for myself,  does not.

When I began trying to teach myself how to  clothing with out a pattern, as my husband's grandmother did, I saw it as attempting to learn an old family tradition. I didn't, at the outset, see the very domestic task as one with feminist overtimes. But by owning the process of creating a garment, it has also changed my relationship with my body and how I present my body to the world. More and more, I see store bought clothing, and even ready made patterns, as a sort of  a subtle tyranny that keep reminding the wearer how far their bodies are from the ideal.

But anyone who walks in this city can see for themselves that bodies come in lots of different shapes. There are lots of ways bodies can look good. The fact that a pair of pants makes your body look weird may have less to do with your body and more to do with the basic measurements designer starts out with.

And as a side note to my sewing buddies. Truth be told, when  the discussion turns to issues of fitting, I tend to not pay very close attention. But I realize that I have been paying more attention than I had thought.

So I hope that the costume designer for "Love Loss and What I Wore" will spend  the time to put in a pair of fish eye darts in the back of each of those black dresses so that the actresses can wear those dresses more comfortably and just look a whole lot better in them. 


Popular Posts