Just to be clear, I hardly ever attend fancy events, which is probably why I looked forward to and enjoyed this one so much. Also, I do not support horse racing. For me, this was all about fun, friends and fashion. Oh and food, let's not forget the food!
So what to wear to such an event? For me it was definitely going to be something I'd made. I tried on the contenders the day before and decided on my StyleArc Toni Designer Dress. I then found some of the leftover fabric and whipped up a fabric flower to clip into my hair. Frivolous fascinators of some sort are pretty much compulsory for the Melbourne Cup!
Everyone looked gorgeous and we all admired each others' outfits. I got the usual eye-rolling from my friends when they asked if I'd made my outfit. I can never understand why they think sewing is such an amazing and elusive talent. Isn't it just a series of simple steps, and incredibly enjoyable ones at that? I was just hoping that the slightly-too-stiff interfacing I'd used at my neckline wasn't too obvious. The girls then chatted about the terrible time they have finding a lovely dress that is age appropriate and not outrageously expensive. Apparently pretty much everything out there either exposes way too much or looks Mother-of-the-bride. "Where can we find dresses that suit someone in between those extremes?" asked one friend. "You need to start a label and call it 'Stuck in the Middle'". The same friend then told me that she'd recently spent $70 having a dress hem taken up and a split lowered, only to find afterwards that the hem didn't even match on either side of the split!!!
I pondered this as I sat down in my home made dress, made from op shop fabric, that had cost me less than $10 plus my time. I don't count the time really as it's always spent so contentedly when I'm sewing. However, I would count my time if I was producing clothes to sell or doing alterations. I've done it before and, for me, it does suck the enjoyment out of sewing.
After lunch and the horse race, the entertainment continued in the form of a fashion parade. I love fashion parades and this one refreshingly featured non-professional models (real people!) with a range of ages and body types. As luck would have it, they were modelling clothes from a local boutique catering to the 'Stuck in the Middle' clientele.
I am very out of touch with the offerings of boutiques these days as, apart from the supermarket, I only ever enter fabric shops or op shops. As the outfits came out I found myself scrutinising the fit and the fabrics, the pattern placement and the pattern matching. Things leapt out at me that most people just have to settle for: dresses that fitted at the hips and gaped at the bust; something in a spangly polyester that would have been stunning (and far more comfortable) in silk; a dress with a stripe placed unflatteringly at the hip that would have look so much better at the waist. The more I saw, the more I appreciated the sewing skills and experience I have (and lamented the sewing snob I've become!).
As I joined the coffee queue afterwards, a lovely lady admired my flower and commented on how well it matched my dress. 'They must have come together' she said. 'Oh, I made them' I mumbled, my hand fluttering to my interfacing. But I shouldn't have mumbled, or fluttered. I was rocking a one-of-a-kind dress (and flower) that cost less and was more lovingly made than any RTW dress in the room. I had chosen the fabric and pattern. I'd put the print exactly where I wanted it and made sure it matched up at the seams. I'd chosen a loose fit to accommodate lunch, but if I'd felt like wearing a fitted dress I could have graded between sizes and tweaked the fit until it was
perfect pretty blinking good, not to mention making adjustments to hide my lumpy bits.
I'm starting to think that sewing is actually a lot more than just a series of enjoyable construction steps. Not that it's hard, I think anyone could and should learn how to do it, but actually making something forces you to think about fit and fabric. An embarrassing error teaches you the importance of pattern placement. A twisted leg seam or a puckered hem highlights the need to watch grainlines and press properly and a last minute requirement for a fascinator forces you to get creative and rip off a strip of fabric to make one. I realised yesterday that sewing is a glorious combination of all these things. It gives me the freedom to be unique, to make changes, to take risks, to learn. It gives me the power to say no to spangly, ill-fitting or overpriced RTW. It gives me the incentive to improve a bit more each time I make something. It gives me joy and a reason to say no to the housework. I know it's not for everyone, but I'm sure glad it's for me.
And now to try and fix that damned interfacing!
Update: I've just found out that a home made outfit has won the Fashions in the Field competition at the Melbourne Cup for the second year running. Yay!!