I’m an elementary school teacher who loves fashion. Some people may feel that it’s not necessary to dress well for kids (professionally, sure, but not fashionably), I believe it particularly important. I try to show my sixth-graders I care enough to wear nice, interesting clothes to teach them while modeling self-respect. When those twelve-year-old girls compliment me on a garment, I really enjoy being able to answer “I made it!” and redirect the conversation. I want to teach these young women that we can have deeper conversations that go deeper than our appearances.
My dear mother, bless her, has worn blue jeans, baggy, solid coloured t-shirts and zip-up hoodies my entire life. A decidedly impatient shopper, she dressed me in the same for most of my childhood. By the time I was a pre-teen I was horribly jealous of the stylish girls at school, but didn’t have the vocabulary (or courage!) to ask my mother to buy me the things they were wearing.
I have a distinct memory of wanting a pair of sleek cross trainers as my “indoor shoes” in Grade 6. I recall my mother marching me to the shoe department of our local Zellers, hailing an employee and making me tell her what she wanted. The only word I knew for sporty shoes (Remember, this was pre-internet and I lived in a really small, Northern Ontario city where fashion was. not. a. thing. Seriously, the had-to-have item for back to school in 1999 was a Wind River fleece from Mark’s Work Wearhouse. I’m not kidding. Mine was red and I loved it because it was the closest I had ever gotten to “on trend” at my elementary school.) was “high tops.” You can see where this is going.
Of course, the woman brought me a cheap, black and white pair of ugly, no-name basketball shoes, which were not what I wanted, and not “in style” (which is saying something, as our “in style” was generally around five years behind other urban centres in Canada). Knowing my mother would not tolerate me asking to see another pair of shoes, and knowing I had no idea how to describe what I actually wanted, I wore those hideous high tops every day of Grade 6 and hated it. I would like to pause and say that I do love my mother and don’t hold any of this against her. In fact, I thank her for her lack of fussiness over clothes.
Around this time, my mother enrolled me in sewing lessons and I started babysitting, so I began to have money and some basic skills. I also had a library card which afforded me unlimited access to back issues of YM and Seventeen. The next ten or so years are punctuated by experimenting with “vintage” clothes my sister and I picked up at our local thrift store and sewing purses out of my dad’s old jeans.
Since then, I’ve sewn consistently, but often inventing my own patterns (read: not using a pattern but eyeballing mostly) and experimenting with discounted ends from the only fabric store in town, a shoddy chain. Needless to say, nothing I made was much worth keeping. All of this slap-dash attempt at fashion has given me an empowering vocabulary and an eye for what I like. I just still struggle to make my clothing dreams a complete reality.
Since the rise of Youtube and the trend of DIY tutorials, I’ve been taking my time, investing in tools and good textiles and researching as much as I can. I’m thinking really hard about what pieces I want in my wardrobe and trying out couture techniques. While I once felt I could make just about anything I wanted, I know now that I have still so much to learn. This blog is my attempt at staying accountable and stashing photos of my makes. My hope is that you learn something, too!