Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Royal Gown and Rite of Passage

There's an interesting story behind this dress. When I was young, I had two passions, Tudor England and sewing. My room was filled with history books, half written stories of Mary and Elizabeth and Henry VIII, and print outs of famous portraits. The rest of the space was covered with fabric, trims, sketches and of course my sewing machine.

I'd been sewing since I was about five years old, but until I was nearly 14, I had absolutely no interest in using patterns. To this day I still raise my eyes at following someone else's rules, especially when they seem so obviously impractical! But my mother and other seamstresses kept telling me that I needed to at least try using patterns, that it would give me a lot of training and information I needed to grow in my work. I wasn't impressed.

Then one day, I was in a fabric store with my mother and happened to get bored (HOW COULD I BE BORED IN A FABRIC STORE I DON'T KNOW) and started flipping through a book of patterns. Suddenly I saw a page with dresses from Tudor England. My jaw dropped. My eyes shone. I turned to my mother and pointed to the page. "Mom," I said. "I'll use a pattern if I can make that dress!"

God bless my parents. I owe so much to their support of my interests and talents. They agreed that if I used a pattern, they would cover the cost of the materials, but if I didn't finish the project I'd have to pay for half of it. I agreed.

I spent a little over a month. Mom helped me learn the basics of using a pattern, but I picked up everything pretty quickly. I've always been a good visualizer, so even though I don't like patterns, I'm quite capable of using them. And though I still prefer to create or adapt patterns to this day, those wise women were right, and I learned so much from my pattern experiences.

And yes, we took this picture recently and I still fit into the dress I made for 14-year-old me. It's not a perfect fit as the proportions have changed slightly, but it still totally works. Crazy, huh?

P.S. These beautiful pictures were taken by my good friend Anthony, and you can view his photo gallery here:

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