• MimiElisa

The making of a dress


I've been mentioning dressmaking every now and then on my Instagram, so here it is officially- I've started making my own clothes.

When I first walked into the sewing room it felt more than a little bit odd, because no one was my age; I was the youngest, and it was hard to push down the feeling of being the odd one out. But twenty weeks later I feel totally comfortable with the other seven, and hanging out with them has actually opened my eyes to a lot. It's curious how in our society we are typically always with people our age...and spending time, for fun or by choice, with a group of people older or younger, is a definite rarity.

I found it interesting to see how conversations vary, and particularly for me (what always draws me to talking to older women) their experiences with relationships. I truly believe wisdom comes with age on this topic, and it often feels like we're digging our heads in the sands when I go to friends my age for advice- it's hard to get things right when you're not old enough to have got things wrong yet. Talking to people who have gone through it all and still survived feels like its going to reap some slightly-less-shallow words.

We were sewing to the tune of 'Footloose' and 'I need a Hero' by Bonnie Tyler' because that's what the girls love, and I'll say this- it sure gave the lessons character. Maybe it could even be called a cultural experience for me, because if it wasn't for them I would still be totally uneducated with the 80's pop genre.


My teacher is a lovely seamstress from Portugal. She's made wedding outfits, silk skirts for celebrities, and has a true passion for upcycling that made her cut thirty collars off old shirts and turn them into a top (they're now unrecognisble as collars- and it's great to be taught by someone who loves slow fashion). She's also had a fascinating life, having learnt to sew just by watching the seamstress of the village for hours. I love listening to her stories...and we also all very much like the musical way in which she says 'seam allowance' and 'zig zag'.

Confessedly, I knew exactly where I wanted to wear my dress once it was finished, I had this place in mind. And when I did get there, it felt like I was living in an Agatha Christie's Miss Marple set with their '50's tea- cut dresses; 'The Secret of Chimneys' or 'The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side'. Basildon Park is part of the National trust, and is where they filmed Pirde & Prejudice 2005 version- (think of that dreamy ball scene) and also a little bit of Downton Abbey. I love the colour of the stone, and who couldn't fall in love with all those many dozens of pillars.

I call this a 1950's dress because it is made from a vintage pattern first printed in that decade. It's a pretty cool thought to think that someone in the 1950's was making a dress exactly like mine in another fabric. I love finding connections with the past, and that's one I hadn't thought of before.

I remember feeling vaguely unpresentable every time I stepped into the sewing room. It felt like every time Tuesday evenings came around I'd find myself exhausted, even though week after week I would tell myself I'll have more energy next time. Twenty minutes before leaving the house I would always be thinking, "I should probably get changed" but then the whole concept of being 'unpresentable' is so warped anyway. I've been thinking a lot recently about the affect no makeup has on me. Mostly, because more and more I've been making the decision purposely to go out with a plain face- even if I do have those extra precious twenty minutes in the morning- and the whole topic is something I'm thinking of exploring a little more in another blog post...

Post taking photos my friend and I sat in the cafe with the light falling on the wooden table, and got our paper and pens out. We planned a story together, and then left each other to it to begin writing. There was these beautiful paintings on the cafe walls that staged out a scene from exotic, hot India, and that inspired us to look up the legend/history of the white elephant.

Apparently, white elephants were given as a gift by emperors and Kings centuries ago, supposedly as a gracious act of generosity. But, though elegant and impressive, the albino elephants were so large that they would devour all the receiver's resources, and drive the man to bankruptcy and destruction. It is said the King of what is now Thailand, was particularly fond of choosing this tactic to dispose of courtiers which had got on his nerves. We rather enjoyed that story of poison disguised as a gift, and used it to inspire a story.

I really didn't plan this post, so sorry for all the side tracks my mind slipped into, but I really enjoyed remembering each moment of the day as I wrote. A part of me still gets nervous about what people will think about the way I love to period dress, but as long as it still lifts me, still transports me and inspires my imagination, I think it's really important to just go ahead and do it. I've got those wedding dress photos stored away in a safe little folder, and again, it seems a little out-there to begin posting them. But it's what makes me feel. I love falling into fantasy worlds...or half fantasy worlds- because after all, to a certain degree, fantasy has always got to be based on reality.

Sending love,

Mimi x

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