Every Dress Tells (or Sometimes Reads) a Story

by Erin on April 23, 2007


lion dress

Robin sent me this adorable dress, which is being listed (by fandon) on eBay and ends TODAY so scoot scoot if you want it.

Here's the full dress:


lion dress

I was actually thinking about dresses and stories yesterday, because Friday I was at the GEL conference and heard Ira Glass talk about what good stories do, and how they do it. And of course, whenever I hear anything I particularly like, I think "how does this apply to dresses?"

And then I realized: stories are why I sew. Personal sewing gives a garment an inescapable story, with an inherent narrative that pulls you along to the next bit: where I found the fabric and the pattern, and how long they waited to be made; how difficult or easy it was to put together and what halfassed compromises I made with my original vision; how it turned out, and so on. (Compare this with "I saw it at the Gap and bought it.") Every dress I make is an opportunity to recount a story, as well, and being (mostly) Irish and an aspiring raconteuse, I rarely turn down an opportunity to tell a story … especially ones that are (as so many dress stories are) stories of triumphing over adversity, however small that adversity is.

Sewing's not the only way to give a garment a story, of course. Think about your favorite clothes: don't they have stories? The clothes you bought on vacation, or received from a friend or inherited from a relative, the clothes you wore on a special day or with a special person … I heard a great story about a jacket this past weekend from Henning Rübsam (I heard this story because I exclaimed over how beautiful his jacket was). He saw a gorgeous jacket in a shop, a beautiful one that not only fit him perfectly physically, but fit him spiritually as well. It was far, far, far too expensive, so he regretfully left it behind. He went into the same shop a year later, and it was still there … and, even on sale, far, far too expensive, still. A long while after that … he found it waiting for him at Century 21, finally at a price he could afford, and now it is his, and he's been wearing it, and its story, ever since.

I can see why maybe some people don't want all their clothes to have stories—it'd be exhausting to be overwhelmed with associations each time you pulled on a pair of socks—but I think, in general, garments with a narrative of their own are preferable to garments without.

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