There is this dilemma I go through every time I wear something I made, especially if the item is newly completed. On the one hand, I want to show off shamelessly, demanding admiration not only for the comeliness of the item, but for the various obscure bits of seamstressly craft that went into its making. (This often requires educating my viewers about the nuances of garment construction so that they can properly appreciate, say, the exquisite stripe matching that they are gazing upon.) However, I know that this can be tedious, and while some people are happy to listen to me burble on about cable knitting bad-assery, or the minutiae of how I drafted the pattern for this top myself (and God knows I love those people with a deep and abiding passion that will never die), the vast majority of people really aren’t all that interested, and wish I would stop talking/showing off. And that’s ok. It takes all kinds to make a world, and I fully accept that one can be a perfectly good human being without having opinions about seam finishing techniques.
On the other hand, in our world, calling something homemade usually isn’t a compliment. It usually implies a lack of skill, poor design sense, and unfortunate material choices. Think of lumpy pillows with mismatched seams, or that dress made from stiff quilting cotton in a cutesy print that doesn’t fit right, so it has big wrinkles of fabric at the waist, an uneven hem, and a collar sewn on slightly askew so the wearer always looks like they’re walking slightly at a slant. That’s the kind of thing people usually think of when they think homemade. So often when someone takes one look at you and says, “Oh, did you make that?” it can be not entirely flattering.
This means that it can be a sort of hidden compliment when people don’t notice that you’re wearing something handmade – possibly implying that the quality of your workmanship is high enough that your items look as if they were made by professionals in a factory. Which, honestly, is a very sad commentary on modern standards of workmanship, since most factory-made items are pretty badly made compared to the work done by a competent home seamstress, but that’s a post for another day.
Ideally, the compliment you would most like to get is like the one I got this morning. Today I am wearing one of my 1950s skirts, a full, softly pleated design made from heavy Shetland wool in heathered china blue and gray, fully lined in black cotton batiste. I adapted it from the pattern I used for my bridesmaid dress for The Duchess’s wedding, so it has an interesting pocket detail in the front, and a deep hem which adds some sway to an otherwise rather heavy skirt. It is luxuriously warm, so it is one of my favorite skirts for winter. This morning I was getting something for an employee, when she exclaimed, “Oh, I love your skirt!” At which point I was able to say, “Why, thank you! I made it myself!”
However, moments like this can’t be produced on demand. Alas. So then I also get times like last Thursday when I wore my brand new sweatshirt cardigan, all gorgeously hand sewn Alabama Chanin style, sporting the first seperable zipper I had ever installed (the solution to a tricky design/fitting problem). My entire outfit was planned around that cardigan, with a jean skirt (which used to be a pair of too-long jeans until I changed it), a t-shirt I also modified myself, and socks & earrings that picked up the color of the cardigan. I was totally primed to show off. And then no one noticed. So then I had to decide – do I shamelessly point out that I have made most of what I am wearing, and demand that people admire me? Or do I take their not noticing for a sort of backwards compliment and keep mum? Except perhaps the fact that they didn’t notice means that my cardigan really isn’t as cute as I think it is, so maybe it isn’t a compliment after all… In the end I went for a combination. I pointed out my me-made cardigan to one of my closer friends, accepted her forced adulation, and let the rest go.
So what do you guys think? If I’m wearing something I’ve made myself, even if I’m immensely proud of it, should I tell people?