Your body IS a wonderland! Colette Dahlia dress in jersey.

Full disclosure: I only know the title of that song, this post has got nothing to do with that song. Before I move on to the story of my latest Dahlia dress, some photos of a couple of years ago (two Colette peony’s and a Moneta):

That lemon dress is my I-love-myself-and-will-treat-myself-to-something-pretty-dress.

Another example of this:

Those photos were all taken when I was at my heaviest weight, around 230 pounds. As you may know by now: I go up and down in weight a lot and often. The biggest difference in weight was two years ago when I went down nearly 60 pounds in two months. This has to do with extreme water retention and it’s a very quick process. I can gain and lose about two pounds a day for a while. Earlier this year I went up about 25 pounds and at the moment I’m quickly losing again. It’s something that I have come to accept over the past few years as just the way it works for me. Maybe it will go away once my hormones are under control again, but who knows if and when that might happen. The weight mostly gathers under my waist and above my knees. Another reason why I enjoy wearing dresses. Fortunately I’m at a place in my life where I’m happy with who I am, about 16 years ago I most definitely wasn’t. In recent months I shared some of my experience with people who were struggling with themselves and I thought I might share some of the things I learned with anyone who’s reading this as well. This obviously is a very personal experience, if it doesn’t resonate with you then hopefully there will be other stories that do help you. If you just want to read about my jersey Dahlia, scroll down, it’s at the end.

You might as well be kind to yourself

It’s hard to be kind to yourself. I used to use food as a punishment or reward and was pretty close to a eating disorder. I used to think pretty bad thoughts about myself and my place in the world. When I tried to research tips for accepting yourself I came across a lot of articles that told people to focus on their good points, the things you like about yourself or are proud of. These tips do not resonate with me or my experience. I was not proud of anything, I did not like anything about myself. But I came to realise that not liking myself wasn’t going to get me anywhere either. If I wanted to live this life instead of just existing I had to change some things. I decided that I might as well be nicer to myself. Being unkind to myself had not done anything for me, so why not try the opposite. At least I would get more enjoyment out of my life. And so I started treating myself as I would treat a loved one. It did not make me thin. It did not make me fat. It did make me happy. I started eating better, feeling better, sleeping better, living better. Again, it did not make me magically thin, but it did make me healthier as a whole. I have to add that therapy helped me here too, but it was really important that I started to think of myself as someone worth helping and worthy of happiness. You might as well accept yourself the way you are, you have nothing to lose by being kind to yourself. Punishing yourself is not going to make you feel better. Enjoy the cake, enjoy all the food you put in your mouth, feeling bad about eating is not going to do you any good.

Your body is the only body you’ll have in this life

Once I started to be nicer to myself I started to appreciate my body more and more. I realised that it was the only body I’d ever have and that I had to make friends with it. Around this time Eve Ensler, playwright of the Vagina Monologues published her play ‘Good body’. She ends her introduction to the book, a exploration of the relationship women around the world have with their bodies, with this declaration:

‘Tell the image makers and magazine sellers and the plastic surgeons that you are not afraid. That what you fear the most is the death of imagination and originality and metaphor and passion. Then be bold and LOVE YOUR BODY. STOP FIXING IT. It was never broken.’ She ends the play (a series of monologues of women around the world interspersed with Ensler’s own thoughts about her body) with something of a mantra in which she finally accepts her body as the good body, flaws and all: ‘We live in a good body, we live in the good body’.

Having health problems means that sometimes that relationship gets slightly complicated. I can’t always trust my body. But the essence remains: nothing good will come from being unkind to myself or my body. Even if it fails me, being kind to myself will make things easier.

There’s always going to be someone who thinks you look fat

The definitive moment in my own acceptance of my body, the realisation that I was completely at ease with it and didn’t care about the world, came when I was reading about Rihanna on a website. There were a lot of people commenting on her looks and despite Rihanna being, I think objectively – even as beauty is a subjective thing – one of the most beautiful women in the world, there were a lot of people being pretty negative about the way she looked and her body weight. It was really liberating to me because it means that we can stop trying. You are never going to make everyone happy, so don’t bother with that and just try to make yourself happy. There’s always going to be sad sacks of people who need to put other people down. Rihanna does not care about the people who try to shame her and neither should we. People who want to punish you for living while not being the embodiment of their idea of perfection just don’t get it. They don’t know it, but they’re the ones who aren’t with the program and punishing yourself for existing whilst not upholding an arbitrary and unattainable ideal set by people who aren’t worth your time is not going to make you feel better. If people try to use the concept of health as a strawman argument for being allowed to discuss your appearance, don’t buy into that. Health is a deeply personal thing that can not be measured by looking at the outside of a person. Sometimes health and weight are related (it’s true for me at this particular moment in my life), but nobody can assess that properly except for you and your doctor (if they do the right tests and actually check you completely out). This fake health concern has to be nipped in the bud.

The right people won’t care

Obviously I care about my husband’s health and vice versa, so I do care that my husband is really skinny at the moment as it’s a bad sign with regards to his health. But I don’t care about the aestethics and neither does he. People who are the right people in your life won’t care about the aesthetic side of your weight. If they do care, they’re not the right people and you need to get some better people or they need to learn about the right approach to the weight of loved ones. Who we are as people and what matters about our character has nothing to do with how much we weigh. I’m not kinder when I weigh less. I don’t gain patience with pounds. I’m not funnier when I weigh more or less. Your value as a human being does not depend on how much you weigh. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of respect. No number on the scale is going to change your inherent worth as a human being.

When it comes to clothes: wear your size

Wear whatever you want to wear, but please, be kind to yourself and wear your size. It’s liberating and comfortable to not feel your waistband dig in your stomach, to take of your clothes and not see any of those red marks on your body. If you fluctuate a lot, like I do, you can wear all sorts of jersey clothes (which can be dressed up for professional clothes too), there’s a whole world of stretchy fabrics out there for you. Just make sure it fits comfortably when your weight is at it’s peak. Here’s a whole blogpost by Jenny from Cashmerette on sewing for fluctuating weight.

On to the dress

Anyway, this is a longwinding way to say: I need and love stretchy clothes in my life. I make and have made lots of nonstretchy clothes, but usually those won’t fit me part of the year/month/week. So I like jersey a lot because it gives me lots of room on the way up and usually bounces back when I’m on the way down again. I like trying patterns for wovens in jersey and I felt I probably could use jersey for the Colette Dahlia. There aren’t a lot of seams and the midriff works in jersey too as I experienced with my Zoe dress.

So while the friggin Penny was languishing in the corner I continued making every single Colette pattern that I own. I had been wanting to try to make the Dahlia in a jersey for a while now.

It’s a pattern I have made with more or less succes before:

It takes some fiddling with the neckline to get it to sit just right (I think I nailed it with the dress on the right, the other ones have moved on to the charity shop since making them). It’s gather, fit, gather, fit, ungather, fit, gather again etc. I added shoulder darts to the raglan sleeve to get it to lie flat better.

This is a straight size 12 with no alterations other than changing the skirt into a selfdrafted half circle skirt. I might tweak the fit at the back some more as you can see there’s some gape at the neck, but first I’ll check if it isn’t due to weird posture when taking photos (I just don’t know how to stand with my back to my phone…), because I really do have weird posture when taking photos, I’ll pull up my shoulders or do weird things with my hips etc.

I wanted a polkadot navy dress for a while now and used my store credit to get this one from Stoff&Stil. I think it’s sold out now. It’s a cotton jersey that’s easy to work with, not too flimsy, but good drape. I usually use the triple straight stitch on midriff pieces and skirts for stability and added some clear elastic for extra stability. I haven’t had any dresses stretch out vertically, so I think it works.

I’m very happy with this dress, I think it looks casual enough and professional enough to wear in all sorts of situations and I have been wearing it a lot since making it. On to the next Colette pattern. I might just re-visit the Moneta next, but am also contemplating an eyelet Macaron, a lace Laurel and a linnen Anise.

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Burda adjacent?

Burda Style had this really pretty dress with draped elements in their January magazine.

But I didn’t have any fabric in the right yardage. My jersey stash is running pretty low, but I still have so much fabric that I don’t want to buy anything new at the moment. So I took the element that I loved, the knotted detail, and used the Agnes top as a base for a dress with an A-line skirt. I drew a pattern piece for the knot with the width of the waist of the Agnes top, like this:

I cut it out on the fold, then fiddled about with the placement until I was happy and sewed up the sideseams with the ends of the knot and presto!

I will probably end up making the original pattern too, but for now this will do nicely.