Jun 112010
 

Despite the fact that I still haven’t really taken inventory of my wardrobe (all I got so far is a heap of too small pants and a coat sitting on my dresser) I have been starting to look at clothes. Because even though I don’t know how many of the t-shirts in my closets don’t fit me anymore I can honestly say that I’m under-equipped with summer wear. Because yesterday when it was really, really hot I almost resigned myself to wear two things that don’t match so that every important part of me could be covered without bursting into flame. And then I remembered the tank top I bought last year, and I was really, really happy. You know, a tank top that does not pinch anywhere, and that doesn’t exactly make me look like I’m going to burst it any second now.

That doesn’t mean the tank is looking good on me, and that doesn’t mean that I have shorts or a skirt or pants that really go with it, so yesterday I went with the too big grey linen pants (you know the kind that older women wear in summer when they don’t want to expose their legs), and a brown tank that didn’t really go with it.

Then I went to the city for my writing group and on the way I did the sensible thing. I looked at handbags. Now, I did find some handbags that I really, really liked but I didn’t buy any because I don’t have a spare 300 Euros lying around at the moment. But today I thought to myself, “What I really need is a nice summer dress, and a summer skirt, and a pair of shorts I can actually close.” I also need a ton of summer tops but right now I wanted to start with the dress, and or skirt. (I won’t be contemplating shorts for now, the thought of trying to find some that fit me is just too depressing.)

So I got out my sewing magazines, and started looking for dresses and skirts (and pants, and shorts (only there weren’t any, and coats) for plus sizes. And I looked at the patterns, and at the model, and starting thinking about making a jersey wrap dress when it hit me. All of these patterns, every single one is made for “apple-shaped” women. Bit bust, nice legs.

Me, on the other hand, I’m that pear-shaped that my lower half is about two sizes bigger than my upper half. I also managed to eat my midsection big enough to make people wonder if I’m pregnant again. So, none of those dresses will actually look good on me. Even if I can make them fit. My next thought was that there are stores for people like me, those who don’t fit into the “normal” sizes, and then I thought back to the last time I had to shop in the “plus section”, and I remembered. It’s all the same. If you’re pear-shaped you’re doomed.

I have a theory why this is so. The other thing that I found is that plus sizes are mostly made for shorter people than me. And I think this is because manufacturers of bigger clothes think that they are making clothes for older women than me. Most of them are not as tall, and since they only go “plus” when they hit menopause they have the apple shape to go with that. (Though I have to say that I’m getting the “menopause belly” on top of the pear-like thighs and behind. In fact I’m looking pretty “mountain-shaped” these days, especially if I sit down which I do a lot, that’s part of the problem.)

But when I look around me I’m seeing lots of women who are overweight, and a lot of them are my age or younger. Where do they get their clothes? I see a lot of teenagers just squeezing into things that are too tight but that doesn’t really look good. And I have reached a stage where I really can’t squeeze into a size 44 jeans anymore. (I tried, and I couldn’t pull it up beyond the middle of my thighs.)

So, what to do now? Change the size on some regular pattern? The clothes would end up being too short anyway. And I do have the feeling that patterns for “normal” sizes are meant for women with neither bust nor hips so that won’t work either. Maybe I should make my own pattern but I’d have to do it quite fast.

Anyone knows a place where to find nice clothes, plus size, fashionable, for people who are tall? And if they are not expensive, that would help too.

Some might say I should just lose the weight, and I’m working on it but me thinks I can’t go naked in the meantime.

Oct 292009
 

And I’m wearing a skirt. A crinkled one that needs ironing.

rock1.jpg

I need to have a haircut, the jacket needs a zipper, and in real life the jacket and skirt do match.

And the skirt needs darts, and needs to be a little less full. I know.

I really wanted to wear a dress but the only one I own is a summer dress. I didn’t feel like explaining to everyone I meet why I wear a summer dress right now.

I did start the day in jeans though. And I found myself thinking about why I don’t wear skirts or dresses more often. You might say it’s because I only own one dress and two skirts (that fit) but then I only own two pairs of jeans (that fit), and no other pants except for one pair that I wear for hiking, one of those that have zippers on the legs so that you can make them into shorts. I don’t count those because I avoid wearing them as much as I can. They look horrible. So I thought, and then I thought, and it boiled down to:

Pants are more comfortable than skirts (or dresses).

Well. There are people who think differently, first among them the gorgeous Erin who declared today to be International Wear A Dress Day. Also Isabo whose post you should read (and probably already have) when you understand German. And I went on about my day, and all of a sudden I started realizing that I’m constantly pulling on the waist of my pants. You know, when I say that I have two pairs of jeans that fit this means that I can close them all the way, I can wear them in public without feeling embarrassed, and they are about the right length, that’s all.

The length issue is the reason why I only own jeans but no dress pants or anything. Because jeans come in different lengths, and some of them will be 34″ and so these will fit me. Most pants are simply too short for me. Both of my jeans though have to be pulled up every time I sit down, or get up, or bend over, or move in any way. When I complained about this to my husband he said, “Why don’t you wear a belt?” Well, for several reasons: 1) It’s hard to find a belt that fits me. 2) My jeans – while being to wide in the waist – still manage to pinch me in the belly area. Belts only make this worse. 3) The belt then will be pulled down in the back as well which makes the whole thing really uncomfortable when sitting down. 4) Because of the belly situation (and because I don’t want to look really ridiculous) I can’t pull the belt tight enough to have the pants actually stay up where they belong.

See, I need the back of my pants to be several centimeters higher than the front. Not everybody does, and so pants manufacturers usually don’t accommodate my need. I also need the waist to be two sizes smaller than the hips. Again, not everybody needs this. I already spoke about my long legs, and in addition to this I need my pants (or anything for the bottom of my body) in a plus size. Oops.

Very well. So now how does this make pants more comfortable than dresses or skirts? It doesn’t. I have this very comfortable, sturdy, practical, and not dressy skirt. And I can easily make more, all it took was two ours, a zipper, and a bit of fabric. The two things that make skirts uncomfortable then are: tights and shoes.

I usually despise tights because they never fit (same issues as with pants only they pinch at the toes as well), they are really breakable. And they never fit. Usually I’m left with ladders everywhere while the top part of my pantyhose tries to meet my knees while still managing to pinch my belly. But. I found a brand of tights that fit! I found them totally by accident because I wanted to wear my summer skirt, and all of my tights were full of ladders, and so I had to buy new ones locally and they were really more expensive than I feel comfortable with but: THEY FIT!! No pinching, no sagging, no nothing. Bliss.

The next problem is the shoes. I follow a strict “no heels”-policy, and I also refuse to wear shoes that I can’t walk a couple of miles in without feeling pain. This means that mostly I’m wearing walking sneakers. Not pretty, I always have this soccer mom look but still, I can walk for hours without any problems. I bought myself some cute Mary Janes (the ones you might get a glimpse of in the picture above) but while they feel comfortable when I’m sitting still they start chafing the minute I take a step or two. I have declared them to be my indoor skirt shoes for teaching. The comfortable pair of Mary Janes is red and ugly. You know what I need to do? Buy shoes.

I’m thinking of some flat lace-up boots. Has anybody any experience with knee-high Doc Martens? I have really, um, voluptuous calves. There might be some boots that fit over my ankles but almost none that I can close all the way to the top. I know that there are custom boots available but really, I’d rather spend my money elsewhere.

On the other hand, think of all the money I could save if I no longer had to buy really expensive pairs of jeans that get holes after six months (no kidding). I can whip up skirts in almost no time, I could even add lining and pockets (because that’s something I don’t like about skirts too, no pockets, but then – if you make your own…), and fabric and zippers is not that expensive.

Okay. the skirts won. Especially when I don’t think about what I think I should wear a skirt with but just wear hoodies (that’s Vivian without a zipper), and silly tees (it says, “Schrödinger’s cat is dead” on the front and “Schrödinger’s cat is not dead” on the back) and comfortable shoes.

So what do you think? Do you like wearing skirts and dresses? Or pants? Or both?

Excuse me, I have to go look for shoes. And a coat. And fabric. And more tights.

Nov 272008
 

Some of you might ask, “What’s a gauge swatch?”, well, I wrote about this particular gauge swatch way back in March. (A gauge swatch, by the way, and for those of you who really don’t know, is when you knit a small piece of about 10 x 10 cm or 4 x 4 inches to determine what size needles to use, and how many stitches you will need for the thing you intend to make.) The swatching for this particular sweater was the most extensive I have ever done. I knit a long piece of fabric with three different sizes of needles, measured all the parts to determine how many stitches and rows gave me 10 cm, then I washed and blocked it, let it dry and measured again. And I had something of a revelation because after washing everything was much bigger than before.

With the needles that I used I had 16 stitches and 23 rows on 4 inches pre-washing, and 15 stitches and 20 rows after washing. You’d think that isn’t much, won’t you? What’s a measly stitch? Let’s see: for this particular sweater I cast on 141 stitches. 141 divided by 16 is 8.8 that is 88 cm. And trust me, that is not enough to fit me. But after washing it’s 141 divided by 15, and that is 9.4 which is 94 cm, much better. So just by washing the sweater and blocking it it would become 6 cm (or 2.3″) wider. That’s how much difference the measly stitch makes.

So, back to the actual sweater. I did everything right, I swatched, and measured, and washed, and measured, and chose a size that would hopefully fit me, and then I knit the whole thing in one piece instead of making a lot of weirdly shaped pieces that have to be sewn together. The sweater is quite fitted, and the designer obviously isn’t afraid of sewing everything on, including the buttonbands. (It’s the L’il Red Riding Hoodie by Jennifer Stafford, by the way.) And while I do love the design, and while I’m certainly not afraid of seaming, I don’t like it much, it always looks wonky, and I stubbornly refuse to sew together a raglan. Raglan yokes are meant to be knit in one piece.

The knitting experience was quite interesting. I was knitting something that looked about two sizes too small. I had to put together the instructions for the fronts, buttonbands, back, and sleeves in one place at one point, and these weren’t of the “now decrease two stitches every fourth row” kind. Even though the whole thing is in plain, boring stockinette, it was more challenging than knitting lace. Also I don’t really like the yarn. I wanted something plain, not too expensive and hard-wearing, and that’s what I got. In a color that goes with everything I own, so the color isn’t particularly exciting too. It’s no wonder that I actually started two more sweaters before finishing this one. (Actually, upon further thinking I recall that I started three more sweaters before finishing this one.)

But at last, and through sheer stubbornness, I finished it. There wasn’t much seaming, of course, and I even managed to graft everything that needed seaming nicely together (a first for me). But then there was the zipper. I had to put a zipper into a knitted garment. Argh. Here are pictures of the unwashed hoodie, pre-blocking and pre-zipper:

Of course it took more than a month before I even bought a zipper. I managed to wash and block the sweater, and, alas, finally it matched the intended dimensions. For months I had been sure it was all a mistake, and I’d end up with a hoodie fit only for my son. I even worried about what to do about the waist shaping and bust darts, something he really has no need for.

I carefully measured the hoodie, went to the store with my huge gauge swatch for color-reference and bought a zipper. When I came home I immediately was sure that the zipper was too long. Also too heavy. And I didn’t know how to put a zipper into a sweater. I’d certainly not use a sewing machine but what to do? Thanks to ravelry and the internet I found two excellent tutorials, one by Grumperina and one by Claudia. I mostly followed the latter because of the, as Grumperina put it, “absolute quality in every shortcut”. I’m very keen on shortcuts when sewing (come to think of it, I like them in knitting as well, only you can’t use any in music). And I actually basted my zipper in! I never baste anything in, but finally I have been convinced to make exceptions for zippers. Some shortcuts aren’t shortcuts but time-wasters. It’s a good thing to know the difference.

So, after about nine months I finally have a nice everyday hoodie that I made all by myself. It’s thick wool which will help me to stay warm through winter, and I love the fit. It will surely get a bit longer since I have knitted it all in one piece and there are no seams to prevent it from sagging but that suits me fine, it’s a bit short now anyway. Here are the pictures of the hoodie after washing and blocking:

Also I seem to be in sweater knitting mode. I think it has something to do with several things: a) it’s becoming quite cold, b) I am a bit sick of my two winter sweaters, the red one and the terracotta one that I have been wearing all winter long for the past four years (and both of them have sleeves that are too short), c) I realized that knitting a lace stole or shawl doesn’t take more time and work than knitting a sweater but while I clearly don’t need more than four, or let’s say five, lace stoles and shawls I can easily need more than four winter sweaters.

And now that I have experienced the wonders of knitting gauge swatches, and measuring them, and even of such extreme steps as looking up the measurements of the finished sweater in the pattern, and – instead of just assuming that I need something in size M – actually measuring me, and some sweater that fits, and choosing the size accordingly, well, they might even look good on me.

Which is why I set out to knit a sweater in November. It’s red. I love it so far but since it’s not been washed yet it’s still too small for me. I started on November 8th, and completed it two days ago. Happy NaKniSweMo!

Jul 042008
 

A few days ago when my son, my husband, and I were having breakfast, the conversation turned to fainting, and from there to corsets. (What, you’re not talking about things like that at breakfast? Oh, you’re not talking at breakfast. Well, that’s the only meal we always eat together.) Let me explain: my son had been feeling a bit dizzy lately because it was very hot and humid, he has been growing fast, and so he started to ask me about feeling dizzy and fainting. My husband said that women used to faint all the time, and I said that was because of corsets. After my son had listened to my automatic lecture about the importance of drinking enough water he asked, “What’s a corset?” We tried to explain. He was puzzled, why would somebody want to wear something like that? Well, it all comes down to coolness, I said. “It’s like when you’d rather get heatstroke than wear the sun-hat you don’t like because your “cool” baseball cap is in the wash.” He wasn’t really convinced. (He wore his hat that day, though. After we had “talked it cool” by comparing it to a cowboy hat and such.)

Still, he couldn’t get over the fact that women would wear something as uncomfortable as that, something that makes you almost unable to breathe. My next thought was, “Today’s women would never do that!” But then I thought of high heels. Shoes that make your feet hurt, and your back, and your knees, and your hips, and you can’t even walk in them. And then – I thought of cosmetic surgery. And made the mistake of talking about that as well. Have you ever tried to explain to your kindergardener why some women want to put plastic bags into their body? Because they think it looks pretty?

Of course, I couldn’t really explain it to him because I don’t understand it myself. I do understand not feeling pretty, I understand not being content with the way I look (though I wish I couldn’t). But pay a fortune to have surgery that isn’t really necessary? And where do you stop, then? When you look like a Barbie doll? When you have grown so old that your heart doesn’t take it anymore?

Cosmetic surgery is on the rise, and I sense a paradigm shift that makes it more “normal”. Younger and younger women are thinking about it, and having it, even at an age where their bodies aren’t yet finished.

I’m really worried about a lifestyle where we are defined by our looks. Where we try to look like the ideal 18-year-old until we die.

I’m also very worried that something like cosmetic surgery seems to be much more available these days. Until not that long ago, in Germany, cosmetic surgery was only for people who really needed it. People with horrible scars and such. Nowadays it’s something that you just pay for. Don’t like your nose? Snip.

I’d love to be able to tell my son that people have evolved since the days of the corset but it seems they haven’t.

(And, please, don’t forget to send your links for the Just Post roundtable. My e-mail address is creativemother AT web DOT de.)

Aug 182007
 

Her Bad Mother started another trend: people showing on their blogs what they carry in their purses (or handbags, or pocketbooks, obviously people feel strongly about the different names, only I don’t, sorry). Since I’m a very nosy person and do find these glimpses into other people’s lives very fascinating I took a moment to photograph my purse. (In fact this is a “Handtasche”, silly.) The search for this bag, by the way, started my whole new bag obsession complete with sewing them and buying getting other people to give me a new sewing machine:

handbag.JPG

These are just the basics. I can slim down but I don’t like to.

bagcontent.JPG

There are:

  • keys to everything on a flylady lanyard
  • hay fever remedy
  • sunglasses (they live in an outside pocket so I don’t need a case for them)
  • shopping list for the health food store from yesterday
  • case with earplugs (for concerts and such; they are especially made to mute without distorting the sound much. When I wear them I look like an alien because they stick out of my ears.)
  • pouch with earphones for PDA
  • reusable grocery bag (made following Lisa’s tutorial)
  • PDA
  • cell phone
  • tissues (very important for people suffering from hay fever, or people with children)
  • another little bag for impromptu grocery shopping
  • little notebook
  • string that I used to tie a plastic cover to a bowl of salad for the preschool’s summer party (I carried that around for four weeks. But who knows it might come in handy.)
  • and what HBM called a “sub-bag” (I love that name.) This holds small items for easier transfer to other bags. (Which happens about twice a week.)

Interestingly my wallet is not in the picture. That is quite puzzling because it’s always in my purse. So imagine a very big, blue, old wallet that holds all credit cards, business cards, old receipts, money, and my enormous German driver’s license and ID. (I suspect it sat left of the grocery bag.)

Contents of “sub-bag”:

subbagcontent.JPG

  • mints
  • tampons (not that I use them any more but I don’t want to carry the mooncup around for emergencies. Also you can give them to other women in need.)
  • barrettes and hair scroos
  • pocket mirror
  • pocket knife (with scissors and tweezers but unfortunately without cork screw or bottle opener, sigh)
  • pen that writes with green ink for things like writing group assignments
  • little suction cup for getting contact lenses out
  • eye drops (contact lens paraphernalia again)
  • hair elastic (I don’t know why I keep two of them in there.)
  • flashlight
  • comb
  • pencil and pen for regular use
  • fancy glossy orange lipstick
  • everyday terracotta lipstick
  • lip balm

When I leave the house longer than half an hour I put into my purse an additional notebook (much bigger), and a book, sometimes a little knitting or crotcheting, sometimes also a pack of tarot cards, and the foldable keyboard for my PDA. And my bag is big enough to also pack some water and a cardigan. (When we went away for the weekend when the new Harry Potter came out, I put that into my purse, a map, the camera, and the PDA charger.)

What’s in your bag?

Aug 042007
 

(Thank you for your comments on my last post. Since there are so many great pieces of advice in there I’ll round them up with my own ideas in the next post or so. Thank you for being patient.)

When I first learned and cared about fashion it was because I needed to learn the rules in order not to be uncool. At first it all eluded me. Which colors match which? Why? Why weren’t you supposed to wear green and blue together and then, just a few years later it was no problem? I learned the names of colors, of garments, A-line and H-line, wedge heel, kitten heel…

Fashion was important. It was a grown-up thing. And from the start I learned that it was constantly in flux.

Then I used my “expertise” to judge others. “I would never wear that.” “Look at her.” Once, on a subway, I stared at the woman sitting in front of me with such disdain that I made her squirm. Well, she was dressed all wrong. I’d still like to apologize to her.

My own style, by the way, was not beyond judgement. Instead of cool, and also because I lacked money, I turned to eccentric, never taking fashion serious enough to really pull that off. It all culminated in neon-yellow pants with printed cartoon mice topped with a neon-yellow sweater and an enormous green silk scarf and gigantic pink glasses in the 80s. Neon colored knitted sweaters and bright, cheap earrings hanging down to my shoulders.

Then I followed the lead of a friend, I grew tired of mixing pink, yellow, and green, and started to buy only classic clothes in black, red, and grey. The number of clothes I owned shrunk, but at least my style got better and I didn’t look like a clown anymore who had fallen into the sales bin at a very cheap store. Then other things got more important. I didn’t think about fashion anymore. I started to feel that I was too old to care about things like that. And I had found my style. No need to change anything. If something wore out I replaced it.

But then I started to notice that nobody else was wearing straight jeans with baggy sweaters anymore. Or silk scarves. Well, nobody under 30 anyway. And I started to look at fashion again. After all I can dress like a little old lady when I will be a little old lady. No need to look all dated. (And I seriously doubt that I will ever look little.)

And this is where I am now. I’m no longer buying fashion magazines, I find them boring. I look at other people instead. What are young women wearing? Those between 16 and 30? What of that might work for me?

And in the last few weeks I have found “A Dress A Day” and “The Sartorialist“. I found them through Lia who claims to have no interest in fashion. Those two blogs have made me think different about fashion again. They are looking for the unusual, the personal, and at least Erin from “A Dress a Day” doesn’t exactly follow current mainstream fashion. Her blog is all about the deep love for vintage dresses. It happens that right now dresses are “in” again but I have the feeling that she will continue to love those dresses and wear them even when they will be out of fashion again.

In the process of re-inventing myself before turning forty I also subscribed to Missus Smartypants for a brief period. You get recommendations for what to chose that is appropriate for your body type. Very helpful. Also a friend once told me I should reconsider my love of black, grey and red since I look far better in browns and such. (I wrote about that in “Color, orange …“.) And I discovered “Friday style” which is very lovely too (You just have to love somebody who writes about fashion and writes headlines as “Because healthy is always stylish.). Reading those blogs give me inspiration without having to wade through pictures of incredibly thin and badly styled models and half a magazine of ads.

So, there still is a little of that quest for being cool in my interest concerning fashion. There is also a love of beautiful things. I used to go window-shopping at Munich’s most expensive fashion boutiques. I never entered one of those. I didn’t even wanted to have the clothes for me (they wouldn’t have fit anyway) but I loved looking at them. Like going to a museum.

I’m still puzzled that fashion has become as important to me as it was when I was 13 or so. But then maybe this is part of midlife crisis. Who knows. Just now it gives me pleasure to think about clothes and look at them. Not that I shop a lot, I don’t. And I’m still mostly wearing jeans and tees and sneakers. But I try to chose flattering ones.

And you? Are you interested in clothes? Or not? I’d love to know.

Jul 242007
 

or at least recycle them.

I really know that there are more pressing social matters than fashion and gender, but somehow I always think of these not so pressing issues first. In fact, I think about them all the time. Which proves how shallow I am (and further proof lies in the fact that I start and finish every single post with I, me, and my). But then maybe these obsessions are only showing my belief that even big issues are made out of a thousand small ones.

So. I have been thinking about fashion again. On one hand this is part of my midlife crisis and the attempt of re-inventing myself, on the other hand fashion is something I used to be very interested in which I then dumped because I thought a) it was too shallow, b) I didn’t have money for clothes anyway, and c) I thought I was too old for fashion. That was ten years ago, by the way, and I have a half written post about that in a notebook. But todays topic are high heels.

When I got pregnant my feet got bigger. That happens to a lot of women. I thought this would be permanent and so I threw away half a dozen pairs of shoes. Some of them I liked a lot, like the shoes I got married in. So I needed new shoes. Since I had thrown away my black pumps and everybody needs black pumps (well, everybody who is female) I then thought about buying new ones. Then I thought again. Because every time I was about to go out, all dressed up and standing in front of the mirror I put on my black pumps and loved the way I looked. And then, nine times out of ten, I’d think about the necessary way to the train station or an evening of standing around holding a glass of wine in one hand, and then I would step out of the pumps and look for my black flats. So I didn’t buy black pumps. I bought black flat Mary Janes.

But now I have a) become more fashion conscious again which you can easily spot by the fact that I have given up on the backpack and now schlepp a big purse around that makes my shoulder ache, and b) my feet have returned to their pre-pregnancy size, and c) I have found four pairs of my old shoes that I had totally forgotten in the basement. So now I am the proud owner of black pumps again. With a 2-inch-heel. And they are Mary Janes of course. Also I have nice little black dress sandals. Also with a little heel. I love the way I look in these. Especially the way my legs look in these. What I don’t like is the way said legs and feet feel when I have worn them for any amount of time. Like last week I felt fancy, and also I was wearing a beige-brown skirt with a brown top and my comfortable sandals are red… I wore the black sandals to preschool. All in all I walked for about twenty minutes. I had three blisters and my hips, knees and back ached. Hm.

I looked at shoe shop windows. Almost every shoe has a heel. A lot of them have stiletto heels. There even are mules with stiletto heels. Hm. Have you ever tried to walk in shoes like these? I have. You have to think about your feet and walking all the time. One careless move leaves you injured on the floor.

I looked at women’s feet: flip flops, sneakers, more flip flops. Hm.

A couple of months ago I bought my first ever copy of “Vogue”. Almost every woman pictured in there wore extremely high heels. I look at the pictures at the Satorialist. I love the blog but nearly all women in the pictures wear high heels, very high heels. I have yet to see a man wearing heels.

Last winter I went into a shoe store and said, “I’d like to buy some nice shoes to wear with a dress or skirt but without a heel, please.” The sales woman showed me a pair. “No ballet flats, please.” Another one. “I don’t want a heel, please.” She, “But that’s not much of a heel.” I, “It’s 2 1/2 inches. If I wear those my back will hurt.” And then she began to rant about todays young women who always wear sneakers and then their feet become all wide and they never will be able to go to the prom in something else than sneakers, and how wearing heels of different heels is good for you. I left the store and haven’t bought a pair of shoes there since.

What I really like is the argument that your feet are getting wide by wearing Birkenstocks or sneakers. See, my feet are very narrow. I have trouble finding shoes that are narrow enough. Even though I haven’t worn anything besides sneakers, Birkenstocks and flat heels for the past five years. And then I thought, “How would a man react if a sales person told him that he should wear heels because this is good for his back?” And how can something be good for my back if it makes it hurt? And, would you let your child wear stilettos? Any heel? Shoes that might make him or her trip? Shoes that are totally rigid? What? You wouldn’t? Why then do you do this to yourself?

Last week my husband and I went to the big city. We walked along the river and I, obsessed with shoes of course, looked at the feet of everyone we passed (and at their bags but that’s another story). Amongst myriads of flip flops (which are not really shoes) I saw a couple before me. She went barefoot with her black stiletto heels in hand. Later we passed them again where there were more people and she again wore her shoes. I remembered the agony of walking in heels. Once I walked for two or three hours in stiletto heels. My feet hurt for days.

My mother crippled her feet with heels. She used to wear nothing but high heels. When she tried to walk barefoot her feet hurt because her tendons or muscles were shortened. Her big toes had been pressed inwards for so many years that she had to have them operated on. Since the operation, by the way, she wears very comfortable and flat shoes too.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Because we want to look pretty. And pretty shoes are hard to find when you look for flats. Comfortable shoes are often quite ugly. Just yesterday as I was walking around in my comfortable sandals the only other women wearing shoes like mine were about 65 or older. That seems to be the usual age for comfort becoming more important than looks. But I think that it must be possible to make shoes that are both comfortable and pretty. Fashion isn’t god-made. It is made by people. That high heels make a woman pretty is a stupid dogma that we have the power to dismantle. If women are asking for shoes that one can walk in, the industry will make them eventually.

Why this is a gender issue? Okay. Imagine a man wearing high heels walking down the stairs at a restaurant. Walking over gravel in the garden. Haha. Well, why isn’t this funny when a woman does it?

So I’m starting a revolution: the high heel boycott. Maybe I’ll even walk into shoe shops and ask for pretty and comfortable flats to wear to a wedding. Anyone in?

Jul 162007
 

First download Amy Butler‘s yoga bag pattern. It’s free and so you suddenly find that you always needed a bag for your yoga mat. Never mind that the yoga bag travels only from the right of the computer desk to the front of the computer desk once a week. Besides, hanging the mat up on a hook would certainly lend a more professional look to your teaching room.

Read the pattern about a thousand times, decide that it’s really easy to make. Convert all the inch measurements into centimeters. Measure your yoga mat thrice to ensure that the bag will be big enough. Start looking for fabric.

Find the perfect exterior fabric only to find that it’s a) silk, b) 50€ per meter. Think about making a 70€ yoga bag for about five minutes three times daily. When your mother-in-law throws the sheets out of the window that she has used to cover the floor for some renovation work, think about whether those sheets might be perfect. Decide against the colorful turquoise-and-orange-and-red-striped with elephants pattern. Go and look for the sofa cover that you put away when you threw the sofa out. Think that you have found the sofa cover which then turns out to be leftover fabric from the making of curtains last year. (That, by the way, might have been the lowest I ever sank in my “sewing career”. I was so fed up with sewing and my machine that I had them custom-made.) So, in order to keep the budget low, decide to make a red yoga bag instead of an orange one like you wanted.

Resume quest for suitable piece of lining fabric. That has to match the exterior. Go on several expeditions eyeing expensive fabric and – this is very important – leave the exterior fabric at home. That certainly helps with the matching. Finally buy a scrap of fabric that’s on sale for 5 € with the rationalization, “Well, if it doesn’t match at least I haven’t spent much money on it.”

All the while look for interfacing. Think that you have very bad interfacing karma. Look for at least a package of thin interfacing. There used to be dozens of these in every fabric department, but nowadays you might go to a store three times without seeing even one. When at last you see some, buy every scrap of it. Vow to buy at Lisa’s store next time. A place where when you say, “I’d like some interfacing because I’m making a bag.” the salesperson won’t look at you with a very puzzled frown and answer, “So, do you need it for appliqué?” “Um, I want to make a bag out of light fabric and I need it to strengthen…” “So, you want this then?” You, meekly, “I guess so.” Just saying. And the bonus: I wouldn’t have had to spend money on three trips to the big city. Paying the shipping from London to Germany would have been cheaper. And you can bet that if you told her what you wanted she just would have known which interfacing to use.

Interfacing. I never know how much to use and which kind because, well, I lack experience and then, due to my shopping woes, I only have used the flimsy kind up until now anyway. But there is something to say for the department store I bought my fabric in because last time, when I left the store clutching my packages of flimsy interfacing and went to have a look at the sewing patterns, I caught a glimpse of interfacing on bolts! Interfacing of different thickness! Wow! Not quite the holy grail, but close.

Next decide to be sensible and put your bag project aside for a month of script frenzy. In July start agonizing about it again. Think about how to cut out something that’s 121,92 cm long. Will it all work out when you round it? Should you make a pattern first? Or not? Then remember that you own a tape measure with inches on it. Decide to make a pattern. Look for some old newspaper because you’re too cheap to buy real pattern making paper.

First day: Cut out paper pattern.

Second day: When a student cancels a lesson, start cutting out the lining. Note that the scissors that came with your new sewing machine (more on that in another post) might be worth 47 £ to someone but not to you since they don’t exactly cut. Get out the old sewing scissors of your husband’s grandmother that you have been using as kitchen scissors for the past ten years. Sigh. Lust for a roto-cutter. Look at pictures of roto-cutters on the internet. Discuss the merit of such cutters with your sister. Decide to be sensible and frugal and use the kitchen scissors instead.

Third day: After waiting for this moment for six days, tell your family that come what may, today’s the day you will cut out your DAMN BAG PARTS! Cut them out on the floor because you don’t want to occupy the kitchen table and your writing desk is too small. Get really distracted by reading the ads on your pattern. Remind yourself to use real pattern paper next time so that you don’t have to look at disgusting “sex on the phone”-offers for hours. Find that not even one angle you have cut out is straight, nor anything. If every single bag part is crooked, will the bag turn out okay? What if the exterior and the lining bag are different sizes? What if the lining bag is bigger than the exterior bag? Calm yourself down so that you won’t have a nervous breakdown with the thought that it isn’t woodwork or rocket science. Since you can’t sew a straight line anyway it will all sort itself out somehow in the sewing. Wonder if this is like when you’re recording something that you just can’t get right and then you just leave it at that, telling yourself you will “fix it in the mix”. (That never works by the way. You can make things better but you can’t make bad things good. Better to start with something good and make it better…) Tell yourself that this is only a practice bag anyway. Stress out about your really complicated dress project that you want to sew after that. Take out Liesl’s backpack pattern, carefully study it and decide that you’re never be able to make it. Then think about altering it because you don’t like magnetic snaps. (I didn’t say I was logical, didn’t I?)

Find that you still have a little time before dinner and start ironing the interface parts to the fabric. After all you decided to use flimsy interfacing on both the exterior and the lining. Find that you have just about enough flimsy interfacing to do this if you practice “patchwork interfacing”. Since you lost all patience when cutting out the interfacing and just did it by rule of thumb and where the scissors hit since it doesn’t really matter if the interfacing isn’t as big as the fabric, everything looks a little, um, sloppy. Remind yourself to next time turn the interfacing right side up before cutting. So when you iron your uneven and crooked pieces of interfacing to your uneven and crooked pieces of fabric at least they pretend to fit. Congratulate yourself that at least you haven’t ironed interfacing to your pressing iron. Find that you can pull off already fused interfacing from the ironing board quite easily. Use the quickly cooling iron to iron a tablecloth and a napkin.

pieces.JPG

Fourth day: After realizing that two students in a row canceled their lessons plan to start sewing the bag. Meet husband for lunch who then reminds you that the berries are ripe. Sigh. Gather berries, clean berries, don’t finish this because it takes so long, lose hope. When another student calls in sick, find that your husband has prepared all the berries and start pinning and sewing. At the end of the day you will be very tired, have severe neck and back pain, an outer pocket pinned to the main panel of the bag and rows of jam glasses:

josta.JPGzucker.JPG

jam.JPG

Fifth day: Promise yourself to go on slowly and careful, start sewing in the morning, and become quite confident and optimistic. Though everything is quite crooked, it is starting to look, well, like an actual bag. Though very small. With bulging and wavy seams. Like the following:

gaping maw.JPG

(Yes, I know that seam allowances shouldn’t look like this.)
Manage to somehow put it all together. A little hint: having uneven and crooked pieces doesn’t really help with the alignment. Spend some time with your son and his friend. Cut your son’ hair when his friend is gone. Find that you still have about half an hour before dinner. Put your son in front of a DVD. Finish bag. Keel over. Write a blog post. Take pictures of finished bag.

Yogatasche2.JPGYogatasche1.JPG

Jun 102007
 

justpostmay2007

I know I have milked the subject of pink shoes or socks enough already, but – today is the day of the May just post roundtable and there will be some new readers coming over to read the story of my son’s pink socks. All because I didn’t write anything else remotely social or just for the whole month. And those new readers – and the old ones as well – will then think that my poor son still suffers and maybe cry a little for him.

(And for those who are new to this and too lazy or pressed for time to follow the links: my son wanted to have pink shoes which I didn’t buy because I was afraid that he would be made fun of at preschool. Then I bought him pink socks. He wore them to preschool once and after being laughed at never wanted to wear them again.)

I’ll continue to be angry at gender inequality, I promise. And right now I have the feeling that maybe little boys don’t have as much choices as little girls. And then they will grow up and become men. And maybe they will be grown men in a society where they still earn more money than women, and do less housework. They might live in a world where a mother has to come home from an important meeting immediately because her child puked so she can mop it up, even when the child is with his father at the time. If said child’s father on the other hand were to be – let’s say – going out with his friends for a couple of beers, and the child got sick, there might be a fat chance that he heard about the incident only the morning after. “Oh, by the way the child will be staying home today, it got sick in the evening.”
(Disclaimer: This is not to be confused with the situation at creative family where master guitarist and creative mother share childcare duties and mopping up. Each of them is considered to be a fully grown parent without need of further assistance.)

So maybe I should shut up about the pink socks. And I will. I only want to write this post to assure you all that my son isn’t sad any more about the pink socks or shoes. He has forgotten the pink shoes entirely. For a four year old he has a remarkable memory so this shows it hasn’t been that important to him. It was important to me. Because I chose to use my powers of persuasion to change his opinion. And though I use my powers of persuasion all the time with my son this time felt a little immoral. Only I didn’t want to have to buy another pair of shoes.

So. His social standing in the preschooler community obviously didn’t suffer much. One boy who had laughed at him because of the pink socks invited him to his birthday party just last week. The little girl who had said to her mother, “The boy is wearing girly socks.” did so not in malice or ridicule but in curiosity. She found it odd and remarkable but not alarmingly so.

I won’t talk to the teachers about this issue because I doubt that there is anything they can do about it. The children already know that they shouldn’t make fun of others. They still do occasionally. They are just trying to figure out how to be social animals. Friendships are forged and broken. At least in this school the atmosphere is very friendly. When we go through the door in the morning there are children shouting, “Hello Leo.” right and left. The children are nice to one another. Unlike my memories of preschool, girls and boys play together often. A boy can play with the dolls or in the doll kitchen without being stigmatized. When I was four years old there was a boy in my preschool who liked to play in the doll’s corner. He never recovered from that. And I went to school with him until fourth grade. I don’t think that something like this could happen in the school my son attends.

Also his teacher told me that she admires my son for being quite independent. She said, “He plays nicely with others though he is quiet and a little shy. He has no problems. And when he has enough or doesn’t want to play what the others are playing he goes away and plays alone.” That made me quite proud. My son is independent and self-reliant. He won’t let himself get coaxed by peer pressure. At least for now.

Those of you with preschoolers and kindergarteners probably know that this is one of the most rigid and conservative phases in life. These children are setting out to learn the rules, and so they like people to stick to them. They try to understand what being male or female means. They try to understand what being a child and an adult means. They try to see the big picture, how people work, how one does things.

So my son goes back and forth between his likings. He declared, “I no longer like pink, I like black and brown now.” a couple of weeks ago. When I told him that one can like all three at once, he said no. You can’t. Just yesterday he declared, “I don’t like black and brown any longer. I like pink better again.”

My son’s biggest ambition right now has nothing to do with clothes but with his deep desire to be master of his own fate. He wants to be grown-up and be able to do everything he can imagine. He just starts to see how rich the world is and what range of things and activities are available to human beings. He wants to grow his own food, make his own clothes, build a space shuttle and travel to the moon, become a knight, have children, and cook.

His most persistent fantasy is that of building his own submarine, build an ocean in the backyard and then live there on his own. So that nobody can tell him what to do. He will be staying up all night, wear his pajamas the whole day and have robots who manufacture everything he desires. (No, he never saw a James Bond movie.) He plans to move out at his fifth birthday, but we can come and visit him. He even told me that I could stay with him in the submarine to travel to Brazil. Or maybe Italy. Or both.

May 282007
 

You might recall that my son had wanted pink sandals some time ago. And I decided not to buy them and to convince him that blue-beige ones are much better. And I felt rotten for it. And angry. Why can’t my son have pink shoes if he likes them? Why do I have to fear that he will be made fun of? To compensate I bought him pink socks. With horses. And hearts. He loved them. He couldn’t wait to wear them to preschool. But, alas, they had to be washed first. So he had to wait for three long days.

He dressed up with his cute socks and jeans and his new sandals. He told me, “But you will have to buy a pink t-shirt to go with them, you know. I have to have a pink t-shirt.” Okay.

He went to preschool. When I asked him in the evening, he told me that everybody loved his pink socks. That he really needed a pink tee. Have you ever tried to find a pink t-shirt without ruffles or something? Just a plain t-shirt. Not too girlish? Not too expensive, too, since I didn’t know how long he would like to wear it. What I saw in the department store made me glad to have a boy. There was not one t-shirt that I liked. (And I remembered why I keep buying my son’s clothes out of a cataloge. It’s not only the girl’s clothes that are ugly.) So I tried the second hand store. And found a pink t-shirt like this for 2 €:


Of course this had to be washed too so he couldn’t wear it the day after I bought it. But he had his socks. The next day we arrived at preschool, late as often, and a little girl sat down beside him. She told her mother, “The boy is wearing girlie socks.” And he showed her, proudly. In the evening he was very sad to learn that his socks had to be washed since they were very, very dirty. A few days later I told him they were ready to be worn again and that he could wear his new pink tee with it. He had loved the tee when I showed it to him. Then he said, “No, I don’t want to wear the socks or the t-shirt to preschool.” “Why?” “L. and F. made fun of me.” It turned out that a couple of kids had laughed at him because of the socks. And that everybody had been talking about it for days. Obviously a boy wearing pink socks is a very hot topic for preschoolers.

And that was it. He didn’t even want to wear the t-shirt or the socks on weekends. They are tainted with the laughter of his peers.

This makes me sad. I’m even sadder because I saw it coming. Of course I could have prevented this but then I thought, “Maybe it’s not that bad.” And that everybody should be able to wear the color he or she likes. I’m still angry that I’m living in a society where people can’t wear the colors they like. Not even when they are only four years old. I knew that preschoolers and kindergarteners are highly conventional. You can’t really blame them, they learn their values from the adults around them. Women do housework, men can work with computers, women are bad at math, men can’t sew, women always want to be pretty, men don’t care how they look, blablabla. As if there were no individuality.

Or am I the only one who thinks that gender inequality is creeping back?

(Edited to add: Since there were so many comments on this post where people felt sad for my son I wrote yet another post on this to round it all up: Pink – the third)