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Rate the Dress: Summer Whites of the 1870s

Huzzah!  We have a winner!  Last week I showed a court dress in black satin with gold embroidery, and, with only 4 out of 30 votes coming in at anything but a perfect 10, the dress scored a truly spectacular 9.8 out of 10, which is pretty much as close as I think we’ll ever get to a perfect 10!  (such a change from Charles of the week before, who actually did better than I thought – 6.3 out of 10, for “Fantastic outfit, wrong wearer” as HoiLei succinctly put it.)

This dress is inspired by the recent weather: it has been HOT.  Not too bad in Wellington, but I spent the weekend in Hamilton and it was 30 degrees and 60% humidity, and I had models in period dress, and there was a lot of discussion about how you handled that kind of heat historically.

Here is one example of how:

Superficially this dress is the complete opposite of last weeks: light cotton instead of heavy silk, white instead of black, an overall impression of lightness and informality instead of grandeur and formality, covered-up rather than revealing.  And yet, as you look closer, some of the same themes remain: restrained colour schemes with elaborate shaped embroidery for impact; simple silhouettes with just a bit of ruffles to create the impression of feminine delicacy, layers that create the desired fashionable silhouette.

These two dresses may be a quarter of a century apart in date, and at least a dozen degrees apart in weather-comfort, but they still aimed for many of the same things.  Can this weeks’ frock match the last ones score?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Let’s stop perpetuating the myth that women are bullies – a rebuttal

I’m going to take a little break for sewing and cats and fashion history to have one of my rare rants about something that matters hugely to me.

First, a caveat: It’s well after midnight.  I’m writing this because the prompt for this distressed me so much that I couldn’t sleep.  I’m not supposed to be blogging tonight.  I’ve got two dresses to hem, put fasteners in, and do a ridiculous amount of appliqué on before I get on a plane tomorrow.  Oh, and a hat to make.  I’m not supposed to be blogging, I’m supposed to be sleeping or sewing and I’ve done too much of the latter and haven’t had enough of the former.  So this won’t be my most well-written or eloquent post, but it is, nonetheless, important.

A blog post entitled ‘I won’t be *that* woman’ is doing the rounds of Facebook.

At first I read the post and thought ‘Yes!  Totally!  Let’s not bully!  Bullying is bad!’

But the more I read, the more I realised that she’s not just saying ‘Let’s not bully.’  She’s saying ‘Women need to not bully other women and pull them down, because that’s what women do’

Statements like this:

The reason we’re not equal? Because we are each other’s worst enemies.
We exclude, we laugh, we point and we gossip each other down.

Umm.  No.

It is NOT women’s fault that we are not equal.

It is bad when women exclude, laugh, point & gossip, but blaming women for not having the same rights and status that men have enjoyed for centuries is RUBBISH.  And that’s the nicest word I could come up with.

And then she says this:

Sure the “men’s club bla bla bla”.
We’ll never have a girls club that doesn’t come at the expense of another woman.

You know what?  It’s simply NOT true.

Women do NOT bully more than men.  Women are NOT inherently mean and catty.  Women AREN’T mainly held back by other women.  Women’s groups do NOT advance the women in them at the expense of other women any more than men’s groups do or do not advance the men in them at the expense of other men.

Women are NOT bullies, and we need to stop perpetuating the idea that women are mean to other women, and pull them down, because it’s NOT true, and it’s destructive to women as a whole.

I was bullied in intermediate school.  By girls.  And it was indeed awful.  Then I homeschooled for two years, and went back to the same school, with the same girls who had bullied me when we were 12 & 13, and you know what I noticed?  They had grown up, and in growing up, had grown out of being bullies.  By 15 and 16 the girls at my high school were, by and large, kind and supportive.  The boys still bullied each other, and certain boys in particular, mercilessly, but the girls had matured out of it.  The most popular girls were also the nicest – we rewarded and respected their kindness.

I was still an outcast, but it was by choice (I just wanted to read!), and I was welcome to be part of a group any time I wanted, and was even elected student body vice president.

We had squabbles, but they were respectful.

My high school was not an anomaly in my life.  As an adult, my overwhelming experience has been that women are kind and supportive, particularly to other women.

I went to a women’s university, and while there were girls I didn’t like, and girls who didn’t like me (I’m outspoken and opinionated – not always popular!), we were still respectful of each other, and when push came to shove, we were there to support each other and the university as a whole.

I’ve worked almost exclusively in female dominated fields: museums and sewing.  In both, I have received huge amounts of support and help from other women.

My life today is the product of hundreds of amazing women who have supported me.  Most of the groups I am in are full of women, and they all support each other, and they support ALL women.  There is certainly no ‘supporting other women only at the expense of other women’

The Historical Sew Fortnightly?  Vastly women, and all of them helping each other, and complementing each other, and congratulating each other.  3000 of them, 3 years, and only 3 times in 3 years have we had to remind a member to be kinder.  We’ll welcome anyone who wants to create historical garments, and if someone has a question that isn’t relevant to our group, we point them to groups that might help.  No competition.  No one-upping.  No ‘expense of other women’.

Wellington Sewing Bloggers?  30 amazing women who all help each other with sewing and life.  No competition, no trying to one-up or do better.  Just helping.  Do you do the two things we say in the title?  You can be in?  Don’t do one of them, but have a question about one or the other?  Still happy to help and support!

My sewing classes are mostly women, and in every class the members help each other out with the actual class projects, as well as everything from recommendations for paediatricians, to networking, to wear to get the shoes someone is wearing.

Yes, some people are bullies.  Yes, sometimes we slip up and say something bullying.  Yes, we need to not do that.  Yes, bullying is BAD.

But bullying isn’t something that women do to women in particular.  Women don’t only advance other women by shoving women below them down.  Let’s not say ‘I won’t be *that* woman’, as if that was something unique to women.

Let’s say ‘I won’t be *that* PERSON’.

I won’t be the person who bullies anyone.

Let’s not perpetuate the myth that women hurt each other and pull each other down, because, it’s NOT true, and it’s hurting women, and it’s pulling us down.

We aren’t mean and catty and backbite-y.  It’s a terrible stereotype that society has foisted on us, and that the media perpetuates.  Every time a women criticises another woman, that’s called ‘bullying’, or ‘being catty’, but when men criticise other men, they are called ‘strong’, or ‘thoughtful’, or ‘well considered.’  The standards are totally warped.  Yes, some women are bullies, or catty.  But so are some men.  It’s not something that we inherently are as a gender to our own gender, and the minute we stop buying into the media spin, stop accepting the idea that that’s how women are, and look around, we see how supportive and NOT BULLIES women actually are to each other.

I don’t want to be a bully to anyone.  Male or female.  And I don’t want anyone to be a bully.  Male or female.  But it’s not a woman thing.  It’s not an ‘I won’t be *that* woman’ thing.  It’s a person thing, that we all need to stop.

So I won’t be *that* person.

But when I comes to what my experience with women has been?  Supportive, kind, helpful, willing to share knowledge, experience, and resources?

Yes.  I will be *that* woman.

Because that’s what women actually are to each other.

And to all the women who have been that to me, too many to name, but you know who you are, from the very first and most important (hi Mum!) to someone who has just read one blog post but stopped to say thank you, THANK YOU!  Your kindness has been felt, and I try to pass on all the support you’ve given me to the next woman.  You’re what women are really like.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

The Peonies aren’t Wallflowers dress

The last time I posted a bit of self-sewing, the post was all happiness and delight and ‘this is the best dress ever!’-ness.


This post isn’t going to be like that.

Today’s dress is not really bad…  It’s just…definitely not my favourite thing I’ve ever made for myself.

The orchids & ambivalence dress,

It started like this:  a friend and sewing student had a dress she loved, but that wasn’t quite right, and she wanted to make a dress inspired by it, but perfect.  So I helped her to draft a pattern that took all the good stuff, and changed all the not-good stuff.  And she’s been making versions of this dress right and left, and they look AMAZING on her.

I tried on one of her versions, and well, it looked pretty good on me too.  So, with her permission, I made myself a version out of an orchid purple peony patterned silk that I got for $5 per meter (!) in a Fabric Warehouse sale.

The fabric is amazing, but as this dress?  Well…I just don’t think it’s amazing.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

I mean, it looks great if I do this:

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

Or this:

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

But realistically, I’m not going to spend my life carefully contorting my body into the three weirdly twisted angles at which a dress looks good at me (Bust forward!  Waist back!  Shoulders twisted!  Arms out!  Knee cocked!).  Blow that for a lark…

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

It’s OK.  It’s not terrible, and I had fun making it, and it is a beautiful dress.  And I knew going into it that purple just isn’t my colour.  Maybe the friend who originated it wants it?

Alright.  Whinging aside!  Fun stuff!

The photoshoot is another hardware-store special.  I’m actually really enjoying exploring anything photograph-interesting in the surrounds of the hardware store, and it does mean you are getting a more diverse background than my usual “Ooooh!  Historical stuff!  Flowers!  Ocean!” photoshoot themes.  This time we found cricket batting cages, a car-yard, and an alley with a white brick wall.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

One thing I know is that you should never underestimate the photographic potential of a white wall!

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

Especially when, in addition to the wall, you find a motto:

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

live at home

Just hanging around in the alley.  Simple words on a laminated piece of paper.

I like it.

It’s a phrase that we usually use quite dismissively.  “Oh, he lives at home with his parents.”   “Her?  She so unadventurous.  Such a live at home.”

Really though, it could be quite profound.  Shouldn’t you actually live at home?  Make where you live your home?  Why should adventured only happen out in the wide world?  Shouldn’t we actually turn the space where we spend most of our time into a place to truly live, and decide to truly live where we spend most of our time?  Three words on a laminated bit of paper and suddenly I was thinking about it.

Mr D did not approve of my gutter philosophising.  He was appalled enough that I picked up the paper  (germ-phobe), thought it was ridiculously silly, and not at all inclined to take a photo of me with it.

We had a little jokey tussle for power over it, standing in the alley, with him photographing everything but the slip, and me refusing to pose without it.  Then I pointed out that his goal was to get the photoshoot over as soon as possible, and I wasn’t going to put the paper down until I had a proper photo with it, so he might as well just take the darn picture.  Which he did.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

Then he took a picture of me doing the “Haha!  I won!”  Tongue-stick-out.

Because we have a relationship built on mutual trust and respect and the agreement that we shall be as mature as possible about all the important things and as immature as possible about everything else.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

So the dress?  Not awesome.  The time spent with Mr D & the photoshoot?  Awesome.  I’ll call it a win.