Saturday, 7 September 2013

Sugar and spice and all things nice


Harmlessly cute nursery rhyme gender stereotyping or not*, this is a post I have hesitated to write for about six months. If you want to know why, feel free to scroll to the end - and there's a free picture of some slugs! Once you've read it, I hope you'll forgive me for starting with yet more pictures of L wearing yet another remixed popover sundress.

This one has pom poms and is made with some lovely spotty pink cotton that Ilse kindly donated to the swap at our Belgian bloggers' meet. At L's demand request, it was going to be a halter neck, but once we got to trying it on, she hated having the ties behind her neck, so it was hastily converted to a crossover back instead. I would offer a brief explanation for how I did all this, should anyone be interested, but it was just before the holidays and I cannot for the life of me remember. It wasn't that hard so I doubt my explanations would be that useful anyway :-)

Here's  the back detail:

Close examination of late-August hedgerows can only mean one thing...

Yum yum yum.

While going through my Scandinavian photo dump, I also discovered the following pictures, taken in July somewhere and never shared as intended. While we're on the subject of little dresses, I might as well add them here. It's another remake of an Oliver & S pattern, because I am coming to appreciate how really great their designs are, not to mention the instructions. (And by the way I am now taking bets on how long I will resist their new playtime dress, tunic and leggings. Current odds: not very long).

Anyway, roller skate dress #2:

Like my classy shiny sellotape there? I am too cheap to buy pretty washi :-)

For me it's the details and finishing that make Oliver & S so good; this dress is possibly nicer inside than out (I'm not actually that enthusiastic about how the big print works on a little dress, but hey). I topstitched the neckline and armholes because in the end I was getting quite irritated with how the lining keeps peeking out of the first roller skate dress I made.

I wanted pictures in our local botanical gardens, before even realising they had specially put on purple flowers for us. Win.

And now, to the real story I have to tell here.

Regular readers (hello my lovelies!) might have noticed that I've made quite a few dresses for L this spring/summer: here, herehere and two here. It's not really exceptional - many bloggers seem to make this kind of a kid wardrobe weekly - but it's not my normal sewing behaviour. I also don't usually splurge on kid patterns or fabric, which I have done recently.

Unfortunately, this didn't come about through a happy accident of clothing needs and sewing inspirations.

It happened because of the sudden, negative body consciousness of my beautiful five year old.

We all know how it is: kids can be mean, and schools these days are rightly hot on healthy eating. Ours bans all chocolate, sweets, sodas and the rest, and teaches the kids about how to eat well. The fact that their teachers help get my kids on board with that is something I hugely appreciate. But, it mixed up in my daughter's head with some nasty name-calling, and came out in the form of:

"Mummy, is my tummy too fat?"

And a lot of sobs.

And this suddenly slotted together with things she'd been saying over the few weeks before, and I had an awful realisation of what had really been bothering her.

And, well, I don't know if this is a girl thing, really: in a class of 5-year olds, I can imagine the same happening to the boy who happened to be chubbier than the rest. But what I do think is a girl thing is that when she came to me and said that, my shock and despair was not that she had to ask, but that she had to ask it so soon.

There are so many other things I could say here. The only one I'll mention is the constant nightmare of trouser-shopping for a girl with a stomach and a bum. It seems that all kids are now supposed to be slim-hipped. And while I was panicking, desperately trying to think what to say to this beautiful daughter of mine, I realised: at least half the battle is that feeling of being comfortable in your clothes.  We all feel awkward and often yes, too fat, when we're trying to carry off clothes made to fit the shape of someone else. Right?

It's how and why I got into sewing for myself. And it's exactly how and why I sewed for L this summer. She got excited about the fabrics, she got excited about the clothes, and we talked about all of it just enough for her to forget the name-calling which thankfully disappeared soon after. I'm pretty sure that what did it was not just her parents' love and reassurances, or her teacher's extra attentiveness, but L herself, the day she proudly walked into class wearing one of her skater dresses. Because she feels good wearing them, and sod the rest.

While my hand in it was probably nowhere near as significant as I'd like to think, it makes me very happy to know that with a bit of love and distraction, we were able to help this whole thing blow over.  Sadly, I'm pretty sure the issue will come back - but hopefully not for much, much longer, and with us in full knowledge that we have the weapons to fight back.

And as for what little girls are made of... who remembers the rest of that rhyme?

What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

On our first morning at this campsite, G and I were intrigued to see L and T spend about 40 minutes absorbed together, playing with something on the ground at the other end of the field. It turned out to be the above.

It's a house for the 'family' of slugs they had painstakingly collected from the pathways: the leaves are beds, decorated with flowers, of course, and with roofs to keep the rain out (there is actually a slug inside each one, too). The grass cuttings are for their dinner.

The pride with which they showed it to us and explained what the slugs were all up to, well - I almost came over all emotional. Such imaginative, curiosity-fuelled, slug-focused brother-sister collaboration.

In the real world, that's the kind of thing all little kids are made of.

:: :: ::

* but I don't find it either harmless or cute.

:: :: ::


  1. I'm so glad you've managed to help head off those negative body issues at the pass. I'm shocked that they should even arise for a 5 year old! But then, I've not got kids, so I don't know what it's like having to navigate your way through the day-to-day complexities of how kids grow up these days! Long may the love of hand-made and personally chosen clothes work for maintaining your daughter's self-esteem.

  2. Damn, kids are nasty... to be honest I think they always have been (having been the fat kid with glasses), but it seems they get nastier earlier and earlier :( So glad you manage to make L feel like a super-star in her custom designer wear - the way every kid should feel :) And I love the slug story, even though they give me the creeps!

  3. Aw, sweetie, I'm so disheartened to hear of problems like that which your daughter was having. But, how absolutely fantastic that your favourite hobby could come to the rescue! She should feel proud and fabulous in that skater dress, it is just adorable. I hope her negative body image issues are gone for good. It's so much more productive to spend time contracting themselves out to build a slug community!

  4. Silvia - Sewing PrincessSeptember 07, 2013 10:42 pm

    The dress is so cute on her. I love the details and your finishing. So sad to hear about her being so conscious especially when she is not chubby by any means. Happy to see you could make her forget the issue with a nice new dress.

  5. You seem to have found a great solution for a problem like this! I actually remember the first time I felt like I wasn't pretty enough, I was six years old and frustrated because I was so pale compared to my classmates. This feeling took a very long time to go away completely, and they still pop up from time to time. I really hope your daughter will continue to feel good about herself!

  6. That's exactly how I felt too - the thing with the eldest is that it' all new to us too, I'd never imagined it'd come up already. Now I'm just dreading the day someone laughs at her for wearing homemade clothes, but by then I'm pretty sure she'll have the balls to call that for the crap it is. Couture, baby :-)

  7. yeah me and my sister were the chubby kids too, it wasn't particularly fun! But like you say this was much earlier than I remember. My mum was greatly astonished to find out that shops DON'T allow for little girls' tummies, she thought they was universal :-)

  8. exactly - there are SO many more important things to be worrying about!

  9. thanks :-) She's still of the opinion that everything I make is brilliant, and it just makes her shine wearing them. Long may it last!

  10. It's shocking how much younger it all happens. You've articulated this perfectly Jo. I'm glad you've all found a solution in some stunningly cute handmades and that L feels great in them. (I love that print by the way) Oh, I'm a bit glad I only have boys, although they (at 7 and 4) have become obsessed with getting a six pack!?

  11. Yeah those wounds take a long time to heal don't they, I think we all have some, and usually it's such irrelevant things too. I think you wear your colouring so well - I would never have said you were pale!

  12. that's hilarious! T asked me in all seriousness the other day if I was eating ice cream because I wanted to get big 'fesses'...

  13. Awww man, I'm so sad to hear this. I guess I didn't realize that body image issues could start so early, but little kids can be so cruel and even very young children are so keenly aware when they're not like others. I still remember the day I got glasses-- I was so embarrassed, even though I was only 6. It's so sad that how people look is so important, even at that age, when it's things like character that should count for so much. But it seems like you've found a great way to deal with this! I bet your daughter will always carry around found memories of specific outfits you make for her-- I definitely remember certain dresses that my mom made me!

  14. My daughter went through a phase at about 9 or 10 where she didn't want to wear anything loose in case it made her look fat. At 13, she wears baggy sweats so luckily that phase has passed. I'm so glad you were able to help your daughter! I'm sure you're right that it was her confidence in how she looked in her mom-made clothes that made the name-callers realize it was a lost cause. I agree with Ginger that she will always remember the outfits you've made for her.

  15. That purple dress is fantastic and looks so great on your L. I quite like the large print on it. I was (mostly) proud to wear hand made clothes through elementary school. I got to pick how they looked and I was proud of my mum for being thrifty. I was sad as we got older that she wouldn't keep sewing for me as much :)

  16. I have a similar experience with Maia in that her body shape makes clothes shopping from stores difficult to navigate. I've actually completely stopped buying woven trousers and skirts because more often than not we couldn't get them on, or if we could they were tight or uncomfortable. I'm very lucky that body shame never crept in through those terrible can't-pull-my-trousers-up experiences. Maia *lives* in her skater dresses, leggings, sweatpants, t-shirts because that's what she's most comfortable in. I'm happy to play whatever part I can in her feeling good in her skin :)


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