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Peaches N’ Cream N’ The Fabric Store

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For those of you who grew up in the 80’s like me, you might remember a special Barbie Doll that made her debut wearing a floor length ruffled gown in a gorgeous shade of peach. The dress had a white sparkly bodice with sheer layers of polyester that cascaded into a wave of gathers at her feet, and a long, peach colored boa wound through her arms, the perfect accessory for this doll made in the era of TV’s Dynasty.

I was obsessed with this doll, and I didn’t get obsessed with toys very often. I knew we were poor and, from a young age, I understood it’s implications- asking for things that I knew my parents couldn’t afford seemed not only pointless, but also hurtful. I felt sure that they would give me the world if they could, so why make them feel worse than they already did? Still, this doll’s aesthetic tapped into some deep need I had, a need to exude wealth, class, and importance, to appear to be like all the other girls that I went to school with. Peaches N’ Cream Barbie represented the kind of woman who didn’t worry about money or holding down two part time jobs to make ends meet- otherwise she would not be dressed so extravagantly. She seemed confident and capable, the life of the party, good at holding court with esteemed individuals, which was something I aspired to. Why wouldn’t I be obsessed with her?

Although I never imagined that my wish would come true, Peaches N’ Cream Barbie ended up on my Christmas list, which, since my parents were not together anymore, needed to be duplicated so they could each have a copy. My mother, pragmatic as she was, must have sensed the magnitude of having this doll in my life, because on Christmas morning of that year I tore off the wrapping of a box to find, instead of the sweater or package of underwear I usually got (she, like many Moms without much disposable income, used Christmas as a way to replenish more of my needs than my wants), a beautiful Peaches N’ Cream Barbie Doll! But…she was black. For some reason I hadn’t been expecting that. To be honest I am not even sure I knew that Peaches N’ Cream Barbie CAME in black, because the black dolls didn’t end up in the commercials very often. I was thrilled that my Mom bought her for me, but I also had conflicting feelings stirring up inside that I had no idea what to do with. My Mom, (who is white), had always made it a point to buy me black dolls. I think she was trying to make up for the fact that I went to a predominantly white school, lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, and I only got to see my Dad (who is black) two weekends out of the month because that’s the way the custody battle went. She didn’t want my Southern white surroundings to damage how I felt about myself, and she understood the importance of me seeing myself in the things I played with. I know that now, and I appreciate it deeply. But at the time, I hated it. It was simply another reminder that I was different from everybody else in my life.

I pet my news doll’s beautiful dress and combed her dark hair that was straight and glossy and not like mine at all and waited for my Dad to pick me up and take me to my grandma’s house to celebrate Christmas with him and my cousins. There, I joyfully opened up toy after toy after toy- not an item of clothing in site- and stared in disbelief as I ripped the paper off my last present and found yet another Peaches N’ Cream Barbie, this time the one with blonde hair. My white Mom had bought me the black Peaches N’ Cream doll and my black Dad had bought me the white one (clearly my parents were not on speaking terms at this point in time). There was a sense of relief that I finally had the “right” doll, the one I had been hoping for all along, but in the coming weeks, as I held the two dolls in my hands, each exactly the same save for their coloring, I was suddenly faced with the real root of my dissatisfaction. I liked the white one because that was the one that all my white friends had, and that made me feel normal. But the doll itself didn’t make me feel normal- she looked nothing like me. It was like playing around with a fantasy that I had no say in creating. And the black doll didn’t look like me either; her skin was darker than mine, and she still had hair like the white doll, just in a different shade. I didn’t see myself in either of the toys, but I felt shame for liking the white doll better and frustration for not understanding why. Of course now I know that this is what happens when you live in a white supremacist society, but back then I just felt alone. I decided to make my dolls be cousins related by marriage for a while, but eventually they started kissing and became secret girlfriends, which is what happens when you also live in a homophobic society, but I digress.

Growing up, leaving Alabama, spending my 20’s in NYC- all of it helped me start unpacking the harmful rhetoric that I learned as a kid and replacing it with values that embraced all my different identities. I am still in the process of forgiving myself for not being prouder of who I was at a young age, which is hard- it’s even difficult to write these words here on my blog. But I do it because, if I have learned one thing since leaving Alabama, it’s that I am not alone at all. There are so many people around the world who have struggled to name their identities, to find a place that feels comfortable, to accept that this place might not be comfortable for others, and to not apologize for it. And if my words can make any of those people feel less conflicted about living their lives proudly and boldly, then it makes talking about it completely worthwhile.

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So here I am decades later, a grown, Barbie-less woman, when I enter The Fabric Store and come across the extraordinary textile you see here. I am immediately drawn to it and I realize that it’s because of the colors- the peach and white combination of my youth holds the same amount of power over me now. And when running my hands over the soft material on the roll, I flip over a corner to find that it’s reversible! Well, maybe it’s not reversible- it’s possible that one of these sides is meant to be the “right” one and the other is meant to be the “wrong” one. But see, I know better than that now. Barbies don’t have “right” skin tones and fabrics don’t have “right” sides. Which is why I used both.

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I thought that the graphic print and stable weight of this fabric would look really cool with a structured bodice, and then I remembered how great the cut-outs on the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY were. So I coupled the top from that dress with my circle skirt block, drafted with instructions from Gertie’s first book, Gerties’ Book for Better Sewing. The result is a perfect fit’n flare design that looks absolutely phenomenal with the body of this fabric! I don’t normally combine prints or think outside the box with my fabric choices, but this fabric made it pretty easy. It is so soft and airy and has an almost quilted feel to it because of the way the fabric is made- it looks a little like a double gauze, with two lightweight pieces of fabric tacked together through the lines of graphic print, the colors reversed for each side.

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The bodice from the Bonnell Dress is a very straight-forward make with great instructions- a fully lined bodice with cut outs on each side that connect to a waistband, closed with an invisible zipper in the back.

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Trading the gathered skirt that goes on the original dress with a circle skirt was easy, and I omitted the pockets to save time. I used french seams for both the skirt and bodice to keep the insides tidy since this fabric has a tendency to fray, and when it was all done, the completed dress looked almost reversible! The only thing to give it away is the invisible zipper, which isn’t so invisible on the inside, but I could probably still get away with wearing it inside out if I danced the whole time that I wore it. Which is not outside of the realm of possibility for me.

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I debuted this dress a couple of weeks ago at an event for an organization called Campus Pride, which promotes creating safe spaces on college campuses across North America for LGBTQ students through education, leadership and community. As you can imagine, it was a huge honor for me to accept the Voice and Action award along with the other recipient, Miss Lawrence, and it was a pleasure to meet so many amazing students, mentors and staff at the ceremony. In my speech, which Autostraddle will be publishing later this week, I talked about intersectionality and how my various identities as a queer, biracial woman of color sometimes inform one another; it was a happy accident that I wore this particular dress to the event, which seemed to embody a lot of the things I discussed that night.

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Thanks again to The Fabric Store for the gorgeous textile, to Campus Pride for giving me an opportunity to speak, and to Claire for the lovely photos!

Dixie DIY Bonnell Pattern Review

Mercury must be in retrograde because I have been feeling SUPER out of the loop these past couple of weeks. For one, I was completely unfamiliar with the sewphotohop hashtag until it started showing up all over the new (public) instagram account I started that is dedicated to my TRY CURIOUS lifestyle (a more in-depth post about that is on it’s way, but in the meantime you can follow me here!) Once I saw all my favorites like Heather of closetcasefiles and Erica from Erica B’s Style posting great photos, I wanted to dive right in and join them, but it was already several days into the month-long process and I was too far behind. But in addition to that, I thought this would be a great opportunity to read/look/learn/be inspired instead of immediately joining the social media fray. I enjoyed participating in the #memademay challenge for the first time this year, but I don’t want to get in the habit of adding my voice to so many choirs that I can’t even understand the music anymore. Hm. That was…a weird analogy that I just made up. Apologies. But the right sentiment is there. With so much access to social media, it’s really easy to want to make a lot of noise just to keep up and feel like you are an active part of all the hub bub. Which is totally okay! But it’s also okay to take a backseat and absorb all the wisdom and insight that others are offering.

Okay, so the sewphotohop hashtag had been underway for days before I even knew what it was, and then I notice everyone in sewingblogworld talking about this pattern bundle offered by Sew Independent, an awesome tiered package of PDF patterns by indie designers for a really great price- the more money you spend, the more patterns that come in your package, and a percentage of the proceeds are given to a charity called the International Folk Art Alliance. Apparently this is the second year they have done this, and not only does your money go to an awesome organization, but you are (or at least I was) introduced to several indie pattern designers that you may not have been familiar with before. To be honest, NO, I DO NOT NEED ANY NEW PATTERNS. However. I do love celebrating and supporting designers in the online sewing community, and I also think it’s nice to get pushed out of your comfort zone every once in a while- I usually stick with what is familiar to me, so this was a nice way to get some new blood flowing into my craft room.

Last weekend some friends and I went to the Rose Bowl flea- it was my first time in a while, and I made sure to stop by the fabric and notions vendor who is usually set up in the same place. I’m not sure if her fabric is actually vintage or just old, as in, kept folded in a drawer for a super long time. Either way, the fabric is of great quality and priced better than most of the stuff for sale at the flea. I got about 5 yards of fabric for less than $20. I also scored a lot of beautiful glass and vintage buttons still stapled onto their original cards. I ignored my normal rule of not buying any fabric without having a specific idea of what to make with it because the fabric was so cheap and so vintage looking- I knew it would be perfect for a lot of different projects. And when I got home, I realized that the Bonnell Dress from Dixie DIY (included in the Sew Independent pattern bundle) was just such a project!

yay general view!

The Bonnell Dress has a lovely, simple shape with some interesting details: cutouts on the waist with a higher jewel neckline on the front. This, coupled with the traditional dirndl skirt and a thin waistband, give you a lot of room to play with the design elements. I went super simple with this on my first make, but now that I have sewn it up and seen how a) it fits like a dream and b) it’s got a modern-meets-classic look to it in a very ModCloth kind of way, I really want to make it again using some contrast prints or color blocking.

cutout close up

The fabric I used for this dress is a lightweight cotton, which is soft but still has some stiffness to it, and that lends itself to the nice body in the skirt. I lined the bodice with the self fabric since I had so much of it, and I only made one adjustment to the pattern- I graded from a size 2 in the bust to a 4 in the waist and hips. I should have left the whole thing as a straight 2 because I ended up taking it in at the waist since it was too big.

front bodice

The bust lines fit me beautifully and the length is spot on. This dress was cut out and sewn together in a total of about 5 or 6 hours (probably the fastest garment I have ever made from a woven material), and the instructions were very clear and easy to follow. The only thing I will change about this dress when I make it again is to make the pockets deeper. I love that this dress comes with pockets at all, but they seem designed more with the intent of putting small items in them as opposed to resting your hands inside of them (am I the only person who never puts things in her pockets besides her hands??)

back view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am pretty surprised at how well this dress fit me. The woman behind Dixie DIY, if she uses her own measurements to draft her patterns, must be my perfect body doppelganger, which makes me want to make every single thing she ever designs. It’s so exciting (and quite a privilege, I know) to be introduced to a pattern maker that designs clothing that fits you right out the box, and I (selfishly) wish DixieDIY continued success as a designer in the sewing world!

another side close up