Out of the blue, an acquaintance called and asked me if I had some red fabric to make her a dress as a surprise for her husband on their anniversary… loaded question.
I had to think for a moment and go through my stash of material in my mind. Normally I am an organized, orderly person, but when it comes to fabric. I am a HOARDER, and ADDICT. Ever since I was a young girl, I was fascinated by texture, weave, colours, the feel of silk or wool and everything in-between; and what to make out of a piece of fabric — the possibilities are limitless.
So I learned the trade for three years under a very gifted master, and became a dressmaker, with it I developed my creative sense — if I look at a piece of material I can see what it would look like as a finished product. It is like a curse. That’s why one of my rooms in my semi-orderly house is full of future ideas.
The problem, is that I don’t live long enough to create all those dreams that inspired me when I purchased fabrics, half price, regular or on sale.
But back to, let’s call her Pam. I promised I would see what I have and asked her what style or what she would wear with it. “Oh, I have red sandals and a grey leather jacket to go with it.” Regarding style? “Maybe a shirtwaist, straight skirt, no sleeves…”, was her answer. I promised to search for a piece of suitable red fabric and call her back. By going downstairs into my dungeon, facing the enormity of stash I have, made me deeply embarrassed. I have to do something about it (later), but I found 3.5m of red, lightweight, wrinkle-free polyester with small white dots.
I called Pam about what I found, and asked her to bring her sandals, because red has umpteen shades, like any other colour. White is not always white, neither is black. She came over right away with her sandals, and Bingo! it was the same shade of red. Now, I had to take her measurements and finalize the style. A straight skirt in this fine material was not advisable, rather a flirty one with a bit of swing at the bottom would look better. She agreed, as long as it was knee length and not with too much cleavage.
During the three fittings there were no inputs from Pam, which is unusual — mostly women give their comments “a little taken in here or there; a bit shorter, or looser at the neckline, etc”. During her last fitting I felt it needed something, but what? A bit of a feminine touch, as I played with a piece of scrap from the dress fabric, and twisted it into a flower and held it to her left side of the midsection. Perfect! I thought and she went with the idea, but not yes nor no.
When she picked up the dress she promised to give me a report about the result, after all, it was a surprise for her hubby, and a trip to a big city. I met her a few days after their return and expected a bit of enthusiasm — but instead her face spoke volumes of disappointments. “What’s wrong?” I asked, did he not like it?” Her reply was, “No, but my husband will tell you.” I felt crushed, was that a joke?
When he came the next day to my house, it was like an avalanche of negative comments. He started, “That dress was not Pam!” He moved his hands back and forth across his chest “It was just too much, she looked like a cow…” Wow, did he really say cow? My mouth stood open.
“Pam does not look good in a v-neck. The neckline should have been straight across. She has no idea what suits her. Whatever she buys, she’ll never wear. I pick her clothes, she has no self-confidence,, and the FLOWER!” He rolled his eyes.
In my mind, I felt like saying ‘No wonder your wife has no self-confidence with a bully like you”. Instead I reminded him that I learned during my three years of apprenticeship about lines, slimming effects and so on, and that in all those years I taught, and sewing for people, he was the first unsatisfied customer. I stood my ground, intimidation does not work anymore at my age.
He asked incredulously “You mean you never had a complaint from people?”. “Not that I know of”, I answered (who ever has, please call me, I stand behind my handiwork). We argued back and forth, and I realized that one should never argue about taste, religion or politics; but about a dress?
I tried to make him understand that I did my best with what I had. With a bust measurement of 45″ I would never apply ruffles or gathering, so I kept it streamlined and a v-neck is quite appropriate for a full figure, and the flower was a personal touch, since feathers, glitz and yes, flowers are very much in style. I thought she looked sassy, stylish, and fresh in that dress. It proves that some people’s taste is only in their mouth.
He kept shaking his head and kept his opinion that it was all wrong, and that she didn’t even wear it to that special dinner they had planned. My last try and question was, “Was there nothing you could accept about the dress and compliment her?”. “You wanted me to lie?” he countered back. “Pam wanted to surprise you”, I said, “Did you have to burst her bubble? That makes you a complete jerk and you should really apologize…”.
Needless to say the conversation was over and he left in a huff. “Domineering Jerk” I thought as the door slammed behind him.