Hello, and belated Happy New Year! I’m writing today to talk about #SMYLY, a challenge specifically celebrating the ways in which sewing helps us move towards body positivity and mental wellbeing. The challenge is organised by the lovely Athina Kakou (Instagram, You Tube), as well as Hattie van der Krohn (Instagram, YouTube) and Lisa Kisch (Instagram, YouTube). You can learn more about the thinking behind the challenge and the way the it works over on their feeds, but in short: sew, feel good, win prizes 🙂
When Athina asked if I’d like to sponsor this contest, I was enthusiastic – of course – because I see online every single day women discussing the incredible ways in which this ‘simple’ hobby has boosted their self-esteem, their body positivity, their sense of empowerment, their ability to stay sane. But it also got me considering, because, unlike many others, I haven’t seen sewing as connected in any concrete way to my wellbeing. Making clothes is something I love to do because I love making, and I love clothes. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realised that this ‘hobby’ (and now job) has maybe more to do with the way I view my body and my self than I’d originally thought.
I have mild scoliosis, aka lateral curvature of the spine. It’s genetic, and nope, there’s not a thing I can do about it, except use it as an excuse never to do crunches. (I can’t do crunches. I physically can’t. For real. At least I think not.) The manifestation of this is that I’m rather pronouncedly asymmetric – one side of my rib cage protrudes in front of the other, and my back curves inwards on one side of my spine and outwards on the other. I really do have a best side for photos. On the whole though, my scoliosis doesn’t cause me too many issues. Being wonky means various other niggles crop up from time to time, knees and feet being particular zones of bother, although right now it’s a pesky shoulder. An osteopath recently informed me that I *probably* have the body of someone ten to twelve years older than my actual age. On the upside he also told me to entirely avoid jumping exercises. I left the appointment 90% tearful, 10% really looking forward to a life without any more star jumps.
I know in spite of this minor health hiccup I’m fortunate; I don’t generally find it difficult to find clothes that fairly fit me in ordinary high street shops. The worst thing I take away from most shops is that I’m short (although not the shortest) and that I have possibly above average-sized bosoms, facts which leave me feeling somewhere along neutral-to-chuffed. But when your body sometimes lets you down in ways you don’t fully understand, and when there’s pain, and limitation, being able to create outfits that make you stand out from the crowd, that make you feel fabulous no matter what’s going on inside or underneath, that shout ‘look at me – I can do something BRILLIANT!’ – hey, that’s really worth something.
I have defined myself as someone who dresses up, who embraces the extravagant and the flamboyant, who will try to be a bright spot in a crowd of black and navy and grey. I can only do this, in the way I really want to, because I sew. Sewing gives you immunity from the vagaries of fashion (no, we are not all going to be wearing ath-leisure this season) and simultaneously the tools to make the trends work for you, should you so wish. It wrests back from society some control over the image you’re projecting out to the world. That is power.
Oh hey, did you see that? Sewing. Is. Power.
And that’s why, although I didn’t realise it at first, this challenge really resonates with me. Because, after all, sewing does help me love myself – it helps me make peace with my occasionally troublesome but mostly downright incredible body, and it helps me feel, and look, like me. I’m so pleased to be part of a challenge that acknowledges the big impact this seemingly small thing can have on our lives. I hope you’ll embrace it too and look forward to seeing all the beautiful things sewn and all the beautiful people wearing them!
P.S. This is further proof, if any were needed, that we are endlessly justified in adding to our fabric stash. It’s all part of self-care.