Jenny La Fleur
getting over myself - Jenny La Fleur
adventures in costuming
jennylafleur
jennylafleur
getting over myself
Have you ever had those moments when you realize you need to get over yourself about something? I’m been having such moments lately about my costuming.

And before you read ahead and think – "oh she means me!", this is not directed at anyone, only myself. Don’t mind me; I go through this mental exercise every few years, going back to the basics about why I bother with this hobby. It’s been good, and while I didn’t intend to have a "costuming hiatus" after Costume College, I’m glad it worked out this way. I’ve had a chance to absorb and reflect on things I learned about myself this summer that I didn’t even realize I’d learned.


Resolved – I will stop making costumes for other’s expectations (or what I *think* are their expectations) and start making what I want to make because I want to make it. I’d already come to this concussion earlier this year but I feel a more passionate and determined about the decision now.

Resolved – I will stop apologizing for the way I make my costumes. I seem to be doing this a lot, if not to others than certainly in my head.

A - Truth is, as fun as it is to use silks and the finest supplies available, that is not my style. It never has been. My challenge in costuming has never been making things spot-on accurate or as luxurious as possible, but creatively using what I have on hand. I’m used to having a narrow selection of options and building costumes around those limitations. That’s where I get my “"kicks". Looking at my body of work many of my favorite things are made of mystery fabrics, cobbled together from things in the stash and embellished with elements from Wal-Mart or scavenged from former costumes. Its okay, it’s not a sign of growing or maturing in my hobby that I use only the very best materials.

B – I am a perfectionist and detail-oriented seamstress *but* only when it shows or affects the level of accuracy I’ve chosen for a particular project. I’m rather haphazard in using finishing or period construction techniques and my things tend to be an odd mix of both cheating and meticulous detail. That’s okay. I focus on details of design, fit and creating an overall look. No more, no less. And I’m darn good at it too.

Resolved – I will allow myself to receive compliments and allow myself to think well of my own work. Nothing is more annoying to me than an over-sized ego, but perhaps I’ve been swinging too far in the other direction. I once heard the definition of true humility is knowing and acknowledging both your limitations and your strengths. It’s okay to acknowledge that after 10 years of this hobby I have strengths and that I am proud of my costumes. On the flip side I need to not grumble about every little thing I hate about my work too. We came up with a most excellent rule at CoCo this year, you could only whine to your roomies. Not everyone who comments about your costume needs to know all the things that aren’t "right" about it. To graciously accept compliments, let the issues go and whine to only to a few close friends really does work well.

Resolved - I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. This isn’t a contest and moreover I can hugely admire those who use the best in fabric and period technique without having to emulate them. I can receive no higher compliment than the respect of my costuming peers (and those I look up to in the costuming world) and I got the distinct impression at CoCo that is already the case.

In other words, Resolved - It’s okay to be me. :>

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quincy134 From: quincy134 Date: August 21st, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC) (link)
Agreed on all points! You make beautiful things, and I like that you've figured out ways to do that within your budget. One interesting part of costuming as a hobby is problem solving: how can we make something that we feel good about with the time, skils, and money that we have.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 01:12 am (UTC) (link)
how can we make something that we feel good about with the time, skils, and money that we have.</a>

What a perfect way to put it!
From: laurenmonkey Date: August 21st, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC) (link)
Amen. And yay for you :)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 01:12 am (UTC) (link)
Hee. Thanks! I knew all this really but it's easy to forget sometimes why you love the things you love. :>
chloeandrudy From: chloeandrudy Date: August 21st, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC) (link)
Here here. I think you get a chance to be more creative when you use your own ideas, talents, and inspirations. I've been intimidated many times by others costumes, which btw are faubulous, but it pulls me down, as my talents are not that high. But they are inspirational, and shows me that these things are possible.
I also started out wanting to use silk tafettas, but found I can do more costumes & more color variety with the poly-taffetas, etc. I do bend to silk dupioni sometimes if an excellent price and quality are available.
Cheers to your new aspire!
butterballbunny From: butterballbunny Date: August 21st, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC) (link)
Phsaw! Your talents are quite high. I have seen your steampunk stuff! :)
How narrow it would be if we only define talent by one or two aspects? It's not merely construction or period accuracy or whatever. It's also your imagination, the vision, design, putting everything together. And you certainly do that very well. :)
!!
()~
sarahbellem From: sarahbellem Date: August 21st, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC) (link)
That sounds like maturity, all right. ;)

Great resolutions all the way around. I'm particularly struck by the "competitive" aspect of costuming within the wider group of LJ costumers... There does seem to be a positive form of competition going on whereby people are challenging themselves to use more period techniques and fabrics, and sometimes, if that's not really your "thing" and you get caught up in it, it can detract from the fun of the game (ask trystbat... She's really in a weird situation, because she's not into the period-everything flavor of costuming, yet she hangs out with two of the biggest period-everything nerds on the planet [me and Kendra]).

I had similar epiphanies not that long ago, and I think what it boiled down to for me was that I gave myself permission to not always do things 100% accurately, or to go ahead and use that polyester brocade because it was affordable. I realized that I don't have to be perfect, and no one seems to notice the imperfections anyway, so I may as well stop making myself feel bad for them.

The result, however, has been that I've been doing more handsewing and period construction techniques and using period materials than I ever have. But I don't have to if I don't want to! LOL!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC) (link)
I think what it boiled down to for me was that I gave myself permission to not always do things 100% accurately, or to go ahead and use that polyester brocade because it was affordable. I realized that I don't have to be perfect, and no one seems to notice the imperfections anyway, so I may as well stop making myself feel bad for them.

Exactly!
demode From: demode Date: August 21st, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC) (link)
This is great. I know I feel the pressure too, to always be "perfect" or to make only over the top fabulous costumes, and I have to remind myself that it's okay to make what I WANT, not what I assume others want. Who do we do this for again?

And re: the compliments thing - YES! Something that was really hard for me was to train myself not to respond to a compliment with "Oh thanks, but I screwed up X and Y." Instead, I've finally learned to just say "Thanks." It's a hard one, tho!

I think your work is beautiful and I'm glad you are being true to yourself!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC) (link)
Compliments, yeah I definitely think it's a skill you have to learn, not something that comes naturally. At lease not for me. :P

*blushes* Oh thanks!
butterballbunny From: butterballbunny Date: August 21st, 2008 04:44 pm (UTC) (link)
Agreed on all counts.
Thank you for putting everything so succinctly.

>it’s not a sign of growing or maturing in my hobby
>that I use only the very best materials.
Amen! It is merely a sign of a more-available pocketbook and a personal choice.

>This isn’t a contest and moreover I can hugely admire those who use the
>best in fabric and period technique without having to emulate them.
DoubleAmen! IMHO, some of the environmental factors of the hobby (in particular, masquerades & judging, ect.) whilst are great accolades to excellent work done, tend to foster some of the unhealthy competition-y feeling as well.

I am holding myself to the standard of never enter any contest for my hobby. The process and working within the limitations is what we enjoy. There's no need to gain any approval from the world.

Thank you so much for putting everything so nicely in one post. You echo the unspoken voice of so many of us whom have explicitly/implicity/self-talk be told that we are 'not good enough'.

!!
()~
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC) (link)
Yeah contests... not something I'm interested in at all. I see how they are good on one hand but I would be such a mess, not fun to be around at all.
trystbat From: trystbat Date: August 21st, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC) (link)
n other words, Resolved - It’s okay to be me.

AMEN!

I hear you on all these counts & have said many of them to myself (& keep having to ;-). Following your own muse gets hard when you're surrounded by so many other voices -- it used to be easy for me when I knew fewer online costumers & only saw folks at a con or guild event a few times a year. Sometimes now I feel like I have to justify myself for not using crazy-expensive fabric or hand-sewing or making up my own designs. And I get flack for it! But I'm happier when I wear something that's *me,* my design, my idea.

So stick to your guns, live out your vision, & enjoy creating for yourself, not anyone else. It's worth it :-)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) (link)
Following your own muse gets hard when you're surrounded by so many other voices

Amen to that! Especially when the voices are so nice and talented and you love what they are doing. I know that feeling like I have to justify what I'm doing and the design decisions I'm making too. You are one of the examples who helped me out of that rut. Your work is amazing and such a nice example that being talented and creative doesn't have to equal 100% silk or 110% documentable period accuracy - sometimes it can be just plain fun! Thanks!
isabelladangelo From: isabelladangelo Date: August 21st, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC) (link)
I am a perfectionist and detail-oriented seamstress *but* only when it shows or affects the level of accuracy I’ve chosen for a particular project. I’m rather haphazard in using finishing or period construction techniques and my things tend to be an odd mix of both cheating and meticulous detail. That’s okay. I focus on details of design, fit and creating an overall look. No more, no less. And I’m darn good at it too.

Can I steal/borrow this one? Particularly the part about the "odd mix"? :-)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) (link)
Steal/barrow away! :>
scottishlass From: scottishlass Date: August 21st, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC) (link)
*hugs*

You know, I have this kind of epiphany as well at the beginning of this year. I don't need to follow a certain trend because everyone is doing it (it seems here in G everyone on their dog are doing bustle dresses), I don't need to follow certain trends and I certainly don't need to follow any or all available historically correct patterns when it is obvious they sewed most of the time by the bottom of their pants so to speak.
While I'm still a nut for historically correct sewing and fabrics, I'm all for the things that make you happy and sewing stuff for yourself and not what ppl expect of you.

I for myself enjoy your diaries as well as your finished garments, they are fabulous and astounding and inspire and awe.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks so much. I love historically correct sewing and fabrics too but sometimes I get bogged down in them and lose my joy in the project. Also my checkbook starts hissing. I'm learning that it's okay to walk way from those things sometimes and just have some fun with my projects. :>
cracked_code From: cracked_code Date: August 21st, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC) (link)
You know what I would say. So picture my voice in your mind and say it to yourself. The speech ends with I love you Jenny!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC) (link)
LOL! You know me too well too. I love you too sis!
gilded_garb From: gilded_garb Date: August 21st, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC) (link)
Yes yes yes! This is something I'm really struggling with myself. I am fighting my own inner perfectionist AND my feelings of inadequacy when comparing myself to others (which I probably shouldn't be doing anyway). Thank you for putting this out there :o)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC) (link)
You are most welcome. :> And anyone who can fit themselves and look fabulous when way pregnant like you did at CC has no cause to feel inadequate. I am still in awe of your fabulous wardrobe this year Saucy!
nuranar From: nuranar Date: August 21st, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC) (link)
Oh, those are so excellent. How funny that so many people are stepping back or re-assessing their costuming after CoCo - even me, who didn't go! I feel pressure to do stuff, too, especially when "everyone else" is doing it. And I've never been to CoCo or a Con, I have no RL costuming friends, and I scarcely have the time to do any sewing at all! So I'm very glad for you to have realized this and written it all out.

That said, what're your latest plans? (I love using up the stash, too, although I *am* also concerned about accuracy. But I reenact. Using stuff is part of why I'm so happy with my wool wrapper; every bit except the buttons I had on hand.)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC) (link)
Peer pressure, even the gentle fun kind, sucks.

Accuracy, it's a double edge sword. Accurate costumes are so pretty (and usually my favorites) but it's easy to get bogged down and anal about "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" issues. As costumers we all have to find our balance. I reenact too, but I'm finding I enjoy it less and less. I'm just not in the mood these days.

edit: Oh for latest plans see my latest post! I’ve also got the charlesii project in the works as well as a new pair of 18th cen stays, a new English gown and a revamp to the pearl and poe dresses. I've gone totally insane really! :>

Edited at 2008-08-22 03:25 pm (UTC)
suededsilk From: suededsilk Date: August 21st, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC) (link)
You're right on. The creative process, and what makes you happy, is more important than just attaining an arbitrary standard of "accuracy". And you're carrying on a grand historical tradition by scrounging around and making do out of little. :)

Isn't it *sooo* hard to get out of that "Oh, thanks for the compliment - but this is wrong and that and this!" mode of thinking? I know I have to bite my tongue sometimes!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC) (link)
Compliments - yeah it's something you have to learn to do, a skill I think. :>
isiswardrobe From: isiswardrobe Date: August 21st, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC) (link)
I think you are very wise and I applaud you!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks! :> Your icon made me giggle too.
jehanni From: jehanni Date: August 21st, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC) (link)
Excellent resolutions! I'm reminded of a story I heard on NPR about the gender differences of why fewer women are going into politics (doesn't sound related, does it? But it is!)

(To make a sweeping generalization...) WOMEN see a list of prerequisites for a political position and are likely to say: "Of the seven requirments, I meet six-point-three fully, so I really shouldn't waste anyone's time until I'm more qualified...maybe next cycle" and MEN see the same list and are likely to say: "Of the seven requirements, I've done two, but I've thought about three more, so I'm good to go!"

The piece went on to examine why women as a group tend to be more harsh/ hypercritical on themselves, and how it affects what we choose to do and reach for, what we can do about it. I think resolving that it's OK to be ourselves is a good step.

In relation to costuming, I have to think that just as some people through history have always done the expected thing, and made things the expected way, other people have been sloppy, or innovative, or quirky, or in a hurry...so I can give myself permission to sometimes be that way, too.

I also think that as soon as women/seamstresses had sewing machines, they used them. As soon as they had rayon, or polyester, or factory-dyed cloth, or whatever the innovation was, they used it, explored it, and figured out (by trial and error and inspiration) when it was worthwhile to change.

Some costumes need to be exact for specific reasons. Many don't...and some are best worth doing WRONG, because that's the way I'm feeling at the moment (John Deere?) It's not worth doing if it's never fun. And the corollary is, other people cannot tell you you're not having fun, or that you're having fun in the wrong way.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: August 22nd, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC) (link)
It's not worth doing if it's never fun. And the corollary is, other people cannot tell you you're not having fun, or that you're having fun in the wrong way.

Well said! I hadn't thought of it quite in that way before...
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