Do What You Love Just Because...You Love It! {Or: how sewing "impractical" costumes is teaching me to live a happy life}

When I was a little girl I dreamed a wild, improbable dream. I wanted to be an actress.

My favorite pastime—after reading and writing—was playing dress up. When I invited friends over to my house to play, we would spend hours playing dress up up and inventing elaborate stories for our characters. I loved fully immersing myself in a make-believe world. It felt absolutely delicious.

But, of course, being an actress was out of the question. It was "too worldly," they said. It was "too dangerous." Good, Christian girls didn't become actresses.

I gave up on the dream of being an actress and became a writer instead.

I don't regret it. Writing was (and is) a gift to me. Writing is my art. Writing is my passion. But I miss PLAYING. I miss the child-like wonder of imaginary worlds.

After sewing Joss's Victorian costume for Halloween, I fell in love with an adult costume pattern (McCall's pattern no. M6911) and purchased it on an impulse. I still wasn't sure I would actually make it for myself. For awhile, I was just content to look at the pattern and dream about it.

Actually sewing it—purchasing fabric and notions—that seemed....impractical. And impractical was wrong, wasn't it? WHERE would I even wear it?

But then it hit me: why I waiting for permission to do something I love doing? Why NOT just let myself PLAY?

So, I did.

I just finished sewing the costume and I'm incredibly happy. I had forgotten how much FUN it was to do something I loved JUST BECAUSE I loved it!

The hardest part of this costume was the bolero jacket. I was so worried about messing up that I decided to take the pressure off myself by using "practice fabric." I scrounged around in my stash and found some old drapery fabric I'd planned on using for kitchen curtains....NINE YEARS AGO. For whatever reason (read: TWINS!), I never got around to making those curtains. But I held onto the fabric (three cheers for people who don't like to declutter!) and NOW? That old drapery material was PERFECT "practice fabric" for my Victorian costume.

Taking the pressure off myself worked like magic. I wasn't stressed at all because I was PLAYING. And the jacket turned out far better than I expected. In fact, now now I can't imagine it made up in anything other than the drapery fabric.

Here's another funny thing: I figured the zipper on the back of the skirt would be covered up under the bustle. So, I just used an old purple zipper I had in my stash instead of buying a black zipper or an invisible zipper. Welp. I ran out of "practice fabric" and didn't have enough to make the bustle. SO. If you look closely, you can see my exposed purple zipper. HA! It may not be "authentic Victorian" but I guess you could say I'm just keepin' it real.

I know this might sound strange, but sewing is so HEALING. In many ways, sewing is a microcosm of life. If you let it, sewing—or any art form—can teach you how to live a good life. 

For example, I was having trouble with the black lace I wanted to use on the collar. I was afraid it wouldn't lay flat.

But I told myself not to worry and just sleep on it. After all, it was just PLAY. The next morning I woke up and knew just how I could get the lace to lay flat. I experimented a bit and it worked!

Here's what I learned: taking pressure off myself RELEASED my creativity. New ideas came to me when I allowed myself the freedom to use the "practice fabric" and PLAY with with pattern instead of following it exactly.

This process reminded me that I loved-loved-LOVED writing until I wrote my first book under a deadlines. Although I'm very proud of that book, working under pressure (and writing about such intensely personal subject matter) was exhausting and killed the joy of writing. At least, temporarily. On my second book, my editor knew me well enough to know that I didn't NEED TO KNOW the exact deadline. In fact, he took all the pressure off of me and just let me write as the ideas came to me. He gave me permission to PLAY. And so, I did. I read as many books as my little heart desired. I took copious notes with lots of different colored pens. I journaled. I doodled. I took long walks by the ocean.

And, you guys, my second book is AMAZING. (More on that next week!)

Here's the thing I learned: Sure, I can PERFORM under pressure. But it's not GOOD for me. I can Get Things Done but that doesn't mean I take any joy in doing them.

In fact, performing under pressure is damaging for someone like myself. It evokes a trauma reaction. I'm a sensitive, artsy, bookish person. If someone starts cracking the Whip of Productivity I either either burst into tears or completely freeze up.

Recently, several people have asked if I will sell my artwork and costumes. I've given that some thought. And I think maybe I will. At some point. Once I feel comfortable. But maybe not. I don't know. The thing is? If I try to set up an Etsy account or start sewing professionally, I'll start feeling PRESSURED. I'll want to make YOU happy. I'll worry that I'm not doing a good job. It will become WORK.

I am sewing and drawing because *I* love it. Because it brings me back to my true self. Because it is ME. For now, would it be ok if I just sewed and colored and painted for MYSELF? Would it be ok for me to just take care of ME?

This brings me to another lesson I've learned from sewing an "impractical" costume.

Someone asked me: "But where will you even WEAR that costume?" It was the question I was dreading. I felt instantly guilty. I didn't have ANYWHERE to wear it. I was sewing it because...well, just BECAUSE I wanted to! Was that OK?

Still, that question bothered me for awhile. And here's why:

Underneath that question is a kind of accusation. It's an accusation that says "unless you're doing something USEFUL, it's wasteful." We live in a society where the bottom line is EVERYTHING. As Brene Brown says, we wear exhaustion like a status symbol. We don't let ourselves PLAY anymore.

I'm beginning to think it's actually a radical act of self-care to do things we love simply because we love them. In fact, it's EMPOWERING.

I'm creating art because creating art makes me happy.

I'm creating costumes because it reminds me that PLAYING is vital to my happiness and well-being.

Guess what? We have permission to enjoy our lives!

And be happy!

Sewing is my happy.

That is enough. That is everything.

(During the photo shoot, I was just so incredibly happy that I started giggling uncontrollably and prancing around in the leaves and twirling and dancing all by myself. This next pic is just a candid shot but when I look at it, I'm so happy. Because LOOK! That's ME! Smiling! HAPPY! This is what happens when we allow ourselves to do EXACTLY what makes us happy. This is what happens when give ourselves permission to be child-like. And full of wonder. And "impractical." And "ridiculous." This is what happens and oh my goodness, it is beautiful. Please, friend. LOVE YOURSELF today and do something you LOVE doing just BECAUSE you love doing it!) xoxo. EE. #ThisIsMyHappy

Elizabeth Esther1 Comment