The one that always gets picked first for the team, who flanked by friends breezes down the school corridors and seemingly navigates the transition from awkward teen to adulthood with ease. No surprises here – to coin Lena Dunham – I was not that kind of girl.
My attempts to secure a best friend at primary school verged on stalking and unless throwing random items at your head is a form of endearment, I was an easy target for bullying. They say youth is wasted on the young but not for me, I remember every painful detail. In The Reunion, Anna Odell dramatically portrays the lifelong effects of being cast out and whilst the intention for this blog is no misery memoir, the seeds of wrong doll’s inception were sewn in those formative years.
In secondary school, I was saved by my passions and a shared appreciation for the arts finally brought friendships my way. Accidental seating in the 6th form common room cemented burgeoning relations and thanks to my closest friends – Naadia and Emma – my final years of schooling were elevated above that to be endured.
I lost myself in relationship with other. Formatively in my imagination – Michael Stipe, Vincent Van Gogh, Egon Schiele and Hal Hartley’s fictional ensemble of characters. Fantasy interspersed with reality and I immersed myself with friends and boyfriends – anything to avoid dealing with the relationship I had with myself. Thankfully, good taste in this regard prevented too much carnage and the inevitable unravelling was temporarily assauged.
I have always been drawn to those who chart their own course and manage to transform their difference into artistry. In that regard Frida Khalo stands alone – her feet the altar at which the marginalized prostrate. I’m sure I’m not alone in romanticising a life which was in reality beset with hardship. I’m intoxicated with her cacophony of colour, bewitched by her libertarian ways, fluid sexuality and unorthodox love affair with Diego. For me, the bridge between their adjoining houses an aspirational living ideal but in truth, I wonder if this was emblematic of their increasing separation rather than a celebration of their singularity.
I’m certain the fabric for my latest Japanese smock would have met with Frida’s approval. I sourced the material from Frumble and Frida La Catrina Dark Marine designed by Alexander Henry Fabrics might just be the most beautiful I’ve dared to desecrate. The design and colour are magnificent and reminiscent of Frida’s indomitable spirit – who else would erect a hospital bed in a gallery of her work to enable attendance. The more infirm Frida became, the more flamboyant her attire. On approaching my 42nd birthday I’ve become disheartened by a body that’s showing definite signs of age. However, contemplating Frida, who railed against her ravaged body in all it’s monobrowic beauty, I am reminded how I have much to be thankful for.
I chose Dress S from Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom for my homage to Frida. The dress is the most fitted of my Japanese smocks to date, courtesy of the zip which was my unfortunate undoing. But for a teaching assessor style critique, firstly the plaudits in this affirmation sandwich. My cutting isn’t too shabby and I’m particularly proud of the pattern matching on the rear bodice and symmetry of the centre back. I cut out the pieces for the side seams roughly matching up blocks of colour, figuring the design’s busyness would mask a multitude of sins. It’s only on completion that I noticed a sneaky dotted line at Frida’s feet, that if followed would have made easy work of lining up the seams.
The other failure upon which I’ve been meditating is a gaping rear neckline. In my toile sans zip, the neckline lay flat but post zip insertion it’s been a focus of my fault finding attentions. Having researched a fix or two, I’ve considered moving the zip to the side, lowering the neckline and popping in a few darts. However, at the risk of butchering the beautiful fabric further, I’ve decided to practise acceptance and approach future rear zips with necessary caution.
I top stitched the neckline and swiftly unpicked my unhandiwork as the variegated pattern does not lend itself to this kind of finishing. Instead of slavishly following the instructions, I should have utilised skills garnered from other patterns and employed some under stitching. Oh the benefit of hindsight. The only deviation from the pattern was omitting the sleeves and bias facing the armholes.
Popularity and ease in youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When life is trouble-free, where’s the impetus to work on your character, the drive to hone your acerbic wit and the opportunity to develop insights through inner turmoil. Deconstruction affords the most valuable opportunity to rebuild in a fashion of your choosing. After years mired in melancholy, I’ve come to an adulthood of relative peace and contentment. I no longer fear being alone and embrace both opportunities to be by myself and the gift like-minded company affords. I can’t deny that for an extended period of time, all I ever wanted to be was that kind of girl and I never thought I would say this but I’m genuinely glad I wasn’t.