Points of Interest (Fashion Timeline of Chelsea):
The Dress-Up Box
There is a magical moment in every little girl’s life when she opens the lid of a big box or trunk and is transported into another world. A world where being a princess and a pirate could happen in the same afternoon with no hemorrhage to the storyline. A world where anything can happen with the swap of a hat or a flip of the skirt. Putting on these special clothes and becoming someone entirely new, different, and unlike myself at a ridiculously young age made my developing mind realize something: clothes are magic. Clothes can change you. Clothes define who you are.
The Upstairs Sewing Room
Living in the basement of your grandparent’s house has its advantages. One I discovered early on in our stay was the sewing room. Really, it was just the living room, but because it held that glorious machine that aided me in creating crude little bags for my American Girl dolls, it was dubbed the sewing room. The tension was wacked, the bobbin a mess, but it still ran. I could control it with only one small foot. Oh what power that foot held.
Brainstorming, inspiration, and creativity always flow more freely with a pencil in your hand, a pal by your side and elementary school halls to tread. I was one of those girls who would sit on the rocks outside at recess sketching dresses, pants, shirts, shoes, skirts, hats, purses, etc. on lined notebook paper instead of the more traditional activities like soccer, jump rope and four square. My best friend and I would walk up and down the halls at school, looking for anything to give us inspiration for our next couture masterpieces. Inspiration: someone’s science fair project sitting on a table in the hallway. Result: a dress made up entirely of spheres representing the planets. Including Pluto.
Overcoming the Awkward
The idea that “I don’t need to flirt, I will seduce you with my awkwardness” didn’t work so well for the girl in the sweater vest in seventh grade. When you’re growing out of your pants as fast as one of those expandable dinosaurs grows when you put it in the bathtub until it’s huge and slimy, price comes before pick. My full length mirror reflected the image of high water jeans cinched at the waist by a huge star studded belt, shirts that were three seasons behind schedule, glasses that hung lopsided on my ears and a face covered in acne that still hasn’t decided to move on past the puberty stage. Fortunately the rest of me decided it was time for a new look and that something had to be done about those slicked back ponytails that were my go to hair-do every morning.
Bag it All
It is frustrating when all you know how to do on a magical machine that creates Chanel in some parts of the world, is sew two pieces of fabric together to create a bag using straight lines. The potential of the mechanism that sat in front of me increasingly weighed on my shoulders. That weight was lifted when an angel (also known as my Aunt Kaye) came to town and opened my eyes to the world of printed patterns and the manipulation of the straight line. The bag we made together was like none I had ever seen, well, that I had ever seen that I, myself, me, had made. It had a pocket on the inside and was big enough to carry my notebooks to school. Chanel had nothing on me.
When your little brother won’t move his plate off the table so you can set your precious sewing machine down with out getting it dirty, don’t let go of the aforementioned machine to move it for him. With a crack, crash, bang, my dreams seemed to shatter in front of my eyes. Unfortunately so did the sewing machine. The broken piece would cost more than the machine was worth to fix. We were tight on money. The magic of the sewing room died in an instant so sudden, it will forever live in the Markham family’s memories.
I needed another elective that wasn’t band or ballroom. In order to break the “b” trend, I signed up for Introduction to Sewing. The class was big, most of the students had never used a sewing machine before, and I was top of the class. While everyone else made small athletic bags that might fit one shoe, I made a duffle bag big enough to fit half of my wardrobe…ok a quarter. I successfully made it through the first projects every aspiring fashion designer has to go through: pillow case, apron, and pajama pants.
After moving to a new town and taking a year off my sewing schooling, I was back into the fray at Springville High School. My instructor was instantly a pseudo-grandma and I accomplished a task that I will forever hold as one of the turning points of my life: I created a dress using a Simplicity pattern with little outside help. Most of you would shake your heads and chuckle at my excitement. But how many of you have ever sewn your own dress that didn’t look like a sack of potatoes when it was finished?
Poofy Prom Project
I now officially considered myself a pro. I could make anything from skirts to bags to Halloween costumes. The only problem with my newfound sewing confidence was the need to be challenged. Yes I could follow a pattern, but could I really design? Could I create something the world had never seen? Could I release the inner Fashion Designer that was chained inside me by the lines of the outer edges of the pattern pieces I used? After a fateful trip to Joanns, the answer was yes. I could. I picked up a brightly colored flyer with these words printed across the front: Sew Your Own Prom Dress Contest. The prize? Cash and a scholarship. I raced home and started flipping through notebook after notebook of dress designs. Which would be the perfect one? Which would win me the prize of a lifetime and lead me towards my dream job? As soon as I flipped to the page, I knew it was the dress I wanted. With my grandmother’s help, we created a gown that was unlike any other. It had its flaws, but it was mine, and I loved it. (What I didn’t love was working on it up until an hour before my date picked me up for the dance.)
I didn’t win the contest, but I proved to myself that I could design. I proved to myself that all those sketches I had in my notebook could become a reality if I was willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears necessary to see them through.
Passion for Fashion
Facebook has a lovely little habit of popping up ads on my sidebar and distracting me from the ever-pressing need to stalk all my friends, friends of friends and my personal favorite, complete strangers. My jaunt to the side-bar one afternoon lead me to a place even more magical then my grandma’s sewing room. The Art Institute. With fashion programs all over the nation, I could study what I loved wherever I wanted. I called an advisor and was immediately hooked. This was exactly what I was looking for. As I explored my options, a nagging doubt continued to weigh on my mind. Tuition. I finally blew the dust off my calculator and started figuring. When I pushed enter I almost fell out of my chair in complete shock. The total for a bachelor’s degree was almost $100,000. I immediately started looking for a way around that staggering sum. Fortunately, with the help of my ever-present advisor just a phone call away, I found my way out: the Passion for Fashion Scholarship.
I made the most perfect dress I have ever created. It was beautiful. I sent it away in a box and waited.
I was on a noisy bus on my way to a choir concert in Salt Lake when I got a call from an unknown number. It was my advisor. I had won the San Diego competition! 3,000 dollars in scholarship money had my name on it. It wasn’t even a dent in the astronomical tuition price, but I was one step closer to the full tuition scholarship that awaited the Grand Prize winner.
As luck would have it, the Art Institute wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t win the grand prize and didn’t accept the 3,000. Yes there were tears involved. Yes I thought about throwing my sewing machine over a cliff and never making another dress again. But I did learn something from it all. I learned that if you work hard enough and rip out a crooked zipper enough times, you can create something that is just about perfect. And when it comes down to it, if you have enough passion for the thing you love, nothing can stop you.
The Art of it All
Waiting on pins and needles is never a very pleasant feeling, almost as bad as the real thing would be. Such was the case as I waited to know if I was the one and only winner of the grand prize in the Passion for Fashion competition. To keep my mind and creative juices occupied, I decided to once again attempt the Joanns Prom Dress contest. I drew up a new design and got to work. One of the greatest things about this time around was the presence of my great-grandma in the design process. She came to visit us from Iowa and happened to be at my house to help me with construction issues. She was a master seamstress in her prime. She made my mother’s wedding dress from a list of measurements called in over the phone and never had one fitting. It fit like a glove.
As usual I was working on the beast of a dress (I promise I really did like it when it wasn’t being a beast) right up until the last minute. The deadline was midnight. I was watching the Titanic with my parents for the first time as I did the last bit of hand stitching on the accessory they asked us to include. I booted up the website to finish entering in my information. It was gone. The contest was over. There was a time difference. The contest that I thought was supposed to end at midnight, actually ended at eleven in Utah. I was crushed. Once again I watched my dreams be flushed down the toilet like vomit.
The upside to this sad sounding tale? I got to wear my dress to the annual Art Ball at the Springville Art Museum. The live music, catered dinner and wonderful date helped make up for the fact that I had lost my last opportunity for a scholarship through Joanns. The compliments on my “one of a kind” look were probably the best part of the evening. If only compliments could be traded in for cash.
What now you may ask? Well, you’re here aren’t you? After successes and failures of days gone by, I have decide to take the next step in my creative career and post my thoughts on what is now known to the world as the Meanderings of the Mind: Fashion Edition. This Graphic Design pursuing college girl is ready to give the blogging world a go. I guess it’s up to you to stick around, and up to me to provide enough wit, charm, how-to’s, funny anecdotes, and fashion advice to get you to stay. Good luck to the both of us.