Waltz Into My Mess

Technically I could write a book, but since I haven’t had enough therapy to be that comfortable with myself yet, I started a blog. Not 100% sure exactly what kind of blog, but read on & you’ll get some sort of idea.

We’ll start in the middle. One of the two pleasant memories I have from my teenage years is thrift shopping with my grandma. She was forever a bargain hunter of gaudy baubles; I was forever a hunter of 70’s athleticwear and vintage babydoll dresses. We worked well together. Cut to 1998. I was 19 (pushing 20) and had just moved back in with my mom & stepdad following a complete separation from reality and what I can pretty confidently declare my rock bottom. Aka a few month stay in Philadelphia (I’m from Pittsburgh, for reference). I’d been staying with a guy out there that, to my teenage self, was my Jake Ryan. I mean really, it was just like Sixteen Candles, except with like lots of drugs & way more dirt & dead people & stuff. Anyways, he decided that I needed to go back home (by myself) and get cleaned up. Aka he dumped me and left and, him being the only boy that ever made me emote a feeling, totally ripped my heart out. I ruined all of his stuff, called my mom from the pay phone outside, walked to the Greyhound station, (in the completely artistically apropos torrential downpour), picked up the ticket she had waiting there for me, & vowed revenge upon said boy. (Spoiler Alert: I married him 10 years later)

So I’m back home and out at the Salvation Army one day with my grandma. I was over by all the curtainy things & table cloths when I looked down and saw 3 perfect renderings of the dresses that I’d spent the previous part of the decade searching for. I’Twas a sewing pattern. Now mind you, 6 or 7 years prior, in home ec class, I vowed to never ever sew. Or cook. Or do anything that ladies were “supposed” to do. I actually barely passed those classes. I was sure to get A’s in metal & wood shop however. Yep, totally stuck it to the man with that one. But alas, this little 49 cent Simplicity pattern changed everything.

It’s still perfection...

Every lightbulb in my head went on and my creative fire was LIT. An unassuming pile of textiles & notions could be transformed into every clothing dream I’d ever dreamt?!? What kind of sorcery…..? Now, my mom had been sewing since the 70’s (In 1995, I’d even hounded her to make me a dress based off of Courtney Love’s VMA outfit after I’d found the same weird shiny stretch material at the fabric store. However, stretchy fabric & a 70’s era Singer do not mix well & I was a terrible human being for even asking her to attempt that. I did finish that dress myself like 4 years later though, with a different machine obvs). So anyways, my grandma even sewed as well. But I was so blinded by my rebellion to the lady slave labor that I saw sewing as, that it never dawned on me that it was actually the medium in which to create the perfect art for that canvas that I could never seem to escape from: Me.

My mom kept insisting that I start by practicing making dishcloths, just to get the feel for everything, and I was all LOL no thanks, I’m just gonna make this here polka dot dress with all the sleeves & the collars & the cuffs. Being the type of person that really enjoys building puzzles & methodically lining things up like a serial killer, my first project went very well. So well in fact, that I decided my next dress should be velvet with a lace collar. And so it was. And just like that my sewing obsession was born.

Let’s fast forward to 2004. I was living in Pittsburgh, married to my first husband, doing cosmetic merchandising for a drug store, and sewing myself a new “going out” dress every week because, like some sort of borderline poverty level Paris Hilton, I refused to repeat an outfit. Because somehow, in my mind, wearing cute clothes totally negated the complete patheticness of getting blackout drunk in gross basements & aimlessly wandering the streets til passed out o’clock hit. And hi, I started drinking n stuff again in 2000. Doodoo childhoods… amiright? Anyways, my boss at the time came up to me one day and was like “Why are you working here? I don’t want you to leave or anything, but you should be doing so much more than this. Like you should be doing window displays in NYC or something.” And despite being completely devoid of feelings or self esteem at the time, what he said really struck a chord. So I decided to suppress my greedy urge to continue to keep all of the cute to myself & start a website to sell my dresses on since people had been asking me for years to make them stuff. Remember, this was the early 2000’s. There was nary a peter pan collar nor puffed sleeve to be found.

So what to name this website… Kat Bjelland, Courtney Love, & Siouxsie Sioux changed my life, so I figured I’d start there and look at song lyrics. Obviously the clothes are heavy on the Kat/Courtney side of things, so I decided to focus on them and the Siouxsie aspect would just have to come from my own ultra spooky dark persona. I was flipping through lyrics in my head when I remembered a few lines from Lashes that could not have summed up my life more perfectly:

So I put on my best sunday dress & I waltz straight into this mess of mine, posing as a guest, or something much less, than a crazy old doll in a crazy old dress.

I made mostly dresses, Kat & Courtney actually did a song Best Sunday Dress together in Pagan Babies, Hole did a Best Sunday Dress rendition, it could not have been more perfect. And honestly to this day I still pat myself on the back for that stroke of genius.

Over the next few years I had every opportunity to further myself and I blew every single one. I was directly linked from Kat Bjelland’s website.. Maureen Herman emailed me and said she’d help me advertise.. When a dress became popular, I’d start hating it & stop making it (yes I’m that person).. I was literally the only one making this stuff, but I had no faith in myself whatsoever, so I didn’t even try. Numbing all of your feelings was like way more fun than dumb old trying. And really, I didn’t want to try because I didn’t want to fail, because of course I was going to fail because, come on, I was the worst.

In 2006 my cleanliness & sobriety finally stuck and I moved out to NJ with that horrible boy from the beginning of this story, who just so happened to be 2 years clean & sober himself. I continued my self loathing status quo level sewing & we got married in 2007. Shortly thereafter he hurt his back, lost his job, and our floor literally fell out from under us. Forget that building IKEA furniture together relationship test, try going through homelessness and see if you still want to be together.

The next few years were rough to say the least. It’s really hard to spend even $25 on supplies to sew something with when you barely have enough money to eat. Not to mention that whole lack of faith in yourself thing. We ended up moving to a trailer park 50 miles outside of Pittsburgh in 2009, which, my youth life’s goal was to get as far away from Pittsburgh as fast as I could, so that was weird. At the time my mom lived about 10 minutes away though and it was exactly where we needed to be. In 2013, I was working in a grocery store out there and a customer came up to me and she was like “Why are you working here? You’re way too fabulous to be here.” Despite my piddly level of self estidle, I happened to agree with her. I hated that place.

We moved back to NJ not too long after that and, even though I’d kept my domain name the whole time, I assumed I was never going to make anything of myself with sewing. Because, again, who was I to be able to do anything. And btw, the reason I keep mentioning this is because the internet is THE biggest smoke & mirror show and, since 99.999% of the time even people in real life make completely untrue assumptions about me and my life, I don’t ever want anyone to feel bad or whatever based upon the katrillion photo filters/manipulations I use because I happen to like artsy pics. Just know that I’ve been picked on throughout my whole entire life, and like not just in school. I spent a good chunk of my childhood hiding in my closet with a stack of books because I just wanted to escape from everything. Even the people that people didn’t accept didn’t accept me. I was too quiet & didn’t wear the uniform of the punk rockers; I wore too much pink & was too scummy for the goths. And I was just too weird for everyone else. Think Breakfast Club Ally Sheedy with a drinking problem. And people, I don’t care who it is, don’t like when they can’t put a definitive label on you. So yeah, just be nice to yourself. Especially if no one else has been.

In totally related news to that previous paragraph hah, I started therapy in 2015 for a whole different reason, but, some-crazy-how, my terrible feelings about myself happened to come up and get worked on. Go figure. I finally realized that I do have a special talent and not everyone can sew (Remember that sewing people. Or any people that have a talent that you assume anyone can do because you can do it & you’re super crappy). I love sewing; I love writing; I love photography; I love creating in general, so here I am, in the natural cohabitation of those interests, blogging. On what I suppose will be an artsy sewing/fashion blog, if I totally had to categorize. And if I totally had to categorize my style, so you get some sort of idea of what you’ll be seeing here, I’d say I’m a super flamboyant-creepy-preppy-roller disco-1970’s-four year old-crust goth, ensconced in velvet. So welcome, I hope you enjoy what’s to come.

Thanks for reading!

Nanette