When I was a kid I never liked getting dressed up. I hated dresses. I never wanted to be the princess, I actually wanted to be the prince. But that always felt like something impossible, and something shameful.
And as I got older, I grew more and more apathetic about clothing. I wore clothing in styles that other people said they liked. It didn’t really matter what I wore because nothing felt right anyway.
But when I began exploring my gender identity in my mid-thirties and realised, I was non-binary, I discovered a newfound confidence to express myself the way I wanted for the very first time. I began to realise clothing, in fact, has no gender. Life is too short to worry about what other people think.
And I realised that dressing up didn’t have to mean wearing a dress.
I began to dream of three-piece suits, ties, cravats, brogues….
I quickly learnt though, that the clothing I wanted to wear was generally not made for body shapes like mine. In fact, they often made me feel worse about myself. Shirts would not button up around my hips. Jackets were too big across my shoulders. I decided there was nothing else for it – I needed to learn to sew my own clothes.
It’s not always straightforward – the sewing pattern industry is heavily gendered. As a non-binary or gender-non-conforming person it can be difficult to know where to start. I often have to decide between patterns advertised for ‘men’ or for ‘women’ and make a judgement as to which one will be the easiest to adjust to my body.
There was a steep learning curve but the first time I made a button up shirt that actually fit I felt like I’d discovered a superpower. The buttonholes were wonky and the seams messy but I was hooked. I haven’t looked back.
So far I have focused most of my sewing efforts on shirts and waistcoats. Shirts are a wardrobe essential and waistcoats are one of my most favourite things to make – fairly straightforward to sew and produce instant dapper style! Plus you can really have fun with fabrics and linings. Eventually though I hope to be able to make an entire three piece suit.
Clothing has now become a way to bring immense joy and gender euphoria to my life. And sewing has allowed me to keep my own sense of style regardless of how my body changes with time. I didn’t even let pregnancy stop me from looking dapper, so I certainly won’t let anything else!