Engineer vs Seamstress

My mother and I had an interesting conversation a couple of days ago.

Mom: When are you going to work on the bustle for the dress?

Me: Don't worry, I have it all figured out.

Mom: I'm sure you do, but when are you going to actually do it?

Me: I just need to go to the fabric store. I need some white embroidery thread and then I can fix it.

Mom: .....(silence)

Me: Mom? Are you still there?

Mom: What are you going to do with embroidery thread? and what does it have to do with the bustle?

Me: It's what I am going to use for the bustle loop.

Mom: Leave it to an engineer....

Which led to a 15 minute discussion on whether or not I should be considered a seamstress or an engineer. I always felt that I was a seamstress, following in my mother, grandmother and great grandmother's footsteps. After all, it was my Mom who taught me how to sew right? She was the one who first sat me down with fabric, thread and a Singer 600. However, when I look back on it that seems to be all I recall. It's probably because right after she sat me down at the machine she was called away by one of my three older siblings. Which makes me think even though she introduced me to sewing, I kind of had to find my own way on how to actually DO it. I recall numerous times where I would want to sew something and she would tell me "you can't do that!". One specific time comes to mind....

In the late 1970's the loud / fancy western shirt was all the rage. I know you remember what I'm talking about, but will pretend you don't. :) They were made out of flashy colors, shinny satin material, and some even had fringe - like the one in this picture (no this wasn't one of mine). Anyway, the yoke of the shirt (the orange part in the picture) typically had piping around the edge. Relatively easy to do when the edge of the yoke is just some gentle curves like the one in this picture.

However, I decided I wanted to do a yoke that had intricate scoops and points and I wanted it to have piping. My Mom (on her way out the door to take one of my siblings to some kind of music or dance lesson) informed me that I "couldn't do that". I think what she actually meant was something more like "that isn't normally done" but I didn't take it that way. I took it as "you CAN'T do that". Well.....anyone who knows me knows that I don't do "can't" very well. And yes, that stubbornness - I mean perseverance - started when I was very young. So, while she was gone, I proceeded to do exactly what she told me I couldn't do. I put piping around the edge of an intricate, scallop edged, pointed corners yoke and made the cowboy shirt exactly as I wanted. Mom still remembers coming home and finding the shirt done - and still talks about it today to remind me of my tenaciousness. I still never thought of myself as an engineer - just a seamstress.

So back to present day, and to the wedding dress. Mom brought up something interesting. Every time I would move to the next step on the dress she and I would talk about what had to be done, and we just wouldn't agree. In fact, when I would tell her how I was going to complete the next step she would look at me with a puzzled look on her face and state some phrase with the word "engineer" in it. Still, I refused to go along with her crazy thoughts and knew I was a seamstress. After all, I am making a wedding dress, right? I had to be a seamstress. Yes, I'm an engineer as my career - or architect if you want to get specific - but in my spare time, when I am sewing, I am a seamstress.

But here's the thing. The more I thought about it, and considering the dress has taken almost 8 months of my time it is a lot of time to think about it, the more I decided she was right. You see, the traditional wedding dress could be used as an architectural study. It isn't just about layers and layers of fabric, it's also about structural integrity and architectural symmetry. The foundation of a wedding dress includes bearing partitions, bracing, reinforcement and truss. The outside of the wedding dress has lattice work, lacing and even arris. Of course those aren't the terms the sewing world would use to describe a dress, but the weird part is I do. A quick google search will show you that these aren't tailor / seamstress terms, but in fact are structural engineering and architecture terms. I even built the dress (notice I use the term built and not sewed) from the inside out - just like building a skyscraper. I may be using a needle and thread, but the way I use to describe what I am doing, and even actually do it, definitely isn't normal. Again, this is evident from all of my conversations with Mom regarding the dress - where each time she ends the conversation with "leave it to an engineer...".

I'm going to take it as a compliment...

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