Sunday, August 23, 2015

Less is More

(I made a dress!  In summery linen, no less.  I know, I was supposed to be practical and sew for fall - but Ali [formerly of Wardrobe Reimagined] was in town in mid-July and spotted a Mississippi Avenue dress sample at a local fabric shop, and I just couldn't help myself!  The girl does have an eye for a good pattern, doesn't she?)

I have been thinking recently how getting to the essence of things - stripping away the fluff, focusing in on the heart of the matter - can really allow one's personality to shine through.  I know I've been on a minimalizing kick since moving to Portland, but it does strike me that less really is more, not just in terms of household items/clutter, but also for artistic endeavors, events, etc.

This post, for example, really made me smile.  I love Kate's aesthetic and voice, how she has followed and developed her interests to create a very unique, beautiful, and interesting corner within the crafting blogosphere.  She's focused in on what she loves and consequently, defined and developed them and distilled this in her site, and that, to me, is what makes her blog, her patterns, her photographs, her writing all so unique, wonderful, and iconically Kate Davies. 

(This was so fast and easy to sew.  Even a slow poke like me can whiz through it in a couple sittings ... and I had to bind all the seams [which were all pressed open] with rayon binding to prevent the linen from fraying.  Even then.  I highly recommend!  My only mods were to cut ~2" off the hem, and fold the neckline under twice and stitch instead of using bias binding.  I figured I'd channel Lauren's that shit'll steam out.  Which, by the way, I told a knitter that motto and she laughed and laughed, it's totally the equivalent of trusting a good blocking to heal most wrongs.)

This becomes even more apparent to me when I compare the photos of her weddings with my memories of some of the weddings I've attended/participated in within the past couple years.  My generation, at least in America, is terribly funny when it comes to weddings.  What an industry - what hype!  And we don't even realize it because we're knee deep into it, it's our context and therefore our frame of reference.  For instance, I was telling my former boss (a lovely woman in her mid-50's) about how "hair and makeup" for my friend's 6PM wedding meant that we started the day before 9AM.  "Hair and makeup!"  She sounded equal parts bemused, horrified, and befuddled.  And I had to laugh.  Yeah, I guess that does sound like a very "Hollywood actress" kind of thing to say, except it's now so much the norm for weddings (at least in the circles that many of my friends run in) that I didn't even blink at the thought.  Sometimes, you don't even realize that a generational divide exists until something like "hair and makeup!" comes up.

Yet, despite all the hoopla that now surrounds weddings - wedding favors that are unique and DIY and match the bride's colors! - sometimes it almost feels like all of these new details, "must have"s, and rituals can drown out the personality of the bride and groom, those little signature moments and pieces that relate the ceremony back to the couple in question.  And that perhaps instead of piling on ever more things to attend to and events to get right, maybe we could instead prune to the few that really matter to us (and this may differ for each person), and then make those particular events or mementos or touches truly personalized and reflective of who we are and what we want.

(In retrospect, I ought to have chosen a pattern that didn't cut up the gorgeous, large print quite so much.  The label just said "Italian designer," I've no idea who it's actually from - but I fell so hard for it that even though I don't normally wear cool colors, I just had to get 2 yards.  But in a way, the print is so large and so abstract that I think I can almost get away with it.  I think RTW has committed far worse pattern crimes!)

 I've also been thinking about this in terms of writing.  Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down to discuss the first half of a friend's manuscript.  She's the one writing a coming of age/coming out/medical memoir, and it's been neat reading different iterations of her book.  My old boss (same one who I horrified with the thought of "hair and makeup!") has done a lot of quality improvement work in the healthcare field, and she likes to say that the beauty of improvement means that you're dealing with better and better problems.  And I totally feel that way about reading my friend's writing.  As she fixes some of the more glaring issues, now the subtler, deeper, more interesting problems emerge, ones that get closer and closer to the heart of her story, which really means getting closer and closer to these questions that we all grapple with as human beings - about love, friendship, family, trust, growth, fear, panic; holding it together for everyone else, hiding from the mirror because some part of us knows we're limited in how much we can handle.

Part of what's working for her, I think, is that she's cutting words and cutting events from her story.  She went from 120,000 words to 100,000, and I think she could easily cut another 15 or 20K and still be fine.  When we cut away the important-to-us but not-as-important-to-the-story events, then the reader and the author can really focus in on what is important.  Take away the distractions, and what you're left with is some powerful stuff indeed.

Of course, easier said than done.  One of the hardest parts of memoir is that it's your life, for cryin' out loud!  Of course everything seems important - it probably was important to your life.  But a memoir is a particular story about a particular period of your life, and you need to cut events that are narratively unimportant, even if they are personally important.  Which is such a hard distinction to make; I'm totally guilty of not being there yet in my manuscript.  And also, often when writing memoir you're circling and circling an event or concept or time period, and it takes awhile to distill the story down to its most important elements, its true essence.  Iteratively whittling out the unimportant events, taking a step back to evaluate what's left, and then whittling some more.

Slowly-slowly, as my Japanese roommate used to say.  Slowly-slowly.

(So I thought I'd experiment with showing off garment photos while not making a whole post about the garment itself, I never feel like I have enough to say about a garment to justify an actual post, but I do miss sharing FO's because I don't have anyone local to do that with.  Torn between thinking that it works and thinking that it's really discombobulating to toggle back and forth between garment commentary and philosophical musings on "less is more."  Maybe next time I'll try putting in less garment commentary?  Perhaps leave the photos caption-free and just make a small note at the end, re: pattern name, mods, etc.?  Holler if you have a preference!)

1 comment:

Roobeedoo said...

So many interesting thoughts to ponder upon. And a lovely dress too - very much more "grown up" than your usual sort of style ;)
Seam binding eh? That sounds pretty grown up too! I am having a big French Seam moment right now. I might try seam binding if I ever get round to the Big Winter Coat project I keep promising myself.