Hello, my name is Rene, and I’m a seamstress. I’ve been sewing since I was about 4 or 5 years old, and over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about clothing construction as well as fashion. I live with my Grandmother (who taught me to sew) and one of my Aunts. I’m now 26, and though I’ve never thought of myself as an expert, a few experiences over the past year have shown me that being a skilled sewer (as in one who sews, not a path for sewage disposal… sometimes I really hate the English language) is something of a rarity in this day in age. It’s much more common to find skilled quilters, but there are a relatively small number of us who still construct garments from scratch. A peek in the local fabric store is telling… more space is devoted to quilting fabrics and easy no-sew fleece blanket materials because that’s what’s popular.

One of the experiences that really opened my eyes about sewing in general was this spring when I was asked to sew costumes for a community theater production. At first I was hesitant, I’ve only ever sewn for myself, really and I wasn’t sure that I could make things that would look good on stage. Near the end when I was doing fittings for costumes that already existed in the collection, I was shocked to hear the assistant director suggest that rather than correctly re-hemming a pair of pants, that I simply duct tape them to the required height. Now I’ll admit to having done some interesting quick fixes in a tight spot, but I’ve never considered using tape when there’s enough time to actually fix an item. When the production finally took stage, the director expressed how impressed he was with how much I had done for so little money, and how wonderfully the costumes I made turned out. All along I had doubted that my work would turn out well enough, and in the end everyone was very impressed.

Over the last year, I’ve sewn more and more of my own clothes rather than going out and buying them. I’m a difficult size to fit in the first place; a plus sized girl who still has a well defined waist and very large bust. I get exasperated with plus sized clothing that either a) looks like a sack or tent b) looks like I had to have gotten dressed in the dark or c) doesn’t allow for the kinds of foundation garments (read: bra!!) that women of my… er… stature need. My favorite shopping activity is to walk through Ross and play ‘what’s the ugliest outfit you can find?’ or ‘what in the heck was the designer thinking?!’

Two completely separate things got me to thinking about the concept of a trousseau and the possibility of sewing one for myself. The first was some research I did last fall into a program I was considering that would send me overseas to teach English for 1-2 years. I decided not to pursue the opportunity at this time, but they required that successful applicants dress very professionally while teaching, however they were only allowed 2 large suitcases for a full year. The second thing that got me thinking was a line from the play I did costumes for this past spring. One of the characters is giving another character some instructions and says “Oh, pack my entire trousseau just in case!” From there my thought process went something like this: I may not need a business wardrobe right this second, but I will probably need it sometime in the next 5 years as I complete my degree and move into a career. I have the skills to sew my own wardrobe, and I can certainly sew a closet full of clothes cheaper than I can go and buy the same quality clothes. The word trousseau fascinated me, so I did some research on what it meant. (More on that in an upcoming post) Then the idea of having only two suitcases to pack my wardrobe in came to mind. Was it possible to assemble a well balanced wardrobe that would fit in two large suitcases and last for an entire year? And so I decided to sew a trousseau for myself and write about my experience. I began considering this project in June 2010 and sewed my first garment for the project in July 2010. As a result, I’ve got several posts done in advance so that hopefully I can keep up a regular schedule of updating once a week.