Sewing our own clothing gives us a unique opportunity to create garments that are so much more personal than store-bought clothing, allowing us to express who we are. This month, Twig + Tale Storyteller Jaylee "Bunny" Seay shares some thoughts on how sewing relates to her identity, and how it allows her to create garments that let her identity shine through.
My earliest memory of sewing was cutting holes into an old pillowcase from my grandma’s linen closet to make myself a shirt. I was in kindergarten, and so excited to make something I could wear.
I’ve always loved expressing who I am through my clothing; as a young child, I would refuse to leave the house without wearing a pretty dress with hat and handbag. In grade school, I would explore thrift stores with my grandparents to find fun and funky clothes, especially tie-dye and anything with an unusual print (I had a pair of ivory denim shorts with multicolored pasta-like designs in fourth grade, and I loved them!). I was inspired by the stories I loved, like Scooby-Doo, Pippi Longstocking, the American Girl series, and more. My identity back then wasn’t something I really thought of; I just knew I was “creative”, “smart”, “artistic”, “a good friend”, and ways others, especially the adults in my life, would describe me.
As I aged, I did spend a few awkward early teenage years hiding under too-big T-shirts and loose jeans; back then, I wanted so badly to hide who I was and blend in, at least a little. In my room, I’d sketch fantastical dresses, inspired by the many science fiction and fantasy books I read (and wrote!). I wanted to dress like, to feel like, to become the heroine of my own story… but Monday always came to call me from a galaxy far, far away and back to my school uniform, the reality that I had to suppress who I was at school, and the confusion of growing up and discovering a sense of self. For “dressy” occasions, I would look to my mom’s closet and borrow her richly embroidered blouses. It didn’t feel quite like me, but I did quietly like the feminine details I usually avoided back then. I felt a tiny bit like the characters of my books and daydreams.
I started to find my style again in college, when I had disposable income and the courage to branch out… and the freedom to explore shops with friends. I wanted to find out who I was, and who I was becoming. My clothes still reflected who I was, but went from sweet and pastel one day to dark and artsy the next. I was both, and so much in between. I started sewing my own clothes in earnest in college, making the clothes I’d envision but couldn’t find in my size or budget; I started teaching friends to sew, and we’d have sleepovers to make circle skirts and take fashion pictures of our outfits. I wasn’t amazing at sewing yet, but we learned a lot and had so much fun.
I read a lot in college, given I was an English major, and I wrote so much more than my minor in creative writing asked of me. I had entire universes in my head, and I’d sketch the outfits some of the characters would wear. I’d even dress like those characters sometimes, to try out a different style. Is this me? Is that me? Does this reflect who I am, or the worlds inside my head?
Jaylee (Bunny) wearing a fur-lined Traveller Cape
As an adult, sewing became my escape, my way to bring the worlds I envision to life. I can be the heroine of my own story, and shape that story any way I want. My sense of identity has evolved so much since I first started sewing and creating, but I know I’m still discovering and changing, and I will always do so.
I love telling stories with many of my outfits, to reflect who I am inside on the outside. I can be both princess and dragon, and anything else I want to be. I pull costumes for myself (and sometimes friends or family) from my closet, since I do favor what most may consider “statement” pieces.
Jaylee wears Dragon Wings for a fantasy-inspired look
I know some core things never change, like I value kindness, creativity, beauty, and self-expression. I have always tried to build my sense of identity around these things. Part of kindness for me is to sew my own clothes and avoid fast fashion as much as possible; I know how much work goes into a piece of clothing, so I strive to make everything in my closet something I truly love.
You can see more of Jaylee's work here.
Read more articles from the Twig + Tale Storytellers here.