Friday, September 10, 2010

What do 10-plus pounds of wool look like?

So as a participant, I couldn't wear my beautiful purple gauze top (purple is for the Queen, don't'cha know?) and by this time I'd outgrown my velvet bodice (which I wouldn't have been allowed to wear anyway). So I went and bought a premade bodice. Again, even at this larger size, I had multiple options! They laced me into a royal blue bodice and I chose a goldy/ochre shirt shot through with threads of blue and maroon and forest green so that it coordinated perfectly with my blue bodice and the maroon skirt I'd made for that first costume 6 or 7 years earlier. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that in order to (mostly) fit my waist/hip area, they'd given me a bodice that was far too large in the chest. Here I was, ready to be beautiful and sexy and have all my bits rearranged into pleasing configurations... and my boobs were sinking (you don't wear a bra under a bodice). I went back to the vendor. Their answer? Shore up the ladies with a rolled up sock under each. Blech. I wanted to be sexy on my own. I didn't want to need a rolled up sock. How... high school. Middle school. Adolescent. Annoying/shameful. I never did try the sock thing. For 3 or 4 or 5 seasons, I suffered with a bodice that fit my waist but was too long so it always rode up, and had so much spare room in the top that I could fit my whole fist inside. Inside a garment that's supposed to fit like a corset! Over time as the garment "broke in" (i.e. wore out), the top got even looser and the bottom had to be left with a fairly substantial gap in the lacing... with the result that I was easily mistaken for pregnant! Fat girl nightmare!! I was miserable with the outfit, but unemployed and Faire is expensive even without new clothes, and I didn't feel I could afford the $70-100 for another pre-made bodice - especially considering I wasn't confident one existed off the rack that would really fit me right, anyway.

I finally started making inquiries about having a bodice made custom. Mamma Zini, AKA the formidable long-time costume mistress for the REC faires, had a clothing booth adjacent to my guild's area. Mamma Zini was a fat woman. (I say "was" with sorrow, as she passed away this year.) She was also a wonderful costumer, and made clothes for her own fat body - a body nearer the size of my own than most people I ever interact with. If she could make herself look great, surely she could construct a bodice for me! But sadly, she wasn't enthusiastic about trying to make a bodice long-distance from Los Angeles. I kept talking with her about it in the course of our friendship, and picking her brain half-heartedly for tips on making my own. Finally, one year - it must have been 2007 or so - I was fed up with my old bodice. I was talking with Mamma Z in between us all packing up and told her I simply had to buy a new bodice for the next year, even if it wasn't perfect it had to be better than the one I had that made me so sad. She beckoned her husband.

"Go get that bodice. You know, the (insert how she explained to him which one she wanted) one." He disappeared into their booth's storage container and came out with a brownish bodice with yellow and maroon trim. "Lace her into it," Mamma directed. He complied. It felt great! A little short, but sooooo much better than the blue one of doom. She gave it to me on the spot, explaining she'd bought it off the rack when she'd needed a bodice for herself on the double, had added the trim because she is a costumer and can't stand an unadorned bodice, but didn't really use it much. It was still nearly brand new. I made some token protest, but really I couldn't be anything but grateful.

It wasn't perfect. It was smallish on the bottom in order to fit better on top (because apparently my shape isn't what they design for in the bodice market). In fact, wearing it the next year, I managed to give myself bruises around my ribs where I laced the bodice so tightly that the waistbands of the skirts underneath dug into me. But at least I had boobs, and the bodice was beautiful and I felt Mamma Z's love and rad-fattie solidarity every time I wore it.

Finally, in spring of 2009, I got a real job that actually paid enough to pay my bills. I was no longer borrowing from Mom and Dad every month, and I took the leap. I called up a costumer friend and asked if she wanted to make a Ren Faire outfit. She did, of course, being a costumer. She's no "mere" seamstress (and yes, I use that designation carefully - not wanting to be a jerk like Project Runway). She's an artist. She made a gown that is more conservative and yet shaplier than any bodice I've ever worn. I don't have to have boobage spilling everywhere to feel sexy; instead, I have quiet, beautiful, historically-appropriate elegance. I love, love, love this gown, let me tell you. It's almost all wool, except some of the trim which I had her cut from a dying mustard-yellow skirt (my 2nd, and less successful, Faire-skirt sewing project). On hot days, I think, no know, I was insane to pick wool. On cold days, I'm a happy girl. On all days, I delight in the delicious historical accuracy of it. Ah, the torment we impose on ourselves for our hobbies and passions!

It's my 8th Renaissance Faire as a participant this year. It may not be Fatty Mecca, but I'm having a great time. And I'm finally wearing something that helps me feel good in the body I own, that accentuates what I have instead of pushing and pulling and helping and hiding. Here's me, in my 10 pounds of wool. Take me or leave me.

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