In my real life, there are precious few people who know how expansively, maniacally, obsessively creative I am. You know, but only because I have chosen you with whom to share my deepest darkest secrets. But most people in my real life know me as either: the American, that woman with the noisy children or the singer.
I started sharing this identity, Lily Fields, my alter ego, with a select few friends, because they love me enough to not judge this quirky corner of my life.
Imagine my embarrassment when, at a dinner party at the fabulous Flora’s house, one of my friends gets out her phone and starts showing photos from Instagram of some of my refashions to others in attendance. “Wait, what?” was the overwhelming response. “That’s you?” or “You did that?”
At this party, my identity was the singer. Not the maniacally crafty refashionista or aspiring novelist. I felt sick to my stomach as my worlds collided. I forgot how to talk. Literally.
And then, one of the ladies in attendance said, “I think I need your help.”
And then the subject became something else entirely. We glossed over the fact that I was hiding a huge part of who I am from them although there were questions that I dodged like fiery darts. This friend needed help.
“My daughter gave me a t-shirt for Mother’s Day,” she said. “It’s awful. I mean, it’s cute, it’s the Aristocats and all, but the shape is awful. But she gave it to me. I want to honor the gift by wearing it, but I just can’t.”
Ooooooh…this sounded exactly like a challenge for Lily Fields, Fashion Superhero.
As the world we live in is very very very small, by some strange twist of fate, this lady that I have been singing with for more than ten years also happened to be married to my eldest scalawag’s teacher. Keep in mind, our city isn’t that small. Ten years ago when we started singing together, I never thought I would be having children. The neighborhood I live and the school her husband teaches at are in a working class, random neighborhood in our city.
Her family is precious to me because 1. she has been in my life here in France for as long as I can remember 2. she and her husband were the first people to introduce us to tarte flambée, a regional culinary specialty 3. she is the only person who has ever told me that I was allowed to not like being a mom 4. her husband managed to make my scalawag love school 5. they have a pool in their backyard which my boys are eager to enjoy this summer 6. she is a kind woman of great faith and courage and I like her.
If Cathy needs help, she is someone I will move heaven and earth to help.
Meet the t-shirt
So here it is: a boxy black tee. It would look great on a teenager…that seems to be the style these days, right?
But it wasn’t right for a middle-aged mom. The sleeves were a strange length, the cut was not flattering and that neckline. It was suffocating her.
Cathy brought over several shirts that she does like and wear, and we examined them for what it was about them that she did like. This helped us identify what we would want to do with it.
The tee had very very long shoulder plackets. We discovered that if we just removed the sleeves, we might have a flattering length. We would have to take them off to see, but this seemed like a simple enough prospect. She liked the idea of something asymmetrical for the neckline. (I had shown her one of my refashions and she thought it looked pretty neat.)
One of her tees that she did like had some ruching, and I suggested we give it a try on hers, to echo the asymmetrical neckline. She said “let’s do it.”
So I sat her down with a seam ripper and scissors to remove the sleeves and that awful crewneck.
So far so good. I dragged her back out to the red wall after we removed the sleeves to get a look at our progress. Here, take a look:
We finished off the sleeves with a fine little rolled edge.
We lined up the tee against one that she brought and used it as a pattern to alter the shape of the box, making it more human shaped than packing material shaped. I sewed down a length of elastic to one side to create the ruching.
Then, I scared the dickens out of her when I took scissors to the neckline, her still wearing it, and slashed it just enough but not too much. (Alchemy, I tell you.)
We finished off the edges and voilà, my first refashioning project for someone other than me was complete:
And this, my friends, is why you must dare get out needle, thread and scissors. Turn something that you should love or want to love into something you do love. If you aren’t wearing it anyway, then you have nothing to lose.
BTW: her daughter, after seeing her refashioned t-shirt, offered her full-throated approval to the update and is thrilled to see her mom wear the gift she was given!