A dude, sewing: Cadillac-on-Black T-Shirt

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Lately I’ve felt a renewed sense of purpose in my pursuit of creative endeavours. We’re all faced with the challenge of figuring out what it is we want to do with our time, and for myself, the answer seems to be, quite resolutely, be creative – though I am trying to focus in on some things in particular, since it’s not possible to good at everything. I’m not entirely sure that wanting to be creative is something of my choosing, since I remember from an early age being drawn towards things which were creative and made use of one’s imagination, and just a general desire to do my own thing and try and come up with my own ideas. Permit me to share one early example that springs to mind. In the third grade the teacher read us a book from the Amelia Bodelia series, which is basically a book series about a girl who misunderstands instructions because she takes figures of speech literally, then winds up in funny situations. For example, when told to “draw the blinds” on a window, instead of just opening the blinds she gets out a pencil and paper and begins drawing an illustration of them. The teacher had us do an assignment afterwards where we had to draw pictures of four things that Amelia got confused by, and describe what they were. All the students began drawing things exactly as they heard them from the book. I did as well for the first three, but by the fourth one, I distinctly remember thinking, “Why are we just drawing the exact things she did in the book? Shouldn’t we be making up our own things she could get confused by?” And so, I made up my own for the fourth one. It was admittedly very difficult, and the things from the book were very clever. But I tried to think of my own, and eventually drew a picture of a witch (potentially with some question marks surrounding it) and suggested that Amelia could have been confused by the words “witch” and “which”. I recognized that it wasn’t as clever as the ones in the book, but I was proud of the fact that I had thought it up myself.

That attitude has basically continued on since, though in the last few years I’ve come to appreciate that one also needs discipline, and the patience to learn the history and craft of something in order to become good at it, and really understand it in a meaningful way. So, on that note of wanting to be creative, do my own thing, and learn the craft of something, I have recently had a renewed interest in sewing and making my own clothes.

Ever since I began buying my own clothes, I’ve always felt that most of the men’s clothing available for purchase is very boring. Things do seem to have improved a bit recently – at least now there are stores like H&M, Zara, and that sort of thing in shopping malls that have some interesting men’s clothes. But, I remember going to malls when I was 19 (ten years ago) and being like, “All of this is boring.” So at some point shortly after, I bought a sewing machine and thought I’d try my hand at making some of my own clothes. I tried making a dress shirt with a fabric that I thought was interesting. It was excessively bright, and I lacked the patience to really learn the craft of sewing at the time (I was probably 20 or so at the time, and a busy university student, so that’s to be expected). But I wore it to school a few times, and once again was proud of the fact that I came up with an idea and made it myself. Later I tried making a unique blazer, and put it together with guidance from my aunt (which I can be seen wearing in the photo below). Like the dress shirt that came before it, it never got buttons or buttonholes (still need to learn how to do that).

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Excuse my lack of humility when I say the following: my t-shirt collection is pretty decent. I’ve been curating it for a while now, and have some interesting specimens in my collection. So, I like T-shirts, and given that they’re fairly simple garments, I figured they would be a great place to re-start with sewing. I found a pattern from BurdaStyle which appealed to me. It had short sleeves, and looked like it had a good fit. I dislike boxy shirts. I perused the clearance section of the fabric store (which was actually pretty massive) to try and find fabric to make two different shirts. The approach I had in mind was simple: create shirts with some contrast, in order to make them interesting. For one of them I wanted to have the sleeves and pocket be made from one fabric, and the front and back be made from another fabric. After a long, slow process of looking through the clearance section, I found fabric for two different shirts. One would be a warm striped fabric with cool navy blue for the pocket and collar. The other shirt would be black, and for the sleeves and pocket I would use an exciting-looking fabric I found that featured Cadillacs and city scenes.

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Men’s clothing is generally not intended to look effeminate, and I’m sure most women’s clothing isn’t intended to look masculine. So when I came across this fabric, the fact that it featured Cadillacs (traditionally a status symbol) and an aggressive-looking texture wasn’t lost on me. I’d be making a men’s shirt, and including on it images of something that traditionally has appealed to men. Hmmm. That’s interesting. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the time my first instinct is to do something different, to break convention. But maybe for this one, instead of doing something intentionally subversive, I’d intentionally use imagery that reads as “manly” for this men’s garment. But then, the cars are also bright pink. How does that factor in? They’re bright pink, but don’t read as effeminate. That’s interesting. Cool. I liked it. $10 later and I had enough fabric for both the shirts I had in mind. A Saturday evening of cutting and sewing later, and the shirt was complete. Now to put it into rotation with the rest of my shirts.

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