On dresses and tattoos

In Blog, DIY, Front page by Shannon7 Comments

I’m in my early 40s. I have two small kiddos. My body has never gotten back to where it was pre-kiddos, and that used to really bother me. Not in a “I-need-to-diet-and-exercise-around-the-clock” way, but more in a “I-never-feel-cute-or-comfortable-in-my-clothes” way. And then I discovered (via my bud Lorajean from Knitted Wit and our first glorious sewing day) the Dress No. 1 from 100 Acts of Sewing, and a lightbulb of happiness, body positivity, and general excitement went off all over my brain. In other words, I was hooked. Hooked on the act of sewing and creating something, yes, because that’s been a really big part of who I am for my entire life, but hooked, too, on the outfits. On the wearing of the dresses. On what it reflected about how I see myself, and who I am.

Blue Dress No. 1 at Flotus photoshoot

And now, three years and a couple of dozen dresses later, it’s still my uniform. My daily wear.

Green dress, two ways!

When it’s chilly, I layer clothing like a pan of taco dip: hand-knit socks, leggings and a tank top, then a Dress No. 1. Then a t-shirt (or, soon, a Shirt No. 1). A hand-knit sweater or a hoodie. If it’s cold enough, a pair of hand-knit leg warmers. A shawl or cowl.

Orange Dress No. 1 plus layers plus Rainbows & Unicorns shawl

When it’s hot, I pare it down: shorts, a tank top, and one of my lightest-fabric Dress No. 1’s.

With an amazing group, at TNNA

Last year, I cashed in a gift certificate from Stefan for a tattoo. It was one I’d been thinking about for a long time: a tape measure on the inside of my right leg, to scale, at just the right spot so I could put my right foot on my left leg when sitting, and use the tape measure to assess whether it’s time to start heel increases on the socks that are always on my needles.

Always using my tape measure tattoo

I was so nervous, but once the tattoo was done (by the amazeballs Carrie Smith of New Rose Tattoo), I could not stop thinking about more. A month later, as a birthday pressie to myself, I got yarn balls on the inside of my right arm.

Yarn ball tattoo

A month after that, a heart with my family’s names.

My loves, in tattoo form

At the beginning of the summer, I got linework flowers representing all of the states I’ve lived in, plus my wedding flowers.

Lovely linework flowers

A small scarlet carnation when in Ohio as a souvenir. And, most recently (just last week, in fact), Oregon berries and wild roses surrounding hands knitting.

The latest work of art

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about these two things. The dresses and the tattoos. They are parts of a whole: my aesthetic representation of myself to the outside world. Sure, my body is not exactly where I’d want it to be, if I had my druthers. But, having this wardrobe that makes me feel good, and having this body adornment that makes me feel beautiful has given me the confidence to be comfortable with what my body looks like.

Brown Dress No. 1 with grandmother fabric pockets and a t-shirt over

I wear shorts under my dresses, and show off more of my legs than I ever thought I would at this point in my life. I went bare-armed all summer long, not because my arms are svelte and toned, but because it’s comfortable, and I feel good. Having this me-made wardrobe that hides what I’d like to hide, and shows off what I’m proud to show off has given me more body confidence than I’ve had since birthing my babies.

My silly little photobomber

I’ll talk more in another post about what the act of making these dresses means to me, and how very much it feeds a part of me, and how fantastic the camaraderie is, how wonderful and inspiring sewing with friends is, and how much fun it is to chat on text about sewing. But for now, what do you think? Have you found something like I have, either clothes or make-up or tattoos, or a hairstyle, or anything, that feels like the physical representation of who you are? That makes so much sense, that it makes you feel more yourself than you previously had? That gives you confidence and makes you feel beautiful? I sure hope you have, because it’s a whole new world of awesomesauce to feel like this, particularly for someone approaching the age of invisibility for women…


  1. I love both Dress No 1 and Dress No 2 and have lots of each! I wear them all year round over leggings and long sleeved Ts with a Cardi over. I wear Cardis over everything! And I’ve recently discovered LuLaRoe and their wonderful leggings, so now the dresses get fabulous bright leggings. I teach and am known for my bright colours and out-there outfits. I’m the only teacher in the high school that doesn’t have to wear a hi-vis vest when I’m on duty, because I can be seen from the moon!

    Two days ago, I decided to change it up a bit, and got my hair dyed silver and purple! I’m 55, but have no tattoos, and am unlikely to start. But I love my look, and it makes me feel happy!

    1. Author

      YES!!! Embrace your style, love the silver & purple hair idea! It’s fantastic to feel fantastic, isn’t it?

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