Wear What You Make: On Being Visible
There’s a phenomenon we all know, one where women reach an age where they’re no longer seen as viable.
Watch a movie or television show, and you’ll see it: fewer older actresses, more bright young things. As this concept of invisibility kept popping up on social media or in articles, I felt I was missing something. To be invisible, an individual must have garnered some attention in the past. You have to first be a participant to then experience a lack of participation. What kind of visibility—the admiration of peers and the attention of men? Perhaps it’s the reflective sort, being able to see the semblance of oneself in the media, be it advertising or the aforementioned actresses.
Sonya is wearing: Acer Cardigan by Kirsten Kapur in Beaverslide Merino Worsted; 100 Acts of sewing Dress no. 2; and Pants no. 1.
I must admit, the whole invisibility thing remains puzzling. I can intellectually understand, but it remains truly foreign to my own personal experience. Growing up mixed race, it was unusual to see an actress or model with black hair like my own, and the rare example would usually have blue or green eyes. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I discovered the Hawaiian word hapa, meaning half. From an early age I would rattle off my half-Australian/half-Filipino heritage. More significant than having a single word to designate my identity was finding other people who fit that descriptive category.
Hermaness Worsted hat by Gudrun Johnston in handspun by Kim Andersen; Gold Rush Shawl by Amy Christoffers in Rowanspun DK; Tunic no. 1 Jacket Modification from her Creativebug class; Skirt no. 1; and Pants no. 2.
As an adolescent, I started filling out faster than up, beginning my alienation from the vast majority of bodies portrayed on the page or screen during the mid eighties. When your body shape is deemed not correct and unsightly, you try to change it, because the desire to fit in is very strong. You may also attempt to hide your body, using the subterfuge of dark colors, big shirts or squeezing into shape wear. How many women have followed advice to minimize themselves, to hide part or all of their bodies? Raise your hands.
Nette by Julie Weisenberger in Habu Nerimaki Ito; modified Dress no. 1; Simple Skirt pattern from Robert Kaufman; and Pants no. 2.
I rarely felt I had anything to flaunt and spent much of my life actively invisible. Making my clothes turned that upside down. In particular, it was the shift from passive consumer to active producer. I decided what I liked and could go about trying to make it. I have confidence now that I never knew in my twenties. As you can see from the photos, there’s nothing revealing about my clothes. I personally don’t think body positivity must be synonymous with skin tight. To that point, I layer to disguise my bulges like nobody’s business.
Knitting Pure & Simple Neck Down Cardigan # 9725 by Diane Soucy in Manos Classica; Dress no. 2; and Pants no. 1.
Women feeling invisible is fed by a dangerously narrow view of beauty. We need to upend that by celebrating women of all shapes and ages. We need to feel good in the clothes we wear. We need to care about what women make. Knitting and sewing have traditionally been seen as women’s work, so it’s more than apt that we raise up our needles to create the world we want to see and be seen in.