In intermediate school (third to fifth grade), I loved Archie comics. I also loved paper dolls, and I hated that my friends never wanted to play them with me. One day I saw an opportunity and took it. After a good friend and I had made a killing (by fourth grade standards, at least–probably like $5-$10) selling the “fashion” trading cards we invented and drew together, I thought I would make photocopies of Katy Keene, an Archieverse character who was a fashion model, and then make clothes for her with little tabs so that they could be paper dolls. As I had secretly hoped, a lot of the girls in my class thought it was awesome, so I photocopied more for them, someone came up with the idea of using Katy’s body and making our own faces for a cast of characters, and then we had a great game going. I was far from the most artistic or fashionable of the bunch, but still, I started it. Also, I thought I was pretty awesome for just making variations of jeans with T-shirts using different “cool” symbols like peace signs, happy faces, and aliens, as were popular in 1998-9.
(Oh, hey, by the way, if you’re lame and uncreative and also independently wealthy, you can actually buy Katy Keene paper dolls made by professional comics artists, or at least upcycled items featuring old Katy Keene fashion pages. I won’t lie; I loved making my own but I would still love these.)
So when the Internet got big around that time and my family actually purchased an HP computer with Windows 98 and Prodigy dial-up, I spent a lot of time on the Archie website, and I downloaded coloring pages of Betty, Veronica, Sabrina, Katy, and Cheryl Blossom. Instead of coloring them, though, I placed sheets of paper over them to trace their body outlines and design clothes, in anticipation of my future career as a fashion designer, of course. I shared them with my trading card business partner (we later spent two or so years publishing a zine together) for a bit, and then, based on my love (or at least my desire to be trendy) for dELiA*s and Girlfriends LA catalogs, I decided I should make my own catalogs. I thought I was really clever by calling the catalog “Sarah’s” and then saying that Sarah Gomez was the clothing designer while Hannah Gomez was the shoe designer. You know, cause both of those people are me. Clever.
Then came sixth grade. I was really proud of myself the day I brought my fashion stuff to school and showed it to the cool kids on the bus (I still have all of it, packed into the same sparkly Lisa Frank folder with butterflies on it that it was in back in 2000). The biggest compliment EVER was when the coolest of the cool girls said, “You got a sense of style, girl!”
So there are obviously some major issues and shortcomings with my “designs,” and they’re far from the most unique fashions ever created. But I’ve kept that folder, and as I kept designing until maybe high school, I used it as an outlet for myself, even if everyone I knew told me there was no way in hell I should go to FIT for college (correct–I would be a terrible fashion student, and if you see me out you don’t exactly go, “Hey, look, a fashionista!”). Eighth grade was awful in a lot of ways, because I was the new kid at a private school after going to public, so all of a sudden I was a poor kid unschooled in trendy things after being relatively well off and somewhat well-liked and popular. It was also when my breasts were exploding, and I had no idea why, when all I was doing was copying what all other girls my age wore, like spaghetti strap tops with cardigans, I was getting yelled at by my English teacher for breaking the dress code and having “a little too much cleavage action going on” (yes, that is an exact quote). For as long as I could remember, I have always been quite sure that I would be happy as a twentysomething (see: my post about chick lit) and that that was when I would really be comfortable with myself. So I was designing for who I would be in the future.
The “catalogs” (see below) were pretty much my earliest work. The plain sheets of paper I have show my “evolution” as a “designer,” and there are some clear trends and trajectories there. I like sashes, piping, boatnecks, square necks, nautical, tunics. It’s funny that my designs reflect that I know what works with my body, while my wardrobe really hasn’t, for the most part. Part of that might be why I still want my designs to be real life–it’s hard to find clothing that fits a skinny but incredibly curvy body. Another funny thing is that even if you didn’t know these were mine, you’d probably figure it out, because they’re very literary. I can’t draw very well, and I don’t really try, so each design is accompanied by a wordy description of everything from colors to what the design is reminiscent of. I’m not sure if a real designer or seamstress would understand them, but even years after drawing and writing them, I can still exactly what these clothes are supposed to look like and how I would wear them. They’re nothing special, but they fit my body and I think they would be wearable. Sewable? Not so sure, but maybe? Call me, tailors, seamstresses, and designers. We’ll see what we can do.
Srsly, fashion. Make something like that for meeeeeee! And make it affordable. And, you know, actually fit-able for people with hips and breasts like mine.