Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Fashion Show Project: Crowning Achievement, and Thoughts about the Process (So Far)

The final element of Sydney's overall Butterfly Fairy Princess design that we submitted to the Trashion/Refashion Show is the fairy princess crown:

This crown gave me the most grief! My first instinct was to wire the whole thing together out of wire hangers, and then cover it with fabric. The wire hangers, however, are thick and unwieldy enough that it was impossible to construct an oval smooth enough to fit Sydney's head well without hurting her--a little too crown of thorns-y in practice, alas.

My next idea was to construct the band out of folded newspaper, which would enable me to sew the royal purple fabric (leftover from the same cotton blouse that furnished the butterfly wings) onto it. I thought this because I've sewn on paper often, but I've never sewn on paper that I then wanted to wear--the holes for stitching made the paper just too weak for this purpose, and it fell apart.

Finally, I took an extra trip to the big-box craft store to buy yet more hot glue (I really need to start buying this by the case), and I used SO much glue to cover the newspaper band with the purple fabric. I had Matt cut the wire hangers into 16" lengths (Sydney likes her crowns tall) and fold them in half, then I hot glued red sequined fabric to the front and purple cotton fabric to the back of each crown point, then I hot glued each crown point inside the fold of the newspaper hatband, THEN I bent the hatband into a circle and hot glued it closed.

Hallelujah, it worked! And although the red sequined fabric isn't repeated anywhere else on the outfit, it's what the young master designer wanted, and thus...the Butterfly Fairy Princess Dress, complete:
For footwear, Syd drew me a picture of what appeared to be 14" red high heels, and I said, "Nuh-uh. Find something from your closet." So cowboy boots it is, although I have plenty of that red sequined blouse left, and I may make a rosebud or two to adorn them:
 From a homeschool perspective, this project has been so beneficial to Sydney, in so many ways:
 
 
 
From a parent's perspective, however...it's been troubling.

When I originally submitted Sydney's outfit to the Trashion/Refashion Show committee, it was rejected. The representative of  the committee who emailed me wrote in explanation, "[W]e find it a bit too sexy to a young child."

Poor grammar aside, I OBVIOUSLY found this criticism to be completely innapropriate and highly offensive. First of all, Syd's dress ISN'T sexy. It's a fantasy costume, sure, but it's a four-year-old's fantasy, as designed by herself, with, fine, a little bit of Barbie's influence, but with a hell of a lot more influence from her own vivid imagination. I mean, the child has never even seen a Disney princess movie.

To say that my child would design a sexy outfit for herself is to say that I've exposed her to so much sexy imagery that she's internalized it as the ideal, which isn't the case. To say that I would sew a sexy outfit for my child is to say that I'm just a bad parent, frankly, which I'm not.

But to actually apply the word "sexy" to a child's outfit at all...well, I'm astounded that a group of adults would dare to make such a conflation, would say it out loud to each other, and then would tell someone else about it. We just don't apply that word to young children in our culture. Even on Toddlers and Tiaras, in which show children are basically prancing around in tassels and hotpants, the go-to word is "sassy." One child dresses as a "sassy policewoman." Another child is a "sassy cheerleader." Etc.

If you think that I've sewed my four-year-old a whore outfit then fine, that's what you think. But if you're a judge and it's your job to tell me why you're rejecting my outfit, then that's certainly not what you say, because if you do, then I'm going to think that you're a bad, nasty, damaged sort of person who looks at a four-year-old playing dress-up and thinks about sex, and I'm going to keep my kid away from you. How about, instead, you tell me that the outfit is a "little too sophisticated?" "Not as child-like as we're looking for?" Whatever, just as long as you're not telling me that you're thinking my kid and sexy at the same time.

You might wonder why I'm still at all interested in this show after that. I wonder a little, too. However, the truth is that this outfit design project and even the runway show is an experience that I want Sydney to have, as interested as she is in clothes and fashion and art and design. We're having fun working together on it, and it's educational, and that's that. So when the committee invited me to "rework this design and make it more child appropriate" (I know, aren't you just cringing?), I went ahead with Syd and we didn't rework it, but instead added in the wings and crown, elements that I described for the committee in the original submission, but didn't show them as they weren't yet complete.

However, in my re-submission, I did write the following: "Although I appreciate constructive criticism, you should know that as a parent, I found the term "sexy" as applied to my young child to be completely inappropriate and highly offensive." There was a lot more that I felt like saying, but might as well be concise if you're not blogging, right?

Sydney's outfit was accepted after its resubmission. In that email accepting it for the fashion show, the spokeswoman wrote, "The committee is very pleased with the revised submission." Since the submission wasn't exactly revised, a fact that I did make clear, I'm wondering if the committee is now beginning to pretend some things about our exchange, especially as not one word was said about my complaint. No apology, nothing. Interesting, yes?

So all's well that ends well, right? Sydney is THRILLED, and I haven't even told her that hair and make-up services are being donated to all the runway models the day of the fashion show--frankly, I'm not sure if that would even rev her engine more, because I don't think that Syd has ever actually seen any make-up before, and the only time that she's ever been inside a hair salon is the day that her sister chopped off half her locks for her. There will be several rehearsals nearer the show, and although I've made it clear to Sydney that she'll be doing the runway walk independently, and she's totally on board, she is a preschooler, and thus...we'll see.

As fashion designers and a runway model, we'll be somewhat of mucky-mucks at this event--there's a time listed on the schedule for us to "mingle with the audience," schmooze the big donors, doncha' know? I'm assuming, then, that we'll be meeting these unnamed committee members during the event, if not before. As for Sydney, I'll be keeping her far away from whoever these dirty-minded apology-less people turn out to be. As for me?

I'll be giving them a piece of my mind.

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