Thursday, May 14, 2015

Social Media and the Myth of Perfection...

Lauren's recent post, regarding our authentic self versus our self-constructed image in social media, is a poignant and thoughtful reminder that the images we view in the blogoshphere (or on any social medium) of our fellow costumieres are often far removed from the actual portrait of their lives and experiences. Pictures are mere orchestrations, they set a stage, and they portray only what the owner of these images wishes to reveal. In a world where we sit cozy and safe behind our monitors, it is far too convenient of a position for us to be hypercritical or flippant about what we think is going on in someone else's life. 

But, image is everything in social media, even if it rarely speaks the truth. I'm not convinced we really want to know the big truth of others' lives (particularly those who we look to for entertainment), maybe because their authentic experiences can be a sharp reminder of our own human condition, and for a moment we desire to forget our circumstances and to live vicariously through what we think they are. Reality is overrated, right? It's a little deeper and more insidious than this. There is this pervasive cultural "cover-up" of the Ugly in favor of the Beautiful, and owing that we are an innately and woefully prejudicial species, we will always gravitate toward the more ideal or flawless picture, even if it is an illusion, even if we resent it, because there is a sense of safety in it. If this wasn't the case, grocery stores wouldn't have to sell their malformed produce for half price, "scratch and dent" sales wouldn't exist, and cosmetics wouldn't be a 100 billion dollar-a-year industry. In the costuming world, we are overwhelmingly princes and princesses, none of us paupers - look at the extravagance of our costumes. After all, what isn't perfect is most certainly flawed...

We might appreciate the human condition in others, but we humans are fickle creatures. We have limits on just how much we want to know and on what sort of information, and it's never consistent. Reveal too much of yourself, you're a bleeder; don't tell enough, you're not human. How entertaining would The Merry Dressmaker be if I posted pictures of all my sewing mishaps, lamented my daily frustrations, boohooed every time I missed a fashion or costuming event, etc., etc.? Or worse, I used my sewing blog as a cathartic outlet or public therapy session? It wouldn't be very merry! Of course, there's no irony lost on the fact that social media has done more to create derision and alienation among individuals and groups than meaningful connections. Goodness knows, this needs to change.

Exposing personal details of my life is very uncomfortable for me. However, in the spirit of the human condition and to reciprocate the openness shared by Lauren (Wearing History), Lauren (American Duchess), Sarah (A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle), and other sister bloggers, here are a couple of my own life Uglies...

In October 2011, when I posed for this picture, I had buried my best friend of thirty years the Friday before. Jonnie was only 43-years-old and her death was unexpected; she came home after an evening out with friends, went to bed, and never woke up. I discovered her death on FACEBOOK, for God's sake - no one could have called me? The funeral was packed and hot, and between everyone's perfume and the sickening sweet smell of all the flowers, I thought I was going to vomit. I just wanted to kiss Jonnie good-bye and suffer my broken heart at home. It bothers me terribly that I haven't cried yet over losing her. I don't understand it, really.   

On March 18, 2012, when I leisurely sat down to write this post about photographers Alfonse Van Besten and Charles Corbet, I was fired from my teaching job the day before. Yes, on St. Patrick's Day. Yes, on a Saturday. Yes, the principal called me at home on St. Patrick's Day, on a Saturday, and fired me. The truth of it is so ridiculous that I'm almost embarrassed to say why. I told a student that Jesus did not drink grape juice, but that Jesus drank wine. At the time, I was subbing long-term for a high school English teacher who was recovering from cancer. This particular IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptist) high school had an abstinence doctrine that I was well aware of, and they were equally well aware that I am a liberal feminist Christian. Needless to say, my biblical interpretation of scripture didn't jive with theirs! *snort* So long, farewell auf wiedersehen, adieu...

And not least, this is the story of a dressmaking poo-poo. The inspiration for these transitional stays came from a set housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was so excited to make these! The body of the stays fit marvelously, but rather than baste in the bust and fit myself again, like any learned dressmaker should, I said, "Nah," skipped this step, sewed the bust in with confidence, and proceeded straight to Fail. My boobs look like soggy biscuits in these stays, hardly the correct 1820s silhouette! They will never be worn. Oopsie! *grin*

Thankfully, we are not the sum of our images. Behind these virtual pages exists authentic individuals, complete with hopes, wishes, feelings, anxieties, and all the indelible attributes which make each and every one of us wonderfully human!

Blessings and happy sewing! 


  1. Thank you for taking up the challenge. I am so so sorry to hear about your friend. It's OK to not have cried yet - it may come out at an odd time or be set off by the most random thing, or may not come at all, but it does not mean that your grief is any less.