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Adventures in Sewing: Stitching my Way to Gender Euphoria by Mara Kissinger

Adventures in Sewing: Stitching my Way to Gender Euphoria by Mara Kissinger

It all started with a pair of overalls.  In my search to find queer clothing and clothing designers, I stumbled upon Prinx, an upcycling designer from the UK who had made a pair of overalls that I absolutely fell in love with.  I immediately bought them off of their depop store and when they came and fit perfectly I immediately bought a second pair that I had been eyeing.  When I contacted them they weren’t planning on making anymore but offered to make me a pair custom and I took them up on it but requested two.  Needless to say, I am over the moon with my purchases.

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(Photo Credit: Mara Kissinger)

But this rather inspired me, as these overalls felt so gender-affirming and comfortable for me I suddenly considered the possibility that maybe I could try and create some myself.  They would be nowhere near the caliber that Prinx’s were at but, clothing that feels good and is fun and exciting to me can be rather difficult to find. What is labeled “men’s” clothing often doesn’t fit my body very well and is incredibly thick and heavy-duty a lot of the time.  What is labeled “women’s” clothing is often too fitted to my liking and usually not nearly as comfortable. Not only that, but due to commercial clothing being made to fit everyone and no one in particular, a lot of the time there is just some sort of complaint with how it works on my body.

This is by no means a problem exclusive to me.  So many people have trouble finding clothing that fits right, is gender-affirming, not to mention both at the same time.  I realized that there was potential here to feel more empowered. So I decided to start simple. Take a dress from a thrift store, make a pair of overalls.  My hope was that using a garment that was already mostly made I wouldn’t have to try and figure out a pattern and I wouldn’t be creating as much textile waste.  First I decided to just see what was online as the thrift stores near me are kind of small and far away. I made my way to ThredUp as they usually have lovely offerings.  After scrolling for a bit I hit the jackpot.

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(Photo Credit: ThredUp)

Immediately I fell in love, not with what it was, but with what it could be if my plans worked.  But I knew that there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to get it first try. So, with this knowledge, I did venture to the tiny far away thrift stores and I picked up a basic maxi dress with pockets.  Here is where I can say, don’t just try to do this without a tutorial. I paid for my mistake and here you can see the evidence.

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(Photo Credit: Mara Kissinger)

I was clearly a little too confident.  Never fear I intend to do some repurposing of this rather unfortunate creation, but I wanted to show it because I think the process of learning anything is important to see.  I was doing this all by hand and my work was sloppy. I failed to anticipate the fact that overall straps have to be longer than just what the shoulders of the dress has to offer and that crotch is just delightfully botched seeing as it needs a seam down the front and needs to be trimmed in such a way as to not bunch up.

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(Photo Credit: Mara Kissinger)

Slightly discouraged but still optimistic and with the official dress not yet arrived I ventured out again and found a jumpsuit that was simply too small.  Then I found a pair of pants in a pattern that I liked and resolved to simply make it fit me. This process was much easier and worked much better. I even used some extra length that I cut from a t-shirt to fashion the straps and the rest of the pants I sewed into a small bag as a gift.  I was getting more confident at this point and my stitching, while still nowhere near as clean as a machine’s, was also improving.

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(Photo Credit: Mara Kissinger)

At last, the day arrived and the dress showed up at my doorstep.  I nervously opened it and was terrified by the very structured bodice with a built-in bra, the silky lining and the sheer amount of fabric in general.  But I was determined. I tried it on, found a spot that fit around my waist and over my hips, and got to cutting. This time I looked up a tutorial on how to turn a dress into a jumpsuit and realized the mistake I had made on the crotch.  After a week’s worth of work tearing down what the dress was, I finally remade it into what I had wanted it to be.

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(Photo Credit: Mara Kissinger)

Through this whole process, I’ve felt so fulfilled by how far I have come and how much I have learned.  The end result is not perfect, but it affirms me and it fits me. Not everyone is going to have the time to invest, but if you do, this can be a really great way to be in control of your presentation, create a garment that fits, and feel affirmed all around.  You’re going to make mistakes and it won’t always turn out exactly the way you want. But I do promise that when you get there it will have been worth the effort.








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