Not the Right Kind of Creative

Shoutout to my kind and benevolent DM, DanSucksAtGaming, for this month’s topic that I started writing in February. While I’m really just shoehorning in my original rant about why it’s taking me so long to finish Medieval Zelda and adding in some BooHoo flavor text for word count, it’s something that I really feel strongly about.

I also completely forgot that I didn’t hit Publish like…for weeks.\

I cannot express in words how frustrating getting all of these 3D prints done has been this past month (February–not March, not April). I was designing my own 3D print files before I even got my first machine years ago. I’ve read the blogs, done the practice prints, done the upgrades, watched the tutorials, re-scaled and run purchased files for all three of my 3D printers. I’ve done the work and put in the hours outside of those where you wait for the actual item to print. So, having a series of both similar and different roadblocks back-to-back-to-back has put a strain on my creative problem solving skills. Zelda’s sword was supposed to be eight pieces. It’s twelve. When the last file ran, I put everything to the side and let it be covered “organically” with detritus from the Regency Sailor Mercury project that I’m avoiding. It is currently surrounded by the last pieces of my Bridgerton gown, a Georgian men’s waistcoat that I don’t have time for, a shield template for a school project, and our eldest’s renaissance ensemble that needs to be done in May. Leave no time period behind, right? I may actually be that person who drops out of a race after the last turn because it was fun for a while, but I’m good now. 

Insert Forrest Gump vibes here

Speaking of repetitive tasks that make me question my life choices, Regency Mercury’s hem embroidery was a whole lot of technical issues that I over diagnosed, an upsetting amount of traditional bad luck, and a whole lot of F-It. As you’ll see in the video, which will be out one day, my modiste, Ruby Quatre Vingt Dix, and I never really had a honeymoon period. She doesn’t appreciate my cheap-o thread, and I don’t appreciate that I can’t just open her up with a screwdriver to see how she works. The gown embroidery is done, and I still love the direction that I’m going, but I keep letting other events get in the way. It’s something that I do not only because my squirrel brain says so, but because I’m aggressively, spitefully passive aggressive even with an inanimate sewing project to whom I refuse to admit defeat. All of the problem-solving creativity in the world won’t help if your starting point is an Inception level of mash-up between fantasy and history.

And hoo boy are we there

And that Bridgerton project that I’m suddenly writing a script for? I’m not a fan of her either. I was only going to stashbust a gown and wear some fancy jewelry for this Queen’s Ball nonsense so that I could meet some internet friends IRL. It was going to take me a weekend of sewing and then I could get back to the pile of long-term pieces on the table. I was successfully avoiding the hype train because I prefer to enjoy things in my own time, usually quietly and with much couch-bingeing. Unfortunately, this event snuck up on me (while screaming barbarically and with much fanfare of course) and I find myself resentful of the time I’ve taken away from other costuming pursuits to trim the gown, add an embroidered open robe, remove trim from the gown, and fashion a full kit of accessories for what boils down to a 90-minute selfie session. I cannot turn off the creative tap long enough to be productive. 

But at least I’ll get to spend some time with my mom. Hi, Mom!

I truly believe that this hobby and its participants are artists, art appreciators, art collectors, and art educators. Why else would there be entire museums dedicated to fashion–both its history and contemporary pop culture pieces that tour major cities these days. Humans make things and that act of creation, no matter how derivative or original, is (or can be considered by some to be) Art. We can take for-credit university classes in cosplay–not “just” costuming but cosplay specifically–and earn a living wage depending on which career path calls to us. I am a hobbyist. I make and wear costumes based upon my interests and rarely follow the trends. I turn down brand opportunities without a care. I’m not currently beholden to any particular series or fanbase, and I have no costume guild or group affiliations (free agent here…just sayin’). I depend upon a traditional 9-to-5 income to finance my extracurricular interests, so I feel like I’m making art for art’s sake. That said, I also prefer historical styles, so I don’t feel like I have to reinvent the wheel whenever I want a new frock. And that, dear friends, is a reason why I feel like the least creative costumer ever. 

Yes, I know that mash-ups are wholly creative, but they’re like breathing for me, so I have difficulty seeing the difference. This is Kore/i. Get it?

[Bad segue here because the word processor (yes, I’m that old) ate my original paragraph.] The missing component for me was a community. What makes a person a Historical Costumer? “bACk iN mY dAy,” I spent countless hours doing what I did in college–researching historical texts, art history printouts, exhibit books–to glean any scrap of dress history information that I could. I compared historically inspired sewing patterns to paintings and made adjustments where my baby costumer eye deemed them necessary. I just knew that I wanted to be a historical costumer and I was going to put in the work–such as it was–to get there. Admittedly, I didn’t know where “There” was. I’d heard of the SCA and knew people in the organization, but the looks I got when I expressed interest were…off-putting to say the least. I kept going to renaissance faires and hanging out in online forums, ready for the opportunity to attend a tea or a ball or even a living history event–I was desperate. The one specific “costuming” convention that I attended left a bad taste in my mouth even though I convinced myself that it was a lovely time. In contrast, specific “cosplay” events were vastly more accessible, both in attendance and in coterie, so I started going to comic book and anime conventions to get my fix outside of faire season. It’s easier to be part of a marginalized group of older blerds inside of a huge group of shunned pop culture nerds than it is to break into established circles in the comparatively smaller historical sect where being Black is often tokenizing at best. While I believe that my experience was wholly based on being “new” (I wasn’t new) and not being “other”, we tend to push our current issues onto our memories in some weird game of past justification. “iT waS a DiffERenT tiME!” I can deal with the ‘isms and phobias when I know I’ve got backup. Twenty years ago, I didn’t have the luxury of self-pity in a hobby that already has a high price of entry. Thanks to a platform of the internet, I have that luxury now, I just don’t have time to wallow. 

This wasn’t even going to be about “othering”, but y’all really put everything out there on Bridgerton’s internet.

Throughout my time playing dress-up, I have received numerous compliments in the vein of, “[Movie Studio] should hire you!” “I can’t wait to see your work on Broadway!” “I can’t believe you don’t do this for a living!?!” It’s lovely. Truly. But those words make me want to stop sewing.  I’ve heard the sweet, the salty, and the horrific tales from costume shops, costume commissioners, and even volunteer theater actors pulling double duty, and right now, I want none of it. I don’t want to lose this lifelong love for something so clearly optional. I mean, I won’t risk losing my house over it, but at this point, the joy outweighs the sorrow and my work isn’t even that good for a position that would be able to pay my mortgage. My costumes are impressive to people who don’t make costumes–I don’t say that to diminish the positive vibes. I’ve been on the judges’ end of the stage where my experience gives me a wider frame of reference for the complex machine that is Costuming. I have the technical knowledge to accept that I don’t care enough to do better. That’s another reason that I don’t compete. Anytime I think about designing a costume from scratch, I get sketch pad vertigo and have to go lie down. 

Denying creativity reduces burnout…Imposter Syndrome helps

Very recently, someone made a comment on one of my Instagram posts that I felt I had to delete, so I did. This isn’t new. I’ve mentioned many times that I have no qualms about removing bad vibes from my social spaces. The commenter was a long time follower from what I can tell, and they seemingly meant no harm. But the context for the comment made me feel uncomfortable because there was a presumed level of “celebrity” and familiarity that I don’t acknowledge. In essence, it was a sad reminder that everyone is just a stranger on the internet making assumptions about the person they want you to be. We all do it. In this case, however, my assumed creative bones felt challenged, and even though my reaction was to kill it with fire, I still sat with the comment in my head wondering if I’ve unknowingly been misrepresenting my skills to all of the lovely people who click “Follow”. But then, I had the privilege of meeting amazing humans at a workshop and for more than a few moments, I had to fight waves of anxiety and fangirling and straight up shock that I now had live people to associate with the ethereal beings I’d only “met” on the audience side of a website. And yes, I am good at what I enjoy doing. I don’t line all of my garments, pick the exact right weight of wool for my kirtles, or know exactly which shoe toe shape was preferred by Queen Elizabeth I, but I’m great at hoarding silk. I now find myself longing for in-person events that I’ve never even attended because that one weekend made me feel part of the community that had previously only tempted me from behind the glass.

Decades of pulling a Breakfast at Tiffany’s can make one a bit loopy

It seems that I’m the kind of creative who wants to make stuff that I think is neat. I aim to make at least one person smile, even if it’s just one of my kids. That’s it. That’s the post. I want to show people the fantastical, the historical[ly adjacent], and the chaotically mashed without regard for convention–all in creative new ways that will annoy gatekeepers. That’s what I needed when I was younger, and that’s what I want to provide for other people. Gaining context for my own costuming pursuits would be merely a bonus because I still have no compunction about turning down sponsored content or commissions. I really just don’t want to have to do the taxes. 

I legitimately have no idea where this entry started, but here we are. Thanks for reading!

Author: SciFiCheerGirl

Hobby costumer, wife, and mom with a dancey-dance problem and a hankerin' for nerd makeup

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