The season of organised fun is upon us and I’m feeling a combination of liberated and lonely. I’ve made a final step in freeing myself from the tenacious grip of Christmas convention and this is the first year I won’t be sending cards. I’ll be partaking in a few seasonal meals and spending time with the people I love, with a distinct lack of ceremony which sits right within my soul.
This time of year seems to polarise even further, the people who are lucky enough to make samsara work for them and those who’ve fallen deep beneath its cracks. And between the extremes, there’s a whole realm of beings, shrouded in an invisibility cloak of their own private pain. And for them, the pressure to be everything which they are not, on a determined date and time, just serves to magnify how far from a marketeers ideal their lives actually are.
The decision to move away from activities that have hindered my growth is one I’m proud of but it comes at a price. Change and resistance to the status quo sets you apart and an alternative ethic can be perceived as a threat by those who think you are questioning their choices. Which I kind of get … as the last person I would have wanted to spend time with on the lash, was a sober, vegan, aspiring ashtangi. So maybe it’s inevitable that moving towards things you value, puts you at a distance from things you don’t. 
This annual festive dis-ease, provided the backdrop for my second Merchant & Mills make - The Trapeze Dress. I tend to favour structure over drape and my magpie eyes led me to this stunning Michael Millar Poplin Fabric. It’s a narrow width of 110 cm and the pattern calls for 2.10 metres of 120-140 cm wide material. Luckily, I had 2.7 metres - as I’d initially earmarked the fabric for another project - and squeezed the pattern pieces onto a 2.4 metre length. 
It’s surprising that I’ve waited so long to road test this pattern, as it’s pitched at beginners level and is my preferred A-line shape. Nevertheless I prevaricated - was it a tent too far? And staring at the reflection of my quickly constructed toile in the mirror, the answer was a resounding yes. I fell between a size 12 and 14 and cut on a 12, which produced a finished bust measurement of 110 cm. I’d previously made a Farrow Dress with the bust hitting 106 cm for a perfect fit but the voluminous triangle before me was far from flattering. 
For the dress proper, I decided to size down to a 10 at the seams and lower the neckline. I also determined to decipher the instructions for an all in one facing, despite my aversion for the finish. I’m not going to lie, the procedure initially had me foxed but I persevered and discovered the key instruction was to pin and stitch each side of the arm hole in succession as a separate entity. Back in front of the mirror and I was faced with a gaping back neckline and an uncomfortable sensation that the facing and bodice proper were misaligned.
Having proved to myself that I could follow the prescribed method, I whipped out the facing in favour of my preferred bias finish. I also scooped a little from the back neckline and increased the shoulder seam allowance by 1 cm on each side, tapering to nothing at the armhole. I didn’t transfer these changes onto the paper pattern, as removing the facing had resulted in lost millimetres. So, if I decide there’s room for another Trapeze in my life, I’d probably re-toile the bodice and check the adjustments required. 
As is often the case on a project that doesn’t entirely go to plan, I sprinted to the finish line and surveyed the results with a disconsolate eye. The armholes felt uncomfortably tight and the binding was rippled, where I had dragged rather than eased it around the curves. So out it came along with a 1.5 cm scoop at the underarm seam. Second time around, I ironed the binding into a curve before inserting for a smooth finish. 
My journey with the trapeze was not as smooth as anticipated and in retrospect, this was mostly due to the fact that the project and my mindset were out of kilter. Having tinkered with the fit, the silhouette is stellar and this dress has already had the most consistent wear of any of my smocks. But my wardrobe is replete with craft cotton tents and something inside me has shifted.
Opting out of activities can leave you vulnerable to the judgement of others, dressed up in a concern that you are depriving yourself of enjoyment rather than making positive choices that differ from theirs. In a particularly low moment, I rang my partner and relayed some comments which I’d found hard to digest. To which he laughed incredulously and said ‘But you know who you are’, which provided instant balm to my bruised ego. And he’s right, I do. I’m a middle aged human, shedding the layers of habitual behaviours which no longer serve me and seeking refuge from the conformities of the season in a cocoon of knits. Slouchwear - it’s time.