Murky Waters || My Journey to the Shore

Working Through Anxiety With Design

A week ago, I was wading in these murky waters. Unable to visualize the bottom, feeling creepy crawlies on my legs, was that seaweed, or something far worse!? I tried multiple times to swim out. This water felt more like quicksand, finding myself sucked further in. Farther and farther from the shore.
Panic had settled in, I had been in these waters for what felt like months. Doubt had surrounded me and taken hold of my soul, would I ever escape?

The murkiness, was anxiety, it had dragged me under, a place I knew I did not want to be. I had tried crying and feeling sorry for myself. Damning my situation, asking the universe for help, any kind of help. Then it happened, in my weakest of moments, I grabbed my sketch book (who would have thought this would be my life preserver?). I flipped through the pages and found a design I had worked on a while back. A fashion sketch. A dress. With a free flow body, sleeveless, hi-lo hem, v-neck, pockets and low back.

I stayed up into the early morning hours and sewed, tried on, cut, took seams out, tried on, sewed. Finally at one am I stood in the mirror pretty damn proud of myself. I had designed and sewn a dress… It’s hems were rough, maybe a bit crooked, the dress was too big, but I wore it well anyways. I danced a bit in front of the mirror, watched the dress flow and sway as I moved my hips. I smiled. I felt so much light at one am, you wouldn’t have realized that it was pitch black outside. Was inspiration my saving grace?

Sirena Dress 1.0 || Mama Sugs

My drowning soul gasped a fresh breath. I had found myself at the shoreline, soaking wet and exhausted… but I was there.

I posted my creation on Instagram and Facebook, gushing over my work. I wore the dress out to the store and to the salon. Comments started flooding in, “you made this? If you make more I want one!” The tiny spark that lit inside of me the night before amped in intensity, was this my chance?

I grabbed a roll of my kids’ art paper, with dried paint and doodles, I rolled it out and began cutting and measuring for sizes. If this was going to happen, it needed to be all inclusive, everyone and every body should feel beautiful wearing this dress.

Sirena Pattern || Kids’ Art Paper || Mama Sugs

The patterns took time, a few days of tweaking here and there, taping with washy tape, writing notes. I had never made patterns before, this was all new to me. I purchased nearly $200 (which truly I didn’t have and probably shouldn’t have spent) worth of fabric and began laying out the patterns. I cut them out and sewed them together, learning as I went. Pinterest and YouTube teaching me various methods to sewing a beautiful hem, armcyle and neckline. Sample sizes began emerging. Size small and medium were the first to debut, ranging from sizes 4-16.

I took the sample sizes to the salon and had all the ladies try them on. Oohs and aahhs followed as they felt the flow of the fabric on their bodies. Some tips here and there on sizing for plus size, which I am blessed to have had. Thicker straps in the front, smaller armcyles to hide any areas a woman may feel subconscious about. Lengthened the front hem to ensure the dress was indeed a dress but could also be worn as a tunic.

I worked another day and night on the patterns, making adjustments to the fittings I had had with real women of all shapes and sizes.

I took the samples for the second time, up to the salon for my shift. I had four ladies quickly approach me. All wanting to try on the sample sizes, talking to me about color options and suggestions for tweaks on sizing, all before I could manages to punch in! I had one woman in particular call me over to her chair. She had a stylist Tia, working on her hair, hap-hazard blonde curls. She asked if she could touch the dresses and look at them. I explained that they were sample sizes, a new project I had started last week. That I had learned how to sew the hems and was improving on my serging abilities. I apologized for loose strings or slight mistakes as I was learning as I went.

Sirena || Small & Medium || Mama Sugs

She paid no mind to the minor flaws but focused wholeheartedly on the design in general. “You made these? They are gorgeous. The hems are fantastic. I love the color, and the design. You, are very talented. Ever considered participating in a trade show?” She then explained that she was a designer herself. She pointed down to the bag that had been tossed under the bench, a camel colored, large, leather fringe handbag. My jaw dropped, it was gorgeous, and as a bag maker myself I got excited just a bit! She continued that there was a trade show quickly approaching in Detroit, and that if I could manage a $150 booth rental and could offer up sample sizes I would be golden. I smiled a nervous smile, a trade show? Where buyers come straight to the designers and purchase wholesale from them? That’s a dream!

She took my email and forwarded me the information for Verge. Of course, once the woman left the salon, my excitement leveled as I considered how I was going to raise those funds. I had just spent $200 on fabric, now another $150? Money had been tight, the transition from working full time as a nurse to working at home had been a rough one, things were starting to feel impossible. I continued through the work day, watching ladies try on the pieces and selling my first sample size small to my great friend Chelsea.

With interest continuously building on my social sites, I decided to just go for it! I launched preorders on the 26th, a limited preorder release, I would only accept 30 orders, each order would receive a 15% discount. I asked for three weeks time for turnaround.

The orders quickly began rolling in. I had goosebumps, and a smile that just kept growing. I sat staring at the dresses hanging in my office, pinching myself. Was this really happening? I closed out the evening with 21 orders! TWENTY-ONE. On a dress I had thrown together on a desperate whim to get out of those murky waters.

Sirena 2.0 || XS || Mama Sugs

Morning came, and so did three more orders. Women were messaging me, exclaiming that I was an inspiration, that I was doing what I loved and it showed! My heart beat on my chest with pure excitement, I had never expected my design to be this popular!

The day went on, more orders came in. My desperation to finish the sizing of the samples was building, I had nearly 25 orders to fill, in sizes XS-XL! The patterns needed to be perfect, this all needed to run smoothly.

Sold Out Sirena Preorder Launch || Mama Sugs

Today on the first of August, I am looking at 31 orders for the Sirena Dress. I have registered for the Verge event, and have ordered my 50 yards of fabric.

To think that just last week I was sinking into the muck, self doubt and self loathing laid thick. Desperation and helplessness.

Today, I feel inexplicably happy. I have never felt so much pride and satisfaction with something that I created with my own hands.

The dream that had faded away nearly ten years ago, as I sat in a design school, learning about fabric textiles and sewing techniques. The dream that was shattered when I was asked to write down what I wanted to do with my fashion degree, “fashion designer is not a suffice answer, you need to be realistic, it’s highly unlikely that you will leave here a designer.” Negativity that sent me into the spiral of the nursing field. Negativity that I look back on now and giggle over, in that I told you so tone…

Now I am blowing that negativity out of the water. This is me standing on the shoreline, staring at the abundance of possibilities that lay before me. This is me chasing a dream, grabbing hold of it with two hands, trying as hard as I can to reel it in. This is scary, it’s intimidating, it’s yet another chapter in my crazy life, but what dream isn’t worth a good fight!?

Peace, Love & Tie Dye,

Tami Elizabeth

Mama Sugs

5 Comments

  • Reply Rachel Loza August 2, 2017 at 1:12 am

    I love it I love it I LOVE IT! It’s gorgeous! Awesome job! PS. I want one!!

    • Reply MamaSugs August 2, 2017 at 2:22 am

      Ahh! Thank you so much Rachel!! I’m hoping to open orders back up soon!

  • Reply Nicole Banuelos August 2, 2017 at 4:56 am

    Wow, you are incredibly talented! Love the dresses!

    • Reply MamaSugs August 3, 2017 at 2:35 am

      Thank you so much Nicole!

  • Reply Ashley Solberg August 3, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Love this. I do what I do now because I was trying to finally be me again, or a new me I should say, after walking through some things. Says something about you that you are doing so amazing, how exciting!

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