(This post was originally written on 750words.com. It has been edited.)
If I have to go back to school, I want to go back to school to learn something to do with my hands. No more academics. As much as I love to read and write, I don’t want to read and write in a university setting anymore. I’ve been thinking about architecture, but you know what? There’s a hands-on skill I’ve been developing my whole life that I should study more formally. I should do fashion and tailoring.
I don’t know how to go about it just yet. I wish I could get my Master’s degree, but I’d probably have to do another Bachelor’s. If that. It might be that most fashion programs are actually just diplomas. I haven’t looked at Kwantlen or Emily Carr yet. But to really do it right, I want to try an apprenticeship. That’s how it’s done in Europe. I wonder if that’s how it can be done here. We have a lot of tiny and old tailors in Vancouver, mostly immigrants, mostly men. I’m not sure how welcome and how comfortable I’ll feel. But I want to try.
I also want to try school. I need the more formal training, particularly in pattern making. That’s never been my strong suit. Maybe I can start with continuing education classes, see how it works, then get into a program. I’m looking at Vancouver Community College and Vancouver College of Art and Design (which I don’t remember what that used to be) in other tabs right now. They both have tailoring classes, but so much of formal fashion design focuses on women’s design. I believe that’s why I always resisted doing it before. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to sew. I mean, even in high school, I sewed myself a suit for grad. I’ve always liked menswear, partly because I’ve always liked men. And I don’t wear dresses myself, though I’m not as against it as I used to be.
If I decide to do this, I need a portfolio. I need to work up something, illustrations, photos of my best old pieces. Try doing some new things. I’d love to sew a shirt completely by hand. I must still have those patterns from high school. I made an Oxford shirt, too! I’d forgotten. It was way too big, but I wore it a lot in high school.
I want to see about hatters, too. There’s that place down in Yaletown I need to check out. Millinery school, maybe? Why isn’t this easier? Because it really is a dying art. It’s not an art being taught formally anymore, and it’s barely being practiced. The Modernize Tailors are ancient now, and who’s going to take over for them? I don’t want their business; I just want their techniques. I just want to learn and pass on the old art before it’s completely lost.
I also want to make beautiful things. I love a good suit, crisp lines, neat pocket square, perfect knot in the tie. I love how the waistcoat is coming back, and pinstripes, and hats! Oh, thank you, White Collar.
I wonder if just some place like Big & Tall hires tailors of this sort. I wonder if any place will look seriously at a woman who wants to learn. And not just a woman, a white Canadian woman. It really seems like that is a knock against being a great tailor. We don’t have that tradition here. Which makes sense. Canada, in particular the West, is the country. Untamed outdoors. We don’t wear a lot of suits out here, and when we do, it’s not often with pocket square and tie. We take after the native population in British Columbia more than we do the colonialist population. Settlers and homesteadeds and lumberjacks and gold panners. That’s who populated BC first, and that’s who we are still today. We’re more likely to spend too much money on a pair of running shoes than on a bespoke suit.
I wonder what kind of business the tailors get these days. Is it mostly people buying things too big for them and getting them taken in? I can do that work, too. The kind of work they pass on to the apprentice just learning. Hemming pants and sewing buttons. Sweeping up and keeping the books. But all the while watching, learning, hearing the instructions and how they get implemented. That’s what I want. A job in a tiny hole in the wall place where I can learn.