Seeking Perfection

Healthy or not, I am a perfectionist. It is not a trait of which I am particularly proud. Yes, perfectionism has its place. In the operating room, in space, in manufacturing plants, and the like, we hope and pray whomever is doing the work pays strict attention to details. However in this imperfect world, living as or with a perfectionist is far from easy. For all of my adult life I have been battling against the need to be perfect. “Easy does it,” “lighten up,” “does it really matter?” I am constantly reminding myself—some times it works.

Sometime back, I was at the Ubud Writer’s Festival with my friend Laura. We had an hour between sessions and as girls do, went shopping. Laura was tired of her clothes and hoping to find a couple new items to perk up her closet. I was along for the ride. And, as sometimes happens when one isn’t looking, I found a delightful new dress. It was fun, unusual, and felt like a dream. The armholes were a little too large—aside from that it was perfect. “Wrap it up and charge it!” I told the sales team, just as Barbara Streisand sang in Funny Lady. “How lucky can you get!”

When I was packing to come on this trip, that dress caught my eye. Until that moment I had absolutely no intention of taking it with me. The dress is sleeveless and linen, definitely not an easy-to-wear item. But there it was swaying, fluttering at me from the closet rod calling “Take me! I’m fun! Think leggings and loafers. Think how trendy and cute you and I could be together!”

Easy does it,” “lighten up,” “does it really matter?” I am constantly reminding myself—some times it works.”

I really really wanted to appear hot and trendy and cute. There was just one slight problem—those too big armholes. Trendy is not possible in too big armholes.

This is how I usually roll...

This is how I usually roll...

One fabulous thing you learn from living long enough is that you can get anything done if you know the right person to ask. A few days before leaving, I speed dialed my seamstress and told her about my fashion emergency. She nodded. “Ah, yes, those armholes are much too big.” Clucking around the pins in her teeth, she pinched the fabric in just so; assuring me she could quickly take in the sleeves and have it ready for me to tuck it into my suitcase.

I’m trying something new for me this trip. Something called “Packing Light.” I was going to be traveling for almost 3 weeks, but only planned to take five—no six—outfits, including what I wore on the plane. 

This is my idea of "Packing Light" delightful!

This is my idea of "Packing Light" delightful!

And best, for once the weather was cooperating—everywhere was hot!. I managed to pack everything I needed into one suitcase and one carry on—and stayed within the weight restrictions.

First thing I did after arriving in NYC, was head to Macy’s. I’d been so busy packing light I had forgotten to pack the most important thing—my pillow. I don’t travel any place without my squishy pillow.

Along with a new pillow, and set of pillowcases—watermelon colored since I was buying them I decided to go for the gusto—I bought a pair of gray leggings to wear with my jaunty new dress. 

I was so excited to try on my new outfit, I pulled it out that first night, to wear the next day.

My new dress, the one that has fallen so nicely and felt so good in the store . . . 

the same dress that, aside from the too big armholes, had been fab when I tried it on for the seamstress . . . 


 . . . was so TIGHT, I could barely zip it.

My slip wasn't that thick, was it? (I always get puffy when I fly and gain a few pounds when I fly….but this much?) How many calories could 24 hours of airplane food have? I looked hot all right—like a boiled hot dog; grey, puckered and about to burst.

I ripped it right of. But...

Several times during the day--maybe more, my thoughts returned to that dress. (And yes, it stopped me from having gelato.)

It bugged me so much, about 3:00 am, I woke thinking about that dress. How could it have looked so great one day and so bad the next? Can a dress shrink in flight the way bottles expand and contract with the change in cabin pressure? Can people expand from the changes in cabin pressure? Or….Could this somehow connected to those armholes?

Shortly before 6, I finally gave up pretending to sleep. The suspense was killing me.  I slipped out of bed, tiptoed to the closet, pulled out my dress and carried it into the bathroom.  I turned on the lights and turned the dress inside out.

Yes, my lovely, speedy seamstress had indeed made the armholes smaller. And in the process, had taken in both side seams. Ah hah! So it wasn’t all me!  The dress had shrunk!  Feeling decidedly less puffy, I removed my handy-dandy sewing kit from my toiletry bag, took out my seam ripper and scissors and set to work. My thought was to simply remove the new stitching and the dress would be fine. So maybe the armholes would be back to the former, too big selves. I could deal with it for this trip.

Having learned another lesson about leaving well enough alone, the perfectionist in my may well have been able to cope with the too big armholes in exchange for hot, trendy dress, or not. We will never know. For, as it turns out, my seamstress is quite the perfectionist herself. Not content to do a quickie job, while making the armholes smaller, she had not simply stitched seams down the side, she had re-sewn the seams from the outside in and from the inside out, so rather than having a raw edge on the inside, the seam, from both sides looked finished—and used about an extra inch of fabric.

After at least an hour seated on the edge of the bathtub, picking out stitches I pulled the last thread, opened the seam and gasped—she had cut the seam allowance. Both side seams of the dress are now completely open, from the hip to the armpit. So much for hot, trendy, and cute…  or perfect!

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