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Way back in 2016, we backed a book on Kickstarter called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

It seemed like the sort of book we might want to have on our Bookshelf of Beauty and Wisdom: The variety of life stories, the brevity of the format, meant that on any given evening I could cwtch up with the children and get a glimpse into an incredible legacy of womanhood. 

The other week, we were flicking through the book, waiting for one of these women to leap off the pages at us, when Esme stopped us at the story of Coco Chanel.

I didn't know much about Coco and her tough start to life.

As we read the book it became obvious that Coco was the original creator of a silk purse out of a sow's ear. She came from nothing, she had nothing, but she took that nothing and rocked the hell out of it.

Since we were sitting on the sofa, we jumped online and streamed a brief video on her life story. Just to make sure we hadn't missed any of the important details.

We weren't more than a minute into the video when a small voice cut across the narrative.

"I want to design my own little black dress", said Esme with a degree of solemnity not often heard from her lips, "And I want to sew it, Mama. I want us to make it. Teach me to sew".

“OK,” I thought, “challenge accepted”.

The next day I taunted Google with such search terms as girl, body and outline to find a template over which Esme would be able to draw her little black dress. What can I say, I like the occasional flirt with HR worthy internetting.

That evening, giving the occasion its due pomp and circumstance, we sat down with the jar of crayons, and I presented Esme with her template before sitting back to watch the glorious black dress-ness unfold.

Esme paused, mirroring my solemnity, and surveyed the crayons before carefully selecting her weapon of choice.

As you may have noticed above, despite the promise of both brevity and darkness, the design turned out to be not so little and not quite black.

But it was a dress. And I had promised to help her make it.

 Confession Number 1: I have never made a dress.

My basic knowledge of the sticking-clothes-together process made me think the next step should involve measuring and because I am an awesome adult, I couldn't be bothered to go and find the exact junk draw that my tape measure had been stuffed into, so I went to the cupboard under the kitchen sink and got Keith's measuring stick instead.

Hey, with everything else that was stacked against that dress, the accuracy of measuring was hardly going to make or break it.

Plus it gave me a chance to get Esme to write down some numbers, which is a rare and wondrous thing with that child.

We also got to talk about the concept of rounding. Like "hey, mama used a straight stick to measure a curved surface, while also having to stop your siblings from stabbing each other with spoons. Let's just round up your chest to 32cm, shall we?"

Confession Number 2: I hate shopping

My levels of enthusiasm were already beginning to wane with the whole deal, but Esme was determined that we would go shopping, once again proving that apples sometimes do fall very far from the tree.

Just to add insult to injury, it turns out Esme is ... I can barely bring myself to type it ... a browser. She actually takes pleasure in walking slowly round an entire shop and pondering her options (ALL of the options) before making a choice.

By the time we had talked over the prices, suitability and I had convinced her to tone down the sheer bloody pinkness of it all, I needed a lie down in a dark room, and maybe to stick some of my freshly purchased pins into my eyes for a bit of light relief.

Instead, we went home and I made an accidentally ironic dress pattern using one of Esme's very simple pinafore dresses to mark, cut and pin the new fabric.

Confession Number 3: I don’t own an infernal, whirry, finger stabber.

When I wing a project, I get to certain points and want to stop. Not because I’m fed up with what I’m doing, but because when I have managed to fluke my way into making something look good, I don’t want the magic to end by blundering into the next phase in my usual half-arsed way.

I felt a little like that about the pinned together dress, which was why it took me over a week to work up the courage to take Esme on a trip to Made Marion to rent one of their machines. I pretty much put it off until I couldn’t stand the nagging any longer.

When I did eventually work up the courage to go there, it was both a genuinely awesome shared experience and every bit the bloody nightmare I had feared.

The dress went together fairly easily, thanks to having an entire shop at my disposal for when I realised I had no thread, bias tape or bloody clue what I was doing.

The downside was that a lot of things in the shop were pink, meaning that while trying to sew Part A to Part B, I also had zips, buttons, feathers and ribbons thrust under my nose (and therefore in the path of my infernal, whirry, finger stabber) as potential additions to the dress.

Somehow, no fingers were stabbed. Somehow the seams were straight. Somehow the dress looks  ... awesome.

And I may never really understand how people can get so excited about clothes, but I think I'm a little closer to userstanding what Coco meant when she said
Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love”

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