Uninvited Guest – a story of imposter sydrome and the great pretender

Uninvited Guest puppet pose

I made this dress to illustrate the the ever present cloud of imposter syndrome and all the things I think ‘they’ are thinking.

I’ve suffered from it for years and it pains me to think of all the opportunities and invitations I’ve turned down because of that infuriating inner critique who rejoices in reminding me that I’m simply not good enough.

Uninvited Guest sitting crying

There’s a lot of talk about this issue among the artists I work alongside and its been so refreshing to discover that even the most confident-projecting people I know, suffer too. They just have better ways of masking it than me!

To be knowingly or seemingly uninvited to anything is such a devastating blow to ones ego, heart and soul. But to be invited and then doubting the authenticity of the gesture, leaves just as sour a response to be fair.

The irationality is real!

Uninvited Guest who knows

I wanted to make a party dress. The kind I would have worn to all the best parties when I was a young girl, should I had been invited. Big puffy party sleeves of course. A full and flirty skirt to dance and twirl round in until peak of dizzy, with enough fabric each side to grasp onto for extreme moments of self-conciousness when I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.

It would not have been transparent though. Not like this one. The stuff of nightmares of course to turn up to a party and everyone see right through you. Noticing all your flaws along with your pants!

Uninvited Guest curtsey

But those words would be loud and clear and there, for all to see, in no particular order: unlikeable, ungracious, unsteady, unbefitting, unattractive, unfortunate, ungainly, unpopular, uncool, unfit, undeserving, unfashionable, unexceptional, unsuitable, uninspiring, uneducated, unexciting, underwhelming, unwanted, uninteresting, unequal, unwelcome, unqualified, unstable, unapproachable…

How effortlessly a word can change from one extreme to the polar opposite with the addition of a tiny, two character prefix – un.

Uninvited Guest close up

I managed to scare a few Instagram followers with these images. That wasn’t my intent, I assure you. In fact I didn’t know how I was going to present the final dress in front of the lens but I did know it needed a mask. I didn’t want my face and expression to take anything away from the dress. I can’t fake sad and I didn’t want comedy sad, just rejection. The graphic image of the Pierrot doll featured a lot in my childhood. On my mirror, the cover of my diary. I had a bag, a pencil case and an actual doll. It seemed a perfect time to bring the charming little clown back into play and I couldn’t resist making a little ruffled collar as an additional accessory too..

The materials I used were all reclaimed. The dress itself it made from a voile net curtain, The added ruffles were strips cut from the remains a lace net curtain, the scallopped edge of which was used for the collar. The mask is papier mache, and painted with acrylic paints. I bought these white slingback shoes a while back for a shoot and just made some lacy pompoms (from strips of the net curtain) to clip to the fronts (with hair grips!).

Uninvited Guest pompom shoes

The dress itself was self-drafted and the words embroidered using the free-motion technique on my sewing machine. This was undoubtedly the most challenging part as the fabric insisted on disappearing down with the feed dogs on one too many an occasion!

It wasn’t just the dress that was made with what was available, Dan created the wonderful setting with stuff that was simply just lying around. I was so busy with work alongside the making of the dress and putting it all together I hadn’t thought beyond a plain colour roll as a backdrop for the shots but was blown away when I saw the magically lit set he had created.

uninvited Guest corner rays

And I’m so happy with the result. I’m so grateful that he supports all my crazy sewing and art ideas and basically helps me to decant all the head soup that would otherwise be bubbling away and instead allows space for all the new stuff!

Uninvited Guest resting

If you’d like to see this piece for real, It will be on display in or near my workspace on Saturday 8th June at Kindred Open Studios (Shepherds Bush, West London). Do come along if you are local and you can – it’s FREE! – There are in excess of 65 artists here with so much talent to see, a fabulous exhibition in the main gallery, live music, cafe and bar, free workshops (sign up for my little mending circle here) with DJ and campfire as we keep going till 10.30pm in the evening. I assure you it will be worth a wee trip!

If I get a chance to take some photos, I’ll do a little post about it as it might just be the last one… no pressure!

In the meantime, I’m going to be planning my next piece of wearable art because I realised this is what I absolutely love for all number of reasons. Please leave a comment with any thoughts or questions. I love to hear from you all. Until next time x

6 Replies to “Uninvited Guest – a story of imposter sydrome and the great pretender”

  1. It’s freaking awesome!! I love the whole concept, execution, the reclaimed materials and I love the way you’ve modelled it and go Dan, amazing man.
    So inspiring! I wish I was there to come to the open day xoxo

    1. Ah thank you Mrs C. That means so much. I wish you could come to the open day, too. You would absolutely love it! x

  2. The entire outfit is just wonderful! I especially like that it is made from materials you had on hand. I hope that many people attend to truly appreciate your art.
    Alas, I am too far away.

    1. Thanks so much Elizabeth. I’m so pleased you like it. I find working with reclaimed materials really helps with the creative process. It stretches my imagination more and also leaves me feeling far less guilty about waste! I hope to share some photos of the event, if I get a chance. So keep eyes peeled! x

  3. Fab incarnation, and I do hope this allows you to scream back at those awful inner voices. I have some, too. I have observed in my own life “feelings are real, but they aren’t always true”. That has helped me here and there. Next time you try the free motion embroidery (used for great effect here!),you might try backing the fabric with tissue paper or wash-away stabilizer… will greatly reduce the suckage. Chris in Florida

    1. That’s a very good coping strategy, thank you Chris. I will try that. I did try the wash away stabiliser after a while and it was mostly great (so cool to watch it wash away!) but every now and then it got sucked! If I ever have the mad idea to try again I think I will try the tissue version! x

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