Chelle Summer

The Fun House Mirror

Michelle Rusk

A friend asked me recently what I enjoyed sewing the most and I thought for a minute and told her it’s the swimsuits. There is a dichotomy though because it’s actually really hard for me to post photos of myself in a bikini. I learned a long time ago that how everyone sees me is not how I see myself. Each time I look in the mirror, my mirror is a fun house mirror. Somehow somewhere along the way, everything became distorted.

Some days it looks really good, other days, it’s really hard. This isn’t something new in my life– I skipped wearing bikinis between about age 8 and age 26 because I didn’t believe I looked good enough to wear them. But I also have come to understand that my distortion comes somewhat from the media but mostly because when I lack control in other aspects of my life, what I believe I can control is how I look.

If I’m having a bad day, if I’m tired, or if I’m irritated that my professional life isn’t progressing where I’d like it to be, Isomehow let the control seep into how I look. Knowing where it comes from hasn’t made it dissolve from my life, but it has allowed me to at least understand it which– for me– is the first step in figuring out how to let it go.

But during this time that I’ve been able to understand this for myself, I’ve also started working more closely with women to make custom clothing and I’ve begun to also understand how much we all have some aspect of ourselves we are uncomfortable with and want to cover up, particularly as we age. While I know what parts of my body I struggle with, when women reveal to me what they don’t like about their own, I realize then how we all have a fun house mirror of ourselves.

I don’t have answers, I’m not proposing any here, but I do believe that somewhere inside us we all have the ability to let go of that distortion. The question is how we get there. I am hopeful that in time I’ll be able to do that for myself and perhaps help others do the same.

And maybe it’s yet another part of Chelle Summer, teaching me that it’s more than making clothes, but another step in helping others go forward in their life journeys as I go forward in my own.