Monday, August 3, 2015

Tailor Made

Home Economics programs are becoming a thing of the past.  "Back in the day", when I was in high school, every girl learned the basics of cooking and sewing. My mom made the majority of clothes for herself and three daughters. Sewing was a nearly daily activity.  When Mom needed to serve a formal meal, she first had to clear the fabric off the dining room table and fold up the ironing board.  Sewing for your family was a common thing at that time.  Though "homemade" sometimes has a stigma of being inferior - frumpy, poorly constructed, or just that you didn't have the money for "store bought" - that was not the case.   Floor-length dresses for school music concerts, new outfits for Homecoming, prom dresses, even cheer-leading uniforms were often home made.  And I, for one, loved it. 

Mom was my personal tailor.  One of my favorite days as a child was when it was my turn to go with mom to the fabric store - browsing the giant books from Simplicity and McCalls, then wandering among the bolts of fabrics in a rainbow of colors.  I wasn't limited to those standard pre-made dresses on store racks.  I could have my dress in any color I wanted, with puffed or straight sleeves, square neck or scooped.  

When the future Hubs invited me to prom only five days in advance, I flew home to tell Mom the big news.  I'm sure the wheels immediately started turning in her head.  While I was floating on a cloud of excitement, she was figuring out how to get a dress made in that amount of time.  The answer was already hanging in my sister's closet.  Mom took apart the dress she had made for my sister two years earlier, cut it to fit me and made a few changes in the details to give it a new look.  I was thrilled!

That was by no means the first time I had worn a dress previously owned by my sister.  Having a sister two years older, we frequently had matching dresses.  When I had outgrown mine, I got hers.  I noticed that, in school pictures, I was wearing the same dress at age 4 and age 6.  I'm sure the second dress was actually Teri's hand-me-down

That's me in the center.  Ignore the hair. 
A couple years later I gave Mom nothing but a description of the dress I wanted for a special occasion - tiered skirt, two tiers solid peach, one tier peach with a small floral print, a simple top with "spaghetti" straps.  I can still picture the look on Mom's face as she realized I seriously expected this dress to materialize.  And I never doubted that she could do it with no pattern.  And I was right.  In fact, she created more than I had asked for.  The dress was actually in two pieces.  I wore the sleeveless version with a matching shawl, then she made an alternate top with long sleeves, that I wore later as part of the Homecoming court.

When I had my own daughter, I couldn't wait to sew for her.  My skills are nothing compared to Mom's, but I could handle a sun dress.  The local fabric store was long out of business, so I went to Wal-Mart and was stunned.  Patterns cost $6-$8.  Add the cost of fabric, thread and notions, and a simple dress for a 3-year-old cost around $15.  I could walk across the store and buy one already made for half that.  But I still wanted to sew for my daughter, so I bought the supplies and made the most adorable dress - white with red lady bugs, little bows on the shoulder straps and on the pocket.  Amanda refused to put it on!  She had her own fashion opinion - even at 3.

A mother who was a talented seamstress was one of many favorite parts of my childhood. Here's a few more shots of me modeling mom's creations.  

My sister, Teri, and I in our Christmas dresses.

I remember this one clearly.  I loved the changeable scarf!
And yes, there really was a point in history when flesh-tone glasses were "in".

 And here's the whole clan. 
 I believe Mom made all three jumpers my sisters
 and I are wearing, as well as her own dress.

This post is linked up with "Inspiration on Monday", hosted by Trish @ Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity.


  1. What great memories!! Sadly I didn't appreciate the seamstress mom that we had but it's so cool that you did!!

  2. I know we had a lot more clothes because my aunt used to come and work with my mom every summer to make us clothes for the summer and into the school year. I loved getting to pick out patterns and the exact fabric I wanted. Weren't we lucky?!