Monday, 7 February 2011

the makings of a fashionista

this week nana jo is reminiscing about her mum's sewing and about a particular pink cape, it's a good story (read it here) and it got me to thinking about my own memories of a mum who sewed all our clothes (and even though i write that past tense, mum is still with us and still sewing) jo's mum sewed with some secrecy, only revealing the finished garment but my mum liked to make us try everything on numerous times so there was never a secret about it. my sister and i still fall about laughing as we remember mum poking or tugging at a bubbly shoulder or a twisted sleeve, a fitting was an exercise in patience for a kid who couldnt undertand why it had to happen at all. when i was a wee thing mum would procure the fabric and decide on the style and proceed to make what she thought. often the fabric was given to her and the garment was designed to suit it. i know that mum has fond memories of a coat she made when i was so young i dont remember. by all accounts i looked smashing in that coat and i think that the making of it was a triumph of design because the fabric was a collection of oddly shaped remnants although that could have been something different altogether because the stories tend to jumble in my mind. as i got older mum would buy the fabric while i was at school and i would come home and make design suggestions, there was one particular blue dress i wore when i was about five and i am pretty sure i demanded the frills down the front so my design aspirations started early! as i got even older i shopped with mum and i remember the aladdins caves of fabric treasure we would visit. the rolls of fabric stood up on stands or in boxes, often jammed so closely together that it was difficult to move through the shop. a colour or pattern would catch my eye and the next essential part of the process was to touch it. if the planets aligned the beauty of the pattern would be enhanced by the texture of the cloth and we would take the roll off the stand to search for the price, always hidden by fabric falling everywhere. we would guess at the price as we searched and if it was less than we anticipated that was icing on the cake. sometimes it would be as expensive as we imagined and we would take that as proof of our good taste! i dont remember one of these precious finds ever being replaced on the stand on the basis of price, although they may have been, what i did learn was that the one you have-to-have is the one you will never tire of. if you can find the dollars to get the have-to-have item you wont regret it and that philosophy informs my the way i shop even now. part of the joy in looking for fabric was in the imagining of how it should be made up and after years at mum's knee i was nearly as good as she was at visualising the finished garment. i would describe it to mum and with the really fanciful elements i would have to try to sketch it. mum could nearly always interpret my poor drawing to know exactly what it was i wanted and then she would rise to the challenge of figuring out how to make my vision a reality, she always did make it real. i'm not the seamstress mum was but those days have never left me and i amuse myself when some poor person tells me about a new dress or what-have-you. they say something like "it's pink and it has long sleeves and the skirt is about that long" i often torture the poor person with questions about details they dont see or cant explain: what kind of pink is it? what is the fabric? is it stiff? flowing? matte? does it have sheen? texture? what shape are the long sleeves? what shape is the neck? how is the waist finished? what about the skirt? how does it fall? what details are on this dress that this person cant articulate? ah, mum, it's a legacy all right...... and not always a good one!


  1. shop till you drop<><><>there is a black cloud over our molewart store and i dustant go in for fear of being swallowed up

  2. Very enjoyable read and nice memories for you!

  3. I like the way your mum was so good at interpreting your vague visions and usually managed to come up with exactly what you had in mind. You must have felt very pampered!

  4. Wow, our memories of that shopping are so completely different. I remember going to those places and being bored out of my mind! I never made suggestions or got excited about fabric. Poor mum must've been disappointed I didn't enjoy it like you. However, whatever she came up with, I always liked!

    You forgot to mention all the pin pricks we copped. I'm still scared to this day of mum putting pins in something while I've got it on. Hahahahaha

    Great post Kyles

  5. putzy,
    i am no fan of the shop till you drop philosophy but when i see something gorgeous wild horses couldnt keep me from it!

    thank you, sir!

    i have to admit it took me a long time to recognise mums genius or to understand what lengths she went to on my behalf, just took it for granted that we would work on it until we had a shared vision!

    how about the conversations with a mouth full of pins?

  6. It's good to be able to sew in this day and age. I've often thought about it given the simple designs around and the expensive tags. Shame, haven't got a sewing machine any more. I think the only 'fitting' I've ever had was for my wedding dress and my best friend made that. I don't share your love of shopping must admit. Bit of a dag like that.

  7. baino,
    you save a packet if you dont get sucked in to the shops every five minutes!

  8. Oh it's a great one, after all, looking good is all about the details! Your mother sounds like an incredibly talented and skilled woman.

  9. Thanks so much for the shout-out! This was such an enjoyable read!

    My Mum could create her own patterns but she never wanted much input into her designs. I am the oldest of six girls and the thing we disliked the most is having to often wear dresses from the exact same fabric and pattern. My youngest sister, though, had the most to complain about; she had five more all-the-same dresses to grow into!

  10. tatty tiara,
    yep, mum is supremely talented and when pure talent didnt work the stubbornness of a mule helped!

    nana jo,
    your poor sister! probably never had a new dress till she could buy her own!


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