It would be interesting to know how widespread it was for mothers to make their children’s clothes “back in the day”. My mother was a good dressmaker, and very particular, though I think she sometimes felt overshadowed by my paternal grandmother who had been a professional dressmaker.
I still have my grandmother’s sewing machine, which is a
dust-collector display shelf now painted white. I’ve had it since I returned to Australia. I used to love playing with Grandma’s buttons and bits when I was little.
Throughout my childhood Mum made me winter coats, dresses, shorts, hats, beach tops, casual clothes, etc etc. You’ll see many of them through this collage series. Mum also excelled at making beautiful ball frocks which will feature on another occasion. Similarly Mum’s own clothes were always well sewn and she always looked very smart and fashionable. I have many great photos of her in these outfits but to respect her privacy I’ve not included them here, which is why you have to suffer through mine.
Soon after New Year every year, the major department stores would have their annual sales –remember those, in the days when they occurred once a year rather than every “five minutes”. Our primary objective was to hit the fabrics department running, gathering up fabrics by the armful that we could later sort into priority order. It was a fine balance between price and yardage to ensure the selected fabric was actually long enough to turn into an appropriate form of clothing. Not much point getting a bargain if it wouldn’t even make a top let alone a dress. Of course, the mini skirt made that much simpler <smile>.
I never felt that my clothes were unfashionable or, heaven forfend, looked “homemade” ie poorly sewn. Still and all I remember my jubilation when we saw this dress at a January sale. Not only was it beautiful and on special, but it was complex enough with its matching stripe pattern, to make us feel like it was worth paying good money for, rather than attempting to reproduce it ourselves. Each and every stripe met the other perfectly, exactly as if my mother had sewn it herself. The skirt was cut on the cross so would have been even more of a challenge to sew.
I loved this dress, which is why I just had to include the photo in this series. My recollection is that it was my first store-purchased dress but perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me. Soon after I also bought a fabulous red woollen pant suit with a Nehru collar and buttons down the front. I loved that outfit too. It’s quite possible that I contributed to the cost from my Christmas holiday job savings. Perhaps the joy of store-bought clothes was not having to be fitted and re-fitted for whatever was being sewn, and not having to stand on the kitchen table while it was hemmed.
Taking photos in front of the Poinciana tree at the end of our street (cul-de-sac) was one of our family traditions.
Beware: more dressmaking stories ahead.