Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: My Favorite Dress
When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.
My Favorite Dress
If I was lucky to enough to have this very dress I”m wearing, it surely would be a treasured heirloom, but I only have a photograph to remember it by.
My mother sewed this dress for me as she did all my clothes in growing up. She often sat up half the night , determined to finish once she started. I’m told she survived all night on black coffee and a cigarette; I awakened in the morning to find on a hanger, all pressed!
All my clothes were homemade until I was about twelve years old and begged for store bought – she said it broke her heart as she so enjoyed sewing my dresses. And not only did she sew the dresses, she also embroidered them. What patience and skills she had! I can understand how she wanted to stay up all night to finish, as when I knit for my grandchildren, I so wish I could finish right away… instead of weeks.
Even today, mama often mentions this specific dress and how proud of it she was… and wishing she had kept just this one. Most all my clothes were passed down to her girlfriend for her daughters, so at least they were used. I even have a photo of one of them in this same very dress.
There wasn’t anything my mother couldn’t sew and all without bought patterns; she never liked having to follow directions. She made her own patterns on newspaper measuring against other clothes and cutting them as she wanted. And if she didn’t have material, she’d reuse what she did have. I think the reason I never saw my father’s “whites” from the Navy is because she wanted white slacks… need I saw more!
When mama took Home Ec in high school, she made a mess of the dress she sewed and had to model. She tried telling the teacher that she could sew it her own way, but the teacher insisted she follow directions. The dress came out hiked up on one side and the teacher made her model it anyway. Being the “scootch” my mother is, she modeled it swishing and swaying across the stage and the boys all hooted! Of course the teacher wasn’t happy with her performance but mama was mad at how the teacher wouldn’t listen to her… so she decided to model it her way! Once home her mother took the dress apart and redid it; grandmama sewed the same way – no pattern.
During my Barbie phase, mama became her seamstress. My girlfriends and I took turns going into mama, pretending to order new clothes for Barbie. While we played… mama sewed – later we returned to pick up Barbie’s new clothes.
While living in Perry, she fell in love with the jumpsuits the Air Force guys wore; there were no patterns for them to fit women at the time. Mama took a shirt and pants pattern of hers, meshing them together to create her own jumpsuit. I think she made herself one in every color pattern of fabric she had, wearing them for a long time. Several women asked mama where she bought them, as they all wanted one; she’d laugh saying “they can’t be bought.” Now she says, “if I was smart, I would have patented that pattern.“
Later when she and daddy took square dance lessons, mama sewed herself several of those fancy square dance outfits with a shirt for daddy to match each one. Recently she told me how she sat up all night sewing hundreds and hundreds of tiny sequins all over those skirts. If you’ve ever sewed sequins, you know she must have had very sore fingers by morning. I do remember seeing her and daddy all dressed up in those matching outfits, and I often tagged along to watch; they let me dance on the “Last Call” dance of the night.
Even though I have no actual “heirloom” – I have many “heirloom memories” that I’ve preserved here with my story.
Click Friday Night Family Heirlooms to read more stories…
© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved