Stories of My Past

Do you ever think about all the stories from your past related to one specific topic?

For this post I asked: What are some of the fashion-related stories of my past?

Doll Dresses

The story that came first in my timeline occurred before I was born. My mother used to recount stories of struggles she encountered in her youth. One of them was that she was a widow with three children by the age of 21, and she had to work to provide for them. She had little skills and minimal formal schooling.

She would tell my siblings and I that she had been a seamstress for a time during that difficult period. For work, she helped a local merchant in the small Mexican town where she lived. The merchant would provide patterned fabric for little girl dresses, and she would sew the dresses by hand, as she did not own, or know how to operate a sewing machine. 

At this time in her life, she had no concept of fashion as most of us have today.

She once mentioned that she enjoyed sewing the dresses because she could make believe that she was playing with dolls.

Compulsive Shoppers

This next story relates to observations I made of people who had a challenge maintaining a balanced relationship with clothes. I have come across a few people in my life who appeared to struggle in this area.

I came across two of these cases as an adult. These people had two problems. They had a compulsive need to buy clothes, and they had difficulty getting rid of clothes that were no longer serving them. In both instances, I remember witnessing storage sheds full of boxes and more boxes of the clothing with which they had had difficulty parting. Many of the clothes had original tags from when they had been initially purchased and never worn. 

The third case of someone who also had an unhealthy relationship with clothes, but I witnessed it differently and at a much younger age of about 10 to 12 years old. It was a young career woman who had the urge to buy new clothes to wear every week, even though she couldn’t afford her habit.

She seemed to treat clothes as disposable items. I remember seeing the piles of clothes that didn’t get touched again after she had worn them once.

I would hear comments from others around her about why they thought she had developed her habit. They used to speculate that she wanted to be among the first to wear the new styles that local merchants were putting on the shelves. They would also say that another reason she bought clothes so often was that she did not want to be seen wearing the same garment twice. Her family seemed to struggle with knowing what to do to help.

Observing Technical Skills

Other stories that come to mind relate to two of my older sisters. They both were in high school when I was born. After high school, one went to school to learn how to make clothes using commercial patterns. I remember that for a few years before she had a family, she constructed pantsuits for women. 

My other sister engaged in work that involved manipulating and sewing fabrics, but it wasn’t fashion. She would work with heavy materials and created custom curtains and drapes for homes and businesses. 

I remember her working with the fabrics on large tables and making fancy pleated drapes, like ones you often see at theaters or large conference halls. I particularly remember the heavy-duty curtain hooks that looked like a long upside-down letter n. 

She would insert the straight pointed edge of the hooks to the backside of the curtain pleats, and the rounded part of the hooks went on the small hanging rings that moved along the curtain rods when the cords were drawn up and down. She also used upholstery techniques to create wooden accent pieces that enhanced the overall look of the windows. I was quite young, but I recall that she also only did this work for a few years before she started her family.

My Sewing Machine

I started sewing after I got married. The first piece of garment I constructed was a simple maternity dress. For this, I used a commercial pattern. Simply studying the pattern and correcting mistakes along the way is what helped me accomplish the task.

It was easier to experiment with the sewing machine more often after my daughter was born. I remember making drapes for her bedroom. Because I knew my sister had made them in the past, I simply asked myself, how hard could it be? 

I purchased a fabric that was wider than the window and did simple math calculations to decide how many pleated sections to make. And then I just made them.

My Own Doll Dresses

The next thing I recall making is a Christmas dress for my daughter when she was a little over a year old. And for her 2nd birthday I made a one-piece jumper. I followed a commercial pattern for the dress, and I winged it when it came to making the jumper. 

My daughter danced ballet for several years. The next projects were dance performance costumes. The first was when she was around 9 and she performed the part of a girl party guest in the Nutcracker. This was the first time I had made a garment with a lot more complexity. It was a three-piece costume, which included the dress, short pants, and a cape.

A few years later she played the role of Clara, and I made both dresses required for that performance. I was motivated to challenge myself to expand my sewing skills, and I also did not want to pay someone hundreds of dollars to make the dresses for me. Commercial patterns helped again, and I used them to make all three dresses.

For one of these dresses, I remember consulting with a friend’s mother before cutting the fabrics. I wanted to review my plan with her to ensure I was on track to do it correctly, as I was making some alterations to the pattern designs, and I was using more expensive fabrics.

Many people in this situation would prefer to pay, and that’s fine. I opted to make them, and it gave me great satisfaction. I did run behind schedule as I believe I was working and going to school. At the last minute, I think I decided to skip the lining to the red party dress. The tulle that I used to add volume to the dress was soft enough, that the lack of lining was not uncomfortable. It also didn’t affect the outer appearance.

Image of red party dress reference in paragraph

Fashion Design School

I am not quite sure exactly what it was the that ultimately inspired my daughter, but in middle school, she decided she wanted to go to fashion design school. There are no fashion schools in our neck of the woods. I suggested she pursue a business degree first before pursing fashion design. It seemed to me like this path would serve her better. However, this idea did not go over well, and to fashion design school she went. 

In the next post I will relate details about how we navigated the school process from that point, and how this fashion story continues.

My Fashion Style

I am not and haven’t ever been attached to any fashion style, per se. I would say that I have mostly gravitated toward simple and practical, well-constructed designs.  

What type of stories did you think I would be sharing when you read the first line of this post?

I decided to write about fashion in this way just to provide a different perspective. To some people, fashion is everything, and to others, it is not.

Either way, it is important to not allow fashion, or anything else for that matter, to have a tight grip on our psyche and as a consequence allow it to dictate our actions.

Trust that your light and beauty will always shine through!