Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Pyjama Craze

Five days ago, the last of my college applications was turned in. How gladly must I now rejoice! And, cooped up as I am by an unseemly gorgeous bout of snow, I am cabin-feverish enough to embark on a glorious sewing project. And so, I am determined to make myself pyjamas. Well, not technically pyjamas. It is actually a nightgown, but nightdress is nightdress, and most nightdress these days goes by the name of pyjama. I have several prospects, but all look to be fairly simple, elegant projects, difficult only in the delicacy of the material from which I might choose to make them.

Nightdress is a bit of an odd choice of topic for a fashion blog, as the sort of gown I am interested cannot qualify as lingerie and thus are not generally intended to excite romantic attention or be presented to anyone else in the world. This being said, I have found one thing to be true, over the course of recent years. The more shabbily I dress to bed, the less inclined I am to dress well, the morning after. If I sleep in a t-shirt, I am rather inclined get into a t-shirt and sweats. Waking up in handmade cotton nightgowns provides an unusual sort of social context — as I can well attest, my grandmother having made so many of them for me, in the past. There is something deeply historical about it, especially if the fabric itself has an old-fashioned feel to it, and as a child I would imagine myself to be living on the American frontier in the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, waking up to some huge blizzard (which, given snowfall in the year I began these imaginings, was not so very great a stretch of the imagination). During the day, I would be a gypsy woman in an old green verticle-striped nightdress I inherited from my mother’s college years. The more adventurous the association made, the greater the impact on my daily life. And what can be more adventurous than a handmade garment? To this day, these sorts of associations can give me a sense of propriety or modest delicacy or similar sentiment that connects me to a half-remembered past where appearance was, indeed, important. And as such, it naturally occurs to me without much effort, to dress well the following morning. Subconscious though it usually is, I find it highly motivating.

I am deeply curious to know if anyone out there has similar tokens to remind them to dress well? My sister, who in high school alternated between ‘fashionista’ and ‘jock’, would always dress well, when she was carrying her very fancy purse to school (and, given that she was using it as her book bag, this was not so much an accessory as the foundation of her entire wardrobe). Please let me know if you (or someone you know) have similar ‘tricks’ to keep you motivated to look your best! On a similar note, did you ever have everyday clothes that inspired your imagination, as my nightdresses did? Please tell me your favourites and how they inspired you, in your childhood!

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Patterns Galore!!

My grandmothers are both beautiful women who grew up on farmlands, were orphaned as young teens in the Depression, and worked their way through most of their early lives. And despite the natural implications of this image, both were also extremely stylish young women.

This is my Nana (my mother’s mother):

And this is my Gramma (my father’s mother):

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They are both incredible women who have had a tremendous impact on me, both in terms of my perception of strength in femininity and the legacy their love and hard work will have on me for my entire life. Nana lived in Michigan, throughout my childhood, and eventually moved to a retirement community in Florida, so we do not get to see her as often as any of us would like. Fortunately, Gramma lives closer.

Indeed, I write this because the family visited her, yesterday. She is recovering from six broken ribs, right now (actually recovering, at age 91 — what a fighter she is!), but she still found time to usher my sister and me to her sewing room to scout out the most interesting patterns and pieces a lifetime of sewing has to offer. It is a veritable treasure trove. Gramma’s eyesight has been too finicky for sewing for some time, now, and the room itself is unfortunately cluttered beyond use. The closet is filled to the brim with beautiful handmade clothes, the walls stacked with shelves upon shelves of patterns sitting pretty in little shoeboxes for easy access. My sister and I take one shelf at a time, seeking out the most interesting and useful patterns for our purposes. And luckily for me, my sister’s tastes are so inherently different from mine as to present little competition, between the two of us!

When I get home, I sort the lot by Silhouette and place them gently in my filing cabinet. The options this presents me with are exceptional. If an easy-make item of clothing is not in fashion, I am able to simply make it myself. And when items of clothing do come into fashion, I have broad visual references of what I intend to wear with it. It’s all well and good to have a general idea of what ‘Silhouette A’ looks like, but to see it demonstrated over an extended period is extremely helpful to understanding its flexibility to current trends. And indeed, there have been several Silhouette concepts that I have not accepted for everyday wear precisely because the silhouette does not play out, over time, without significant changes. This does not mean I won’t wear these shapes, but it does mean that I am not deluding myself into thinking that these are ‘timeless’ pieces that I can center my entire wardrobe around.

More than anything, I think the sharing of information between grandmother and granddaughter is deeply important. Gramma is my father’s mother, so drawing on her considerable sewing expertise links us in a way that does not supersede my important functional relationship with my mother, who after all takes me shopping, listens to my crazy ideas, comments on my reference pictures, talks me out of wearing corsets to job interviews, and actually guides me through the sewing process when I get lost in the work or the machine starts talking back at me.

I am lucky. In an age when many girls do not have anyone to show them basic household skills (cooking from scratch or sewing functional fashion), much less any interest in absorbing such information, I have three wonderful women to light my way — even if I did come to it a little later in life than might be desired.

Post scriptum.

Nana cannot travel much, anymore, so these pictures are from the last time we were all together. I think I must have been a freshman in high school, or younger. I still have bangs and my trademark Jedi-braid.