011. Clothing the Naked

Tonight it’s time for Project Runway.   Yay!

Project Runway is by far my favorite TV show.  I  would walk through fire for it.  I would give up Gummy Bears for it.  Red Vines even.  Jolly Ranchers.  I would give up my membership in AARP for it. I would even submit to a root canal for it.  In short, Thursdays at 9 p.m. on the Lifetime network is my idea of a sacred experience.

This is because of my most secret dream: When I grow up, I wish I could be a seamstress.  Watching Project Runway, I can live that dream.  (There it is, another of my secrets exposed.)

My interest in sewing might never have been awakened if it weren’t for the kids.   I hated sewing at first, mostly because I was sort of trapped into it by bringing seven naked children into the world, five of whom were girls.  When the youngest started to school, we had a child in almost every grade  at St. Joseph’s grade school on Capitol Hill.  And at St. Joseph’s in the fall,  the children have to take off their ragged jeans and dirty T-shirts and put on school uniforms.

I think you will understand how I got motivated to sew if you will relive with me one of those unforgettable shopping excursions I used to go on.  Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane, shall we?

It is August of any school year during the 1960s.  We will go to the J.C. Penney Co.  We will need four plaid uniform jumpers, size 6, size, 8, size 10, size 12; four royal blue cardigans, size 6, size 8, size 10, size 12; eight white Peter Pan blouses, 2 in size 6, 2 in size 8, 2 in size 10, 2 in size 12; two royal blue pullovers, both size 14; two pair salt and pepper cords, both size 14; four white shirts, all size 14; and one winter coat, any size.

Also an assortment of socks, underpants, saddle shoes, tennis shoes, and patrol boots. (Not to mention four pair pajamas, ten nightgowns, new play jeans, and at least three more winter coats, all of which will have to wait until October or till whenever we win the war on poverty, whichever comes first.)

I will learn that the J.C. Penney Co. doesn’t have a single solitary item in the store in a size 12.  They do have jumpers and sweaters, all except the size 10s, which they will be so kind as to order for me for delivery two weeks after school starts.  They regret that they don’t have any uniform blouses or shirts, but they are expecting the shipment in three weeks.  Try Sears.

We will.  Sears will suggest we try the Bon Marche.

The Bon Marche will suggest we try the Salvation Army Thrift Shop or Good Will Industries, but I can’t because those are the two stores where I don’t have charge accounts.

And so we hurry home with yard goods to whip up eight Peter Pan blouses and four white uniform shirts on the magic sewing machine.  To this day, whenever I see an artist’s depiction of Adam and Eve, I find myself enviously studying all those fig leaves.  Eve was so much more resourceful than me.

Well, that’s how it all began.  I kept sewing and sewing and the kids kept growing and growing.  As the years went on though, I became aware of a curious phenomenon.  I was beginning to like sewing.  Not only that, but as the kids kept getting bigger and bigger, so were the clothes I was making.  And one day I made the amazing discovery that some of them were big enough to fit Mommy.

Well.  That opened up a whole new world.

And so it was that all those years ago, I made a vow which I have never since broken: that as long as my eyeballs hold out, I would never again buy another ready-made garment.

And I haven’t.  (Except for sweat shirts, of course.)

During the 16 years I worked for Children’s Hospital, I took great pride in the fact that everything I had on each day — except for my bras and heavy-duty elastic stockings — started life on my trusty Viking sewing machine.  The only downside of all this productivity was that I always had to wear such funny looking clothes, but I certainly didn’t let that dampen my enthusiasm.  I’m sure that my contributions to the information systems at Children’s have long since been forgotten, but the memory of  my unique homemade wearing apparel will linger on forever.

So you can appreciate how much I love Thursday nights.  Which reminds me — time for the runway.

Auf Wiedersehen !

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2 Responses to 011. Clothing the Naked

  1. Gwennie says:

    I didn’t know you were so into sewing! But I have to say, my mom and I totally understand. I haven’t really finished any of them yet, but I found a really cute pattern book and have started making things out of it. Should we keep the madness going, generation to generation? 🙂

  2. Linda Lewis says:

    I’ll never forget the day I came over and you answered the door with about five pair of plain old underpants cut out. You said, without apology, that you needed to finish them. That your daughters were getting short on them and that was the only kind they would wear. …
    I used to make all my clothes, until it got more expensive to buy the material than to buy something new. I vowed to make at least ONE outfit for my daughters. I actually made a few, every detail perfect. I think the last thing I made was for my younger daughter. She just HAD to have a special dress for the Prom. I told her to pick out a pattern and material and that I’d make it. Well, she chose an advanced Vogue pattern and raspberry taffeta. Can’t get much more complicated than that! I actually stayed up all night trying to finish it for her. Well, I finished it and she tried it on one last time, as I had fit it to her to be just perfect. She said she wanted to get dressed at a friends. … A year later, I happened to see her photo of the Prom that she had never shown me. There she was, so beautifully dressed in a black and white dress she had borrowed from her friend. The pattern she chose had one of those bubbly hemlines, and when she tried it on when it was all done, she could not stand it. She was so horrified because I had worked on it so long, that she could not tell me about it. …Thus, I have not made anything for my grand kids, and they are happily surviving by buying vintage clothes. I wonder if they will come home from the store someday, with a raspberry taffeta evening gown….

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