Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Does anyone remember the home seamstress?

Do you remember the home seamstress?  I don't mean ladies, like myself, who sew for themselves (although we're a rare lot these days)j, I mean ladies who professionally sew out of their homes for other people.

I am old enough to remember when everyone's mom had some clue about sewing, and old enough to remember the occasional matchy-matchy outfit for holidays (Laura Ashley Mother and Daughter dresses, anyone?).  My peers all remember the torture of sitting around for hours in the fabric shops, while our moms browsed. 

I remember sitting on the floor of someone's spare bedroom while my mom got fitted for a dress or a suit.  Even though my mom's figure is close to the standard RTW proportions, personally made clothing always fits better.  Mom loved to go to the fabric store and pick out special things to create her work wardrobe, and she'd brought quite a bit of silk home from our year in China.  Mom's new garments seldom cost her more than they'd have cost if she bought them at a nicer department store, and they were one of a kind.  That was the whole point of making your own - or having it made - it looked better and cost about the same.  (This was true of most women up until cheap, perhaps even disposable, fashion came into being.  I think there is a wave of push-back on disposable fashion, and I'm thrilled about it).

My wedding dress was made by a home seamstress.  I got her name and number by the simple expedient of asking the fabric store.  She'd gone through the courses at our local junior college, and she was quite talented.  More's the pity that it was her post-retirement hobby/pin money... I'm sure she's passed away by now.  Since Mom had brought the silk from China, my lovely dress cost me $300.  Yes, that's right.  A perfectly fitted heavy silk brocade dress, $300. 

A similarly poofy dress was running about $2000 back in the day...

But are those seamstresses still around, and if so, have they their hands in on sewing adult clothing?  Both seamstresses that I know sew children's clothing (for boutiques) or home decorating things.  The only commercial place that I know of that does anything like it is the local dry cleaner, who is happy to do minor adjustments to your pants or the prom dress/wedding dress stores, all of whom have alterations staff.   

If I weren't a housewife with few outside occasions, I might well investigate a seamstress of my own.  Instead, I slowly, slowly sew my own wardrobe.  There are mistakes, there are learning curves, but there is something approaching fit - and as someone who has a multitude of fitting issues, that's huge.

And that's something that's been overlooked in these  years of disposable fashion - the fact that clothing that does not fit, does not look good.  A post for another day...

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