My mom is someone who values good clothing (HER mom did the same, leading my mom – who cheerfully admits that her mom chose her clothes – to be voted “best dressed” in her class). She was a professional, with a professional wardrobe – and that level of polished plain was what I grew up thinking of as “normal”. (The suits in the basic colors accented by blouses and interesting jewelry – all helped by what used to be called a ‘good figure for clothes’ which mostly means my mom’s idea of something not falling right is a 3 second alteration).
I shopped with my mom for all that ’80s power wardrobe stuff. I can tell you what to look for in a good suit. But because my lifestyle doesn’t require good suits, sometimes I get a bit confused. And my mom spends bank on good clothes! So… I thought that was normal. I’ve been trying to make $200 clothing for $30 and getting mad when that doesn’t quite work out. You mean not everyone has one flannel nightgown… that lasts in rotation with one other flannel night gown for two years? -blinks- (If you buy good quality, this is what you can expect for wear – even my silk nightgowns manage a year before they get sad. I have three that I rotate). This is my normal.
Things that make me laugh at myself…. when I realize that what I do, all too often, is compare the quality and workmanship of a $100-$200 item with the price of a $15 item, and wonder why I can’t combine the two, feeling like a failure because I can’t make that happen.
I remember going to the seamstress with my mom too, especially after we came back from China. Mom’s no dummy – she came back with a steamer chest full of silk. (Including the silk for my wedding dress). Back then, Mom had a regular seamstress. Back then the mall had a fabric store. (Honest!) And the mid-range clothing…. well, you could make it cheaper. (Honest!) Having it made only added a bit to the pricetag. They used to have lists of local seamstresses at the fabric store. (Honest!) You could ask at the cutting table… and you’d take your fabric, your pattern, you’d drop it off and come in for a fitting or two and voila! (I had my wedding dress made like this. That’s why it fits like a glove. It cost $300 to make. Even then wedding dresses were over $1000).
You’re getting the idea that *everyone* was better dressed back then, right? It’s true. Other than the polyester tragedies (and … well, you have to say that clothing that lasted over a decade was probably made pretty well, even if it did feel like withered plastic bags), people were just generally well-dressed. I remember that people didn’t have a lot of clothes – Easter at church was always fun, because all the ladies would show up in their new summer style. (I generally had two church dresses).
Home sewing *did* tend to be tragic in the ’80s. I speak (softly) of the Laura Ashley knockoffs, in quilting cottons, and sometimes (softly, dahlings) mother-daughter matching. /shudder. You were expected to be able to sew basic things – every woman could run up a set of curtains – but couture? No. That was for the pros.
And then I ran off to life. College and buying the cheapest “office” clothes I could manage – since my salary was .50c more than minimum wage and I was supposed to dress professionally. You know how it is. You expect things to stay the same… but they don’t.
And you come up for air and you compare your skills to what you consider skilled clothiers, and you are firmly in the “home sewing” category. But I went away… and the home sewn category is now much nicer than the stuff you buy in stores. I keep looking for the well-made stuff, and all I see is too-thin knits held together with serging. Yes, my seams would be that neat if I owned (or wanted) a serger. And I could do the twin-needle thing if I had a twin needle machine. (The “ready made” mark you see in clothing is nearly exclusively technological).
I have to change my expectations – I do good work. I’m not a couturier – not even a hobby couturier – because my life involves NO need for wool suits or wiggle dresses. I made a nice jacket once… I’ve worn in three times? But I make things that I wear. In fact, 2/3 of what I wear was made by my hands. Sure, I bought the $5 tanktops to go under my shirts. But the shirt itself? Made it. The skirt? Made it (I own two “bought” skirts – both bought some time ago and worn very seldom). The dress? Made it. Nightgowns. Daughter dresses. Daughter skirts. Son jammies. And now, starting to make husband shirts.
Things that cheer me up… staring at the clothesline and realizing that most of the clothes you see were made by your own two little hands. And that, while not perfect, they’re good. And they suit the people wearing them.
I am someone who makes her own clothes – and I don’t have to apologize for the fact that I bought those tank tops or the five shirts in my closet that didn’t come from my machine. My clothes are nice clothes, they suit me (and my family), they are the right colors, the right fabrics, they fit, they’re comfortable, and they wear well. It DOESN’T have to be couture – I homeschool, I have two kids, four cats, a dog, a house to keep in order, a life… if I’m going to keep up with my families clothing *needs*, I’m only going to have intermittent time to play with couture. And that’s okay.
And when I do have time to play? It’s time to stop holding myself back because I’m not to the top of the hill YET – and let myself fly.