Wednesday, July 28, 2010

School Clothes

I can feel it. The summer feels different than it did just a couple of days ago. Knowing that school starts for us in 26 days makes the rest of the summer feel like nothing more than a prelude to fall. I think that even if I weren't conscious of the looming deadline, I would still be able to feel the change in the air.

Growing up, we girls had a getting-ready-for-school ritual that changed only slightly from year to year. It began with the hand-me-down box. Suzy, Emily, and I were in a rotation with a number of other close friends and relatives, the result of which was a large cardboard box that would arrive on our porch one sunny summer day. It started with Suzy, then went to Ann Love, Karen Bennett, Mary Love, Lynn Bennett, me, Mary, Whitney, and then back to Emily. Opening the box and seeing something my sister had worn several years prior was like finding a long-lost friend. And there were lots of goodies that we had never seen before.

Out would come the dresses, skirts, jeans, shorts, pajamas, and tops. Then it was time for the Fashion Show. One by one we would try on the clothes, slowly twirl in front of my mother, and then change into the next ensemble. We would sit with a seam ripper and let out the hems of the things that were too short, spritz the creases with vinegar and iron the hems down. Then back on with the dress, another twirl, and Mom would pin up the new hem. Suzy and I both learned to hem when we were pretty young, but there were a good many years there when Mom did all of it herself.

I never really minded wearing hand-me-downs. This was the late 60s and 70s, and there was no Wal Mart to stock up on cheap blouses and skirts. Of course, there were always gaps in the collections, so Mom supplemented our Box Of Wonders with lots of culottes, scooter skirts, and tops that she sewed herself. No summer omitted the trip to Cloth World, So-Fro, and Eunice Farmer Fabrics. An entire day was needed for this outing, and I remember being exhausted by the end of it. Flipping though pattern books, choosing fabrics, laying them all out so we could see which things could combine with something else to make different outfits... Mom did this for both of us girls every summer, and then with Emily when she got older. Jim always got store-bought things, I guess. As a mother myself, I have no idea how she found the time to do this. I rarely sew anything for my kids now, and it's cheaper to buy things now anyway.

There were a couple of summers when we came back from Germany with an empty suitcase that was then filled with fabric and patterns and taken back to Europe where we sewed and sewed. It was really quite fun, and it gave Suzy and me something to do together when we were at ages where it was hard to find common interests. In 1976, my father took over a Nike missile battalion in central Germany. There were a series of balls given in my parents' honor, and Mom needed a new dress for each one. She had one in particular that had a tulip hem with yards and yards of fabric. I vividly remember hemming that by hand (I was nearly 13 then), a tiny rolled hem with invisible stitches. I spent most of August 1976 working on that, while she sewed my school clothes at the same time.

My mom is awesome. Time to load the kids up and head for Target.


Beezusaurus said...

I really only remember my mom making special clothes for us, Easter, etc. Oh, and Halloween costumes :)

Suzy said...

the hemming process was such torture for me. When I was an adult, I finally had a name to put to the problem. Scoliosis. Mom truly thought that I simply would not stand up straight. Ha.