Thursday, June 01, 2006

How to make a Southern Belle Costume

Mrs. Schaeffer says From my own experience of sewing, making my own and the children's clothing, I would say that nothing gives one the possiblity of 'fitting in' with a wide variety of people like being able to say "I made it myself."

This entry makes up part four of the stories explaining what my mother taught me as queried by Donna in a Friday Five.

The short answer is that she taught me how to sew. She taught by example, by assisting, by providing lessons, and by encouraging.

Once upon a time a college-aged daughter needed a costume for a skit. The skit was set in the ante-bellum South. This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy because the college was in Michigan (what do *they* know about the South?) and I cant remember the songs or story lines, but suffice it to say that it was for a rush party. I wish I had a picture for my dear readers.

My mother tore apart one of her *old* party gowns which we used as pattern pieces for my costume. The dress turned out well. Not only did I wear it for the skit, but I also wore it to a costume party on my first *real* date with my now DH. My daughters played dress-up with it later.

While sewing is not one of my favorite tasks (frequently I have to rip out a seam), I am accomplished at it, having made anything from a lined bathing suit to a french machine-sewn cotton bastiste little girl's dress complete with inlaid lace bow. In my party days, I made all my evening dresses. I found a certain pattern which was flattering on me and then made it with four different fabrics: red velvet, white, floral and plaid.

Am I passing this talent on to my own daughters? Well, maybe...maybe not. They all have sewing boxes complete with their own sets of Gingher scissors. And I have made with each individually a sundress, which we wore for a family photo. They all can hem a dress and sew on a button. They havent had lessons, but there is still time for that, as they are young :) And, I'm only a phone call away.

Do you own a sewing machine?


  1. Gingher scissors are the best. I want a pair of the pretty ones with a floral pattern on the handle. My daughter just made a short jacket (white, embroidered with silver sequins) to go over a ball dress for a dance she and her sister and Pieter are attending tomorrow night!

  2. Yes! I have a sewing machine -- one that Jay and the children just presented to me for Mother's Day! It's not an actual Bernina but a "Bernette" made for Bernina and I'm so excited to have it. A small part of me is scared to death of it but the rest of me is ready to make it my friend and take it on.

    With the purchase of the machine comes six hours of one-on-one instruction and I hope to attend my first two hour session this coming week.

    I also have a 1939 Singer machine that would constantly jam when I tried to make a baby blanket. I think that frustration is part of what has made me sewing-shy but the need to know how to sew for my family the kind of clothes I want for us to have pushes me to persevere. I heard one lady say once that it's impossible to learn to sew in a home full of little ones but I am going to ignore that thought and press on.

    I love how you found the evening dress pattern you liked then made four of them in different prints and textures. It's great when you find something that works and can make a whole batch of them. :)