Childhood Days of Fabric Stores and Seamstresses

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not much of a shopper. I hate going into clothing stores and going through the racks to determine yet again that I am a hard size to fit. The fashion industry certainly doesn’t use the under 5 foot tall woman as the model for their clothes and add in that I am also busty and you have a situation that isn’t easily accommodated by department stores. At least now there are petite sizes and this adds a measure of possibility to my clothes hunt. That’s a plus since before that time, all my clothes automatically had to be altered. This brings me to happy memories of my childhood regarding clothes.

When I was growing up, there were any number of women in my little town who made their living as seamstresses. They worked out of their homes and because their overhead was not high, their prices were affordable. These were the golden years of dressing for me since I not only got to go to the local department store and pour through pattern books supplied by McCall’s and Simplicity, but I also had the chance to pick out the exact fabric I wanted from the fabric section of that same store. I had the option of color, texture, weight and type of material for any dress, top, skirt or pair of pants I wanted based on the wide selection of fabric in the store. This was absolute bliss.

After picking out my pattern, fabric and thread, I would then head over to the seamstress and she would check my choices – I don’t ever recall any negative assessment in this regard – and then she would take my measurements. I would return one more time for any additional adjustments before coming back to try on the new garment for the “viewing.” Without fail, these clothes fit to a T and were beautifully sewn. What joy there was in that.

My friends who were lucky enough to have mothers who were also seamstresses had the advantage of even more personalized clothing, but my mother was not in this category. However, she was happy to arrange for someone else to do the sewing, so I was grateful for that. The seamstresses all seemed not only kind, but also patient. I remember how carefully they measured and then later pinned to make sure the clothes fit just right. They were methodical and calm. Qualities that are essential if one is constructing a garment from scratch.

I took Home Economics in high school and learned to sew. Of course, I loved going with the class to the department store to pick out patterns and fabrics. I even enjoyed cutting out the material and getting it ready to sew. My problem was that I did not have the calm nature of the seamstresses I had known. No, I was not methodical or patient and I often had knotted thread on my seams and/or my sewing machine was clogged up with excessive thread probably because I had not taken the time to make sure the tension was right for the weight of the thread or to check if the bobbin was in its proper place. Alas, I did manage to make my prom dress for my junior formal so I developed some level of expertise. Still, I was well aware of how fumbling my fingers were in comparison to the women who had sewn for me, and how short-tempered I could be with the process. After all, sewing is not for someone who would rather be outside riding her bicycle.

So, now I am in a city where a seamstress is known as a tailor and the prices to get clothes made is cost-prohibitive, at least for me. I have a sewing machine and I still love to go to fabric stores. Perhaps it’s time for me to try my hand again at this enterprise and see if I have grown in patience. Lord only knows I would prefer to pick out patterns and fabric to going into another one of those big clothing stores and searching the racks for the few pieces of clothing that might work for me.

Hmmm…it might be fun to try my hand again at sewing. Maybe something simple and easy just for the heck of it. Is it realistic to think I might take the time to do this sort of thing? I have made curtains for our house and that was satisfying. But a dress or a skirt or a pair of pants? I will have to contemplate that a bit, I must admit. Still, how fun to go to the fabric store, which remains one of my favorite places to browse.

No promises on this, but it is definitely something to consider. I would love to discover that over the years I have developed some of the patience of those kind women who sewed for me. I certainly can’t imagine reaching their level of expertise, but I might be able to produce something, however simple. Whatever the case, I cherish those memories of those early days when dressing myself was more of a process than a harried activity. Those were happy days indeed.

McCall's

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4 thoughts on “Childhood Days of Fabric Stores and Seamstresses”

  1. Those were the days. I always raced to the bargain bin and almost always found just enough fabric for some piece of clothing for a ridiculous bargain. That, I learned from my mother.

    I still have a sewing machine but don’t have the patience where I used to have tons before. Maybe the reverse is true for you now as well and you’ll be more patience than before. Good luck. ❤ ❤

  2. At ninety one, sewing is something my sweet and talented mama can no longer do. She does, however, still keep her sewing machine ready for use in her bedroom. Above it hangs a wooden rack (built by one of my nephews in shop class) specifically made for holding spools of threat.

    Every time I look at all those brilliant colors of thread I think about the pretty dresses she made for my sister and me. Each time, for a fleeing moment, I think to myself…maybe I should try sewing again. But alas, for now, it is just a thought.

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