It’s spring, and this young woman’s fancy turns to … notions.

I spent my last few weeks of college crazy-busy finishing papers and getting ready to graduate.  I needed two outfits for graduation weekend, one for the senior dinner, one for graduation.  And one of those outfits would double for the second graduation I would attend that weekend, my mom’s.  I needed things to wear, but I was too busy to think about it, too busy to make anything.

I started sewing in 7th grade.  At first, I made clothes because we didn’t have much money and making was cheaper than buying.  I wasn’t a great seamstress — too hurried, too careless — but I got the job done.  In 8th grade I took sewing in Home Ec (do schools still offer Home Economics classes?), and got more practice sewing.  I made a pair of singularly unattractive peasant tops that I loved.  Then I realized that sewing was more than a money saver.  It gave me two additional gifts: 1) I could make clothes I liked that were my size, and 2) I could guarantee that no one else would have the same things I did … and that last suited my already raging ego just fine.

So.  Sewing.  I’ve gotten better over time, have made some things I’ve really loved: a blackwatch plaid, wool crepe shift that made me feel like a first lady, especially when I wore it with pearls and my excellent green Vaneli heels, a dark blue linen vest and skirt “suit” that remains the sexiest outfit I’ve ever owned, a hot pink jersey top that made the perfect backdrop for the Oingo Boingo pin I used to love, a red winter coat in a thick red wool with an enormous shawl collar that made me look like I was trying to recreate an old Blackglama ad.

But for graduation, there was no sewing.  I shopped.  I found a dress and a summer suit. Done and done.  I wore the suit to the senior dinner and the dress to my graduation.  I finished college and the got ready to watch my mom do the same.  I decided to wear the suit.

It was a cotton-linen blend with thick grey and white stripes, thicker on the jacket than the skirt.  The skirt hit just above the knee, the jacket had shoulder pads that I cringe at the thought of today. I can’t remember what shoes I wore, but they were probably pumps, probably black.

My mom went to a larger school than I did, so there were a LOT of friends and family under the big white tent that Sunday.  A lot of friends and family … and seemingly every third woman was wearing my suit!  It was a complete horror show.  Oh, there’s my suit in powder blue.  There it is in pink.  Oh, she found it in peach.  Yes, and all three of them have it in grey … so does that woman right in front of me.  Result!

Yeah.  I mentioned my vanity above.  My raging, petulant-teenager vanity.  Imagine my pleasure at seeing at least three and a half dozen women wearing my suit. Clearly it was the suit of the season.  I was right on trend!

I think about that graduation moment every spring, every time I look into shop windows and think, “Oh, that dress is kind of cute.”  I make myself remember that pretty May day full of identically dressed women, and I turn my thoughts to the beautiful new machine set up on my sewing table downstairs, and to the stack of patterns and piles of fabric waiting for me to start working on new additions to my warm weather wardrobe.

It’s spring and my thoughts turn to sewing notions, all the bits and pieces that will add up to make the closet full of new dresses I’ve been dreaming about.  Time to get started …


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8 thoughts on “It’s spring, and this young woman’s fancy turns to … notions.

  1. woaca2008

    I love this story. I sewed most of my own clothes all through my 20s, even by hand a couple of years before my mother gave me a sewing machine as a wedding present (and it still works almost 50 years later). It is fun to know you are wearing something that no one else in the whole world has. BTW, what degree was your mother graduating with?


    1. I’ve done some hand sewing, but find I lack the patience. I did make myself a skirt by hand while on vacation once, but those were special circumstances.

      My mom was getting her BA, as was I. That was a great weekend, for us both to finish college together!


  2. Oh I had no idea you sewed! How excellent 😀 I have just gotten my machine back after our travels and am wondering what to make first! By amazing coincidence there is both a sewing shop and a fabric store around the corner from us, so: possibilities 😀


    1. Oh, you are too lucky to have those shops so close by! Okay, I do have the garment district a relatively short subway ride away, but I have to delay gratification to get there and then get all my purchases back home. If I just had to walk around the corner … sigh.

      I love that you are also a sewer! I’m hoping to be out in Berkeley in June (I applied for Matt Johnson’s class!), so maybe we can compare notes over coffee one afternoon!


      1. Truthfully, I have very little experience shopping in such places, because I’m used to getting as many of my supplies as possible from estate sales and other secondhand sources. 🙂 But once I get going this time, I will go check out these stores, since after all, they are right down the street.

        The garment district sounds delicious, though. 🙂 Maybe too delicious! I get decision fatigue even thinking about it! I went to a fabric district in Hong Kong in 2010 or 2011 and I was really overwhelmed… and came back with three fabrics I have yet to use. ;b

        Absolutely I will come see you (and/or you are invited to our tiny apartment… maybe we could visit the fabric shops) if you’re in Berkeley!! Fingers crossed for Mat’s class!


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