An Easter Dress to Die For

I liked to sit on the floor and watch Mom’s feet rock the treadle as she sewed. Sometimes I played; other times she told me stories; always she worked: creating curtains, dresses, shirts and flannel nightgowns for babies.

I have a faded photograph of Carolyn and me at three and seven holding hands, standing next to Mom, who ignores the camera and looks at us. We wear winter coats sewn on the treadle machine and accessorized with rabbit fur from a thrift-store find. Fur collars frame our faces; our hands snuggle inside fur muffs; and hats decorated with fur balls sit on our heads. As a child, I studied the photograph and assumed Mom’s smiling face reflected pride in her handiwork. My older eyes recognize the look of love.

When Mom and Dad came home with a new Singer sewing machine, the family gathered to admire the electric foot-control that replaced the swinging treadle. With this modern marvel, Mom more efficiently clothed a family richer in children than in dollars. When I was twelve, she created an Easter dress for me I’ll never forget.

I crawled into my top bunk, tired and sunburned from a glorious Saturday on West Mountain chucking dyed eggs at the heads of my classmates—an Easter tradition in Lake Shore. As I fell asleep, I replayed my victorious egg shots and pictured my entry into church the next morning in my Easter dress.

Each year Mom made dresses that shot her daughters to the head of the Easter parade. This year, however, I insisted on choosing the fabric and pattern myself, thinking I had better fashion sense than my mother, who was getting old.

I had poured over pattern books and materials at Christenson’s until I found the perfect combination: a snug, red corduroy sheath. I disregarded Mom’s opinion that I didn’t have the years or curves to fill out such a tightly fitted dress, so she made me the dress I wanted; and I loved it.

On Easter morning, my red sunburn a-glow, I sashayed into church in my bright red dress. As I entered a pew, Lehi Smith, who had lobbed enough eggs at my head the day before to make me think he liked me, leaned forward from the bench behind and whispered, “Wow, Janet, you look like a skinny glass of tomato juice.”

I flounced by without answering, shot a threatening glance at Barbara, and forgave Mom’s stifled snorts, thinking they were sounds of sympathy. Lehi, I wrote off as a numbskull, not worthy of my attention.

I wore my tomato-juice sheath for years, and every time I put it on, I felt beautiful and loved in a dress my mother made for me.

Advertisements

87 thoughts on “An Easter Dress to Die For

  1. Whatever dark mood I’m in, you always manage to make me smile. My mother was a sewing wizard too. I still have her Singer, along with her big cooking spoon, now over 70 years old.

    Like

    • I’m glad I make you smile, Maizie, because you do the same for me. It was amazing what our mothers could do with a Singer, wasn’t it? Though I sewed for years, I never achieved my mom’s skill and speed.

      Like

  2. Memories loved. My mother sewed too and taught me how to as well. Many a Easter dress as well as school clothes, evening gowns, drum-major outfit and later I made my own wedding dress. My younger sister made hers as well. Today sewing is more expensive than store bought. The price of patterns is out of sight but I do have a bag of “old” patterns.Now if only my old machine would work I could sew for the grands.

    Like

    • I, too, wore home-sewn clothes for every occasion and always felt well dressed. Starting in jr. high, I started making some of my own clothes and did so into my forties when, as you noted, sewing clothes became more expensive than buying them, especially when I added in my time.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Did this post ever bring back memories! My
    Mom always made my sister and me Easter dresses. I don’t think I ever felt as beautiful as I did on Easter mornings when my sister and I were all decked out in our new dresses sewn with love by our
    Mom!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a turquoise swimsuit once that the boys said made me look like a Coke bottle…

    I love this story — especially having so many eggs lobbed at you that you figured the boy liked you. ❤

    Like

  5. What a wonderful story to share on Easter, Janet. My wife still has a treadle machine, although it hasn’t gotten much use since our latest dog arrived. The motion is fascinating for her (dog) too. Our daughter wore some of the Halloween costumes my wife made for her for a long time.

    I loved the expression: “With this modern marvel, Mom more efficiently clothed a family richer in children than in dollars.”

    I’m going to email this to my wife.

    Like

    • I’m pleased you shared this with your wife, Dan, because I think any seamstress will relate to it. I also like knowing she still has a treadle machine. I have an old treadle Singer as well, but I no longer sew on it; instead, I admire it, rock its treadle, and rub my hand across its smooth oak finish. PS I, too, felt I got the words right in the expression you like.

      Liked by 1 person

      • She really enjoyed this, Janet. She was telling me about how the patterns were different back then, because “you didn’t buy the items to finish the dress, you made thinks like seam-binding.” She doens’t sew much anymore, but she likes to do the treadle because it makes her legs feel good.

        Like

    • Were you as proud to wear what she made as I was? They always fit perfectly, were free of sewing flaws and good looking.. Traits I found more difficult to find in store bought clothes.

      Like

  6. Ah, the memories of taking sewing class to avoid the alternative- Child Care. I struggled with my sewing, under the iron breath of Mrs Heikilla, and at home on Ma’s Singer, (portable). My sister took the whole year to fashion a rugged nightgown, with one sleeve, and no rear seam. Proudly, she wore it for years. I once had a job with flour in cotton sacks, I saved a pile for Ma to make me a shirt, but she never did. One day I will wear flour sacks. Thanks for sharing janet.

    Like

    • “…under the iron breath of Mrs Helkilla.” What a great description! Your sister’s nightgown sounds…interesting. I once made a skirt out of flour sacks for a 4-H project, won a blue ribbon and wore it proudly.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yep, he liked you. I used to know a guy in my junior class who told me every day how “ugly” I was. He would act as though his eyes were burning out of his head if he caught a glimpse of me. Funny thing, though. I believed him…..until I didn’t. lol Love your stories, woven like a tapestry, Janet. 🌸

    Like

  8. Sweet memories of your amazing mother who cared for her large family, and was able to make clothes her children proudly wore. I agree with others that ” a family richer in children than in dollars” is a special thought.

    Like

    • When I reread this post before publishing it, Mary, I realized it could have been a Mothers Day piece as well because her spirit shines through the words. I was pleased when my brother Bob commented about a shirt she made for him and JL’s wife Janice about a shirt Mom made that he still has. I think we all appreciated her in the moment as well as now.

      Like

  9. Hi Aunt Beulah
    I loved perusing patterns for the next challenge I set my budiful mum to sew for me. How dare Smithy call you a skinny glass of tomato juice, Crikey the cheek of it!! Clearly your red corduroy Easter dress was your fave for ever, it sounds super trendy Aunt Beulah..I chose a purple and orange hot pant suit, even had the purple suede lace up boots in the local shoe store to go with it. Blow me down but Mum agreed 🤔😕🤒😛😀
    I have a photo amongst my albums somewhere of this exact outfit, only it is in black and white so my great taste in colour can’t be appreciated 😂😂
    It wasn’t an Easter dress, the only Easter dress mum made was her choice of white a-line lace dress with a red ribbon sash at the waist, it also came in handy for a bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding. Sewing was exciting, girls all around the world can relate to this story..
    I lay-byed and paid instalments until I bought my first Singer sewing machine.
    I made all my maternity clothes for all 3 boys, I made curtains, lamp shades, cushion covers for our first couple of homes. It has had the cover on ever since and never seen the light of day, but I definitely got my money’s worth out of it.
    Memories, you bring them to life every story you tell us and they are ever so funny some of them Aunt Beulah..
    Love you so much
    Biggest hugs from across the miles dear friend
    From
    Annie in Australia 🌴🌞🌊❤❤❤❤

    Like

    • Hugs back to you, Annie. It made me smile to realize you also sewed for yourself, your family, your home and wore dresses made by your mom that you helped plan. The hot pant suit sounds amazing. I, too, was amazed when Mom complied with some of my wishes. I also sewed curtains and lamp and cushion covers, and my old singer that paid for itself many times over hasn’t been touched for years. I like knowing we walked a bit of the same path, and I’m glad you like my memories.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your stories are so true to memories many of your readers can relate to. The reason for me and I’m sure for most of your followers, we look forward every month to visiting you Aunt Beulah, it is literally a feeling of a real rush, a buzz to read your next story. I am recovering from surgery again so don’t be surprised to hear from me in coming weeks as I peruse your WP site for some enjoyable reading. Best medicine for me is music and reading, there are some great topics that pop up on WP..
        take care Aunt Beulah, hope you are well!!
        Love forever
        From Annie xxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are so kind, Annie from Australia. I’ve been thinking about you, and I’m glad you’ve had the surgery, are recovering, and feel well enough to make people happy with your positive, personality-filled comments. Best wishes. Keep me updated on your progress.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. My mother sewed everything she and her four girls made for years. I still have the Singer treadle machine her father bought before her first pregnancy. I made my wedding dress on it. I made all my daughter’s clothes till she wanted store bought. They cost almost nothing since I made them from remnants and used patterns over and over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved this comment, lbeth. I enjoyed learning that your mom’s father bought her a machine before her first pregnancy and you later sewed your wedding dress on it. I’m glad I wrote this column because I’ve realized what a bond sewing is for those of us who were raised with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What wonderful memories! JL has a shirt that was made by Mom and embroidered with a rose. He absolutely loves it! I wonder if he can fit into it again? Hmmm.

    Like

      • I will Janet. I also thought of something else that your mom did. She made Katie a cabbage patch-like doll with an entire wardrobe, including a jumpsuit to match grandpas! She also made another cabbage patch-like doll complete with a wardrobe for the infamous toy closet!

        Like

      • I had forgotten the cabbage patch-like doll and clothes she made for the toy closet she stocked to provide hours of entertainment for her grandchildren; thanks for reminding me. I didn’t know she made Katie one as well. I love the jumpsuit like Dad’s; it sounds like something she would do.

        Like

  12. These things stay with you. My otherwise horrible grandmother one year sent my sister and I an easter dress. This was the one and only thing she ever did for us, but I do remember it. The dresses matched and were lovely–except the color. They were chocolate brown. I never understood a brown dress on two little girls for Easter, but I did remember her effort to send something.

    Like

  13. Your wonderful story, once again, brought back warm memories of my own childhood. School clothes shopping was so much simpler when it was a trip to the fabric store to pick out patterns and materials! Sitting on a tall stool looking through the large pattern books with my mom was always so much fun and she let me pull out the drawers to see if they had the pattern in my size. So many possibilities choosing fabric and notions as well! She sewed almost all of my clothing, including prom dresses and my wedding dress. I continued her tradition for awhile with my own daughter until it became too expensive and time limiting. Dresses, doll clothes, and Halloween costumes were so special when handcrafted with love! Thank you for the lovely story and memories!

    Like

    • So good to hear from you, Cheryl.Your comment brought back happy memories to me as well. I, too, loved the process of choosing patterns and materials. And even as an adult, I felt gratified when I noted a number, opened a big drawer, and found a pattern right where it should be. Of course, not finding my size was disappointing; but that didn’t happen often.I remember spending as much time choosing buttons or trim as on finding the perfect fabric. You also helped me remember the year my Christmas present was a doll with several wonderful outfits my mom made for it, including a ballerina’s tutu and a cap and gown. Before I wrote this post, I didn’t realize how important sewing was to so many women i care about. Thanks for letting me know.

      Like

  14. What a wonderful story! Of course, as usual, you triggered my own memories. My mother was only too happy to hand over the sewing to each of her six daughters the minute we were even half-way capable. She too showed her love by with benign tolerance of my terrible ideas. Letting me make my own mistakes was kind, and long-term, it paid off. I can remember most of my teen dresses, and the thrill is still there. Independence and creativity: a heady mix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I, too, can remember most of my teen dresses made by my mother and me; and sometimes started by me and finished by my mother when the new-dress occasion arrived sooner than I anticipated. Like your mom, mine often let me blunder along with my mistakes, hoping I would learn something. But there were times when she gave me a no nonsense look and said, “Janet, no!”

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Such love! You capture that time so well. I think my mother over did her sewing for me as I was the only girl with four brothers. Before we had uniforms the teachers used to try to guess which dress I’d wear. I think there were 25!! At 15yo, after my complaints, my mother gave up sewing for me. How devoted she’d been with each dress sewn with her love. Then I started sewing my own, such wonderful memories!! Thanks for bringing them back, Janet. I just loved the sound of your skinny tomato juice dress!

    Like

    • I loved that dress and it took me some time to realize Lehi’s comment was probably another awkward expression of interest in me. If so, it didn’t work. I do think our mothers sewed love into the clothes they made for us. And it’s interesting to me that after complaining about home sewn clothes to your mom, you started sewing your clothes. Did you reach her skill level? I didn’t.

      Like

  16. What incredibly warm, loving memories and truly wonderful post.
    Thank you Aunt Beulah, for including me and sharing your memories with me. Your mother sounds fabulous. The sort of lady that I’d enjoy being in the company of.
    Sending you much love, ~ Cobs. xxx

    Like

    • I had forgotten about the dining room table (in our case the kitchen table) being used to lay out, pin, and cut out patterns; but I remember well the desire to emulate Jackie — a look I never achieved. And you’re right. I’m quite sure she didn’t feed calves nor assist in the chicken killing, plucking and cleaning operation.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. “With this modern marvel, Mom more efficiently clothed a family richer in children than in dollars.” In one sentence you expertly took me back to your childhood and to a time rich with memories and packed with love…)

    Lovely story, rich with beautiful memories of a time passed. So, is this Lehi dude still among us?????

    Lucie

    Like

  18. Had someone asked, Michele, I would have responded with confidence that you, too, went to school in clothes your mother made for you. What a wonderful gift our mothers gave us.

    Like

  19. A skinny glass of tomato juice. I love the image!

    I don’t sew but when I was a kid and went to the fabric store with Mom I loved looking through the packages of Simplicity patterns. The women looked so stylish, the dresses so chic. If only I could sew like that!
    My Mom mostly gave up sewing by the time I entered elementary school so we took to buying our brand new Easter dresses instead.

    Your post brought back memories of my sister and I wearing our new dresses and patent leather shoes on Easter Sunday morning, then going home to have our picture taken in the back yard by my Dad’s bright yellow, early-blooming Forsythia bushes.

    Janet, many of your posts inspire cherished childhood memories. Thanks for that.

    Like

    • I’m glad my posts bring back happy childhood memories to you. I’m surprised how many women remember the pleasure of looking at patterns, whether they sewed them or not. I agree the women looked stylish and the dresses chic; I never felt I quite matched the image on the pattern, but I felt happy with the results anyway, especially when I didn’t make the dress, Mom did. I like the image of you and your sister in your new Easter clothes having your pictures taken in front of blooming forsythia.

      Like

  20. I have my grandmothers treadle machine and my mother’s electric machine.

    I began making my doll clothes when I was seven. Mom and I made my wedding and my bridesmaid dresses.

    My daughter took my computerized machine off to college with her to “learn” to sew with her roommates. She was a tomboy growing up and never cared to learn the art of sewing. Needless to say, they never finished their project and my machine disappeared.

    Loved reading your story!

    Like

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it; thanks for letting me know. I have been amazed by the wide community of women who were sewn for by their moms and learned to sew themselves and have happy memories about the experience. I enjoyed and empathized with the anecdote about your tomboy daughter; it reminded me of some of my loved ones who enjoyed planning to sew but never quite got around to doing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. My mom made most of my dresses too. I was always a little chubby as a kid so she usually went for a pattern that was the empire style so my slightly protruding belly wouldn’t show.

    Like

  22. I know I’m late with this, but I just had to add my comment to the many, many followers who wrote. It looks like having a mother who sewed on a treadle machine was a universal reality of life at one time! I too, had a mom who was a whiz at creating beautiful dresses for her daughters—six of them! Thank you for bringing the memory back, with crystal clarity!

    Like

  23. A child wise beyond her years, able to brush off a remark like that from a peer.

    Mum used to make all our clothes too. Now she makes toys and blankets for children which I think she prefers

    Like

    • I think I handled Lehi’s comment well because I was raised with the teasing, sometimes quite pointed, of two older brothers. My mother, too, ended up making the same things for her grandchildren and did so happily.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I adore sheath dresses!!!! Or at least the idea of them; I was always too short & tubular! I grew up drooling over Grace Kelly & Audrey Hepburn’s dresses, so seeing your pattern image brought back wonderful memories!

    I love that you wore your red sheath proudly! Your indomitable spirit has followed you!

    Like

    • I, too, loved the dresses those ladies wore, though at twelve i had neither the sophistication or shape to duplicate their look! Still, I felt beautiful and I suppose that is what matters.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s