Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Looking back as a young girl, it was good to have a couple of sets of clothing to change into for school. I was accustomed to wearing this today and two days later wearing it again. Be it dress or skirt and top. Shoes? You wish. One pair for the whole year or until they wore out. I was privileged with a pair of tennis shoes for junior high PE . Whereas I learned how to turn a pair of black tennis shoes from the summer before into white.
I had an uncle who came to live with us when his mother died. He was young and very industrious. One day I noticed that he was drawing and painting pictures. Seeing that made me want to do the same. Trying to draw and never knowing the basics was not easy. Taking art class in school was just what it was — art class. No one ever showed me anything. I watched my uncle and did some improvising. I made my first fashion design in color using color pencils. I was fifteen years old when I sent away for information from the Art Instruction School (which is still in business) to take the test and get in art school by mail. I took the test, but didn’t get in because I was too young.
Determination is an awesome thing. Obstacles can get in your way, but with the right state of mind you can persevere. There was no money for nice art supplies. I kept drawing and used whatever was on hand. I even used notebook paper in place of artist drawing paper on occasion.
One year, there was a May Day celebration at school. I had to have a red skirt. My mother purchased some red fabric and made me a drindle skirt. She measured the cloth, cut out the skirt and a waist band. She didn’t have a pattern. We did not have a sewing machine. It had to be made by hand. It was sewn using very small stitches. I was amazed at her talent. I never knew my mother knew how to sew.
In the era I grew up in, all girls had to take home economics. This class consisted of teaching the skills of domesticity such as cooking and sewing. I leaned toward the sewing that the class offered. Each student in the class was assigned the task of making a shift dress. You bought a pattern for your size after measurements were taken. Material was a light weight cotton perma-press fabric. Other supplies were machine needles, pin cushion, sewing needle, thread, tracing paper, tracing wheel, and ruler. You went through the process of ironing out the pattern before cutting out and using it. There was the meticulous part of cutting out the pattern, pinning and tracing. During construction you pressed at every stage until you gained that complete and professional result at the final stage — the hand sown hem. Most of the Haute Couture designs use a lot of hand sewing techniques. Many of these same techniques are used in the fashion industry today.
During my high schools days I looked forward to going to home economics class. I went from sewing the shift dress which had the hook and eye closure for the back neck, to a dress with a zipper in the back, to finally a two piece suit with lining. When it was time to sign up for my last year of home economics, which was going to be great, I discovered that it had been abolished. Oh, my goodness. No more sewing and cooking classes. What a blow to my creative side. This would have been my crowning moment. A major accomplishment. All was not lost; I still could dream.