Stillwater News Press

Local Columnists

June 17, 2014

View from the country 06-18-14

Mother was our own private dress designer

In the last column, I forgot to tell you that almost all the dresses Mother made for her daughters were made without a pattern, without a ‘store-bought’ pattern. I guess maybe there were patterns made by Simplicity and McCall, but Mother made her own.

She’d measure us and then use last week’s issue of The Kansas City Star to cut patterns for each of us. Considering that no two of us were built alike, that must have been hard. My arms were always long and she had to allow for that.

Our dresses were of our favorite colors and sturdily made. Imagine, growing up with fashionable one-of-a-kind dresses! To get a one-of-a-kind dress now, it would take hundreds of dollars, or maybe thousands!

These were not muu-muu type dresses, either. They had darts and intricate seams. They had folded collars. They had gathered, gored, and pleated skirts. Mother could make puffed sleeves, straight sleeves and cap sleeves. When I left for college at Oklahoma A&M, she made me a dress (without a bought pattern) that had a peplum.

When we were young, she almost always put in four-inch hems. That allowed for our growth. She’d let out the hem when the dress got too short and we’d get more use from it.

Oftentimes, she’d send a grocery list with Dad when he went to town on Saturday to sell eggs and cream. But NEVER when she needed chicken feed. On those days, she went to town with him and while at Pawnee Grain and Supply, she’d look over the patterns of the cloth sacks of chicken feed. The sacks had to be suitable for dresses and she had to get three of one pattern. Sometimes, it was hard to find three to match, but she always managed.

By the time her daughters were sewing, she bought patterns for us to use. We learned to use them over and over. We learned to substitute. That is, we might use the sleeve pattern from one dress pattern to go into the bodice of another dress.

Mother sewed my wedding dress. White satin. Sweetheart neckline. Chapel train. It was beautiful. The thing I remember most about her as she sewed was that she put a sheet on the floor under her treadle sewing machine so no part of the satin ever touched the floor.

SOME of her daughters are great seamstresses.

Marjorie Buchanan is a lifetime resident of rural Pawnee County. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. Her great-grandparents made the run into the Cherokee Strip from Stillwater. She encourages responses to her columns at or to P.O. Box 4, Pawnee, OK, 74058-0004.

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