Tag Archive | Vogue

Learning about Couture (Part One)

I am impressed by this exquisite and elegant book called Sewing Couture by Claire B. Shaeffer. I look forward to reading all of it.

I include the beautiful book cover at the top of this blog entry to catch your eye. But I’ve decided to share a bit about my sewing experience before I talk about the book.

couture sewing

My sewing history is simple. I began with doll clothes as a child—for my 8-inch Madame Alexander. When I was in high school my father offered to keep me in fabric if I sewed my own clothes. What a great deal for me who was on a budget of no money.

I was an early fashionista in high school. I probably saved my lunch money for six months to buy a pair of black leather boots that I found in San Francisco. These boots had tiny buttons and loops all the way up the front. I wish I had a photo of these boots and my high school clothes. Occasionally, I came home from school to find my mother, going through my closet, dress by dress, hanger by hanger, showing each detail to my aunt Bev. She’d say things like, “Look at this top-stitching on the collar that she did by hand,” or “Notice how she matched the plaid design on the side seams.”

My Aunt Bev helped this budding fashionista emerge by cutting my hair. If she were styling hair now, she’d no doubt be in a high-end salon. But her price for me couldn’t be beat. She either cut my hair for free, or my mom slipped her some money. All I know is that my aunt put up with a diva who checked every detail with two mirrors to examine the back. I’d seen an unusual “bob” cut in Vogue (in 1963). I love my aunt who was willing to keep snipping each time I ask her to go shorter and shorter in the back.

I had a unique look that other kids gawked at me.  I was either ahead of my time, or I was a geek, or both. My two besties Linda and Janice, and I made our own winter coats—fully underlined and lined. Lapel collars and bound button holes. Linda’s was green wool, mine was camel, and Janice’s was black and white herringbone.

Janice never credited me for handing her the signature look of black and white. This combo was striking with her black hair and freckles. But this is why I feel blessed to have introduced this idea to my friend. I once saw a beautiful black and white magazine spread, probably in Vogue, maybe in Glamour or Seventeen. I instantly fell in love with the sophistication and elegance of black and white. Black and white fabric. Black and white ribbon. Black and white wallpaper. Unfortunately, this color combo did nothing for me in my brown hair with reddish highlights. When we were shopping for fabric I suggested to Janice that she select the black and white polka dotted fabric .She made the most adorable sleeveless dress with cut-in armholes and a dropped waist in fairly large polka dots. Honestly, my friend should have been featured in a Vogue editorial. There was never a better match than those two colors and my dear friend.

Many years later, when I hadn’t seen Janice in probably 14 years, a friend called me on the phone and said, “Quick. Turn on ABC. Janice is on TV.” There was Janice on a local show talking about the miracle of giving birth with only one kidney. (Those of you who’ve seen Steel Magnolias may remember how the Julia Roberts’ character got pregnant, despite her mother’s huge reservations.) Catching up with a dear friend doesn’t usually occur on television. But what was more remarkable is that Janice chose to wear a black and white dress after all this time.

How I wish I had photos to acknowledge significant occurrences and plain feelings from long ago. The younger generations are so fortunate to own so many cameras that are easy to use. Besides my school pictures, I probably have less than 10 pictures of myself before high school. My parents were not happy people. I don’t think they noticed many Kodak moments in their lives. They were too busy surviving the present than to think about capturing their beautiful children for posterity. Or the other version of the story about no pictures is: My parents didn’t have their shit together and they should have had the decency to take pictures of their children.
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