Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fashion Is A Dream Factory

 Me, at my high school on my Graduation Day, June 1979.  My mom made that gown.  You can see the wonderful detail, and get a sense of the skill required to make it.  I look taller than I am, because I was wearing 6" platforms under that gown.  Yes, we wore gowns to our graduation.  

 I'm on the left in this picture.  I'm wearing a suit my mom made me from a pattern I selected.  Dig the platform saddle shoes!  That's my brother Buddy standing next to me, and my brother Doug.  My mom is in the yellow dress, with her friend Doris, next to her, then my Dad, and Berthold.  Doris and Berthold were married, and were my parents' friends from way back.  

This is the 17th of May parade in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.  That's my mom, my nephew Kris in a sailor suit she made him, and my sister Anna and I wearing Norwegian Hardanger bunads.  I don't know who made them, it could have been our Nana Norway, our maternal grandmother.  They are entirely made by hand.  A great deal of workmanship and fine attention to detail goes into making a bunad.  Each district in Norway has their own style of bunad.  My mom was from Hardanger, so we wore Hardanger bunads.  

This is a post I wrote some time ago.  I wanted to have pictures of my mom's handiwork to go with the post, and my cousin Randi, Doris and Berthold's daughter, recently scanned some old photos and e-mailed them to me.  Thanks, Randi!  

Everyone's awake at 4:30 AM writing their blog posts after being up all night, right?  Right!   So let's get this party started!

I was reading InStyle magazine in bed, trying to relax enough to go to sleep.  I was really enjoying it and feeling inspired.  So much so, that I wanted to return to my old hobby: fashion drawings.

Let me tell you about the fashion drawings.  When I was a kid, and even as a young adult, my mom would make some of my clothes.  In fact, she made many of my clothes.  She was an excellent seamstress.  Just to give you an idea of the breadth of her skills, she made my sister's wedding dress, my maid-of-honor dress, my graduation dress, my confirmation dress, clothes for the grandkids, the curtains and drapes in our home, and the slipcovers, and before she died, she was making me a rug.  She also refinished and upholstered furniture.  Not too talented, right?  She was also an organic gardener before it was chic and trendy, she preserved, froze and canned the produce from the garden, she grew beautiful flowers, and practiced plant propagation.  One time she *ahem* "liberated" a rose from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens when  I took her on a trip there, and managed to propagate it and plant a bush from that rose in our garden.  She did the same with a neighbor's rose.  Yes, my mom was a rose thief!

Back to the fashion drawings:  When my mom was making my clothes for me when I was a little, I didn't have much say in the process or in the design.  I had some input, but not much.  When I became a teenager, though, I became more involved in the process.  I would go to the basement of the local JC Penney, where the sewing and notions department was located.  All around the walls in the department, were the pattern books.  The pattern books were large, heavy, hardcover books, which were chained to the desk (which was a slanted drafting desk).  The books were from the pattern companies: Vogue Patterns, Simplicity Patterns, McCall's, and others.  This is back in the 70's, when there was a recession, so people became interested in DIY things, like organic gardening, sewing, home preserving and canning and refinishing vintage furniture bought on the cheap at auctions or antique stores.  My parents were living on a fixed income, since my dad had retired.  In other words, things were not so much different from today.  Anyway, I would take out my drawing pencils, and my pad of tracing paper, and go through the pattern books, looking for any styles that caught my fancy.  When I came to a pattern, I would trace it on the tracing paper.  Then I'd color it in with colored pencils, to indicate the trim, the fastenings, the texture of the fabric and any embellishments on the garment.  I would note the pattern number, so my mom or I could pick it up later.

I would take the drawings home to show my mom, who would then figure out if the garment could be made, or if it was out of her skill or price range.  Price was more of a factor, since, to quote the kids, "she had mad skillz."  Fortunately, my tastes did not run towards the elaborate, so we concurred on most of the designs.

Sometimes, I drew my own designs.  I still have a dress that I designed that my mom made.

As I got older and more aware of trends, I would design more of my own outfits, and put them together from things I had in my closet.  My closet was where my parents stored their old clothes (read "vintage"), so I had access to my dad's uniforms from WW II, my grandfather's evening clothes, including a full tuxedo suit, and my sister's old clothes from when she was a teenager in the 50's and 60's.  I would also raid my brothers' closet in search of jeans and men's shirts, and visit thrift shops and antique stores.  I guess you could say that my drawings were like "dream boards" that people do now, in that, I figured if I could imagine it, it would turn up somehow.

And I guess, in a way, that's what fashion is all about:  It enables us to dream about who we would like to be and how we'd like the world to perceive us.  It gives us a way to make that happen, whether it's through shopping, or sewing your own clothes, or putting outfits together from things you already have, or shopping at thrift stores or vintage clothing stores.  Fashion has become what Hollywood was in its Golden Age:  a dream factory.

Nowadays, we have websites like Polyvore and Pinterest and Instagram, that enable us to collect pictures and organize them.  Polyvore goes one better and allows you to create sets with items you clip from the Internet, so you can see how different items work together (or not).  I find it enables me to be very creative, more so than I was with my fashion drawings, and also more realistic, because I use items I actually own, or that I'm planning on purchasing.  On the other hand, I'm not creating something new that no one has ever seen before, so that's a downside.

I enjoyed the time I spent with my mom doing these creative projects with her.  My mom died in 1992. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her.  My dad died in 2000, and I think of him every day, too.  So, while you're dreaming your dreams, and making them come true, include your loved ones.  You never know what kind of memories you will make together, or the impact you will have on each other.

And speaking of dreams, I'm going to try and hit the road to Dreamland.  It's nearly 6 AM.  Time for little bloggers to get some sleep!