Stitch in Timeby
"Tonsorial Artist and Hill Country Contrarian"
are uncounted treasures that have vanished with the popularity of dime-a-dozen
super stores and half-price outlets. |
Not so terribly long ago we would
take our family's measure and fit them out ourselves. We’d whip up clothing and
accessories on our old Singer or White or whatever machine our Grandmother used,
taught us on and left behind for us to continue with. We could send for the patterns
in the Farmers Almanac and buy yards of fabric at Vogt's drygood store on Main.
Perhaps a little bonnet board to shore up the harder working plackets and buttonholes,
if needed. Personally, I swore by Mrs. Bierman's buttonholes. Once the garment
was marked you could leave it with her and she'd charge a quarter per button.
They were of better quality than any made in the commercial markets, I can tell
you. When the collar wore out on our shirts, we took them to City Cleaners and
Mrs. Murphy would turn them for us or mend our rips and/or worn out knees and
elbows. Erna or Eugene blocked my crochet and knitting for mere pennies and there
was always conversation and a few good jokes floating around the front desk, especially
if Bernice was there.
One of the last bastions of self-expression that
isn't illegal, unhealthy or just plain dangerous is the act of dressing ourselves.
Many winters ago I made several of my friends velvet dresses. They had that cozy,
heavy, ‘hangy’ feeling and I wore mine out before spring. Everyone has seen similar
dresses on the rack at various department stores, but they just aren't the same.
Mine were simple; no fuss scoop neck jumper-type dresses that looked good on most
everyone and didn't cost an arm and a leg to make. My friend, Mick, designs and
makes wonderful frocks and men’s' & women’s' casual wear that can't be found anywhere
else. They're suited to full-bodied women and men and enhance the positive aspect
of that fullness. In these complicated times it's rather hard to find clothing
on the rack that suits anyone who isn't either rail thin or XXX22+. The selections
aren't particularly attractive or thoughtful, either. To make matters worse, the
latest 'reality' TV show involving fashion design features a kind of neurotic
bunch of metrosexual individuals who appear to design for shock value as opposed
to flattering fit and comfort of movement.
Another seamstress friend of
mine bought a suitcase at an estate sale that I'll never forget. It contained
a collection of hand-made clothing belonging to a long forgotten male child. There
was an example of each piece of his clothing spanning the years from infancy to
adolescence when he earned his 'long pants'. Each specimen was lovingly hand sewn
and had been fitted to the child...from the baptism gown, soakers, one-sie, sailor
suit, knickers and finally the corduroy long pants and blazer. Each shy little
shirt, vest, jacket and knitted sweater, sock and tweed hat became more elegant
and finely turned out as the years went by. By the time the long pants and blazer
came along Mother was an expert.
Speaking of treasures, there was a young
cowboy who would bring his felt to hang on the barbershop wall in the spring and
leave it there all the hot summer. In the fall, he’d swap it out with his summer
straw. One winter he ripped a chunk out of the felt's brim chasing calves through
the brush and had sewn it back together while in the saddle. It looked pretty
darn good and almost fit exactly where it was supposed to. He knew how much I
admired that old hat and had his Mother send it along to my shop to hang for good
when he married up and quit that lonesome work to raise a family. That old hat
is hanging on my wall somewhere, still. I guess that's a profession that still
allows a bit of sewing if you're an adventurous soul.
Life in the fast
lane makes for little time to engage in these rites of passage anymore. All we
need now is a few minutes, a shopping cart, a little piece of plastic and we're
outfitted with the rest of our kind in mostly identical duds. On the other hand,
where would we get our rags without these huge factory style rubber-stampers?
Think of the huge garage sales, thrift stores, landfills...but I digress. At least
we can be thankful that corsets and bustles are no longer the rage.