Kate – wait ’til you see what I found!
Like many of you I learned to sew at my mother’s feet. In those days the choice of fabric and patterns was very limited. I don’t even know if Vogue had made it as far as Northern Ireland in the 1960s – Simplicity was about the height of it. All, or at least a large part, of my childhood wardrobe was ‘home-made’ on a Singer treadle machine and my father often remarked that my mother was married to her sewing machine and not him!
Growing into my teenage years I realised the benefits of having a mother who could sew: while I loved to go shopping with my friends and my wardrobe became increasingly RTW, I also had the advantage of owning unique items. I clearly remember a green striped jumpsuit, a brown pinafore maxi dress , peasant skirts by the bucket load – it was the 70s and I thought I was IT!
What I failed to acknowledge at the time was that my mother was also making clothes for herself. I vaguely remember that these were ‘party clothes’ and I was mightily impressed by a certain ombre pink polyester halter neck maxi dress with really long ties, similar to the pattern below.
Nowadays, my mother doesn’t sew so much but has passed the beacon to me. Now, it is me that she comes to for alterations and fixing instead of the other way around. Recently I have narrowed two pair of trousers legs for her.
At the weekend I entered (voluntarily) the blackhole of my parents’ attic. A treasure trove of memories, useless items, old school books and projects, suitcases and pictures, and racks and racks of clothes. There, the whole history of the late 20th century hanging in garment form resides. I headed straight to an old battered brown leather suitcase and unearthed exactly what I was looking for……..this is the only garment that my mother has kept all those years that she made for herself.
Made in silk dupion, of the richest peacock blue, a tunic and trousers, it completely encapsulates the late 60s/early 70s style. There’s not one sequin missing from the trim and the creases and wrinkles are 50 years old.
Nehru collar, bell-shaped sleeves, hip length tunic with little side splits and trimmed with sequinned braid. The tunic has a long centre back zip, metal of course. Princess seams with additional bust darts for extra shaping. The main body is lined but the sleeves are not and all seams are pinked.
What makes this even more special is the story in the seams – the tunic had to be taken in at the sides for a better fit and the first row of stitches is still visible.
The trousers are narrow legged with a side zip opening. Unlined and with a grosgrain waist. Four darts both front and back.
I’d love to model this outfit for you but the waist measures a tiny 26″ and mine doesn’t.
We looked for the original pattern in the attic but regrettably it remained elusive – we did however uncover hoards of McCalls and Simplicity children’s patterns from 1960-1970: and then the Vogues from 1980 through my teenage years. I can even remember the fabrics that were used for most of them. A quick look through Google images produced the following, which are close to the tunic outfit but not the same.
My father suggested that if we looked through 50 years of photographs we might be able to uncover the original photo of my mother wearing this – I’d love to see the shoes. But time is not what it used to be and 21st century pressures demanded my efforts to be spent elsewhere.
If you know the pattern, please let me know – perhaps a 21st century version (in a larger size) is just what my wardrobe needs.