…. I was three years old and a flower girl at my Auntie Jean and Uncle Lewis’s wedding. My mummy made me a blue velvet dress to wear and someone lent me a white fur stole with matching muff. I wore white knee socks like a big girl (and scowled like one too!) accessorised with my beautiful Sunday best black patent shoes with buckles (not shown). I wore Chanel No 5. Only joking.
Standing directly behind me is my daddy who was Best Man and on my left, my eldest cousin and idol in a red coat- see, she has knee socks. Beside her and behind a gate post is my second eldest cousin, also my childhood and continuing idol. On my right is the bride and groom; totally in love and eyes for no one other than each other. 50 years on from that day, Jean and Lewis are still together, still devoted to each other and because of that I got another two cousins! Auntie Jean is the youngest of six siblings, my mother’s youngest sister. A family of three boys and three girls – all the boys are dead but the girls are showing no signs of giving up just yet! And they are either in or heading towards their 80s, but Jean’s the baby.
The photograph is therefore 50 years old and the version you see here is a photograph of a print of the original photo – hence the quality, but you get the idea.
To celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary, my Uncle Lewis has invited the whole family to the Slieve Donard hotel for dinner – and bed and breakfast!
The hotel resides beneath the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle and is right beside the shore – what could be a better location?
My lovely Auntie Jean spends most of her time these days in a wheelchair because she has MS (Multiple Sclerosis). My own bridesmaid suffered the same disease from the tender age of 22 and is now dead. She was tall, beautiful, elegant and stylish and actually put me in the shade, even on my wedding day, but I could never resent a single moment we spent together. She stood totally unaided beside me as my witness and best friend. Julie is the one in blue. Isn’t she gorgeous?The 50th wedding celebration is not only in honour of the golden couple but also to raise money for MS. It is a devastating disease that seems to be common ( in that I know of loads of people with a diagnosis) in Northern Ireland. Auntie Jean’s son, Ian, my youngest cousin 46, has also been stuck with this incapacitating illness: he is an award winning press photographer, who was also our wedding photographer – his first private commission. And what memorable images he took that day and how unaware we all were to what the future held. These are photos of the photos, if you know what I mean? Relaxed, genuine captures in time of each special moment.
Ian is a husband and a father to a gorgeous and clever daughter but he now lives in residential care. Ian cannot eat, drink or swallow; cannot dance or walk, not even stand; cannot read because he can’t turn the page; cannot scratch an itch; and can no longer take photographs because he can’t even press the shutter and yet everytime I visit him, we have a laugh and reminisce good times and make fun of our family traits.
Julie was the same; never complained, never moaned, just had a very optimistic view of life and relished every moment with a smile.
If you feel so inclined, you can make a small donation to MS through Just Giving
This is a sewing blog, so let’s get to the sewing……..
What better way to celebrate a Golden Wedding Anniversary than to re-create what I wore 50 years ago as a flower girl? I made a grown up version of my blue velvet dress. Looks like a sack on the hanger …..
The pattern is from Bootstrap – asymmetrical off-shoulder dress and custom fitted to me. This really is the way to go – type in your measurements and you get a pattern that’s perfect – no adjusting, alterations etc, just cut and sew.
As the wedding was in the mid 1960s, I wanted to link to that era and this design seemed to fit the brief as it had a slightly vintage look. It probably fits better into the late 1950s but we are always 10 years behind the rest of the world in Northern Ireland. I also used Google images for inspiration of the fashion of the time.
The fabric is from Croftmill and is described as the richest possible dark navy blue – perfect – not black but nearly, it’s still blue and because it’s velvet it has every shade in between. This is a cotton velvet because it is so much more stable and resilient than the silk version. If you read advice about sewing with velvet, you’ll be told not to press, use a walking foot, use a million pins, sew once and don’t rip out, etc etc etc – it’s enough to put you off sewing with velvet at all. Look, just buy the stuff and make a dress – it really doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just make sure the nap (pile) all smoothes down the same direction when you place your pattern pieces, so you will need more fabric than usual, at least 1/2 metre.
Yes, I’ve made mistakes but we all know that only another sewer will notice the errors. I pressed, I ripped out, I used the normal amount of pins and I did not use a walking foot. If you do nothing else, you MUST use a a velvet pressing cloth. This is just a scrap of the same fabric and when pressing seams flat place velvet to velvet and gently, gently steam press. Be wary of pressing hems and sleeves. I do know that once pressed, the velvet pile will never recover. Go on, ask me how I know that??
Because this is a party dress, I moved the centre back zipper to the left-hand side – I mean who wants to spin round and round at 2am in the morning trying to pull a zip down that you can’t reach to get out of the dress. Mind you, I suppose you could always sleep in it.
When I make a dress I like long panels, from shoulder to hem, in other words no waist seam that cuts the dress in half. This dress has a waist seam at the front only. I disguised it with a half belt, sewn into the sides and blinged up with a pearl and diamond cabochon. (DH has advised to remove the pearl – opinions please.)
I sewed the back split closed – there was no need to fiddle around with lining as I can walk just fine without it.
The dress is fully lined and if I could take back time, I would underline it actually – but I didn’t, so just move on. The hem is very narrow deliberately. I like this length, so I sewed a wide band of lace to the very edge and slip stitched this up.
The sleeves were lengthened to 3/4 length, this is December after all, but they looked a little clumsy and heavy. I sewed three little tucks so that they became slightly gathered above the elbows and reflect the gathers in the front bodice. It creates an uneven sleeve hem so the lining needs to be tucked inside to mirror the shape.
Off the shoulder dresses may be sexy and dramatic but create a whole new category of underwear problems. A bog-standard bra ain’t gonna work. Do you buy special undergarments, do you adapt existing bras? The number of YouTube videos I watched on how to insert cups into dresses reached record breaking numbers and in the end I opted for the easiest, and possibly the best solution, hand sew a couple of bra strap tabs with poppers and then wear my favourite bra. Job done.
No-one has lent me a white fur stole to wear this time round and I think I’ll leave the big girl white knee socks off too…….
I know we all have extra expense at this particular time of year but, you know what, we can walk, talk, dance and we can relish in our pure physical ability, however clumsily, to enjoy life – even if it’s just to thread and use a needle. Don’t forget, if you’d like to contribute to support MS click here. I’d ask you to NOT buy those two metres/yards to sit forlornly in your stash but instead give the £/$ 12-15 to MS instead.
Many, many thanks. My Auntie Jean, cousin Ian, bridesmaid Julie’s legacy and countless others will benefit from your generosity and kindness.