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Matching Dresses

March 12, 2012

I made these dresses about three months ago, but now that the weather has improved my daughters are both finally wearing them so they’ve come back to mind.  I got the pattern for them from a thrift store for about 25 cents–an old pattern from the seventies for a simple dress with pretty heart-shaped pockets.  Fortunately, children’s styles don’t change very rapidly, and even if they did retro is back in style.  The cloth for them was an extremely lucky find.  We were driving past a garage sale when I made my husband pull over because I had spotted lots of toys and kids clothes.  At the end of one table was a large box of cloth–some scraps and a few bolts of cloth with several yards.  I asked the lady running the sale how much she wanted for them and she said that if I could use them I could take it for free.  Quite happily, I threw the box in the back of my Cube.

Later, as I was looking through the various cloth scraps, I decided that the pattern on this cloth was lovely but the material was too heavy of a polyester to make a shirt with so I set it aside, unsure of what it would become.  With a bit of thread, some rick rack and a few buttons, it became these two matching dresses–one a 2T and one a 4T that I made extra long since my oldest daughter is extremely tall.  The best thing about working with patterns and making clothing yourself is the easy ability to tailor the clothing as you make it.  I am forever adding length to pants, skirts and dresses I make, or modifying the cut of a shirt to fit my frame better.  All in all, I think the total cost for the dresses worked out to be around five dollars.  The best thing about this price tag is that sewing is starting to get frustrating when it comes to costs.  The more it turns into a specialized hobby, the more material and notions cost, and the more often it turns out that making something is more expensive than buying it off a clearance rack.  There are exceptions to this–I just bought a huge amount of flannel for $1.99 a yard to make pajama pants with.  But more and more it is becoming the case.  A beautiful dress I want to make would cost me seventy or eighty dollars, and I can get a similar style on a clearance rack at the mall for twenty or thirty dollars.  I’m happy to spend money on doing things I love, but the price tag on sewing is often becoming a little too steep for my family.

This was also the first time I had sat down to make anything since my oldest daughter was born, so it was a reunion of sorts with my sewing machine.  Of course, this also meant that it took three times longer than it should have, and I had to rip the stitches out on at least half of each dress and redo them, but they turned out well in the end and the girls often ask to wear them.  That’s the most satisfying part of it to me–seeing them running around in their pretty dresses, happy to be wearing them.  They particularly love the heart-shaped pockets, full of innocent little girl cheer at things that are feminine and sweet.  Mary, my oldest, gets really excited when she finds out I’m making something else for her.  I take this as a compliment of sorts–although she is not picky or yet old enough to notice many faults, she is also brutally honest.  (The time she poked my belly and said “Mama, you have a squishy belly” comes to mind).  And for all of her innocence, she also has a very meticulous and organized mind that is very likely to notice a significant flaw.

In the end, the joy they both show when they wear them is the biggest satisfaction of all.  They seem to instinctively understand that something made for them–with time and effort and care–is more valuable than something purchased on a rack at a store.  I wonder how long that sense will last before it somehow reverses in the flood of consumerism our society has to offer.  I hope that it lasts a long time–that I can maintain in them a sense that the work of their own hands is more valuable than the work done by a machine half a world away.

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From → Sewing

6 Comments
  1. These are adorable. I know exactly what you mean about the cost of sewing. I try and balance out buying fabric with thrifting to even the score. But more than the cost of fabric and notions (and patterns) I think time is the most precious input. I hate to think how much a garment costs by the time I’ve multiplied my time by my usual hourly rate at work! Hence why I tend to overlook that part!

  2. Sewing takes such talent! Your work is beautiful!

  3. I don’t machine sew at all… my mom hated to sew and I guess I understood at a young age it could be frustrating and not something I wanted to do, having watched her rip projects out and redo, cursing at the machine! It just didn’t appeal to me. Hand sewing and mending I don’t mind. I was surprised recently at a niece who never sewed until she was a mother of 3 and took it on as a hobby. She taught herself and does fabulous pieces for her girls. I really admire her… and I think that you can modify patterns to suit you is so awesome. My mind would be a boggle if I had to do anything other than follow instructions!! Great post, well written!

  4. I have a great idea!! We should send the guys out somewhere and you and I should stay home with your two kids and my one and sew! I’ll bring over my machine and you can help me. 😉 (using my fb account so you know who this is, not just some random stranger. :D) (We still need to work out a schedule for date nights.)

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  1. Spring Dress for Mary « bestintentionsmom

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