I’d been waiting on the Sears Fall 1965 catalog for days. Daddy’s income was barely enough to feed our family of six and there was not much for clothes, but I could dream and the catalog was my window into the world of colors, textures, patterns and designs.
When it finally came, I poured over the catalog, studying hemlines, styles and colors. School that semester included Home EC sewing and with my babysitting money and fabric at $1.98 a yard, I was hopeful. I spent hours at the drug store with the McCall’s and Simplicity dress pattern books and fingered all the fabrics.
“Are you sure you want this fabric?” Mother asked, a frown on her face.
We were in Greenbrae Drug Store, in front of a red satin fabric that glistened in the store’s bright lights. Around us the murmur of other mothers and daughters swirled as they searched for the right sewing pattern and fabric, while from the overhead intercom Andy Williams crooned “Moon River.”
I stood there in my cut-off jeans, sleeveless, cotton blouse and white Ked’s tennis shoes and longed for some class beyond cast-offs, beyond plain, durable and serviceable clothes. If I could make this dress, like Audrey Hepburn’s, maybe I’d find sophistication. In one hand I held the A-Line pattern and in the other, a button card with two large buttons.
“Yes,” I said “this is what I want.”
“Ok, but it won’t be easy to sew this fabric,” Mother said, “and I’m not sure about the bright color.”
Undeterred, I labored. Finally, my beautiful A-Line dress finished, my make-up perfect, hair washed, curled, teased and sprayed into place, I slid the dress over my head, pulled up the zipper, took a deep breath and went to look in the full length mirror in Mother and Daddy’s bedroom.
“It’s bright, isn’t it?” Mother said, putting on lipstick, her slim figure in a straight skirt of periwinkle and a flowered blouse of blue, periwinkle and pink, both of which she had made.
In the mirror, the stiff satin of my dress just hung there, no nice drape, it just ballooned out. It had an orange tint to it I’d never noticed. Like a huge tomato, I stood there, mother’s reflection behind me looking rosy and healthy in her periwinkle and me looking wan and washed out in reddish-orange.
I was devastated and embarrassed but I put on my best smile, after all it was Easter Sunday morning and we couldn’t be late for church in our new Easter dresses.
Creating my own fashion did not improve with time. There was the double breasted coat dress that looked sophisticated in the Simplicity pattern, but the gray, cotton-linen blend I’d chosen wouldn’t hold its shape. Then there was the red, long sleeved blouse with a Peter Pan collar I’d made to wear under a gray, wool, sleeveless shirt dress. Sounded perfect, but the sheer fabric I’d chosen was too thin and delicate to be paired with the wool dress.
I was frustrated; unable to turn my desire into a garment that worked, with the correct drape, the right fabric, the tailored look. The ability it took to make something classy was beyond my skill and patience level. I felt impotent, ineffectual, depressed and drowning. I pushed my way through the bleakness. I would not let this beat me. If I couldn’t make the look I desire, I would find a way to get. it. I swam my way back to the surface, changed and energized.
I’m sure anyone who looked at my life today would agree I’ve reached my goal. Here I am; a shining example to hundreds of troubled youth who are sent to my Care Foundation by concerned parents and the courts. Some say I’m too harsh, but I believe the results speak for themselves.
Their tacky tee shirts, skinny jeans, leggings, exposed bra straps, baggy-low-riding pants, midriff baring, cleavage-enhancing bustiers, dreadful leather with chains, dresses with uneven hemlines that scoop up in front, short-shorts; all these are left behind. There are so many of these misguided ones who’ve marked up their bodies with tattoos our plastic surgeon stays busy. Their hair is tamed and trimmed and dyed by our stylists. Oh, they might resist at the beginning, but they soon learn that the way to food and rest and peace is through obedience. My staff makes sure of that.
Yes, I’ve arrived at my goal as I stand here on the balcony above them in my periwinkle Dior suit, matching Manolo Blahniks and a flowered Hermes scarf, with Wagner’s “Der Ring” sailing across the air from the sound system. I blow through the whistle in my hand and my charges come to attention. They’re stretched out below me, a sea of black-haired crew cuts in dark blue, tailored jumpsuits, with Peter Pan collars and wide leg trousers so eyes are not drawn to their curves or bulges.
There are those who say this intervention costs too much, but how can you put a price on perfect fashion? I’ve saved these poor wretches from themselves. One day they’ll thank me that they can make good choices, though they’re not ready for that yet. They make such a good contrast to my color palette, don’t you think?
[3rd Place Award, LinkedIn Writing Contest #12]