Sewing My Own Clothes by (3 Stories)

Prompted By What We Wore

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My mom sewed my dresses when I was in elementary school. When I began kindergarten she sewed me three dresses that I could wear. Every year I would get new dresses. We would go to the store, usually J.C. Pennys and she and I would pick out patterns and fabric for the dresses. She had a modern Singer sewing machine that I could hear late at night her sewing my dresses–and this machine was considered quite advanced because besides straight stitch, it did zig zag and decorative stitches. I had scalloped blue embroidery around the Peter Pan collar of my blue dress. Another dress was made from a fabric that had stylized rock and roll “hip” dancers along the border. My mom was so skilled that the images formed the hemline to my dress. No one knew I had homemade dresses because they were so carefully crafted and beautiful.

My mom sewed my dresses when I was in elementary school. We would go to the store, usually J.C. Pennys and she and I would pick out patterns and fabric for the dresses.

By the time I entered 4th grade, two-piece outfits were in fashion. I don’t mean two-pieces that were pants and a shirt, but it was a blouse and a skirt. So I had store-bought blouses in different colors and skirts with zippers that my mom sewed. It was only then that I began to realize that no one else’s mother sewed their clothes. They all had store bought clothes. I don’t think I ever wished I had something else, but it made me think about whether we were rich or poor because of my home made clothes.

I loved to do things with my hands and when I was 4 years olds I became sick with pneumonia. I was admitted to the hospital and my mom brought my first sewing project: punch card pictures where I laced the yarn between the holes to outline the picture. In 7th grade I took Home Economics, where I learned to sew on a machine. What a wonderful world that opened up for me! The first thing all the girls made were aprons. How practical! Then we proceeded on our own projects. I made a skirt and vest outfit (this was the 1970s) and then proceeded to make a complex light green swiss polka dot sheath dress with gathered inset bodice, grosgrain ribbon, and a full length back zipper. Oh my! The irons were very finicky in Home Ec and when the iron did not heat up fast enough, I left it on the fabric too long so that when it finally heated up, I burned my fabric. So I had swiss-dot dress with an brown iron spot on the back. I still got an “A” in Home Ec and volunteered to help my teacher Mrs. McDonald during summer school. Her “thank-you” gift to me was two yards of double knit fabric with the words “flower-power” in the design. I don’t think I ever made anything from it and I now wonder where the fabric is today.

Today I sew many things, provide alterations for clothing in my family, and help sew my daughter’s cos-play outfits. I sew quilts, which has opened a whole new world of creativity and I use the sewing skills I picked up in grade school all the time. What I wore means more than fashion and styling, but also a creative window for other “pieces” of my life.


Profile photo of Wendy Ng Wendy Ng

Tags: sewing, dressmaking, quilts, creativity
Characterizations: been there, moving, right on!


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your write with such detail. Too bad about the brown spot from the iron, but it is wonderful that your teacher still gave you an A. And nice that you still use your sewing skills.

  2. Patricia says:

    How wonderful you still sew! I’d love to hear more about how this creative process relates to the rest of your life.

  3. rosie says:

    Your story brought back some wonderful memories. I didn’t appreciate my mother’s craftsmanship until I was much older, and I am now grateful that she and my aunt taught me the basics of sewing. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  4. Constance says:

    Oh yes, the apron project, followed by a bathrobe. I think the teacher was trying to be careful, really rather thoughtful, not to have the girls sew a project that would have to be worn out in public in case the student work didn’t turn out too perfectly but the parents insisted because of tight clothing budgets. Oh, and this is reminding me, even before the apron was a little drawstring ‘beach bag’ that I ended up using for storage of the enormous curlers that were needed to achieve a smooth ‘flip.’ Thanks for these memories.

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