I guess you could say I was a bit of a fashionista back in the day. Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, we teenage girls didn’t have much of an opportunity to shop for the latest fashions. Well, there were the Sears and Eaton’s catalogues, but those fashions were for “old” people like our parents. If we truly wanted to be in style, we had to sew our own clothes. For this reason, I and several of my friends joined the local 4-H club to take sewing lessons.
My first sewing projects didn’t impress me that much: we were taught to sew a simple apron, an A-line skirt and a sleeveless, collarless blouse known as a “pop top”. But it was enough basic knowledge to get creative using my mom’s foot-pedal operated Singer sewing machine. And the catalogues came in handy for choosing fabric and pattern-shopping if the local general store didn’t have anything to my liking. Sewing patterns from Butterick, McCall’s and even Vogue garnered my undivided attention but most of the patterns I purchased were from Simplicity.
One of the most challenging things I made and one of my favourites was a pair of hot pants; they also got the most compliments, which helped! The hot pants were cotton knit material, which meant that I had to buy special thread and be very careful not to pull the material too vigorously or it would stretch at the seams. They were a bib-style, gold in colour, had pockets and sported gold metallic Pooh-bear buttons. Another favourite was a lime-green Fortrel pantsuit trimmed on the arms and legs with white fringes. I can hear a collective cyber-shudder at the mention of this masterpiece. I understand.
But the story of how I got my first miniskirt required almost no effort on my part. It was so innocent, really. One of our neighbours was having a house-warming party to which my family was invited. As my mother and I entered the neighbour’s yard, the neighbour’s dog decided that he didn’t particularly like me and ran towards me, teeth bared. Snarling, he dove straight for my knee before the hosts or my mother could stop him. Fortunately for me, his teeth bumped my knee – hard, but the bite did not draw blood. Instead, he had a mouthful of my wool skirt tightly clasped in his jaws.
Now, the wool skirt was not cheap, and my parents weren’t exactly loaded. “It would be a shame to throw this skirt away,” I say to my mother. “I could just hem it up a little, and it will be just fine.” Suffice it to say, my mother’s skirt-too-short-version and mine differed slightly. Back home, my mother asks me to slip on the torn garment while she extracts the measuring tape from the sewing basket. She carefully measures the distance from mid-knee to top of dog-ripped-hole. As I await the verdict with bated breath, she announces that I can go ahead and hem the skirt provided I use hemming tape as close as possible to the damaged area. Voila – my first miniskirt!
“Nice blouse”, quips my dad as I head out the door to join my friends, wearing my new miniskirt. “You going to wear anything with it?”