Here’s one that I was thinking about all yesterday and today. Garments that I made long ago that still give me great pleasure to look at, if not wear, today. I have several. They are garments that defy the philosophy: “If you haven’t worn it in two years, throw it out.” These are pieces that I made, in some cases, more than 10 years ago, and I may not have worn for 5 or more years (or since I had my second child, who is now 8). I can’t bring myself to throw them away. There is an emotional tug that I get when I look at them. Heck, two of them predate both of my children. Let me share them with you:
Butterick 4300 is a classic princess line dress. I think it’s out of print at this point. I made this dress from a beautiful lipstick red, 4-ply silk crepe for a Christmas concert I sang with Cantillare, a singing group in central Massachusetts. I love everything about this dress – it’s lined with china silk, so it’s heaven to wear. I love the lines of it, and the fact that I can cut it down for a dinner dress if I ever choose (not likely). I also was inspired by an article of Susan Khalje’s in Threads magazine to insert the zipper by hand using sequins and beads as a small embellishment on either side, as you see here:
This dress is an out of print Vogue Belleville Sassoon evening gown. I made this dress for a big party I threw for my husband’s birthday. The day before the party, I stopped nursing my then infant youngest son, and this dress was my “I’m FREE!!!!!” dress. The fabric is a fabulous silk by Gianni Versace that I bought at G Street while he was still alive. The buttons are gorgeous pearl and rhinestone fabulosities that I also bought at G Street for an arm and a leg. But boy are they worth it!
This jacket is a Claude Montana. I made coordinating high-waisted pants to go with it. The zipper on the pants broke back in 2000, and the truth is that after two kids, I don’t have a high enough bust or a small enough ribcage to pull off high waisted pants any more (these were right up to my third rib). So I tossed the pants, but I kept the jacket. This was from the times when Vogue would send you “Vogue Paris Original” labels with the pattern. I think I made this in 1991. I know my dad was still alive, so it was definitely before 1993. The fabric is a fabulous wool tweed that I bought at the late, lamented North End Fabrics in Boston’s Chinatown. I lined it with a soft silk/rayon brocade. It still hangs in my closet. Well, it hangs in my cedar closet, actually. I put it on the dress form today, and after admiring the asymmetric closure, all I could think was, “My god, I actually wore shoulder pads this big????”
Speaking of linebacker shoulders, this suit is another keeper. It’s a Vogue Karl Lagerfeld design. I made this suit when my eldest was a baby, so it’s almost eleven years old. There are several reasons I will keep this suit forever. One, it was featured in Threads Magazine’s inaugural “From Our Readers’ Closets” section. That was pretty cool! Second, it was the turning point in my sewing career where I decided that if it was worth making, it was worth investing the time to do it right, and this beast took a lo-o-o-ong time to make because of that. Hand padstitching, bias cut interfacings here, hair canvas there, steam and press, steam and press steam and press! I also wore this suit to close more big ($million plus) sales deals in my high tech career. My husband and I call this suit my million dollar suit for that reason. And I bought this fabric in Paris, in a little tissus shop right off Rue Faubourg Ste. Honore. I spoke only passable French, the vendeuse spoke no English, but the language of sewing is quite universal, and we managed to understand each other quite well.
The final dress is actually a two-piece outfit. It’s an old Vogue Issey Miyake design, made with I made this one before I had kids, so it’s at least 12 years old, probably 13. The top is a pretty straightforward, loose fitting shirt with dropped shoulders. I made it and the skirt from cotton broadcloth in a solid blue, with a gorgeous midweight Viyella paisley challis as the contrast. The amazing thing about the skirt is that it has (are you ready?) Eleven and one half yards of fabric in it! Check this picture out:
The skirt is an origami marvel. It’s folded upon itself quite intricately. A funny little anecdote about this dress is that when I took it to the dry cleaner the second time, Kim (dry cleaner) said to me, “Oh, I know this dress. My presser really knows this dress!” I’m not sure if that was positive or negative. I used to call this my Demo Dog Dress. Before my youngest was born, I was the assistant teacher at the Boston Center for Adult Education swing dance classes. Joni (the head teacher) used me to demo steps, and to teach classes when she wasn’t there. I called myself the Demo Dog. The third week of every term, we would do a big demo dance for the beginning students, and this was what I always wore, because when I’d do spins, the dress would be quite spectacular.
Yes, we all have ghosts in our closets. Enjoy yours, and happy sewing!