A couple of years ago my daughter, Susanna, asked me what I’d like to do with the rest of my life. It was a great question – but I didn’t know how to answer it. I did, however, know what I did not want to be doing for the rest of my life – and that was the “full-time” volunteer work that had gradually taken over my days, often my sleep, and certainly my sense of balance in my day-to-day living. But it was more complicated than that. I had to admit that the work I had done and was doing (mostly for The Philadelphia Antiques Show, a major fundraiser for the University of Pennsylvania Hospital) had given me countless friendships, a peculiar source of “identity” and respect, and a sense of accomplishment. I had to figure out if I really wanted to “give that all up” – and if so, what would I replace it with? That was the key question that I could not answer.
How I have come to Fifty Dresses is my “rediscovery” story, a crazy concurrence of events which provided me with an answer to that question which I never could have imagined.
Here’s what happened:
- Mad Men on AMC. The story line is captivating, but it was those early 60’s fashions that really caught my attention.
- A chance sighting of a book display in a Barnes and Nobel for A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. The cover illustration of 1950’s style prom dresses piqued my interest. I bought the book, loved the story, and it started me thinking about vintage clothing and about many of my clothes from my childhood (which my mother made for me) and from my teens and 20’s (which I made for myself).
- A random search on Google to find an obscure kitchen item lead me to make my first purchase on eBay, which meant that I had to set up an eBay account and a PayPal account. Once those were in place, I thought I’d do a search for Vogue patterns, then vintage Vogue patterns.
- I started to dig out old Vogue patterns which I had sewn with in the 1970’s and had kept because I loved them so much. In doing so, I found a beautifully tailored red linen jacket which I had completed except for buttons and handworked buttonholes. I figured if I could sew like that years ago, I could do it again.
- I went shopping for an outfit to wear to the Preview Party of The Philadelphia Antiques Show. I found exactly one dressy jacket that I liked. It was an Armani (!), it was $1,295, and it would need another $100 in alterations to fit me properly. It wasn’t even silk!! That’s when I knew it was time to start sewing again…
You’re invited to follow my adventures in sewing from these mid-century patterns and my observations about what I call the Golden Years of Fashion – the 1950s through the 1970s.