In the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, most well appointed ladies’ closets contained at least one dress or suit made from Moygashel linen. The cachet around this product of Ireland was legendary: it was touted as crease resistant, made so by a special process in its manufacture which used soft rainwater from the streams in the Mourne Mountains of northern Ireland. It has many virtues, including:
1) it was available in many beautiful solid colors…
2) and in amazing prints, which by themselves are like mini works of art….
3) and in embroidered designs, which are still today instantly recognizable as Moygashel.
4) It is machine washable.
5) It does not wrinkle, truly!!
6) It lasts and lasts.
It’s no wonder that designers and high-end ready-to-wear garment manufacturers used Moygashel linen and proudly displayed the name of Moygashel along with, and in addition to, their own labels.
Luckily for the home sewer and dressmaker, Moygashel linen was also available in yardage at the finest fabric stores and departments. Obviously home sewers took to it readily. Artful, full-page ads for Moygashel linen in sewing and pattern magazines were commonplace. Here are a few that were given up-front placement in issues of the Vogue Pattern Book magazine from various dates in the ‘60s:
As I began to do more and more serious sewing for myself in the late ‘60s, I, too, took notice of Moygashel linen, which started my long love-affair with it. I was even fortunate enough to purchase a few select pieces in the 70’s: I made dresses and suits and skirts, most of which I no longer have. However, my current renewed interest in sewing and mid-century fashion and patterns led me to my cedar closet with a fresh eye. So what did I find in that fragrant repository of out-of-season, out-of-date, and too-sentimental-to-give-away clothing ? In reverse chronological order, here are three Moygashel treasures:
1) Carefully packed away in a box I found an almost-completed jacket and unfinished skirt, complete with pattern and pins and thread. Here is the pattern, which is from 1981:
Last Spring I (finally) completed the jacket, with buttons and a few stitches here and there, and it is now a valued member of my Spring and Summer wardrobe. I’ll probably recycle the skirt fabric into something else, still to be determined.
2) My mother-in-law was a lady of great taste in clothes, and although she did not sew, she would occasionally have her “dear little German dressmaker” make something special for her. I told her about the wonderful fabrics available at Stapler’s on Walnut Street in Philadelphia, and I believe she made some fabric purchases in combination with one of her many day trips with friends to the city and to the Forrest Theatre. One of her purchases (circa 1975) was a colorful piece of Moygashel linen, from which she had a long “hostess” skirt made. I eventually ended up with this skirt, which I took apart and remade two years ago into this shorter version:
3) In 1973, I made my own purchase of Moygashel linen at Stapler’s, this one for a dress to accompany me on my honeymoon:
A few years later I made a belt to wear with it, to “update” it a bit, but since then it has hung in my cedar closet, a sweet reminder of years past.
Somehow what fit me in my twenties just doesn’t look the same in my early sixties. Imagine that! So this dress, made from one of Moygashel’s classically timeless linens, is in that category of “too-sentimental-to-give-away”. But now I wonder. Should I remake it into something I can wear and use? Would I have the nerve to cut it apart? Should I be practical or nostalgic? Whoever knew that the contents of a cedar closet could pose such existential questions to ponder? What should I do?
5 responses to “Shopping in my (cedar) closet.”
Oh wow! I love all those fabrics! (All of them are back in style right now.) And I would buy that green and blue circle print if I saw it in stores (lime green is my favorite color). I totally get the hesitation to cut up your dress because of the memories (I have a few of those items in my close too), but that fabric is a great print! Now that you have some nice photos of the dress as you wore it, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to repurpose… If you can find the right project & pattern, cutting something up to make something new isn’t too difficult. (I’m sure I’ll eventually be cutting up my wedding dress when the right project comes along.)
It’s great to have your thoughts on this. A few years ago I actually cut apart my wedding veil (which I made, along with my wedding dress – no surprise there) to use part of it for my daughter’s wedding veil/headpiece (at her request). I really didn’t have many pangs doing that. It turned out to be both practical and nostalgic!
Ah, thanks for a beautiful morning read! I would go for the nostalgic, I think.
I will admit that nostalgia is a very powerful force, isn’t it?
Very interesting read! I am in love with that beautiful skirt pattern!