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Posts Tagged ‘Clothes’

On a cold, rainy day, when it’s not nice enough to work outdoors, cleaning out the attic is a worthy endeavor. Every year I have good intentions to do this, but the Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions. For once, this year I strayed from that road, at least in this regard. As a bonus, I uncovered a trove of treasure.

A genetic trait of the Rogers family is the propensity to save things. This goes back three generations, probably more. We are not hoarders as such. We just save anything that might be useful someday. This is a survival skill. Have you ever discarded or given away something you never use, only to need it six months later? That’s why we save things. My father used to make fun of me. He once accused me of saving old toilet paper. He was only exaggerating, of course (another family trait – have you noticed?) but he was a great one to talk. My widowed mother, who does not carry the trait, has been sorting through his stuff for over six years and there’s no end in sight.

My house has three attics, so imagine the trouble I can leave my heirs. In the little attic above my kitchen, I store holiday decorations. This winter I cleared everything out of there, including all the dirt and debris. I reorganized the Christmas stuff and stored it neatly in one area. There were a few boxes of Easter baskets and Thanksgiving decorations, plus some camping equipment and luggage. These were easily dealt with. Then I had to contend with an unbelievable pile of empty boxes, Styrofoam peanuts, and other packing material. Much of that was  recycled  or thrown away, but it’s wise to keep some in case I want to mail a package. Wise, but even wisdom needs its limits. I can’t keep ALL of it.

Last, but not the least challenging, was the large box of Halloween costumes. If you are a student of ancient history, you may remember when Curtis Mathis TVs had the longest warranty on the market. Well, I still have my TV and it still works. It came in a huge box which had sat in my attic full of Halloween things for over twenty years. I cannot recall when I last sorted through it.

I remembered many of the costumes stored there: a clown/scarecrow suit, some monster masks, square dance apparel complete with pantaloons and petticoats, and some tunics that could serve as Indian or medieval costumes. There were several half-surprises, things I had nearly forgotten: a box of grease paint (from my college days!), a variety of hats crushed by time, a battered wig, a wine skin, blouses from the hippie days, clothes from the 80s, and some men’s coveralls.

Then came the forgotten surprises. One old hat has a band made from a real rattlesnake hide. A plastic Transformers mask, perhaps Optimus Prime, had survived from the 80s. I found a straight jacket made of muslin, a hospital gown, and several almost doll-sized garments, including a little red and white cheerleader skirt. I made these for my girls when they were little. Very little. Several things may have started out as clothing later to become costumes: large full skirts, a garish pair of shorts like the surfing shorts popular in the 80s, a rather nice leather jacket “Custom Tailored in Hong Kong”, a wrap-around (and around and around) skirt, and some thrown-together pieces, costumes for fantasy characters.

It was fascinating to go through everything, trying to remember who wore them and when. But what should I do with them now? If I boxed them up, they could remain forgotten for another twenty years.

In another attic I found a solution. A clothes rack held old prom dresses, majorette outfits, and some coats and blouses. Many of those are an appropriate addition to a costume collection, so I unloaded the rack and set it up in the kitchen attic. I sorted through everything and restored the gowns and other articles to the rack. Then I hung up all the other costumes. The rack is very full. There is no room for anything else. Maybe I can find good homes for some items. Maybe my children will want some of them.

I threw out the old paper ghosts and pumpkins and even the grease paint and the old Curtis Mathis box. Everything has its life span. The few salvageable Halloween treasures now fit into a smaller box.

Today my attic looks less like a trash heap and more like those old attics you see in movies, festooned with period costumes. Everything is still dusty and could use a good laundering. After that has been accomplished, a fun thing to do on a rainy afternoon would be to introduce my granddaughters to the attic and let them go treasure hunting.

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          I must have been six or seven when Grandma Masters made this skirt for me out of brown corduroy. She cut several autumn leaves out of brightly colored fabric and applied them to the front, where they appeared to drift down from waist to hem like falling leaves. I was proud of that skirt. It was unique. But Grandpa Rogers would tease me every time he saw me wear it. He’d say something like, “There you go again, with that old patched-up skirt.” I’d argue and try to tell him that they were leaves, not patches. Of course, he’d tease me just to hear me protest.

            Grandma must have put a large hem in the skirt to be let out as I grew taller, which took quite some time. Even today I’m often accused of lying about my height.

I remember the teachers at Harry L. School saying that I was a nervous child. They would tell me not to “ring” my hands. I had no idea what they were talking about and they never explained. Of course I was a nervous child. After attending a one-room school house in the first grade, I was out of my element in the big city school. None of my schoolmates from Barnum Hill School were in my second grade class. I was alone with the more savvy city kids and strange new customs and rules.  I was suffering from mild PTSD long before such a label was thought of!

Eventually, I grew enough for the hem to be let out of my skirt. I’m not sure if Mom didn’t have the time to press it (which I doubt because she always ironed) or if the crease was just so ingrained by then that it couldn’t be pressed out. I remember fingering the hem and crease to keep my hands busy at school. I guess the teacher thought I had put the crease in the skirt by playing with it. “Now look at what you’ve done,” she scolded. I don’t remember being allowed to say anything in my defense.

It’s a wonder I ever learned anything under those conditions.

 

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MENDING PILE

I have a fool-proof system for mending clothes. Before I reveal it, however, let me tell you how I got there.

I grew up in an era when girls were taught to sew,  in both 4-H and home economics class. Grandma Masters loved to sew and she would make pajamas for all her grandchildren. It was not surprising that I came to love clothing construction as well. I was never as good at it as Grandma was, but I did OK. As a teenager I made all my new dresses and blouses. (Pants are harder to make and were more easily bought.) When in college, I bought a used sewing machine for $10. I used it to make my wedding dress, and when I had children I would make their play clothes.

After I returned to work I had less time to sew, and by then it had become cheaper to buy clothes than to purchase the materials to make them. However, as my girls got older, I could make a much nicer prom or wedding dress than I could afford to buy.

Unfortunately, love of sewing does not equal love of mending. When the children were small and I did not work outside the home, I had the time and inclination to keep buttons sewn on and seams stitched. As a working mother, even if I’d had the inclination, I lacked the time.

That was when I developed my fool-proof mending system. I had a large basket to collect  items in need of repair. I still have that basket. If you dig through it today, you will find a blouse I started to make before I gained weight, some pillow cases whose lace trim has come loose, and a few articles of clothing dating back to the 20th century.

I do not say that I never mended anything. Quite the contrary. If it was something that was immediately needed, it would get fixed in a timely manner. Otherwise, it would be tossed into the basket where it would eventually be buried under other garments. Occasionally I would go through my mending pile. If I was lucky, the children would have outgrown some of the clothes and they could be discarded. Some things would actually get repaired, but others would just have to wait. The mending basket became like a black hole. Some things might never be seen again.

My children eventually caught on to my system. One day, my teenage son brought me a shirt with a ripped seam. It would have taken only a minute to sew, but more time and energy than that were required to set up the sewing machine and wind a bobbin with the right colored thread. I was busy and not up to the effort. “Just put it on the mending pile,” I told him.

With a stricken look on his face, he replied, “But, Mama, I really liked that shirt!”

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