Sunday, February 28, 2010


I was at Target today buying groceries and saw a mother and a couple of teenage girls shopping; one of the girls could have been me oh, about 40 years ago, I guess. She was tall and slim, had short reddish hair, was wearing a miniskirt, lace stockings and little boots, and was carrying a big fabric bag. She actually looked a little bit like me, but it was the outfit that caught my attention.

I don't do a lot of shopping for clothes, but I'm in Target a lot and I've noticed that much of the new stuff looks like the 70's--ethnic prints, gypsy dresses, floral prints, tie-dye, smocking, gauze. When I was in my last year of highschool I made a huge piece of patchwork by sewing together hundreds of small squares of fabric, then I laid a tissue pattern on it and made a maxi-dress with ruffle at the bottom, an empire waist, and little cap sleeves. Around that time my high school banned long dresses, but I would wear it when I went out on dates. Why would they have banned long dresses? I don't remember, if I ever knew.

It's just funny how clothing styles go in and out of fashion. And it wasn't at all unusual to make our own clothes. I don't know if anyone does that at all anymore. We were sitting at lunch at work one day last week, and one of the guys--who is involved in theater--said he wasn't able to wrap his brain around being able to take a flat piece of fabric and turn it into a piece of clothing.

It was a way to have new clothes that cost less than buying them ready-made, and I remember spending hours at the fabric store looking through pattern books and deciding what fabrics would work. I also spent hours at the remnant tables in the fabric stores, and a lot of my clothes were made of fabrics I found there, some were made from drapery fabrics and things like that. Both unusual, and less expensive, two qualities that I looked for.

I took home ec in high school, and I remember making a little suit out of a heavy purple and cream-colored fabric; I remember sewing corduroy, and the fuzz that would result when cutting it. I remember making maxi-dresses--that patchwork one in particular--I remember making something in an evening that I would wear the next day. I don't have the time or the patience anymore to do that, but it's nice to know I could, in a pinch.

Oh, and the girl that I saw today was wearing some kind of headband that had a long chain hanging down on one side with a charm--a leaf, I think. Something that would have fit perfectly in 1972.

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Joanna said...

Love the description of the girl you saw.

But, more than that, I love the idea of banning long dresses. Why? Were girls smuggling things into school? Heh.

Sally said...

Willa -- I just reading your entry today -- all the details were wonderful and put me right back into the 70s -- those great days of empire dresses. Thanks for the beautiful writing.
I remember specifically a dotted swiss red and white empire dress I got for Christmas one day. I remember rust colored corduroy pants and a poorboy shirt -- remember those? Those cotton ribbed T shirtts. I also remember a paisley shift, and delicate gold chains.
I did some sewing in home ec -- a gym bag, flannel nightgowns with drawstring ribbons at the neck (I made several for Christmas presents), and a pleated skirt made from sailcloth.
My mom made my first wedding dress for me -- just a long wraparound dress in a white silky fabric with a sparse stems and flowers print.
I also remember what I thought was a beautifu long dress, gathered at the waist, with long gathered sleeves, gathered neck, and a ruffle at the hem. It was a red dress with pink roses on it. I loved it. I wore it to Grad Night at Disneyland.
Well, see what you've done? Sent me down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

Oh, This is so neat. I was quite bored today and just typed and this charming website came up. Keep blogging Willa! I also love to sew and got a new sewing machine for Christmas. I love the name Willa and am glad that we can share it.

Willa said...

I think the ban on long dresses was that they were a distraction, at least that was the only thing I was ever able to come up with. Thinking back on that time, there were lots of things that we couldn't wear -- mini skirts, of course; long earrings; long dresses; I think we couldn't even wear pants at that time. VERY different from now. :)