Just like Momma Used to Make

My mom was a seamstress and a pattern cutter. She was able to look at a dress in the store and go home and make me one just like it only better. Until I was about 11 or 12 she made almost all my clothes. At the time I wasn’t crazy about wearing home-made clothes – I longed for Levis and t-shirts, mom was giving me ruffles and lace.

Me and Max in our home made duds.

I think I was like a baby doll for my mom. She dressed me and curled my hair and generally fussed me up. By the time I started school I was mussing up those perfect outfits with shorts I wore underneath those skirts so I could hang upside down on the monkey bars. As I developed my own style I made myself less prissy by combining those crinolines with tennies or cowboy boots.

When I got my first Barbie she finally gave up trying to cover the tomboy in me and started decking out my fashion dolls instead. She once made my Barbie an amazing dress – it was pink satin and had an asymmetrical bodice that was off one shoulder. If Barbie did the splits you could lay out the skirt on the floor in a full circle – it was elegant in it’s simplicity, red carpet worthy, plus – it was reversible! My mother was a genius.

Barbie - sans that amazing dress

Barbie – sans that amazing dress

That Barbie dress was a masterpiece, but Mom had more up her sleeve. She could tailor menswear and she cut suit patterns. She took aim at making something very special for my brother’s GI Joe. When we all saw it we recoiled in horror. There were patch pockets on the chest and at the bottoms of the front of a jacket with incredibly long lapels. Below were slacks with a wide waistband and bell bottoms hemmed to expose just the soles of Joe’s combat boots. It was a sea of periwinkle polyester. Yes, it was a leisure suit.

This artist’s recreation of the heinousness that was that leisure suit

At the time I thought it was an abomination to upholster the most manly doll on the planet in baby blue polyester. Today I think I may want to reconsider my position.

Think about GI Joe. Was there ever a more carefully groomed man? His hair was cut so perfectly, it was almost like it was painted on. If he grew a beard each whisker was perfectly trimmed to a uniform length. His skin, silky smooth save for that scar worn like a mysterious badge of courage.

Every whisker groomed to perfection - check out that manicure!

Every whisker groomed to perfection – check out that manicure!

Look at his physique – definitely in shape, but lean and strong. Clearly he was working out regularly, probably free weights and either yoga or pilates to maintain flexibility. He’s cut but not bulky, definitely steroid free. Manicured and pedicured in the most manly fashion. Chest hair and gold chains? Not on Joe, he was waxing away that chest and back hair decades before manscaping was invented. GI Joe was built a lot like James Bond – I’m thinking the Daniel Craig era Bond.

1970's Manscaping

1970’s era Manscaping

He would have been comfortable in fashion and fit enough to save the world with the action team.

Now that I think about it, I believe that GI Joe may have been the world’s first metrosexual.

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24 thoughts on “Just like Momma Used to Make

  1. Oh we would have been great friends! I used to have my own GI Joe, and of course the Barbie. My barbie used to beat Joe’s butt! I have me a super woman back then! Great story!

    • Thanks you! I was not very fond of Barbie, but my mom, Barbie, was. I actually preferred the Best of the West series ladies – Jane West could kick Barbie’s ass! I loved GI Joe too – I had the scuba set and the astronaut. Hours of accessorizing – what fun.

  2. My grandmother was a great seamstress as well, but unfortunately that didn’t get passed onto me. I was a disturbed child – the one Barbie I got ended up looking like a dog toy. Now, I did have a Bionic Woman. She ruled! And usually kicked my brother’s Six Million Dollar man’s ass, which was indeed as flat as Lee Major’s. This post throws us right into the “way back” time machine, doesn’t it?

    • It sure does – you wanna know something crazy – I still have both the Bionic Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man in the spare room – Jamie Summers was a badass. Her clothes were just odd though. Most of my Barbies had dislocated hips from me trying to make them ride a horse.

  3. Great post, Lorri. I can really relate to your dislike of frills.

    My Mother was a dressmaker too – I could sew and make doll’s clothes by about age 8 or 9
    .
    All my clothes were hand made and to this day I dislike ‘second-hand’ – I like going into a shop and buying them (even though I am a trained fashion designer and dressmaker myself).

    • My mom did her best to teach me. I worked in a costume department while in college, my sewing is serviceable. Mom grew up on a farm and they made all their own clothes, so for her it was as much a part of home life as cooking. I dint think she cared for shopping, nothing ever fit like it would if she did it herself. To me it’s a lot of work.

      Was your career in fashion?

  4. I LOVE this!!! A wonderful peek into your childhood world, I can feel the mix of warm and comfort vs strength and independence. I would have begged for a GI Joe in a leisure suit, perfect! And so much better than that dumb Ken 😉

    My mother couldn’t sew a button, and sadly, neither can I.

    • Thanks so much, I never cared much for Ken, he couldn’t even sit like a real human. My mom tried to teach me, I can sew enough to get by but never had her love for it. I think that leisure suit was my favorite thing she ever made:)

  5. I had Barbie, she was always slutty and only looking for an endless sea of material pleasures. I had her friend Midge-always a bridesmaid, never a bride. And, of course Ken, a boring guy and definitely the first Metrosexual and possibly transgender in progress, ran out of money, left unfinished. I would have preferred the chia pet looking GI Joe in your post here, good facial hair, cut with a #2 blade Flo-Bee. I used to pull Ken’s head off, just because I could. My mother made frilly clothes too, itchy lace, velvet. All well done, I never wanted to wear them either. I was a tomboy too. Love the leisure suit, hilarious! Your collection of photos are priceless, so glad you are sharing this stuff and doing it very well, love this!

    • Thanks so much!

      My first Barbie was a Midge – I have another story about her for another day. The one thing Barbie had that was cool in my eyes was that Beach Bus.

      Ken – well Ken was such a bore. He couldn’t even sit like a human. He was about as manly as Justin Bieber. Joe was much more fun.

      Love the Flo-bee reference! Don’t get a chance to use that very often!

  6. My mom was a seamstress too. Back-to-school shopping happened at the fabric store. It was always so exciting to plop a big, fat pattern book on my lap and choose an outfit or two. Like you, my sewing skills are only passable and I definitely didn’t inherit her passion for fashion. My sons never wore a store-bought Halloween costume though! Love your family photos.

    • Thanks so much!

      I so hated the fabric store, mom could spend hours there. I remember those pattern books well. They should put a kids play area in those places:)

      My mom and Grandma made some epic Halloween costumes – really crazy stuff. I love the thought and care that went into them.

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