Years ago, when I was in 4-H, there was a woman who would volunteer at the weekend events we would sometimes attend. We would attend maybe once or twice a year–doing our artsy thang in the love that is northern Michigan. This woman was a senior citizen; and she shared a first-name with my mother and her last name was “Happy.” Literally. Her last name was “Happy.”
I don’t remember her. I was young and distracted by things like crafts and other kids and colors. (Also, this is still my personality).
My mother does, though. My mother says she had stunning style, crafting wherewithal, and all else.
One time, when we came to the weekend, it was announced that this Happy-lady had passed away.
I don’t remember this.
Although, someone had gathered piles of her unused crafting goods and set them out for anyone of us crafting-folk to take with and, hopefully, use.
I flipped through the pattern pieces–one after another.
I still do this kind of thing at garage sales and church rummage sales and what not. I think it’s fun to see fashion evolve, fun to see colors and hemlines shift. My fingers walk through the envelopes, flipping them fast, like one scrolls through a Facebook feed.
From the boxes, I picked out two patterns that I have always loved and have never made. One is probably from the 60’s/70’s era. It’s sleek and looks bias-y (sewers will understand).
The other is a formal from the 1950’s era–my favorite era of full skirts and trim waists.
The formal pattern has three hemline options pictured–tea length with a smiling bridesmaid; floor-length in a sweeping formal; and a slight, sweet train on a blonde bride sporting a vintage-flip hairdo. The dress has a sweetheart neckline and the back is gathered in a series of soft pleats draping down from the waist.
It is an exquisite pattern.
Last Friday I told my friend Lauren that there is going to be a dance this weekend–my favorite dance! Big band! Big floor! Excellent leads!
And she said, “I have nothing to wear.”
And I said, “I have so many dresses, why don’t you try them all on?”
And so she did. And they all fit her perfectly, and she would change and then wear them into my living room and my mom and I would say, “That one is so nice!”
You know what? I’ve never seen my clothes on anyone else before. And I was like, “Dang. These are really beautiful.”
And then I thought to myself, “You know what? I think I would like a new dress. For all of my parties.”
The next day, Saturday, I went to a fabric store that shall-remain-nameless because it was overcrowded and people had tossed material all over the shelves and the floor and I felt all of the material, but none of it felt nice, so I left. And my mom and I drove across town to the very-nice fabric store. By “very nice” I mean “expensive,” by the way.
But, I walked first to the sale shelves and there, for $4.98 a yard, was a silky grey the color of the pussy willows–the first sign of life and hope in the spring. Why so cheap? It was remnant yardage, hacked into a weird shape by a previous someone, so it was no longer fit for the sales floor…but very, very fit for me. Five yards and some change. Bada bing bada boom. I cut out vintage dress pattern numero dos on Monday night, spreading the vintage pattern across the floor.
There is something very living about creating. There is something very authentic about reaching back to the handcrafts of the past, linking imaginary hands with foremothers. There is something empowering about reading through decades-old (sometimes outdated, sometimes very clear) instruction manuals, finding “the straight,” taking steel to silk and carefully, quietly believing in the parties of the future–new marriages, new years, new balls and new friends and new music.
This, too, is an act of hope. And thus Advent moves forward.
Tonight I need to hit up the fabric store for a zipper, for better-colored thread. All in the name of “Happy.”
One thought on “Her last name was “Happy””
I’m impressed with anyone who can sew a dress….and I’m hoping you will post a follow-up. I’d love to see the finished product.