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Life on the hemline.


Short skits are back and I for one am glad. In my salad days, I wore them in ever-shortened versions (to the rising dismay of my mother). After I got back from a trip to Europe while in college, I chopped off my hair and adopted a moer refined look. My knees have been hidden ever since.

Oddly enough, it's the innocence of wearing short skirts that appeals to me; I feel as if a sculptor has carved away the marble, freeing up a French schoolgirl.

I'm sure others will feel they've been put in bondage; you can't take as long strides in these short ones, and anyone with a scrap of modesty will agree that adjustments have to be made in how one sits and picks up things. But long skirts are no picnic, either; you have to lift them up every time you climb stairs. real great when you're carrying a briefase.

But the true reason I'm glad short skirts are back is that I can start sewing again. For the past few years, when styles were long and wool expensive, it was a whole lot easier and cheaper just to buy them. Especially the ankle-length kind with all those tiny pleats.

In junior high and high school, short on cash, I sewed everything from smocked aprons for my mother to pants and straight skirts all the time. Skirts took a yard of material, a zipper, a couple of seams, and an hour of time.

Now that I'll be adding such grown-up touches as a kick pleat in the back, lining, and a hand-sewn zipper--things not so important for a 15-year-old southern Californian--it'll now probably take me three hours. But what a wonderful thing to be able to buy a wad of material and a few hours later walk out wearing it.

I've missed sewing. Missed the hours spent mentally polishing the dream until I could see the item, the color and weight of the material, and what I would look like in it. Missed the 20-minute walk to Maxim's, a basement fabric store, with hundreds of bolts of material stacked this way and that on dusty shelves. Missed pawing through demure cotton prints, fuzzy pink bathrobe material, slinky satins, and coarse burlap until I saw the fabric that matched the vision in my head.

Then came the scary moment of telling the clerk how much I wanted and hoping I had calculated correctly. Unlike shopping in a store, where you can bring back something you've bought, once the salesperson has cut the material, you are stuck with it. Committed.

Once I'd gotten back home, I'd wash and iron the material, fold it in half, and line up the selvages (finished edges of the fabric). One of the big thrills was first opening up a new pattern and laying out the thin, crinkly beige sheets on the material.

I always tried to outsmart the pattern folks by finding more economica ways of fitting the pattern on. (I used to be convinced the pattern people and the fabric people had a deal going to get us to buy as much material as possible; the waste from all that unused material would clothe a Third World country!)

Next came cutting the material. That, too, was a point of no return. If you put the front piece, which is supposed to go on the fold, on the selvage, forget it! No skirt. So I always spent a long time chewing my lip, checking and rechecking, before taking that first cut.

Once through those potentially devastating decisions, the sewing itself was almost a breeze. Darts. Back center seam. Zipper. Side seams. Waistband: sewn on the outside of the skirt, flipped over, and hand-stitched down. It was always a cozy time for my mother and me. I'd stand on a chair while she would measure the hem with a yardstick ("Middle of the knee, dear?" "No! One inch above!") Slipstitch the hem. Press. Voila! une skirt!

Not all my efforts were successes. There were enough droopy, misshappen duds that one year I banished the machine to the closet and started only buying my clothes.
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Title Annotation:the joys of sewing
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1988
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