Frankenstein Dresses

Mom said she felt like sewing a dress for herself. I watched as she carefully laid a beautiful floral-print material on the kitchen table. The day before last, my family made one of our rare visits to Marshfield where she’d bought material and a new pattern.

My only interest when we visited downtown Marshfield was the candy, toy and pet sections at Woolworth’s or Ben Franklin’s. I tried hard to be patient as Mom slowly studied the McCall pattern book before picking out what she wanted. She knew how I felt by my frequent sighs, moans and occasional question, “Can we leave this store pretty soon?”

Most of the tissue paper pattern pieces were pinned to the material when Mom stopped what she was doing and stood quietly. After a moment she spoke as if talking to herself, “The neckline isn’t exactly what I want. Also, I want the sleeves to be longer.” Pulling pattern pieces from other pattern envelopes, Mom began pinning those onto the material to replace the original neckline.

I was just a little kid, but I couldn’t figure out how Mom was going to get everything to fit together without puckers in the cobbled together material. Remembering my long wait for her in the fabric store, I felt restless and decided to go outside for a while.

The yard behind our farmhouse teamed with singing birds, fluttering butterflies and bright spring flowers in every flowerbed. The sun felt warm on my face when I glanced up at the blue sky. Feeling lonely, I listened for the sound of Daddy working in the machine shed. I didn’t hear hammering or the tractor’s “put-put-put”. Then I remembered, Daddy and my six siblings were all busy and away from the farm for the day.

When I slammed through the back door into the house, the change from bright sunlight to the shaded entryway blinded me temporarily. From the kitchen I could hear the radio playing music from the WDLB station in Marshfield.  As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, I heard a distant whirring sound coming from the sewing machine upstairs.

Mom had the dress half sewn together already. I plopped down on the cool, wooden floor next to where she was working. She held it up for me to see and informed me, “I’ve added a hidden pocket to my dress.” I admired how all the seams were perfectly smooth.  

As I grew up, I occasionally heard about “Frankenstein”, a book written by Mary Shelley. Although I never saw the movie or read the book, I knew it was the story of a scientist who cobbled together cadaver body parts to make a human. A bolt of lightning brought his hideous creation to life. Whenever I hear of anyone cobbling anything together since then, I think of the “Frankenstein” story.  

A very special occasion for my family will happen this summer and I need a new dress. Since my only shopping for the last several years has been done at resale stores, I don’t even know where to begin looking for what I want.

Tammie introduced me recently to eshakti.com, an online shop where all the clothing can be customized with the flick of a finger. As we scrolled through the site looking at dresses, I spotted a pretty blue one, but didn’t like its neckline. I stated, “That dress is lovely, but the neckline isn’t my style.”

My daughter asked, “Would you prefer a collar, or a V neck?” I didn’t immediately answer, because the dress under discussion showed a boat neckline and I couldn’t imagine how it would look with a V neck.

A few taps on the keyboard, and Tammie showed the dress with several different necklines. She then inquired, “Do you want the dress floor length, mid-calf or knee length?”

Amazed, I exclaimed, “I wish Mom could be here to see this! When I was growing up, she cobbled together dress patterns to sew dresses the old-fashioned way. But once the material was cut, there was no way to change it again unless we had extra material.” With a smile I questioned, “Are we able to add a hidden pocket?”

If I buy a customized dress from that website, wearing my Frankenstein creation would make me happy and as though I had Mom with me at her great granddaughter’s wedding.

2 thoughts on “Frankenstein Dresses

  1. Blessings on the wonderful story with lots of memories—need some old patterns? I have old newspapers with them my Mom saved. I am going thru old papers & they are being tossed, but I remember the pinning’ & “cutting’ to make pretty dresses & pinafores—remember that word? Thanks for sharing…

    • Do you remember jibbers? They were headwear. My sister crocheted one…narrow ties with a little wider part to cover the ears and top of the head.

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