THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

June 16, 2006

Carnivale of the Couture #21 – Ritual Cloth: The Power of Fashion & Memory

Filed under: Fashion,Musings,Ritual Cloth — Gigi @ 2:05 pm

by Diva Gigi 

The Sewing Divas are pleased to report that we were overwhelmed and honored to receive such personal and vivid memoirs. We would like to thank everyone who participated, and I think you’ll agree when you read these stories that there is much more meaning to fashion than any of us could have imagined.

First Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion-Incubator gives us her story of the symbolism embodied in simple objects, the enduring bonds of friendship, overcoming adversity, the complexity of human relationships and the power of the bond between parent and child.

Scarpediem of Shoesense and Designer Ella of Kiss Me, Stace remind us, in this age of red carpet rented bling, that it is still possible for a single piece of jewelry to hold forever, within its small shape, indelible memories of younger days and deep friendships. In those worn and beloved surfaces, we see how we sowed the seeds of our future success and maturity, and we must be forever grateful for those life lessons.

Anne Francis points out that the big events of history such as the troubles of apartheid happen in the lives of real people, and she teaches us that one wedding dress can have the power to heal an entire family:

“M was born in a big city in Africa on choir practice night, and her mother asked a fellow choir member – an old college friend of mine, expatriate in that city – to be her godmother. M’s mother had diabetes, and in that city there was no medicine and no money. She died when M was a few months old. The M’s father got ill and in trouble. So her godmother took the baby as a fifth child into her own family. When she was 18 M met S, fell in love and found she was expecting a baby. There was a problem. M is black and S is white and his family (think apartheid-era South Africa, even though this was another country) would not acknowledge M, nor even look at the new grandson if they passed M and him in the town. M’s foster parents were due for long leave and they and M wanted family and friends in England to meet the baby. So she came with them. A couple of months later S followed her. M and the baby mattered more than his parents and home. So, in the intervals of radio therapy for newly diagnosed bone cancer, M’s foster mother took her shopping for a wedding dress. Nothing fitted or looked right and they were in despair when they came to lunch with me. Very tentatively I offered to make a dress, and they agreed. We went shopping for a pattern, and suddenly found a light primrose dupion that sang against M’s lovely complexion. Not knowing then about full bust adjustments I made a muslin with huge seam allowances and ripped and pinned until it fitted her 36 H bust. I bound the seam allowances with bias china silk, handstitched the zip and made it all as couture as I knew how. And on her wedding day I sat in the church, saw S, standing there with not a single member of his family and hardly any friends, turn to look at her as she came down the aisle, saw the look on his face and knew this was just about the most special dress I’d ever make. M’s foster mother died a few years ago, but M and S and family – two boys now – are living in England and doing well.”

Update 6/24/06: Anne has very generously shared with us a photo of M in her gorgeous wedding gown. I have to say that the color is just as I had imagined it would be!

And Patti tells us how a simple shirt binds a family to a departed but still beloved relative:

“When I was a young married, several eons ago, I would sew anything even if I didn’t have the skills and decided on a wild hare to sew a wool gabardine shirt for my husband. Now I had little experience with collars or the other necessities of shirt-dom but off I sewed. The sewing gods must have been watching because it turned out rather well for someone who had no business sewing such a shirt. What makes it special and makes us keep it today, even though over time it has mysteriously “shrunk” and no longer fits my fella, is that I made it of Forstmann wool gabardine that had been dyed under my husband’s father’s supervision when he was in the dyeing business at Forstmann. We had sample lengths left from practice runs and that’s what this shirt is made from. My husband’s father had died unexpectedly at age 42 when my husband was in high school and that made this sewing project very special to him.”

…and there are more! If you tune into our blog over the next few days we will share them all with you because they are all stories that deserve to be heard.

Ann, Els, Georgene, Gigi, Mary Beth & Phyllis ~ The Sewing Divas


Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: