Mom Rescues My Valentine Dress

This post first appeared in Sun Breaks several years ago. It’s one of my favorite Valentine stories.

When quality fabric was less expensive and ready-made clothing was much more costly than it is now, many women sewed for themselves and their families. My mother stitched clothing for her three daughters, two sons, our father and herself.

She taught her daughters the craft as well. Sewing didn’t come easily for me. I spent lots of time ripping out mistakes and starting over, but one mistake was so bad, I had no idea how to fix it.

I was a new teacher, and like other women teachers in those days, I wore dresses and skirts to school. My students, even the boys, seemed to appreciate my pretty clothes, most of which I’d made myself. One day I found a lovely soft piece of red corduroy printed with rows of tiny white hearts and flowers, perfect for the upcoming Valentine’s Day. I knew my fifth graders would enjoy seeing their teacher in something so appropriate.

I bought the cloth and took it to my parents’ home so I could use Mom’s new sewing machine. Carefully, I pinned the pattern pieces in place, cut them out, and began to sew. The top, with its softly draped collar, fitted perfectly. So did half of the flared skirt. I stitched the other half together. Oh, no! I had two half-skirts for the right side, none for the left. And no extra fabric.

Frustration welled. I’d wasted my hard-earned money and ruined my dress. I balled up the pieces and threw them into my mother’s rag bag.

A few days later, Mom stopped by my apartment with a gift…the Valentine dress, exactly as I’d envisioned it. Not until I inspected the reverse side of the fabric could I see how she had recut and fitted pieces together so skillfully the seams couldn’t be seen. The corduroy nap even ran in the right direction. What patience–and the designing skills of an engineer–it must have taken to accomplish that.

My students loved the dress, and so did I. Every time I wore it, I was  reminded again of my mother’s love.

Me in my Valentine’s dress, on my 1962 honeymoon.

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