16 Comments

IT’S IN THE GENES


a-hat-for-all-seasons “A HAT FOR ALL SEASONS” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Is there a different category for each of those tiny gene things we confidently assume make up our personality? Just because Great aunt Hattie was an accomplished oboe player, will that make us a musician? If Uncle Henry cashed it in at the ripe old age of 102, does that mean we will follow suit?

Of course not, what a silly thought. But what about the clothes shopping gene? I can only answer for myself, and I’m sorry to say that because of the women in my family and their example, I have not only spent an inordinate amount of time and money in the rag trade, but have passed that gene on to my female descendants, including a ten year old great granddaughter, to my shame.

Call me shallow, but I even remember the new coat I had at age 11 when we went to see “Gone With the Wind”. The Depression made it difficult for people to indulge themselves, so that pink coat was a one-off experience for me.

I can’t remember a time when shoes have not attracted my attention; either on someone’s feet or in a store display. Perhaps it was the effect of the shiny Mary Jane’s my Grandmother bought me. I spent a lot of time washing their soles at the end of the day. One of my first jobs in dressing window displays was trying to make men’s work boots attractive. This was before I made a business of doing it a few years later.

No one can go into the clothing trade unless you truly love clothes. My grandmother, mother and aunt were accomplished seamstresses who also had a great deal of good taste, and I became comfortable sitting at a sewing machine as well. One of my daughters at age six was annoyed with me for not mending the hem of a dress as soon as she wanted it, so she grabbed a needle and thread and did it herself. I think sewing may be a lost art among the young today.

My mother in law tired of sewing soon after I married and gifted me with her old electric sewing machine. They were not always electrified. As a small child staying with an auntie, I slept in her sewing room, where her old foot pedal Singer machine stood.

My ‘new’ sewing machine was a Damascus Grand. It had copper fittings inside and when it need repair, there was only one old man in town who knew how to fix it. It perked away for years, keeping me and the girls presentable, eventually turning out clothes for the grandchildren. When it finally gave up the ghost, we made a lamp out of the head, which stands now in my studio.

We seldom throw things away, sometimes keeping them long after their usefulness is a memory. It is fortunate to have a friend of the same size and taste as your own, and closet cleaning is a fine time to share. Some years ago a friend called and asked if I could come help her clear out her closet. You can only do that with a close friend. At the end of the afternoon, glass of wine in hand, she decided she could bear to pass along a pair of light green sling back shoes I had admired. A few days later she knocked on my door at 7:30 a.m. to say she really wanted them back. What could I do? Sometimes we become too attached to our belongings.

So saying, I said a sad goodbye to my collection of ‘never-to-be-worn-again shoes by loading them into the trunk of a friend’s car. She is happy.

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16 comments on “IT’S IN THE GENES

  1. Love it. I have given away a few thing and wished for them back. Oh well cannot keep it all.

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    • The trouble is, I often forget what I gave away, and spend all kinds of time wondering where it is! I have grieved over my Irish leopard coat. It originally belonged to Jan’s friend Loretta, but I loved it and it looked great with jeans. I even had someone lined up to take it when I was through, but sadly, it ended up in a large box of things destined for a Thrift shop,. I hope someone else loves it.

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  2. My mum had a Singer foot pedalling sewing machine. I can almost still hear it whirring away.

    As for shoes, Helvi too like shoes which is intriguing. A couple of weeks ago we were in a large department store. It was very hot so being in a air conditioned area was very nice.

    Helvi had a sore foot from walking and thought of buying comfortable sandals. We took the elevator to the second floor which had acres of ladies shoes on show.

    It was fascinating to watch from the comfort of a nice leather fauteuil the many women trying on shoes and watching themselves in the mirror. They would do ballet like steps, turn this way and that way to see how the shoe would make them look. It makes for great happiness.

    Helvi also keeps a good look out for second hand shoes often available at charity shops. There is nothing quite as satisfying as finding a good pair at a bargain.
    A great post, Kayti.

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    • I have also had to stop and buy some comfortable shoes because my feet hurt. We can’t walk on our hands and our feet take a lot of punishment. You must have had a lot of fun watching the ladies pose in their new shoes. Sounds like you had a front row seat. The thrift shops are great shopping venues for a lot of things. It used to be simple to shop there but everyone has discovered them now.

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  3. I’ve just never had a thing for shoes. Once I stopped wearing high heels, it didn’t seem so important. Sandals and boat shoes are sandals and boat shoes, however, you look at them — although I do have good boat shoes (turquoise, fuchsia, and bone) and for-daily-work boat shoes. Well, and some autumn boat shoes (browns and green) and a pair of boat shoe sandals.

    That is quite a wardrobe of shoes, actually. Maybe in me the gene is recessive!

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    • So true. We buy the shoes we can use in current life styles. While in Washington, mine were boots, both for warmth and tough working ones. Not much use for either now. Sounds like you have some pretty boat shoes. I have one pair of cross trainers now which I can’t wear. When they put me into the diabetes foot clinic they made an insert and the shoes they fit are just plain black sturdy ones. Good looking but no style Guess that’s all over, but i sure miss the real things.

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    • I remember having to buy my first Wellies in Washington. I had hacked through a big root and suddenly found a hidden spring roaring up through the ground. Very surprising for a former city girl!

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  4. Yes, sometimes it is very hard to part with things! I’ve had my closet cleaning flurries and later wished I had that red sweater or some other item back.

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  5. I’ve heard it said that our love of shoes stems from the Cinderella story. We are trying to attract the charming prince!

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  6. Here in AZ enjoying this lively post. Ahhhhhhh…..shoes, my favorite human necessity.
    I am still in the hunt for a stylish black heel, even though I rarely wear heels. Your point, and Lindamom’s addendum, is so apropos–why did I give away that pair of cowboy boots?

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  7. I haven’t thought about my mother’s Singer sewing machine for years! She sewed all of our clothes from patterns she made herself. I guess she was one of those people who really loved clothes, especially dresses! I look back at pictures of us (her six daughters), and marvel at how well dressed we were!

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  8. I, too could describe in detail clothes I had for important occasions through my childhood and teenaged years, most of them made by my mother and, later, by me. I learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine and later made many of the clothes I taught in on a new Singer I bought with the money I made giving up my precious summer months to teach summer school. I love clothes to this day, and your post along with the comments on it brought back many happy memories.

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