On a recent visit to my aunt’s house, I started exploring her huge stash of family photos. Why had I never thought to do this while my uncle was still alive to share his stories? But better late than never. In the relatively well documented collection, I discovered many treasures. Most precious were a few of my maternal grandmother, the highly skilled seamstress Madge.
Here she is on the right with my aunt and two cousins. Judging from my cousins’ ages, the photo comes from 1951 or 1952, which means that Madge would have been in her early fifties. My cousins are wearing matching outfits that she most likely made. And look at her dress, surely surely her own construction, with its beautiful draped skirt, worn with stylish high heels. Perhaps my aunt was about to throw off her apron and head out to a party with everyone else.
My grandmother also trimmed her own hats, including this stylish model on the left above. Thanks to the excellent reference book, Vintage Hats and Bonnets by Susan Langely, I know that these were called “toy hats.” They came into fashion in 1939 and stayed popular during World War Two. This picture was probably taken on the steps of my grandparents’ home in south Chicago. I distinctly recall the African violets in the kitchen, the big carpet in the front room where I played with buttons, and my grandfather’s workshop in the basement.
I keep vivid memories of my grandmother making me a dress for an eighth grade dance. It was light green, covered with lace. How I wish I had asked her to share her skills with me!