In your mind’s eye, I’ll bet you’re imagining a beautiful Victorian dress or a lacy Edwardian gown. That would be my great-grandma’s dress and sadly, no one saved any of her old dresses. Nope. I’m talking about my grandma’s dresses from the 1950s.
For whatever reason – and honestly, I’m not really sure when I got 3 of them – I have 5 of my grandmother’s dresses. Two of them are fairly recent vintage – one is a 70s formal dress and the other an 80s “church” dress that I will probably only look at and enjoy my memories. The other three, I wear.
These three are from the 1950’s and two of them are very similarly styled “Swirl” wrap dresses. The third is a shirt dress – it’s a bit smaller (ok, the reality is that it is less forgiving of my waist size. Ugh). I don’t remember Grandma wearing the shirt dress, but I do remember the wrap dresses.
Searching the few old photographs I have of Grandma in the 1950, 1960s, and 1970s (after the 70s, she fell prey to double-knit pantsuits), there are none of her wearing one of these dresses. But in my mind’s eye, I can see her plain as day. I practically lived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, particularly during the summer. These were Grandma’s “housedresses”. I suppose that is why, whenever it was that I saw them – probably during the sad days when we cleaned 70 years worth of memories out of the old house – I kept them.
Swirl Pastel Floral Sun Dress
Fast forward to about 3 years ago. There is a tiny little closet in one room of our house and I keep my personal vintage clothing there. Grandma’s dresses were also in there but I had never tried to wear them. Frankly, I just figured … well you know what happens when food becomes a hobby … yeah … well, I just figured I couldn’t get my big toe in them. But looking at them, I realized they were wrap dresses and maybe … just maaaybe … and they DID fit! Well close enough, anyway. LOL
So, I’ve worn them quite often since and always receive compliments, despite the fact that pink and pastels are NOT my color.
A common feature of 1950s Swirl dresses is the large patch pockets. Grandma’s pocket would ALWAYS have a hankie or two tucked into one of those pockets. Today, I find these pockets are superb for my glasses and cell phone.
This summer, when I put on the floral one, I noticed a big gap in the back. The dresses fasten only at the back of the neck with a button and then wrap and tie in the front. I’d never had the gap before! OH NO. Too much food. Curses!
But wait. Some hand-stitching had come loose where she had taken a tuck in on each side at the waistband in the back. So Grandma had the same problem! Somehow, that tuck – that I realized was on both dresses – made me feel so close to her. Here I am, about the same age as she was when I remember her wearing them and we must be just about the same size and build.
Pink Swirl Sundress
When I first started wearing the dresses, I thought I “should” let the hem back down. Grandma had shortened them and I remember being taller than her but then, we all shrink with age. So, before the next time I wear these sweet memories I’ll return the hemline to where Grandma thought it should be … correct for US. And as I sit here now, re-stitching those tucks into place and following Grandma’s stitches that guide me the way they used to and remembering how she taught me to take tiny stitches that wouldn’t show on the front of the fabric it’s almost like being in a time machine.
May you all find the entrance to your own time machine. It is precious.