DRESS-MAKERS part 2.

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So here it is; my daughter’s smocked dress, and the story behind it. But there is another story to tell. I wonder if my birth mother ever made a dress – for me, in memory of me, or maybe for another daughter?

I was overwhelmed with meeting my first child – the first sight of my own flesh and blood. You cannot understand what this means unless you have never known any of your own ancestors, never seen a familiar face, and never felt a sense of belonging anywhere. This did not occur with the second son, he was a pleasure in his own right. The birth of my daughter touched something inside my memory that I could not recall. I was thrilled to have a daughter after two boys, but something uncomfortable was stirred up in me. I began seeing a psychiatrist because of depression. This child was not just my own flesh and blood; she was my own gender. I thought about my birth mother.

My adoptive mother died before my daughter was two years old, and after her death I began searching for my birth mother. My adoptive mother had always known the name of my birth mother. The doctor who arranged the adoption had told her.

I was told my adoption records showed my mother had identified her occupation as a dress-maker – at the age of 15! I found her mother – my grandmother first. She told me my mother was a tailor – and in fact was still making wedding dresses. My grandmother’s home was full of handmade crafts, similar to my own. Both of us had made shawls, wall hangings and floor rugs. Hers were brightly coloured; mine were mostly in the colours of natural sheep wool. I was yet to be introduced to the colours of life. My upbringing had favoured the blues.

It was a long time before I began sewing again, but my daughter never went short of dresses. I had become a dressmaker because I needed dresses. Female medical students were required to wear dresses and stockings in my day. I stopped making dresses when imported clothes became cheaper than the fabric to make them. My mother was a Dress-Maker. I was not. I got my income from other pursuits.

Recently when I was telling a friend about spinning some alpaca wool I had been given, she told me she remembers the old lady she lived with long ago, who used to sit spinning on her wheel in her old age. She said the woman’s family had a business making wedding dresses! As a shiver went up my spine I asked the family name. Of course it was the same family – my birth family.

 

So here it is; my daughter’s smocked dress, and the story behind it. But there is another story to tell. I wonder if my birth mother ever made a dress – for me, in memory of me, or maybe for another daughter?