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  • Martha Rasche

What I Wore


These days find me sorting donations at the local St. Vincent de Paul store, and one day last week I came upon a large grocery bag filled with old clothing patterns. Butterick, Simplicity, McCall’s.

Immediately, images surfaced of homemade clothing from my childhood, along with the memories surrounding them.

For a special day of Head Start, Mom made for me what I always considered my “Cheerios” outfit — it was a pair of shorts and a sleeveless top made of bright yellow fabric sprinkled with what looked to me like white “Cheerios” cereal. Near the bottom of the shirt, the side seams were replaced by a couple of white seam-binding ties.

When I was in elementary school, my older sister Barb spent a summer Saturday afternoon sewing me a jumperlike dress of orange, navy and white plaid with big navy buttons. How proud was I when I could wear my new dress to church that very evening!

Another summer, in the days leading up to my sister next to me in age, Rosie, going on a weeklong 4-H reward trip at Purdue University (it was 1974; I remember TV news of President Nixon’s impeachment proceedings blended with the hum of the sewing machine), our sister Clare sewed what seemed like an entire new wardrobe of shorts and blouses for her. I was so jealous! When I earned the same trip a few years later I also got new home-sewn clothing, including a pair of khaki shorts with a snazzy matching vest.

In June of 1975, when I was 11, I spent two weeks with my sister Dort, Mom and Great-Aunt Mary driving to California and back, visiting relatives along the way. In rural Nebraska, Mom bought two pieces of flowered cotton material — the perfect, practical souvenir from the local mercantile — from which she sewed me smock tops. One of those smocks, the red one, stuck around for more than 35 years, first in my own school wardrobe and then, much faded, in what my mom wore around the farm.

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