My aunt, my mother’s older sister, spent a lot of time with me as a kid and as an adult. She always seemed much older than my mother (she was about 12 years older) and it was like having an extra grandmother. She turned grey early, and during most of her working years, had long hair that she wore in a bun.

For work, she wore suits. At home, she wore house dresses. She made her own clothes, and many of the clothes that my sisters and I wore to school.

The suits she made for herself were very nice. Conservatively styled in neutral colors. Sensible looking expensive shoes. She did not wear jewelry. She had a favorite raincoat that she called her “Columbo” coat.

Her sleeveless house dresses were called “Three-holers.” It was a pattern that she used frequently – it was for a wrap-style housedress with three armholes. No zippers, no buttons – the extra armhole is what kept the dress closed. Once she retired, she preferred denim jumpers and skirts.

She sewed skirts, jumpers, dresses and vests for us. I’m not sure she enjoyed sewing, but when asked by my mom or by us, she always sewed. My mom bought bolts of fabric for our clothes. One year our clothes were red corduroy. The next year they were snakeskin(!) patterned corduroy. Once slacks were allowed, especially jeans, my sisters and I began wearing those for school instead (Yes, there was a time long ago that girls had to wear dresses and skirts to school!)

The things that she sewed for us in junior high and highschool were Sunday dresses, special occasion dresses in velvet and other hard to sew fabrics, long frilly maxi dresses with zippered fancy sleeves. I even remember a jumpsuit or two. She altered our store-bought clothes, too. She used much more complicated patterns for our clothes than she ever did for her own.

Working full-time, coming home and sewing clothes for three girls. Remarkable.

The clothes we remember most (not counting that snakeskin corduroy):
The lined winter coats she hemmed for my sisters – she failed to remove the pins that were inside. They were routinely poked in the backside.

The lovely dress she made for my sister – J. forgot to do the final stitching connecting the bodice to the skirt. Fortunately the basting held until my sister got home.

My flowered purple maxi dress that required yards of expensive extra fabric to correctly match the flowered pattern .

The doll clothes that Santa delivered in fabrics that exactly matched the clothing that J. made for us.

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