Saturday, September 02, 2006

Grandmama's Muumuu’s

It was necessary for women to learn sewing skills when my Grandmother was growing up. Ready to wear was a luxury most could not afford and my grandmother was an excellent seamstress. When her daughters were old enough, they learned how to sew, my mother being the best of the three. I was designing and making Barbie Doll clothes when I was 10. Most of my clothes were either hand-me-downs or home made, and there was no shame to this. As a teen, it was the only way I could get what I wanted the way I wanted it.

In the South, the summer is beastly hot and we dress as minimally as possible at home. I went topless until I was about 8. My grandmother wore muumuus to beat the heat. Of course, Grandmother made her own muumuus. She cranked at least one out a week in the summer. She had one pattern that she used over and over, the muumuu’s were sleeveless and made out of cotton. When she first started wearing them, she considered them for casual wear around the house. If she had guests she would change into something more appropriate.

Time progressed, Grandmama got bigger and polyester was invented. Polyester was the godsend of the century; no ironing needed, colorfast and light weight. Grandmama changed her whole concept of appropriate attire. She made muumuus for all occasions in every possible color. She had short, sleeveless every day cotton muumuu’s. Of these she had muumuu’s to cook, sleep and relax in. She made shopping/luncheon muumuus in varying sleeve lengths; which were more casual than her church and formal muumuu’s. She also had shoes and jewelry to match.

My Grandmother loved polyester so much she would go on material shopping junkets with her sister. They would buy thread and zippers to match the material, come home and unload a trunkful of material into her sewing room and commence making plans for every piece. This was a very precise recap of who spent how much money and how many things Grandmama was going to make for her sister. There was so much material in that sewing room she could have opened her own material store.

Grandmama and her muumuu’s were very famous in her circle of friends. I don't remember what she looked like in regular clothes. When my grandfather died, my grandmother had been married for 50 years, since she was 16. She was on her own for the first time in her life and she loved it. She never lacked for company, and liked being able to come and go as she pleased. Several years after my grandfather passed, while was visiting Grandmama I was helping her fold her laundry. I picked a muumuu out of the basket and noticed it was only 2 feet long from shoulder to hem. I held it up in both hands and asked, "Grandmama, what is this?"

She looked at me with her big playful blue eyes and smiled. "Well, since your grandfather is no longer here I don't have to worry about dressing, and if I could, I would walk around the house naked, but I can't because of the windows. So, I measured where the window ledge comes up to my body, cut a few of my muumuus to that length, and wear them when I am alone. If anyone sees me from outside they don't know the difference."

That image was burned indelibly into my mind's eye.

20 comments:

Barbara said...

I hadn't thought about muumuus for years. There were so forgiving, weren't they? So what exactly did she wear under the short muumuus?

I can identify with your love of sewing at a young age. I made a lot of my spending money from the time I was 13 by entering my home-made clothes in the county fair. They paid $5 for 1st, $3 for 2nd, and $1 for 3rd place ribbons. I would make an entire wardrobe of Barbie Doll clothes (10 outfits) for $10.

Old Lady said...

Barbara-That was it, just the short muumuu, nothing else!

Marni said...

I had an aunt that wore muumuus... they looked so comfy. I thought she was in her pajamas all day, though! I had no idea at the time that it was her everyday wear.

Dale said...

So funny Old Lady. Didn't see it coming and neither did the neighbors I guess. Your Grandmama would have made a good TV news anchor. Don't they sometimes dress from the waist up? Crafty and funny.

Mother of Invention said...

What a riot your "Grandma Muumuu" was! She was way ahead of her time! I remember those....and tent dresses!

My mom made all our clothes and then doll clothes from the scraps. We had mother daughter dresses from the same material but different patterns. When mom was cutting out patterns, she'd be dressed in her yoga outfit..the black leotard thing. She said it was good for her yoga fitness, stretching over the long strip of material, pinning and then cutting!

Mother of Invention said...

Polyester! Remember "double knit"?
Where did the name "jersey" come from? A whole education in the naming of materials! I had a real "brocade" Sunday/party dress with little mink strips on it! I thought I was royalty! I love the sound of the word,"brocade", and the real thing too!
And "Swiss Dot" or "Dotted Swiss"! I had lots of dresses from that. I'm tactile so I couldn't stop touching it!

KLee said...

My own mother had muumuus when I was gorwing up, and I even remember her sewing a matching one for me. Of course, it was the 70's, so they were awful colors -- avacado green, burnt orange, and mustard yellow. Blech!

At my mom's party last night, there was a big board her sisters made with pictures from throughout her life, and there was a shot of her and her sisters from the early 50s where they were all wearing these unisex baggy drawers and no tops. We laughed, but we used to do that -- it was too darn hot to wear clothes if we didn't have to, so we just didn't. :)

GrizzBabe said...

I LOVE your Grandma! What a riot!

Middle Manager said...

Hmmmm...intentionally cutting them to the length of the window...very clever...and strategic. I love it!

Coaster Punchman said...

But what did Grandmama do when the doorbell rang? A friend of mine used to walk around the house in a t-shirt and lace panties, but then would forget and go outside like that. Then he'd be really embarassed.

Kilroy_60 said...

I've responded to the tag - will you be coming for a look? - and tagged the following...

Tamara at The Writing Muse; Pud at Pudwhipped; Kiersten at sojourner's late night drive-thru; Miss Kitty at Educated and Pour; Jeremy at Religion, Politics And The Great Pumpkin.

This is my first time in the game, is there something else I'm to do? Other than address the posting where you are writing the commment...sorry about that. Thinking current is where you would first look.

I appreciate you choosing me for this game; it had interesting results for me. Although I can't say my answers are interesting.

Old Lady said...

Marni-I'm like that, only I wear long t-shirts once I am home.

Dale-She would have done the social news well! I was suprised to learn that TV reporters half dressed. Linder Ellerby was the one that outed them on a show she used to do.

Mother-All of those!! She even went to stretch and sew classes when the fabric came out. I made a red moire taffeta dress for a high school dance once. Moire is a cool word.

klee-I was the one who started putting a top on. I would become uncomfortable around the boys who weren't family.

Grizzbabe-she was an extremely colourful person.

Middle Manager-I thought it was clever too. She would come up with all sorts of different ideas.

CP-Grandmama had radar. I am like your friend, sans lace panties.

Kilroy-Thanks for your contribution to the tag. I enjoyed participating as well.

Beth said...

I've been out of town, so I'm way behind on your posts. I can't wait to come home tomorrow night ... pour a glass of wine ... and catch up.

But ... in the meantime ...

You’ve been tagged!

Pj said...

cool kid were ;

Old Lady said...

Beth, the tag looks fun!

pj-Grandma was a cool kid-welcome!

Beth said...

Your grandmother was brilliant! I need some short muumuus for the windows ...

CyberCelt said...

I loved this story.
Here from Blog Village Carnival.

JAM said...

Sounds like Grandma was a fun person. The mental image she caused you to have must have been almost too much.

My Mother hasn't sewn in years, but she made lots of our clothes while we were growing up.

(I'm here from the Blog Village Goes Gonzo Carnival.)

Janey Loree said...

My mother sewed for me, too! The outfit that my namesake paperdoll (in the avatar) is wearing is a replica of an outfit my mom sewed for me as a little girl!!

You can see the full length picture over at Notes That Touch The Heart!

I followed your link from the BLOG VILLAGE Goes Gonzo Carnival!!!

LJP said...

There's something about sewing that makes me think of family. I remember my Grandma measuring me for a dress and me holding my breath so I didn't get stuck with the pins. It was worth it, though. I hope we don't lose this activity in the future.

Here from the Blog Village Carnival