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.