Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

Your Mother’s Wardrobe

GailAnn | Posted in Gather For A Chat on

Good Morning Miss DonnaKaye!

On another thread you write of sorting through your mother’s things, her hats, and outfits, etc.  It caught my interest, because I know your family is from the great state of Louisiana, where Summers can be even longer and hotter, than here in Missouri.  Surely your Mother lived at least a part of her life without air-conditioning.  Even with air-conditioning I find it doesn’t always keep the humidity at bay.

I was hoping you might be willing to share some of your mothers tips or tips of your own for remaining cool, well dressed, and ladylike as the Summers drone on and both temperature and humidity rise.

I get a bit cranky in the Summer.  Complain about the heat.  My annual resolution to dress better during the Summer months, seldom lasts past the second week of June.  Next thing you know, it’s cut=offs and t-shirts till Mid-September.  That is not how I’d like my daughter to remember me. 

Sometimes I think I may suffer from whatever might be the oposite of SADD that affects other folks in the Winter.



  1. DONNAKAYE | | #1

    Wow!  Mother's wardrobe!  What memories this brings back!

    First rule to stay ladylike in an equatorial climate:  Wear garment shields.  Mom never, ever left the house in anything she made without underarm shields.

    Second rule:  Underline, underline, underline.  Now, she didn't underline her little "quickie" garments -- skirts and breezy tops and the like -- but any garment with real time invested got underlined with some cotton or cotton blend.

    Third:  Blends rather than 100 percent natural fibers.  She always got out the car or off the airplane looking pressed.  The one exception was linen, but she chose her linens very carefully -- taking a handful of fabric and scrunching it up and then releasing it to see what it would look like.  I never saw all this wrinkled business on her backside or at the armholes or waistlines.

    Four: Vests in favor of jackets, raglan or cut-on in favor of set-in sleeves.  She particularly liked the cut-on sleeve with the underarm gusset.  It keeps you cool.  Whenever I go pattern shopping, I ALWAYS look for garments with underarm gussets.  So many of the retro patterns have this feature and I am delighted.  Lots of wearing ease but still tailored.

    Five: Wash-n-wear fabrics.  The only thing she sent to the dry cleaners were suits and the like with understructuring.  Everything else was permanent press.  Mother was never one to while away her hours "ironing."  I have followed suit: I almost never buy fabrics that wrinkle coming from the wash.....

    I'll elaborate on more specific items in her wardrobe in another posting....

    GailAnn, many, many thanks for the query....donna kaye childress

    1. GailAnn | | #2

      Thank you.  I knew you'd come through with some great suggestions!

      Thanks for reminding me about the dress (under arm) shields.  Funny thing, I always used to wear them, when I was younger, thinner, and before menopause set in.  Wonder why I ever stopped.  I'll be making some this week-end.

      Wonderful suggestions, love to hear about your mothers creations.  Gail

    2. GailAnn | | #3

      What fabric do you prefer for underlining? 

      I made some 1870's reproduction dresses and pollanaises (sort of an over dress, with full skirt, open to the front) for a State of Missouri Historical Site at Watkins Mill.  They expected all bodices to be underlined with 100% cotton broadcloth.  Looked even hotter to me, but I didn't ever wear one.  The reasoning behind, aside from the historical correctness, was the cotton underlining protected the fashion fabric from the salts of the body, it was cooler (?), and as laundry practises were harsh, the cotton underlining made the dresses more durable, and longer lasting.


      Edited 7/18/2008 10:49 am ET by GailAnn

      1. DONNAKAYE | | #4

        Actually, I use old pima cotton bed linens -- sheets, pillowcases -- most often.  Sometimes lightweight cotton flannelette.  Other choices include poly/cotton broadcloth or batiste, silk organza, poly organza.  Poly voile is also one of my favorites.  Yes, I underline almost everything because it really keeps the garment well pressed, improves durability, protects the top fabric from perspiration and body salts.  All of the above.  Someone in the last few days posted a comment that she had seen photos of garments with and without underlining and she couldn't believe the difference.  It is SO worth the effort.  If anyone can remember the reader's tip or letter to the editor in one of the issues -- don't know if it's a back issue or more recent; really can't remember -- where the reader said she uses a particular type of temporary fusible to attach the underlining to the top fabric, please let me know.  I'm really desperate to find out what she said she used, as I'm preparing a garment to submit for Reader's Closet -- Ariel Price's challenge on Simplicity 4032.  Making a suit out of it: adding skirt, camisole, blouse, handbag....d.

        1. Josefly | | #12

          Carol Freesia said she uses a "temporary spray adhesive" to hold the lace trim she applied to a purchased sweater. She doesn't name the product, though. Threads #137, p74. She also has "water soluble stabilizer" on the list of notions - I assume that's Sulky Solvy or Sew'N Wash.In Threads #133, "Tips", a reader says she uses a "temporary spray baste" - again no brand name - to secure layers before stitching. This reader mentioned its use with sewn-in interfacing, though, not underlining. I'd guess these adhesive sprays can be found at Joann Fabrics and at Michael's stores.I've skimmed the last few issues looking for the tip you're hunting for, with no success, I'm afraid.I have myself used Wonder Tape - a good adhesive which comes in various widths, and can be stitched through without gumming up the needle, and washes out. It's a two-sided tape which is easily applied with a peel-off top. Have you tried this?Good luck with your Reader's Closet project - sounds like it will be a great outfit, and I look forward to seeing it pictured in the magazine.

          1. DONNAKAYE | | #13

            My gratitude for perusing the issues for me.  (I've been ill from some new medication the last few days.)  I would prefer, of course, to hand-baste, but I have time restraints; or to not baste at all, which is actually what I normally do, using my hands instead to manipulate the two layers together successfully.  I wanted to take the extra measure for the Reader's Closet, though.....Thanks again.....d.

          2. DONNAKAYE | | #14

            Okay.  I'm going to respond to myself here so that I can add something that I was just reminded of in another thread.

            One of mother's wardrobe PHILOSOPHIES (yes, she actually had a wardrobe philosophy) was NO ELASTIC AT THE WAISTLINE.  She ALWAYS used a fixed waistband.  Before she became ill, she was still 5'4" and 115 pounds, at age 64, and still wore many of the same clothes she had made as early as the sixties and seventies.

            Another one that I was reminded of from another thread:  no DOWDY or FRUMPY clothes.  All garments must have SHAPING and some sort of structured BODY (that is, hand), even if loose fitting.  A good example:  Mom wouldn't be caught dead wearing a peasant top or a babydoll.  Instead, she would trim down and glamorize the peasant effect in some creative way.  If she wanted something with an empire waistline -- which she seldom used -- she would create a tailored version of it.  Another example:  She wore clothing proportioned for the petite figure type.  No long skirts (like the Queen of England).  Instead, just past the kneecap.  Lends a clear fashion sense with modesty.  Also, she tended to peg her straight skirts, but she also wore a lot of A-lines for comfort when traveling.  She wore jacket lengths appropriate for the petite figure and kept her skirts at or just below knee length.  Once in a while, to show off her fabulous legs, she'd put a little bit of a revealing slash, but that was usually reserved for dramatic evening wear -- which she made and wore a lot, since she was frequently attending public events and even doing public speaking.

            I'm going to go back and try and find an old photo of mother's Mrs. America gown.  That is a good example of what I'm saying.

          3. DONNAKAYE | | #15

            I've scanned a photograph of me and mom in downtown New Orleans in the early '70s -- probably '71 or '72.  This will give you an overview of mom's fashion styling.  She is somewhere in her early to mid forties here....d.

          4. DONNAKAYE | | #16

            Okay.  Sorry.  Here's the photo.

          5. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #17

            She is beautiful, Donna. And I love the outfit. You mentioned Mrs. America. Did I miss something? You know I've not been posting here long. Was she Mrs. America? Certainly she is beautiful enough. You ain't bad either, girlfriend....By the way, I don't believe we live very far apart. You mentioned SW Louisiana. I live in East Texas.

          6. DONNAKAYE | | #19

            Audrey was Mrs. Louisiana 1965.  She competed in the Mrs. America pagent that same year but lost to Mrs. Utah.

          7. DONNAKAYE | | #24

            Where in East Texas?

          8. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #32

            I've not been ignoring you. The video card in my computer gave up the ghost Friday. I thought it was the monitor. I waited until this morning to take it to the shop to be sure. Glad I did. I have a lifetime warranty on the video card. Just had to send it off to the manufacturer. Luckily, my computer guru is a gem among jewels. He had one he has "loaned" me until my new one gets here, so I am up and running again. Anyhow, to answer your question..... Nacogdoches.

          9. DONNAKAYE | | #33

            Well, you're close enough for us to get together and have a sewing party!

          10. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #34

            That'd be fun. I knew when you said SW La, we couldn't be far. I noticed before my computer went down that there is a regular here from Houston, too.

          11. DONNAKAYE | | #35

            Would you like to try to plan a sewing weekend at my studio?  We can invite our Houston friend too.

          12. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #36

            I'd love to do that. Can we wait until I have my cataract surgery. So I don't have to wear the crafter's swing down magnifying head wear?? Just a few weeks, I think. While my computer was down, I got, in the mail, the 1966 edition of The Bishop Method, which I had ordered. Now I have both. And "The Fibrearts Book of Wearable Art" came in, too. Saturday was a GOOD day. I didn't care if the computer was working or not.....

            Edited 7/28/2008 11:53 pm by JunkQueen

          13. DONNAKAYE | | #37

            When we get together really doesn't matter to me.  It just depends on the backlog of transcripts I have in my office.  Why don't I put a beacon out for you when it looks like I might have some time coming up....d.

          14. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #38

            That sounds like a plan. Did I read that you are a court reporter? There was a CR here who officed down the hall from me a few years ago, and in my spare time I proof read for her and particularly for a new, green CR she hired to work with her. I enjoyed it and looked into transcribing for the industry.

          15. DONNAKAYE | | #39

            Yes, I'm a court reporter.  I stay very, very busy.  Sometimes I get the itch, though, 'cause I'd rather be in the sewing room!

          16. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #18

            Love the picture DonnaKaye! And the hat is perfect. Those two ladies have Class! Cathy

      2. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #7

        Hi GailAnn, (and All) I am sure you know most of this anyways, but just in case....
        cotton broadcloth is a traditional underlining for those reasons. It is also used because the even, tight weave has enough body that it does not shift, is inexpensive, and is readily available in many colours. It works well with light to medium weight fabrics to add opacity and body to fabrics, without adding stiffness. It works well with heavy fabrics to add body with out adding stiffness and bulk. Flannelette is also used, but mostly for winter wear. It was the number one choice for underlining when I took my dressmaking/tailoring courses. When adding an underlining, you are creating a new fabric from two layers of fabric, that creates a new hand or feel to the fabric. So you actually can modify a fabric to better suit your garment's silhouette or purpose, or to modify a fabric to use it in a way that it not really suited for. So when choosing an underlining, it is the final hand of the fabric that should determine what you should use as your underlining. It should match the content of the fashion fabric as much as possible(ie, natural fibres, with natural), or be pre-treated so that it does not shrink, and can be cleaned the same way as you intend the garment to be cleaned. Cathy

      3. sewingkmulkey | | #20


        This past weekend I pulled out some lovely cream linen left me by my precious grandmother.  I've had it since 1972 and figured I should finally sew it up and honor my gm.  Anyway, I decided to make a summer jacket, 3/4 length sleeves (since I live in hot, humid Houston) and underline it in some silk organza as it needed some body.  Well, I can't tell you how much nicer the linen is behaving!  It's crisp but has a softness (probably from laundering) and minimal wrinkling.  I am sold, once again, on underlining.  It defintely adds time but is well worth the effort.  I chose organza for a second reason as I plan on sewing numerous buttons (all cream and white) from my grandmother's collection on the lapels and felt the tight weave or organza would hold up well to the weight of the buttons.


        1. GailAnn | | #21

          Love the passing of the stitching torch one generation to the next.  Gail

          1. sewingkmulkey | | #22

            You phrase things so well.This weekend I have my 6 year old granddaughter with me and (at her request) we will sew a new outfit for her American Girl doll. I'm thrilled that she's showing an interest in my beloved craft!Karen

          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #23

            Ok, I am going to ask a stupid question here. What is an American Girl Doll? I have seen references to her several times now. Cathy

          3. GailAnn | | #25

            Chicago has a whole store devoted to the American Girl Dolls.  You can have mother/daughter/doll lunches and teas there.  Gail

          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #26

            That sounds really special. Are these a collector type of doll or are they the type that little girls can actually play with? Cathy

          5. GailAnn | | #27

            My niece played with her "Samantha" American Girl doll, but she was a cautious little girl.  They are expensive and very pretty.

            A movie is out this Summer, based on the American Girl Doll, "Kit".  Each doll is fashioned for a particular moment in history.  There are books, doll furniture, etc.  As the name implies, they look like little girls, but when I visited the Chicago store in 2004 or 5, they had baby dolls as well, called "Bitty Babies".  Charming.

            I believe it began as a company called Pleasant Company, years ago, in Wisconsin.  Any item purchased is packaged beautifully, and almost "tenderly".

            I really thought someone else might answer with more information than I have.  Gail

          6. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #31

            Thank you GailAnn for trying to explain this to me. Cathy

          7. sewingkmulkey | | #28

            American Girl dolls are quality 18" dolls that originally started out as purely historical dolls representing different times in America's history. All dolls come with books that tell stories of their lives based on the era the doll is supposed to represent. The movie out this summer (Kit Kittridge) is based on the doll (Kit) from the depression era (early 30's). I saw the movie with my granddaughter and my Mom (who lived through the depression) and we all found it quite charming and it brought back many memories for my Mom who is now 87.American Girl also make dolls (Just Like Me) that can match hair, skin and eye color of little girls. The books for these dolls tell stories promoting a healthy lifestyle and are very wholesome and PG friendly.Karen

          8. GailAnn | | #29

            Thank for comming through for me.  I knew someone had more and better information on American Girl Dolls than I did.  My daughter is over 30, and I was only familiar with them through my niece.  Gail

          9. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #30

            Thank you for explaining that for me. Although I had girls, they were just as apt to play with toy tractors and farm animals as dolls. The dolls sound like something really special. I can understand why people would want to sew outfits for them. I have made some custom clothing for handmade porcelain dolls, but they were solely collector items. Cathy

  2. BernaWeaves | | #5

    My family has lived in Florida since the end of WWII, before airconditioning.  My mother, who always looked fantastic, simply wore a thin cotton nighty around the house until she had to go out, and then she'd get dressed up.  And I mean DRESSED, even to just do grocery shopping.  She must have worn 10 crinolines at a time under a sleeveless cotton dress with full skirt.  She took as many as 3 showers a day.  Basically, any time you came back home, you had a quick cool shower to wash off the sweat.  She had her hair done professionally once a week, so a shower cap was a must.

    Also, the houses were built differently back then.  They were built on the beach to get the breeze off the water.  Or if they were inland, they were built on stilts and had fans in the ceiling to blow UP, so that the air would be pulled in through the windows like a breeze that came from all directions.   And, of course, there was the Florida room that wrapped around the house like a screened in porch with jalose (sp?) windows to keep out the rain.


    1. GailAnn | | #6

      I must admit it sounds way more comfortable than my little West facing suburban raised ranch.  Sometimes I do wear my nightie arround the house, but then, like YESTERDAY, for instance, the man who cleans the gutters surprised me.  Gail

      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #8

        A nightie worn around the house during the day is a house dress, not a nightie. A nightie is worn at night. tee hee. Cathy

        1. BernaWeaves | | #9

          No, a housedress was a housedress.  A loose, unfashionable, comfortable item in which you could answer the front door if you had to.

          My mom's nighties were flimsy thin and soft.  Just see through enough that you wouldn't want to open the front door in them, and yes she slept in them, too.

          I still live in Florida, and I just walk around the house naked until I have to go out.  My hubby hasn't complained yet.  I don't crank the air conditioning cooler unless we're having company.  Saves on electricity.


          Edited 7/18/2008 4:56 pm ET by BernaWeaves

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #10

            In the cold of winter, I wear a flannel nightie all day until I have to go out, or company comes. The rest of the year, I am like you as much as possible. For the children's sake, I wear flimsy nightgowns, as pretty as possible. I call them my house dresses. I never wear them to bed. When I have to answer the door, I have several decent wraps or kimonos that I can pull on. We don't have air, just the pool to cool off in. And I hate wet bathing suits......Cathy

            Edited 7/18/2008 5:16 pm ET by ThreadKoe

    2. Josefly | | #11

      I grew up in Florida, too. Believe it or not, we actually wore corduroy and wool fabrics in the winter. I think it used to get colder there in the winters back then, 'cause I don't know anyone in Florida now who owns wool garments.Summers of course meant lightweight cottons, but with slips, stockings, sometimes girdles, even. But I think we learned how to manage the summer heat by moving slowly and being *still*. I swear, to this day, I can "think cool". I loved your description of the houses. I lived in several places in Florida, and one house I lived in was a wonderful 1920's or 30's Craftsman bungalow, high ceilings and steep roof, up on 3-foot stone stilts, where the air could circulate under the house. Moreover, the under-the-house area wasn't hidden by trellises or shrubbery, except maybe in the front, and around the sides of the porch. Dogs knew how to keep cool by digging out a shallow bed in the sandy dirt in the dark shade under the house. We lived also in a "modern" central Florida 1940's house built right on a concrete slab with a nearly flat roof and with glass brick windows in the closets and jalousie doors and windows elsewhere - that was the hottest, most miserable place we lived, and even fans couldn't cool things adequately. Whew!Thanks for the memory-trip.

  3. sewslow67 | | #40

    Hi GailAnn:  I know you didn't ask me, but I lived in Iowa as a child and still have a lot of family there to visit.  I have found that dresses are a key to staying cool, and much more comfortable than any kind of pants and top (tops overlap, and makes too much fabric around the waist ...which I don't need).  The fabrics that have kept me the most cool are rayon and linen ...however, I wash my linens before sewing them, thus the wrinkles don't seem to be a problem.

    I also have several open-weave straw hats that are loose (they don't mess my short, curly hair too badly ...prefer not to have "hat-hair" ;-), and I try to stay out of the sun so I don't have to wear sun block, which I find keeps the skin from breathing.  Sandals are a must ...as opposed to closed shoes ...and never pantyhose (I use "fake-tan" stuff on my ultra white legs).  I used to wear white gloves everywhere, but have dashed those in our current more casual society.


    1. GailAnn | | #41

      Thanks for the advice.  I completely agree that dresses are much more comfortable in the heat.  Just look to the Middle-East where both men and women wear what we would call dresses, to protect themselves from the sun and heat.

      Esther Rudnick, now retired, of Cy Rudnick's, Kansas City fabric store, once advised me to wash my linens, in the machine, with a teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid, before cutting my patterns.  Cuts the wrinkles significantly!  Thanks again, Gail

      1. sewslow67 | | #42

        You are most welcome; and thanks for the Dawn dish detergent tip.  I have never heard of that, so will definitely try it.  My linens, after being washed, had few wrinkles but, still had some and a "touch up" with the iron was necessary.  However, your idea sounds even better.  Thanks for sharing this information.

      2. User avater
        JunkQueen | | #43

        Haven't seen much of you here recently. I always enjoy your posts and was pleased to 'see' you this morning. As it happens, I was reading some back issues of Threads last night, and in issue 118, May, 2005, Judity Neukam had written an article "Wash Your Stash" in which she mentions exactly that. She further states to use the original Dawn formula.This was an interesting article in which she talks about washing everything from silk brocades to Italian wools. She recommended washing a swatch. I've always been relatively brave when is comes to washing fabrics. While not always satisfied, I've truly liked many of the incarnations that resulted.

        Edited 8/4/2008 1:13 pm by JunkQueen

        1. GailAnn | | #44

          What a great word, "incarnations".  So perfectly discriptive.  I've been here at home, but had the computer off for a few days.  Call me crazy, but I think it is so much cooler in the house, if I turn off the electronics, TV, computer, dishwasher, dryer, most of the lights, etc......... 90+ degrees for way too many days to suit me.  Gail

          1. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #45

            I know that is so -- the heat generated by so many electronics. It is scary to walk through the house during the night and see so many green and red lights glowing. Not to mention all the flashing lights when the electrical power goes off temporarily. Like yesterday. Our temp here was 106 before one of those freaky summer storms blew through with all that glorious thunder, lightening, wind and rain, and we lost power for a while I'm sure because of a tree limb falling on a power line within our grid. It had been three-digit temps here for a week or more. Really oppressive heat.

          2. GailAnn | | #46

            "Come on, November!"

This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All