“You can be Carrie and Katie, and I’ll be Sarah and Becky.” My sister and I gathered the brightly colored clothes that accompanied each paper doll, delighting in Carrie’s croquet dress, Sarah’s patchwork parasol, Becky’s voluminous straw hat and Katie’s beribboned sleeves. We delved into the world of “The Ginghams,” dressing our paper friends up for parties and picnics, school days and holidays. With a few folds and tucks of those clothing tabs, new outfits were swapped with ease (and an alarming frequency which was anything but realistic: never had four girls been invited to so many parties in one day).
Our early fascination with clothing was further encouraged by the blessing of having a mother who taught us to sew. We sat at the old Singer machine and learned to sew clothes for our Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbies. Eventually we could make our way through a whole Butterick pattern, sewing basic garments for ourselves. Because we also lived on a steady diet of “Little House on the Prairie” and “Anne of Green Gables,” we most often found ourselves sewing period costumes, from long, sweeping nightgowns and calico dresses to flouncy aprons and puffy pantaloons; we just never knew when we might have the opportunity to recite “The Lady of Shalott” while gliding downriver in a rowboat, and of course we wanted to be well prepared for that inevitable occasion.
When my sister and I grew to have our own families, we further realized the value of being handy with a needle and thread.