Matching dresses

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Musings By Regena Handy

We stood at the front steps of the house, the pink peonies that grew on each side framing our pose. I remember smiling into the morning sunlight, trying not to squint my eyes as Daddy snapped the little Brownie camera.

It was Mother’s Day morning and we were headed to church. My brothers were already waiting in the car—a light blue ’55 Ford sedan—when my mother initiated the last-minute snapshot of the two of us.

Only the two of us, you see, because we were wearing our mother and daughter matching dresses.

I think you have to be of a certain age to really understand this topic. Though some people may still dress alike on special occasions, you probably had to be around during the late ’50s and early ’60s to truly understand the popular trend.

One of my mother’s talents was that of a seamstress. Long after many women—especially those who held jobs outside the home—had begun to purchase clothing from department stores, Mom continued to sew most of our garments.

Part of the reason was, of course, the cost factor but the other was that she simply enjoyed sewing. She made not only dresses for the two of us but also shirts for my daddy and brothers. Even my dolls often benefited from her fine craftsmanship. Over the years she stitched numerous beautiful quilts as well as other pieces of handiwork. Each of her eight grandchildren received a quilt upon their high school graduation.

But as the only daughter and the youngest child, I was often the lucky recipient of Mom’s creations. In many of my childhood pictures, I am wearing fancy little dresses decorated with lace and ribbons and rick-rack. Some even included embroidery and something called chicken-scratch. Those of you who know more about sewing than I do will understand this last term.

All the dresses were full-skirted, fluffed out over a crinoline. (Now you really do have to be a certain age to know about crinolines.)

Then there were the mother and daughter dresses. I especially remember one that included white polka-dots, a wide white collar and a narrow belt that looked great on my pretty, slender mom. (Can’t for the life of me imagine wearing a belt like that now—probably take two of them tied together to fit me.)

We had blue dresses in a soft, pale shade and lavender ones trimmed in white. But the ones I probably remember most were the peach dresses we wore that morning with little red flowers plucked from the quince bush and pinned near our collars to honor our mothers on their special day.

As I grew older, the look-a-like dresses eventually stopped, of course. After all, what teenager or even pre-teen wants to dress like their parent. But I sure do wish that as we celebrate this Mother’s Day that my mom was still here to wear matching dresses with me. Even the polka-dotted ones.