Southern Way

Southern Way

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Barbie Gowns

My Mama may have tried to kill me with ric rac, but my Grandmother made the most incredible clothes for my Barbie dolls. I had an entire Barbie closet full of ball gowns, a wedding dress, and cocktail dresses, and Grandmama had all made  all these by hand.


Each of these pieces were incredibly detailed. The gowns would be made of satin with a coordinating chiffon or netting over the skirt. The cocktail dresses would be made of silk edged with sequins or some other fancy trim.  For every long gown for my Barbie, she made a coordinating one for my Skipper. One year, she presented me with a full length wool coat, with such details like pockets and a coordinating collar. 

When I look back on the small bodices and tiny waists she had to work with to produce these clothes, I am in awe. There was usually a small snap or tiny hook and eye in the back to hold up the skirt or fasten the back of the dress. The hems of the dresses were always perfectly even and turned under.

Even as a little girl I loved the Barbie clothes she made. When I went to play with my friends I had the loveliest Barbie clothes by far. If we were producing a Barbie wedding I was always fast to share my ball gowns and bridesmaid dresses. My friends were welcome to dress their dolls in the beautiful cocktail dresses my Grandmama had made for me.


But the grass is always greener. Out of all the gorgeous clothes I had, I did not have any "every day" clothes. My Barbie and Skipper could only dress for balls and dances and weddings and parties. I did not have any "real" Barbie clothes, the kind that came from the store with the Barbie label in them. I had to borrow those from my friends.

One afternoon I can remember a friend of mine having this Barbie suit made out of pink faux fur trimmed in white vinyl. It had a top, a skirt, and a coordinating hat. I had played with that outfit so much that she asked me if I wanted it. Seems she had been eyeing one of my ball gowns. When she suggested a trade I had to think about it. After much angst and guilt I made the trade.

Even though I can remember enjoying that pink outfit as long as I played with my Barbies, I still to this day feel pangs of guilt over that trade. How could I have given something my Grandmama spent so much time making for an outfit anyone could buy from the dime store? Now I am sure if my Grandmother knew about it she would chuckle. One gown would not have upset her. She would been happy that some other little girl was enjoying the gown she made. She probably would have been hurt though that I never asked to her to make my Barbie some everyday clothes.

Whatever the case, I look back on the two generations of talent. My mother who made my clothes and although I did not appreciate them at the time, she was an excellent seamstress and spent a great amount of time sewing each one. And my Grandmother who spent hours crafting those Barbie clothes. 

Unfortunately, while I once had an interest in sewing and learned the basics, like many things this is a lost art with me. However, the time and talent they put into it is not lost on me. All this came to mind when I found one of the lovely Barbie gowns my Grandmother made for me in the attic. And yesterday I came across a red plaid dress in a size 4 with two pockets and ric rac on it that my mother had saved in a box of other memorabilia we had unearthed while cleaning out her house. 

It is amazing how pieces of cloth hold so many memories. Well, pieces of cloth that have been carefully cut, folded, sized, stitched, edged, trimmed, and hemmed. 

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