This week we said goodbye to a friend who excelled in a lost art…making new clothes out of old clothes. Kerry made costumes for the local theater. What impressed me the most about her designs is how she would take a piece of clothing, cut it up and make a new costume out of it!

Years ago it was common to cut a new shirt out for a child from a larger shirt that was frayed at the seams.  I remember one episode of “The Walton’s” when Olivia cut the skirt off of Erin’s dress and made a shirt for Jim Bob out of the top.

I’ll never forget watching Kerry going through some old “Show Choir” costumes from the local high school when we were practicing for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat.” She explained that the skirts from the dresses would become vests for the 12 brothers. Below is a photo of my husband, who played Simeon, in one of the vests.  (That’s me next to him. I played “The Baker” in one scene and was in the chorus for the rest of the play.)

My husband and I before opening night of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat."

My husband and I before opening night of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat.”

I did make over one costume for a play, but it was nothing like the designs that Kerry created. It was my first foray into local theater and they were doing the play, “Music Man.” They split up the chorus into family groups, but they ran out of men! During the “Shipoopi” Dance, I was paired with the young actor who was also my “son” in my family group. Since, I was dancing with my son and there was not a man in my family group, I asked the director if I could dress as a widow!

I went through the costumes looking for a black dress of lightweight material as the production was planned for late June. I found a jumpsuit with a crew neck in a polyester material that had rows of tiny holes in it. You could not see the holes, but it sure helped keep me cool under the hot lights.

I remember ripping the legs apart, and using my senior prom dress as a pattern, I pinned up a “new” dress. My grandmother had given me a collar that she crocheted and I wore it over the pantsuit/dress.

Me and my husband after the play, "Music Man."

Me and my husband after the play, “Music Man.”

Kerry inspired me another way. While she was undergoing treatment at the “Cancer Treatment Center of America” she made a quilt! I pulled out the quilting square I had neglected and started sewing again.

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Make Alterations Before You Wash an Item

I am the most difficult person to buy clothes for as a gift. I prefer the tall sizes because my arms and legs are long. My skin is so sensitive, that I can only wear 100% cotton or 100% silk. I admit; I don’t have much silk.

My daughter found some 100% cotton pajamas and bought them for me. Of course, once I washed them, the sleeves would be too short. So before I wore them, or washed them, I let the hem down on the legs and the sleeves.

If you alter them before you wash them, you don’t end up with those lines that make it obvious you let the hem out.

Those fold lines disappeared after I washed the pajamas.

I grew up with those lines in all of my pants and skirts. My older sister is a five foot two blonde. I am a couple of inches taller. When she handed clothes down to me the hems had to be let out and I lived with those lines, but not anymore!

Zoot Suit Saves Loot

Ah, April. It brings to mind beautiful dresses for Easter and Prom. I remember shopping for the perfect dress with my daughter when she was in high school. She chose a gorgeous confection in purple, her favorite color.

She did not get to buy it because I had given her a limit of what I would contribute. She saw the dress in a magazine and decided she could earn the money by working three part-time jobs. But the actual price would have purchased a good, used car, and all of her work did not raise enough funds.

So we went back through the store and she purchased her second choice. It was a lovely black and white strapless number with embroidery all along the gores of the dress. It was beautiful…so beautiful that my sister-in-law asked her to wear it to her wedding a few months later while she manned the guest book. Ah, memories.

Shopping for prom back then was all about staying in budget. Fast forward to 2011…yikes…no income for me!!!

Luckily, I was not buying a dress but looking for a suit. I always thought I was the most frugal in this household, but last year at prom I was proven wrong.

My son didn’t want to rent a tuxedo, or buy a suit; he wanted me to cut the down his father’s pinstripe suit! In fact, he insisted on it! Halfway through the alterations, I tried to talk him out of it, but he had his heart set. So, I folded over the sides of the vest and sewed them down. I took some tucks in the pants in the front and the back.

That three piece suit has history. I bought it for Christmas the first year we were married at a good men’s clothing store. David had a couple elderly relatives pass away and was asked to serve as a pall bearer. He had a blue suit and I thought he needed a black one. He started working overtime and I used that money to make payments on this black pinstripe suit.

He wore it to funerals and weddings and when he wore it on Easter Sunday, people always thought he was going to preach! This is a picture of him wearing it as he emceed a Valentine’s Banquet in 1997.

My husband wearing the suit at a Valentine Banquet, 1997.


It is now enjoying a second life in Derek’s closet. It has been to its share of weddings with him, and a couple of times, parts of it have gone along to play with the band he is in.

The moral of my story is:

  1. Buy the best quality you can, so it will last. (Who knew…30 years?)
  2. Don’t give up because you can’t afford to buy or rent a suit; see if there is one in a closet that can be altered. Even if you pay to have someone alter it, it will be well worth the money.


This is me and Derek before he left for prom.