I don’t join in many sewing competitions – but I had to jump on board Tanya’s Dress Like Your Grandma challenge! The ideas is to “take a photo of your grandma (or your grandpa, great-grandma, mom, aunt, someone else’s grandma — you get the idea!) and re-create an outfit or piece that they are wearing.” I looked at all kinds of family photos, but in the end, I chose to make something I’d actually wear day-to-day.
I was inspired by a picture of my Mom’s mom at a garden party in 1954. She’s the one second from the left, with the large hat! Standing beside her (centre) is her sister-in-law, and second from the right is my great-grandma! This branch of the family always aspired to elegance, so the house in Ottawa where this was taken is named “Brunstead” after the distant-family-owned manor in Norfolk, England. (
I think my line of the family ran away with a stablehand to the colonies, so sadly I don’t own a town! My sister has corrected my with a much less exciting story – our forefather was a miller from Brunstead area who became a miller in Ontario.)
My Granny is 98 right now. All her life she has loved crosswords, clever word play, and entertaining. She is an amazing grandma and a great inspiration to all my family! Sadly, she lives a 7 hour drive away. She fell and broke her femur this winter, and is still recovering… she’s legally blind, but when I saw her in March, she was as sharp as ever!
While I was visiting, I asked her about what she wore on her first date with my Grandad (they married in 1940) and what she liked wearing in general. (Ok, I filmed her while I asked, because what she can’t see won’t hurt her!) She answered that she liked a fitted bodice and a full skirt – so that’s where I’ve taken my sewing inspiration!
My dress borrows the v-neck and angled sleeve from Granny’s garden party dress… and let’s be honest, that’s where the similarity ends! Mine is a faux-wrap with full circle skirt, sewn in ITY. Full points if you can tell what the pattern is… oh wait, it’s Cashmerette like always! I hummed and hawwed about what to sew for so long that in the end I just wanted a quick and wearable project, which means a TNT pattern. I did almost sew a Tiramisu, but I didn’t care to resize it for the changes in weight over the last few years.
Even with a TNT (tried’n’true) pattern, it wasn’t all plain sailing. I first sewed it with a 1.5″ waistband, but the waist sat a bit low and it wasn’t flattering. By time I cut the waistband out and re-seamed it, the waist is rather high… but I got 4 compliments on it at work today, so it must be ok! My last Dartmouth top needed a camisole underneath, so this time I wrapped it an inch tighter on each side, and it’s perfectly secure.
I used the short sleeve pattern as is, with a line of clear elastic zigzaged to the inside for a ruching effect. I like the angle it gives the hem of the sleeve. Speaking of hems… the skirt is left raw because when I free-hand cut a circle out of folded fabric, I ended up with one part too short. Oops! The rest got trimmed to match. I’m pretty sure Granny would never have been so careless as a seamstress.
For photos, I drove an hour to my parent’s house so that I could host an imaginary tea party with Granny’s dining table, wedding china, and silverware. (Couldn’t find the tea cups though… nor the teaspoons… nor the pair of vintage gloves I thought might still be were I remember them as a child!) I really love family heirlooms, and we’re lucky to have quite a lot from generations past. My favourite is a chair meant for women in hoop skirts!
(This post is already picture heavy, but I need to show you at least one shot of how long the skirt is, right?)
So… how’d I do at imitating my inspiration photo?
Better than I expected as I was sewing, frankly! Plus – do you think we look rather similar in the jaw and mouth? I’ve never noticed that before!
A big thanks to Tanya for host this challenge! I really enjoyed looking at old photos and considering the options, and I hope that Granny is entertained by the thought of inspiring fashion 60+ years later!
Love you lots, Granny!