The first dress I ever made
I made this outfit so long ago, I barely recognize it as one of my creations. Except I did. I really did. I remember sitting and working on it for hours. This must be the first dress I ever made that didn’t fall to pieces as soon as I tried to fit it on.
I was 10 years old, or there abouts. Certainly no older than 11. Even at that age, I loved to sew. I didn’t play with dolls much. I never saw the point in dressing them up, only to undress them 10 seconds later. It irritated me. Still does.
No. Bizarrely, I was probably showing signs of being a designer, except I didn’t think in those terms. A doll to me was a model for whatever I chose to sew.
I won the Sindy doll. It was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, and our neighbourhood had come together to celebrate. An adult had printed out beautiful invites for all the children and we were invited to a tea party on the green. There was a fancy dress competition and I won as the Queen of the Daisies. Although, someone else must have added the “Queen” part as I remember it being a surprise to me, when I was called forward as the winner. My prize was the Sindy doll. A photographer captured the moment for next week’s paper. I have the newspaper cutting somewhere.
As I received my prize, my heart sank. Oh, I remember the feeling of real uncertainty. Would my mother let me keep Sindy?
I can’t remember why. Maybe she’d said no to buying one for me, anticipating all the extra dresses and bits that I would want to buy along with it. Maybe there had been family discussions around the lunch table about a Sindy dolls suitability in our household. Either way, I do remember the anxious feeling vividly. Real or imagined. I don’t know, but in my mind, at that moment, there was a good chance the Sindy doll would have to go.
Roll on several decades and here she is perched on her dressing table stool, so I was obviously allowed to keep her. Along with all the outfits I meticulously made for her, and a bedroom set that someone passed on to me. Perfect to store all her outfits, although showing its age. Slightly broken and very yellow.
The dresses are elaborate. I used smocking to draw in the top part, and rows of embroidery to decorate it. I am bowled over by my use of smocking on the bonnet. How did I figure that out?
I learnt to smock at a country craft fair. Doesn’t everyone? I really wanted to do the lace making workshop, but it was full, so someone suggested the smocking class. I learnt to gather the fabric with running stitches and then embroider over the folds. It obviously captured my 10/11 year old mind in a big way.
Once home, I made my smocking sample into the blue dress for Sindy. My first dress. Next I found green gingham and made another, adding a smocked bonnet of my own design. Along with a little draw bag and monogrammed handkerchief. All by myself.
I can hardly tell you, how odd it is to look back at that child. At me. I must have been focused and determined when it came to sewing. Enthusiastic too. I was so keen, I taught a couple of friends how to make dresses for their dolls, while I made the green one. Was that really me?
Also I’m struck by the details I remember. The way the adult world bewildered me at times. Finding the Sindy doll, and all her things again in a box at my parent’s house over half term, has reminded me how different the world is to a child.
As I showed the doll and her clothes to my children, I felt sorry that I hadn’t refound her earlier in their childhood. They might have played with her. They did look through her box for a while, but like me, I don’t think they were ever really into these kinds of dolls either.
I’ll keep her safe. More because of her story and the dresses I made for her.
Do you still have something you made as a child?