Tuesday, May 24, 2016


My vintage Nina Ballerina needs a new tutu and leggings. Leggings are difficult to make because of the lightweight stretchy knit, so I was intrigued by the suggestion that a knee sock can become a great pair of doll leggings.

First, looking for a pretty pink, I bought a pack of eight mismatched knee-highs. That’s when I learned that it’s now acceptable – at least among the kids – to wear mismatched socks. I don’t know that I would ever adopt that practice, but that pack has interesting potential in my sewing room.

However, when I began to work with the pink sock, I realized it was too heavy for my purpose. I needed a finer knit – something like a trouser sock. My search was rewarded at Goodwill where I found brand new white ones for $1.50. Back in the sewing room, one trouser sock quickly made up into a pair of acceptable leggings for Nina.

Stitching along, my thoughts wandered back to the days of the 1950s when I walked four blocks to school, always in a skirt. During the worst days of winter, my legs would be red and cold when I arrived. Yes, I believe I did have knee socks, but there was still unprotected leg under that skirt. I don’t believe there was a dress code that prevented the wearing of slacks -- certainly not on cold winter days -- but Mother said that pants were not for me. Dresses were much better for my body type, she said. Anyway, in the late ‘50s leotards arrived in my little town, and those were immediately popular. Several pairs were added to my winter wardrobe and my legs were warmer.

Oh yes – there was a downside to wearing leotards all right. Just as nylons run, so did the leotards, and I was answerable to my mother for those runs. I’m sure it was the same in other homes. I remember, for instance, that when the neighbor girl got her first pair, she put them on and danced around the house, causing a “run” first thing. Boy! Was her mom mad! She called my mom to ask if there was any way to mend it. Eventually someone told us that fingernail polish would stop a run, so we learned to pay attention and apply polish as soon as we noticed a hole.

And leotards just weren’t comfortable. If they were too small, they would begin to creep down from the waist. If they were too large, they would pool around the ankles.

Some blogs focus on the fashions of the ‘50s with the wish that we might return to the age of glamour. Much as I enjoy vintage topics, I just don’t wish for the return of that era, nor do I fantasize over how great it was. I remember how it felt to be “dressed” all the time. Sometimes it was wonderful. Sometimes it wasn’t. And mostly it wasn’t comfortable. KW


Hallie said...

Those came together perfectly!

Chris said...

Those leggings are amazing!!

Loved your remembrances of dresses and leotards. I walked from downtown in first grade and the first half of second grade and I, too, wore dresses (made by mom), but I also wore long white cotton socks that attached by garters to inch wide (or so) elastic that went over my shoulders, kind of like a harness. Mom tells the story of some girl who made fun of me for wearing them and apparently I told her that my mom just took better care of me than her mom did of her. Well! (Apparently at least once in my life I had an appropriate come-back!)

I loved it when leotards became available in our little town. I remember having a red pair and a black pair. Thanks for the memories!

Kathy said...

Wow! What a contraption for a little girl to wear. I didn't know about such a thing, but it reminds me that occasionally Mother would come up with something different than the norm -- a hand-me-down from the '30s, a soft-side insulated lunch box instead of a metal one, boots that wrapped my foot instead of pull-ons. Kids just want to be like everyone else. I was so surprised when I was in junior high and she bought me a pair of shoes in a popular style. She said that sometimes I should be like everyone else. She later said that I never said what I wanted. For whatever reason, I found it hard to tell her, but I didn't think she was clueless. I think she liked to be different and it didn't occur to her that I wanted to blend in.

Sometimes I wish I had those wrap-around boots.