Friday, January 29, 2010

Sepia Saturday #3: Wrapped in Love & Fur

Among the many mementos and treasures which my father brought back from Europe in the spring of 1945 was a bundle of creamy white fur hides.
My dad said they were baby goatskins. He had last seen my sister Anita when she was 7 or 8 months old. She was three and a half when he returned. Anita and I have been visiting over lunch today, and she is my primary source for these facts. She remembers being told they were actually from the isle of Capri . Her first knowledge of the hides was seeing my mother and father spreading them out on the dining room table. The fur was very soft with a delicate wavy quality.
"Anita, we're going to make you a coat."
The best part of this story for me, is having Anita recall with pride and wonder the unique talents of our mother. She was, albeit self-taught, an accomplished seamstress. She made a pattern for the coat, bonnet, and muff. Once the pattern was laid, my father and mother used a razor blade to cut out the pieces. Though Mother had a pedal powered sewing machine, we believe she hand sewed the pieces together. Our dad helped fashion the covered buttons. The buttons fastened to an elastic loop covered in creamy satin--the same fabric which lined the coat, bonnet, and muff. Pink satin ribbons adorned the bonnet with bows and the ties making another bow under the chin. There were more bows and a strap for the muff. To complete the ensemble, Mother made a pair of cream woolen flannel lined pants with a bib waistband and straps which had gathered cuffs at the ankles fastened with pearl buttons. The pants were worn over a matching satin blouse in the classic style: Peter Pan lace edged collar and puff sleeves. There are no known pictures of Anita in the "little white coat" as we have always referred to it. She wore this until she was too big for it. My sister Sue, born December 1945, was next in line to wear this coat. She had the hair to match it! Our mother carefully maintained this coat through her first two girls, and it was in perfect condition still in the early fifties when it was just right for me. Thank goodness for the familiar old dime store photo booths!

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Anita and I have realized today that this coat, so lovingly crafted over 65 years ago by our parents, could not have been enjoyed any better than if it had been the finest ermine. In actuality, it is really just the little white Italian goat coat.

24 comments:

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Very cute story....thanks for sharing it....

wishing you a wonderful weekend, my friend

kary
xxx

DancyNancy said...

This is the sweetest story... I have heard about the little white coat all my life but had no idea of the details about how it was made and where the furs were from. It was so fun today seeing my Aunt and my Mom piece this story together... a truly wonderful afternoon!!

FireLight said...

Thank you Nancy for iniviting me to spend your birthday with you! Girl Power Rules!

Queenmothermamaw said...

What a wonderful story. My grandmother made all our clothes, coats, leggings, muffs, hats everything, but no furs. Even our underwear, made out of feed sacks. All dresses out of feedsacks. It is so fun to remember. I lost my only sister though, when I was 34 and she was 32 and my brother is almost 10 years younger. No one to remember with left.
QMM

Poetikat said...

Firelight - How enchanting! One of the things that seems to be emerging with this exercise is that connection we have with those who have some of the answers to the questions that arise from the photographs. I have my mother as a slightly unreliable resource, but we are brought closer together with our discoveries of things tucked away in drawers and envelopes etc.
A poem is not mandatory, incidentally, but always welcome. I just felt moved to write it.

Kat

P.S. I cannot make out who you really are—there are so many photos in the sidebar (nice ones, mind you) that I'm not sure where you fit in to it all!

willow said...

I think that is just about the most charming story EVer!! I remember those adorable little coat, hat and leggings sets from the 50s, but never in my life have I seen, or heard of, a sweet little goat coat! So special that it was crafted so lovingly by your parents. What a treasure. This was a special post, indeed. xx

FireLight said...

Poetikat, I am the kid in the fur coat.
FirstFooter, is my younger son (photo relates to my post for 1/4/2010).
Nancy is my niece (her brother Matt died in November). Their mother is my sister Anita.
I am the lady in the Auld Lang Syne photo at Graystone Cottage...my home.
Hope this helps!

Betsy said...

And a wonderful little goat coat it is! What a wonderful story and picture...absolutely perfect in every way! :)

FireLight said...

Farmhouse Kitchen, I am glad to see you here. Thanks for stopping by.

QMMM, I am sad to know you lost a sister. Anita & I lost Sue in 2001 and miss her every day. Today was the day we had set aside to "have a look" at the workings of a blog. It is my hope that Anita, who is currently restoring, rebuilding, & remodeling a 103 year old, will create a blog to archive her photos and tell the story of the project! I am glad you could be here...remember there is a certains "sisterhood" thriving here at Blogspots, USA!

Willow, over the years we had several of those coat, hat, pants outfits! Anita sat with me as we composed this story today. I think she is a natural for telling stories! I am glad you enjoyed this!

Betsy, thank you. Two sisters trying to get the story straight...I imagine you and Willow know what that is like! Thank you so much for stopping by!

FireLight said...

Uh er...well that would be a "103 year old HOUSE"...good grief....if I only had a brain....

Alaine said...

How lovely; you all have wonderful memories and does the outfit still exist?

My mother made luxury silk pyjamas and knickers for herself and me out of old parachutes!! xa

Poetikat said...

Firelight,
Thanks for helping me out with all the details.
Is that a Bernese Mountain dog? Gorgeous!

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss of your nephew. That must be so tough on your sister.

You certainly look adorable in your coat!

Kat

Poetikat said...

P.S. A gorgeous photo of Sting too! (My favourite of his albums is "Mercury Falling"- you know the one where he's walking the Irish Wolfhounds? Oh-there's a dream!

Barry said...

That was a beautiful story, charming and totally unique. I really enjoyed it.

Derrick said...

FireLight in furs! Such a charming story and so nice to have your sister and niece to help out. These old photographs can hold wonderful memories if there is someone who can recount.

Martin H. said...

A coat, made and maintained with love. Worn and enjoyed by three sisters, who now have the memories to keep them warm. A very enjoyable post.

FireLight said...

Alaine, I did love wearing the coat, and it was he only fur coat I ever owned! It deteriorated. My mother had kept it in a extra freezer in the garage that stopped operating. When it was discovered, it was ruined by mildew--the great scourge of living in the deep South...I was very sad that Anita's daughter Nancy never got to wear it.

FireLight said...

Poetikat, I have video link at my December 29 post in which Sting discusses this latest collection for winter. Have a look!

Stephanie said...

That's so great that you sisters all got to wear the coat. And your mom was amazing - making the pattern is so difficult - let alone sewing hide. Wow.

Leah said...

Such a lovely post. I adore hearing about clothes and this, with the descriptions and the picture, is just perfect! Thank you so much.

L. D. Burgus said...

A great story that your sister shared with you. It was a unique thing that your father would bring back with him. Your mother made a beautiful little outfit for your sister. It is a glowing picture.

Gaston Studio said...

How fantatic that you kept the hand sewn coat all these years! Love the sepia photo.

Cait O'Connor said...

A lovely story, I hope the coat will be a family heirloom,

Lyn said...

I too was lucky to have a custom made coat set, my grandfather having been a tailor..I still have the photo, with me holding that dear little muff..we could be princesses, couldn't we? A lovely, charming story...

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Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat