You Need This... I Promise

The Kids' Stuff

four out of my five, all in homemade dresses

 

Mother's Day is coming up this Sunday, and this one promises to be the least celebrated in my house in nearly thirty years. The reason is wonderful, actually. My oldest daughter – the person who first called me mother – is going to be married the day before, and thus my claim to motherhood will be eclipsed by the happy happy celebration on Saturday. She will be married in the front yard, and feted in the back... so likely my house will still be upside down on Sunday morning, right around the time when the traditional breakfast tray would normally be making its appearance for coffee and toast in bed. I am happy to skip it this year. The weekend will be special enough. And with this huge occasion in mind, all I can think about is when she was so tiny... actually, when all of them were so small. The saying goes, with motherhood, "the days are long and the years are short." It is silly – like something that would be needlepointed on a pillow or watercolored on a greeting card – but it is too true.

I started sewing for myself in junior high after a home ec class in 7th grade. This may have been the most useful class I took... or come to think of it, maybe it's tied with typing... I had to pass the typing test before I was even allowed to interview at Vogue... 50 words/minute was the minimum! Anyway, learning to sew was a watershed moment. I found my first project a few years ago when I was clearing out some things after my mom passed away – a sweet half apron made of calico. I quickly moved on to making bikinis and dresses for high school dances as my skills improved. I went on a bit of a hiatus in college – not much room for a sewing machine in the dorm room – and was too busy working after I moved to New York to make anything. But where I really leaned into sewing was as a young mother, so I will go back to being emotional and nostalgic before this big weekend in May.

Sid and I were young parents compared to the rest of our friends in New York – in fact, the first to have kids. Just 28 years old when our first was born, and completely clueless as to what to do with a baby. The one thing I did know was how I wanted her to look! Much of my creativity was fueled by necessity. We didn't have much money, so I couldn't afford all the pretty things at Bonpoint or Jacadi way up on Madison. I would pop in the shops and look around and take it all in... then go back downtown to our apartment on lower Fifth Avenue, and fire up my little hand-me-down Singer. If you can believe it, I even taught myself to smock. I had a pleating machine delivered from some mail-order notions store in California, and I pored over the manual, and before long, I was stitching up the same little Peter Pan collar smocked dresses and bloomers and jumpers I saw uptown. Later on, after we had more babies and more little bodies in the house — five in all — I would make something for the oldest, and then use the leftover fabric to make something even tinier for the next one down. Not exactly the Von Trapps with the outfits made from the curtains... but you get the idea. Naptime was the best – they would all go down in the afternoon, and I'd hop on the sewing machine and get to work. It brought me so much joy to dress them.

Things in miniature are irresistible to me... which was the inspiration behind our Kid Mashburn line. I adored making these for my own girls – it was such a fun and creative time in my own life – and I wanted to make them for other little people. And so we have this very tight collection of children's clothes inspired by the things I dressed my own daughters in, but also by what we make for adults! Smocked dresses and bloomers... sweet striped oxford shirts just like the big ones Sid wears... little cotton play sets in plaids and Liberty... my heart still flutters at all of it, even after all these years. All of it is cute enough that you will want to dress your tiny ones in it, but classic and well-made enough to hand down to the next generation.

You may not NEED these, as I usually promise in these posts. You may not be a mother, or an aunt, or even really know any small people in your life for gifting. It is not for everyone – I have no idea if any of my own girls will move into motherhood. But for me, having little girls to dress was once such a huge part of my life, and so the Kid Mashburn stuff still brings me so much joy to pass in the store. I don't have any need for it these days, either, but I love to admire it.

 

legs galore and breakfast in bed... a more recent Mother's Day

 

I have been reminiscing about when my girls were small, but to be frank, Mother's Day has become a lot more enjoyable as they've gotten older. In the early days, it was sort of a disaster – Sid would try so hard to get them all sorted out in the morning with cards and gifts and a nicely prepared tray to bring upstairs to me. I would be imprisoned in my bed, listening to the commotion downstairs in the kitchen. Fighting over who got to do what, who got to march into the bedroom first, who got to sit closest to me on the bed, whose present would be opened first. It was excruciating, and I would be jumping out of my skin, dying to just run downstairs and tell them to stop it! Eventually, incredibly, they would arrive upstairs, and someone would inevitably spill the coffee and eat my toast and get scolded by an older sibling... it was a bit of a nightmare, if I'm honest. But now that they are all grown up, they delight in remembering those early Mother's Days. The same competitive nature and adoration of me that caused them to fight is actually what makes them all so clever with their gifts and notes now. I tear up every year.

I am going to try so hard not to cry at the wedding, but it will be hard. When I look at her in her amazing dress — we designed it together and made it here, out of a beautiful cotton organdy with sweet little flowers embroidered on top — all I will see is the tiny gangly girl in a white ruffled dress I sewed for her years before. However you're celebrating, or not celebrating, or celebrating something else entirely... happy Mother's Day.

 

very first baby in the very first dress I smocked

 

From Ann

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