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Vogue Stories - The Fashion Audio Magazine

From Audio: Growing Up In Style: "Patterns of the Past" by Susan Choi

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station description A weekly podcast that explores the upending forces in fashion. Vogue’s editorial te... read more
VOGUE Stories
Duration: 03:43
Vogue Magazine takes you on a cultural journey into the fashion world and it's history. Runway shows mixed with essays about how clothes have impacted and touched lives. This episode from their Growing Up In Style series, where novelist Susan Choi details how visits to the fabric store & the cloth
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Vogue Magazine takes you on a cultural journey into the fashion world and it's history. Runway shows mixed with essays about how clothes have impacted and touched lives. This episode from their Growing Up In Style series, where novelist Susan Choi details how visits to the fabric store & the clothes her mom made her from their finds there - brought her comfort in her own skin as the only Indian at her school.
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nine. The sun was already setting on the golden age of sewing, but there were few signs of this decline where I was growing up in South Bend indiana. My mother, like so many mothers owned a sewing machine and knew how to use it. How'd this come to be? I asked her recently, she gave a verbal shrug over the phone from Houston where she lives. Now, if you read the directions and followed the pattern, it would come out all right. She recalled. She didn't even remember, perhaps because they were as ordinary to her as grocery shopping. Our trips to the fabric store. Oh, the fabric store. Even now, decades later, when I google those words and look at the photos, my heart thumps with desire to be clear. These are not photos of fabric for sale online, but photos of the interiors of actual physical places where one goes to touch bolts of fabric cards of rick rack, buttons buttoned to a stiff cardboard backing or tumbling loose in a jar, dispenser displays of threat arranged by color. The spools, curved surfaces gleaming like candy and every kind of beautiful ribbon in every color and texture and pattern. The fabric store, unlike the grocery store, made me hungry for what exactly wasn't clear at the time, it was something much larger and much less defined than the outfits my mother would make me from the items. We chose, the fabrics and notions and trim, but the outfits I loved with my whole heart and remember as clearly as if they still hung in my closet, the ruffle pinafore made from a white on white print of tiny flowers trimmed with red rick rack and finished with the applicator, juicy strawberries on the bib. The shirt dress of a multi coloured cotton printed with a pattern to resemble embroidery. The truly glamorous halter dress with a triple tiered skirt of pastel blue pastel pink pastel yellow wow, says My mother, now in her 80s, on the other end of the phone, as I lovingly described her creations. She's impressed. I remember so well, she has zero memory of suing me any of these things, though she does remember making herself a dress with extremely big sleeves. They were in style that year. She says she toward a few times and decided the sleeves looked so stupid that she tore them off and wore the dress sleeveless. The fact that, unlike me, my mother is white, exceedingly pale, small boned, blue eyed and with the cheekbones of a film star both oppressed me throughout my childhood and lay somehow outside of thought, even to articulate it now feels uncomfortable. But the facts were and remain that my pale, blue eyed mother never matched. My black haired, brown eyed, dark skin self always far darker as a child than I ever get now because I was outside all summer in an era before sunscreen. In elementary school in indiana, I was cast as the lone indian in the thanksgiving play. More generally, I was constantly looked at especially, or at least so it seemed to me when standing next to my mother we didn't match. I harbored a fantasy, half fearful, half escapist that I would turn out to have been adopted from some far away land.
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