Decades ago when I was about 17, I decided to make myself a three-piece bell-bottomed pantsuit.
I loved to sew and had made myself a spring coat earlier in the year, so I felt confident that I could handle making the suit.
The project begins
I bought myself the pattern, and on the back of the packet it told me how many yards of cloth to purchase, and how much lining, interfacing, thread, buttons and zippers I needed.
Following the instructions, I loosely cut out the pattern and laid it like a jigsaw puzzle on my fabric. Smaller bits and pieces fit into the spaces left by longer pieces like sleeves and the back of the jacket.
I had about 5 yards of fabric. I had no cutting table so placed the 15 feet of folded fabric on the tile flooring of my renovated basement “apartment” that my Father had constructed for me to live. Pieces A and B were laid together as were L and O.
To conserve space and to move along, I cut out all the jacket pieces, the lining, the interfacing and so on, and piled these pieces neatly to the side. Then I began on the vest and onwards to the pants.
I was so excited.
When I got to the part where I laid out the pattern for the pants… something was terribly wrong.
I didn’t have enough fabric!
The pants part of the pattern was hanging about 9 inches onto the tile flooring with no fabric underneath it.
At this point I went from excitement to panic as I didn’t know what to do. The style was “pantsuit” not “capri-suit…”
What am I going to do about it NOW?
I had my hard-earned money into this project, and my time and dreams as well. I didn’t want to fail at this!
My cousin, who was having trouble at home with her wicked step-mother, was living with us at the time. Today she would be called a textile artist – and I asked her if she would crochet a “bottom” to my bell bottom pantsuit.
So, the next day I had my crocheted pieces of a contrasting darker version of the color of my suit, and I sewed them onto the bottom of the pants.
Well, I thought that this was ingenious. I had saved my pantsuit.
The real test…!
But the real test was when I wore it to work the following week. I was employed in the downtown department store in the upscale Ladies’ Clothing section. A single blouse or even a scarf was far more than what I had paid to make my own pantsuit and the complete outfits were far out of my reach.
But I was able to help these ladies-living-in-mansions with their selections, get their sizing correct, and bring them alternate pieces or colors to their outfits while they stayed in the dressing room. They enjoyed my service, and I enjoyed being able to help.
Curiously, one after the other said to me, “Honey, I really like your pantsuit. Where can I buy that one?”
Well, I told them it was an original, that I made it myself, and it wasn’t available in the shop.
Can you imagine my surprise?
So, the lesson I took away from this experience, is that a “mistake” isn’t always a mistake.
Sometimes it’s an inadvertent act of creativity and I needn’t be afraid to move forward if I had painted myself into a corner. I could perhaps paint myself a door as well and walk through.