Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dressing my doll...

One of the greatest pleasures in my life is having a daughter. I still remember when she was born. I secretly wanted a daughter, though I would have never said it out loud!  Many of you will understand how that "secret preference" thing goes. She was born in the seventies. Those of us who came of age in the crazy sixties were determined to raise our girls as strong women who would have careers and the possibility of being president and our boys as sensitive souls who knew "it's all right to cry, crying gets the sad out. (Remember "Free To Be, You and Me"?).  Katie* was dressed in overalls and very, very rarely in pink frills, in hopes of creating this perfect androgynous child. 

Well, as many of us learned despite our lofty thoughts, there is something to say for "boys are boys and girls are girls." When it came to clothing, I got a more of a girly girl, definitely a girl with her own sense of style. Too quickly, her clothing decisions were made by her. Her favorite early outfits were old flower girl outfits we bought at rummage sales ("No, Katie, you can't wear that flower girl outfit to kindergarten.")

When Katie became a teen, we gave her a clothing allowance, trying not to produce a Spoiled Only Child (also known as an "S.O.C."). We carefully figured out what she would need for coats and boots and summer and winter clothes and gave her a rather small amount. Well, my daughter discovered Estate Sales. I should say, we discovered Estate Sales. She quickly learned that she could get a really outstanding original outfit for a fraction of what she paid at the mall and thriftily gain a very large wardrobe. I will never forget the day she got three cashmere cardigans, beautifully embroidered and embellished, for a dollar each Thus began a lifetime of fun for both of us. Katie, being slim like the Reaney side of the family, could fit into many of these old treasures. Me, being on the chunky side, like the Gillis side of the family, could get a strange vicarious pleasure out of watching my daughter look so pretty in these vintage fashions. I started to call this "dressing my doll." 

When we were in South Dakota, Jud, his sisters and mom, went through some of his their old family belongings. Katie and I headed for the antique stores, of which there are many. At the Yankton Mall, Katie found this darling rayon dress. It fit her like it was made for her and I not only enjoyed seeing her look so cute but also wanted to take pictures of her. So we came home and I made her try it on once again. 

"Smile, Katie!"

"Oh, dear. Not that come-hither look!" (You are, after all, only thirty-one!). 

"OK. Look sweet!"

"Ah, yes. Good shot." What a cute dress. Perfect shape. Great detail. Darling peplum waist that is a little hard to see and a black mesh insert at the neck. Twenty dollars! She can wear it to work! (Yes, she is intelligent and capable, too!)

This old pattern is so adorable. Roses and love letters! 

Sigh. It is such a pleasure being the mother of a daughter!

* Katie is "Kat" now. The Kat in Katsui. One of my favorite adults. But as hard as I try, she will always be Katie to me!


  1. This doesn't happen often....I am the first poster to this beautiful post. I love Kat's dress and hearing about how frugally wonderfully she was raised. My step-mom thouroughly hated us wearing second hand clothing yet didn't want to spend money on us either. My sister and I found gorgeous clothes and wore smoking jackets and had a blast! My dad cringed but saw the beauty in the way were creative. I still remember how pretty I thought my sister looked in this vintage satin smoking jacket....what fun you and Kat must have shopping the antique malls together. You both have such great eyes.

  2. Well, all I can say is that you raised her right! (Any girl who would head for estate sales rather than the mall is raised very, very right, in my book.)

    So there!

  3. I love this post! My daughter and I enjoy spending time antiquing together,'s so fun to share such an interest with your daughter!

  4. Dear Suz...

    Such a wonderful reminder that for those of us with teenage daughters one of the greatest joys we can have is watching our child discover what their personal style is while we gently guide them along...

    Letting go of our expectations, and letting them discover what makes them happy (of course if Meg starts wanting to wear Daisy Duke styled jean shorts and tube tops I think I will be doing more than just gently "guiding" her!)....

  5. Dear Suz,
    if I would have had children I would have loved to have a daughter.Kat is beautiful and
    the dress looks so good on her.You are so lucky to have her.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  6. What wonderful memories that you have with your daughter. I have struggles watching my daughter pick clothes out and I gently have to remind myself she is her own creative person and not the practical me.

    She wanted red shoes recently for a dance, not black to go with the black dress? I fought it for a while, but gave in. It's just a color right?

    Hoping you are all doing well.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. She is beautiful and has a great sense of style. She is also very lucky to have such a loving, proud Mom. But I bet she already knows that.

  8. Such a great story Suz!! You raised her so nice! I secretly dream of having a grand daughter that I will be able to dress up and take out for tea! Kat will be yours forever- boys get married and the primary woman in their life changes!!
    Love you!

  9. Oh what a great story and Kat looks gorgeous in the dress!!! What fun adventures to find clothes too--and she has such a great figure, she can look fabulous in anything!!!


  10. your darling Katie Kat looks gorgeous...rayon is such a comfy fabric to flows beautifully...what a find!

    lucky you having a daughter...I remember being quite surprised that my first born was a boy...all new and different for me coming from a household of 3 females and Dad ...

  11. Oh dear Suz, how I recognice your words of raising your daughter :)I had my daughter in 1977- and had the exact same ideas and wishes for her :)
    She also love to dress in old and stylish dresses,now.
    Your daughter looks fantastic in her "new" dress, so stylish and beautiful.
    Thanks for your so sweet visit the other day,Suz.
    I send you hugs, and blessings.

  12. What a beautiful post and such a beautiful daughter. We have SO much in common. We have an only child (daughter) too and I was always conscious of that "S.O.C." label and bent over backwards to make sure no one would ever refer to her as one of those. I think we did a pretty good job, just as you and Jud have. You must be SO proud!

    P.S. Love, love, LOVE that dress she's modeling!

  13. Hi: What a beautiful daughter and just a perfect dress. I do hope you will consider joining us this Tues for Tea Cup Tuesday. It looks like your collection is stunning. Have a great weekend. Blessings, Martha

  14. That dress was made for Kat! She is beautiful... but of course!! I love shopping in antique and vintage shops with my DD, alas she is 8 hours away, so it's rare we can find the time when we can get together. Love this post!

  15. Oh, I soooo understand the 'silent longing for a girl'......this is a beautiful post. I eagerly read each word like a favorite novel.

    Big hugs to you.
    xox Rella

  16. You were in Yankton? That is not too far from me! We go there all the time to my main man's favorite restaurant! Next time, give me a call!

    My daughter and I shop vintage too but not for clothes. I love that your daughter steps out of the box and dresses like she wants. Such a trend setter!