33: Modest Mom

33: Modest Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Modest Mom

Dressing well is a form of good manners.

~Tom Ford

Out of breath from running, I tossed my schoolbooks on the kitchen table and raced downstairs to Mom’s sewing room where I knew she was busy working on my gorgeous formal. Mom’s willingness to sew “this” dress finally proved my mother wasn’t such an old fuddy-duddy after all.

Earlier in the month, my boyfriend had invited me to a fall dance at his high school. We had lined my girlfriend up with his friend so that the four of us could go to the dance together. Once plans were set, my girlfriend wasted no time in buying herself an adorable halter dress to wear to the dance and suggested I do the same.

However, in my family, buying a formal gown was out of the question. My mother had always made our clothing, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mom would never let me wear a backless, revealing dress, let alone sew one for me. After all, Mom had always been the queen of modesty.

Even though I knew the answer would be no, I finally gathered my courage and asked my mother if she could sew me a halter dress to wear to the dance, mentioning that my girlfriend had bought one. Surprisingly, Mom said yes.

During our trip to the fabric store, my mother found a bolt of slinky, royal blue material with tiny white stars on it, as well as a cute nautical-looking dress pattern. There was no question in my mind that I’d have the most gorgeous gown at the dance. Mom’s willingness to sew this dress completely transformed my opinion of her—she was now the coolest mom ever!

We spent hours in her sewing room while she took extra care to fit the pattern perfectly. Mom had an astonishing talent when it came to sewing. She could alter patterns or design her own as well as embellish her projects with ease. We were the best dressed kids on the block, and yet I never appreciated it at that time.

As Mom pinned the pattern to my front, she clipped some extra tissue paper and added it to the neckline. “What are you doing?” I asked. “This fits perfectly. I don’t think we need it hiked up any higher.”

“I don’t want you tumbling out when you bend over,” Mom mumbled as she pulled a pin from between her teeth and attached the piece.

Now I certainly didn’t have all that much to expose, but figured I wouldn’t argue with her. After all, I felt fortunate that she’d even agreed to make me this dress, and I didn’t need her changing her mind.

However, the alterations didn’t stop there. As the dress progressed, my mother extended the back of the dress up several inches. “This is almost up to my neck,” I whined. “Besides, no one will see my back if that’s what you’re afraid of. My long hair will cover it.”

This time, my mother remained silent.

The final blow came when Mom extended the underarm piece to an uncomfortable height. “Now what’s the problem?” I asked.

“I don’t want you exposed on the sides,” Mom answered quietly.

Even with Mom’s alterations, the gown was gorgeous! During the last dress fitting, Mom examined every inch of it, I’m sure to make certain that not a hint of flesh would accidentally slip out.

Finally, the evening of the dance arrived. Our dates took us to a fancy restaurant before the dance. While we were eating, I suddenly had a binding, painful feeling under my armpits. The dress hadn’t felt this way at home. In fact, it had been quite comfortable. Yet, now with my every move, it pinched my flesh. Excusing myself, I hurried to the restroom to see what was amiss.

Lifting up my arms, I discovered that at some point between my final fitting and the dance, my mother had secretly added another section of material under my arms for good measure. At first, I felt annoyed that I’d now spend my night in misery, but that soon turned to laughter as I stared at the extra underarm piece and thought about my sneaky mother and what she’d done. Unfortunately for me, both my underarms remained red and chaffed for a week following that dance.

Of all the formals my mother made me over the years that dress went down in history as my favorite. It’s safely tucked away and always brings a smile to my face when I think about my modest mom finally giving in and letting me wear a backless dress, but doing it on her terms. My mother and I still laugh about that gown today. And even though she somehow managed to fashion the most modest halter dress in the world, I still thought she was a pretty cool mom.

~Jill Burns

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