Ghost stories . . . usually the stuff of campouts and slumber parties. That doesn’t mean it excludes seamstresses, however, especially when it comes to vintage clothing.
Revamping a vintage wedding gown is one of my favorite things to do. I love repurposing things, especially when grandma wore the dress and then mom wore the dress and now granddaughter is going to wear the dress.
In one particular case, grandma had made the dress for her daughter (now the mom) by hand, in many sections, without the assistance of a sewing machine. Needless to say, it was a very delicate dress and veil. While the length fit the granddaughter perfectly, it did not fit her through the chest and waist, and it was a bit dated in style.
Consequently, we discussed ways to expand the bodice and change the neckline. We also discussed changing the veil into a cape, as that was more the granddaughter’s style. Both mother and granddaughter were happy with the drawings and went away satisfied that I would complete the alterations and make something old and loved into something new and fabulous.
The day I began work on her dress, I felt what could only be called a “presence.” I made an educated guess that it was the grandmother, so I reached out to the granddaughter and asked her what her grandmother‘s name was. I did not tell her why. Armed with this information, I began to speak to the “presence” using the grandmother‘s name and explained each step of what I was going to do. As I worked through the alterations, the “presence” almost became like a hug. I took that to mean that grandma was satisfied with the changes that I was making for her granddaughter. Once I finished the alterations and took the final pictures, the ”presence” went away.
Mother and granddaughter came to pick up the dress, and both were crying joyful tears at the results. I then relayed the story about my visitation. The mother was completely gobsmacked as her mother had been dead for many years, but the granddaughter only smiled. Both seemed grateful that the “new” dress was grandma approved.
My second seamstress related ghost story has to do with the shut down during the initial stages of the Covid pandemic. My mother-in-law had died the previous year and had given us the bulk of the contents of her sewing room. Included in that, of course, were boxes and boxes of scraps. When I decided that it became imperative for me to lend a hand, I started making masks. It was actually my husband who suggested that we use all the scraps from my mother-in-law‘s stash.
As I began to cut the scraps into the shapes that would eventually become the over masks that would extend the lives of the N95 masks that the hospital personnel were forced to wear repeatedly, I could swear that I felt my mother-in-law’s presence standing just behind me with her hand on my shoulder while I cut and stitched each mask into being.
She didn’t stay the entire time during the lockdown, but I felt her off and on through my efforts to eventually create 2,500 masks. When I relayed this to my father-in-law, he commented that Jayne would be very proud of me and my creative use of her scraps.
The third story isn’t strictly seamstress related, but it is definitely family related. My grandfather was in the Navy during World War II, so it was important to my mother that we visit the USS Arizona Memorial while we were in Hawaii.
The ferry ride in Oahu was fairly uneventful. It was windy on the bay, and it was a normal warm Hawaiian day. As we got closer to the memorial itself, I felt the temperature drop a degree or so, but I didn’t think anything of it. We wandered along the exhibit, reading all of the materials and eventually coming to the plaque room where the names of all of the service members who perished on Pearl Harbor Day in 1941 when the Japanese attacked are listed.
I entered the room and immediately noticed a drastic temperature change. It felt like I had stepped into a walk-in freezer. I tried to read the names on the wall, but I was having a very difficult time focusing. When I looked up from the names, I noticed all of these men standing in silent, regimented rows gazing at me. Most of them were young, but a handful of them were very old. I recognized the naval uniforms, and I was completely startled by the fact that I could see them at all. I did the only thing I could think of at the time, which was to thank them for their service. Almost immediately, all of them began to sing the naval theme song “Anchors Aweigh.”
To say that I was completely freaked out is putting it mildly. I immediately turned tail and exited the plaque room back into the Hawaiian sunshine where the temperature difference was immediately discernable.
I walked in a daze through the remaining exhibits until I found one entry that described how divers were interring the ashes of the handful of servicemen who were not on the ship when the Japanese attacked to reside forever with their fellow servicemen after they died. This explained the older apparitions alongside the younger ones.
I recounted this experience to my mother. She confirmed that she also felt the temperature difference, but she did not see or hear anything. I could tell by the look on her face that the whole episode was far more moving than either of us had anticipated.
I know a lot of folks don’t believe in ghosts, and I can respect that. I also know what I experienced. That being said, I always approach “vintage” type items with a healthy respect, as you don’t know what memories and emotions are attached to them.
Until next time, dear reader . . . . Boo!