I bought a black linen skirt a month or so ago. It's perfectly plain and has nicely detailed movement slips on either side. As a person of normal length (5'3" or thereabouts), I am always astonished that clothes are made for giants. In recent years I've paid a tailor at the dry cleaner shop to shorten pants. I could do it myself, but have an irrational fear of getting one leg longer than the other.

But the skirt is pretty straightforward and it should be no problem at all for me to shorten it. The question, though, was "how much?" Ordinarily I'd go over to my sister's and press her into service as pinned, but this time I asked Himself if he could manage to do the honors. He thought he could. And he did.

It brought back memories. My mother made many dresses and jumpers and once even a fully lined spring coat for me when I was growing up. She sewed beautifully and I enjoyed wearing the things she created. But the last step always had to do with "pinning up the hem," and I dreaded that. Our house had a landing at the foot of the main staircase with three steps going down the right side into the den. I would stand perfectly still on the landing and my mother would sit on the step below and, using a yardstick and a cushion of pins, mark exactly where the hem should be. She would tap my leg with the yardstick, telling me to make a microscopic clockwise turn, and insert the next pin. I didn't know it at the time, but I had low blood pressure, and standing still for a long time caused me to become light-headed. I'd feel like I was going to faint. Worse, once I was held captive in position, this was an ideal time for a discourse on my many flaws and failings. Oh, how I hated it!

My memory tells me that  back in the fifties, hems went up and hems went down. I recall my mother raising and lowering the hems on her dresses, depending on how many inches from the floor fashion was calling for that season. Can this possibly be right? My sister, being older than me, was trusted with measuring hems for mother.

Do people still care now if a hem is precisely the same number of inches from the floor all of the way around? I'm going to go ahead and hem my marked linen skirt. I'm going to cut off precisely the same amount all of the way around, turn under 1/4", press well and stitch, and then turn that edge up two inches and sew it in place. The original hem is machine-done, of course. But I'll prolly do mine by hand.


stitchinpenny said…
I guess I am way too lazy to hem that way anymore. I now hem skirts by figuring out where i think i want them and if My husband is available I have him put on pin in the front and two in the back. If not I put one in the front and assume the original hem was close to straight when I bought it and use that length. I hem pants the way the tailor at a men's shop taught me. Press the pants, put on the pants and the shoes you intend to wear with them step on the rear hem with the heel of the shoe. Check in the mirror to insure the the pant leg is taut, but not stretched. Slowly squat and put a pin at the floor level. This marking can then be used for that leg, but do the same with the other leg since generally your legs are slightly different in length. Crazy, but it works.
Barbara Anne said…
Been there, did that with hems as my mother made many of my clothes, too. My mother had a gizmo for putting pins in evenly, It has 3 feet to keep it upright, a vertical ruler with a slide that is moved to where you want you hem, a metal thingie that pinches the fabric and has a channel for the straight pin. Once the length is set, you make those micro turns and someone else pinches the fabric and slides the pins in, one by one.

I'm about 5'1" so even petite garments usually need to be shortened for me or by me.

Interesting technique for pinning pant legs, stichinpenny!

Janet O. said…
Interesting stuff. Glad you didn't faint during those long spells, Nancy!
Having most of my clothes made by my Mom, until I was in high school when I took over the job myself, this is familiar territory. My problem has always been that I am of average height, but short through the body and long in the legs. I have to let everything down. But recently I have tired of really long skirts and decided to shorten them all. Talk about lazy, I have bartered with a cousin that has an industrial machine that does them up so fast. She has hemmed all of my skirts and now I owe her a couple of batches of my herbal soap.
LizA. said…
I can only dream about having to actually find something that is too long and needs to be hemmed. Growing up and always being the tallest girl in class, never being able to find anything that was long enough.....then add the size 10.5 shoe size. Shoe companies think women's feet either stop at 10 or then go to 11.
Susan said…
I'm 5'4" and my life became much easier when I found petite-sized clothing in stores. I don't think that sizing existed when I was growing up and had to endure the hemming sessions.
AnnieO said…
Shortening is easier than lengthening! I'm 5'9" and some stores I can never buy pants from as they carry about two pairs of "long" and all the rest are short or average. Most dress pants only have a one inch hem to let down and that's seldom enough!
Love your story.
suz said…
my mom made my clothes too - I hated the hemming part for many of the same reasons - wonder if their moms did the same thing to them. Now, I where my dresses long, so I don't hem...suspect there's something Freudian in that!
Sherri said…
Nancy, I am a giant (5'10") and pants and skirts are often even too long for me. The really odd thing that I find, though, is that ready made garments with long sleeves are almost always cut to short for me. I am not built like an ape with my arms dangling around my knee caps either. All I have to say about this strange phenomenon is "What's up with that?!"