Mother and Daughter outfits – keeping it in the family

Charming mother and daughter pattern
Charming mother and daughter patterns

There is something comical  about making an identical, or closely matching outfit for yourself and your daughter. In this picture we see how Butterick appealed to the “aww” factor to sell not just one, but two patterns, so that “mom” could sew up two complementary yellow and orange summer frocks. Maybe there is a more sinister thing going on here. It might signify a self-indulgent desire to create a mini-me. It could mean that you want a pal rather than a kid. Or that your baby is just another designer accessory. But many women want to produce a girl so that they can dress them up, in their own image (to an extent). It’s true, isn’t it? Even if you are a feminist, or actively oppose gender specific baby-wear?

Matching hair, specs and jersey
Matching hair, specs and jersey

On the other hand it maybe just that you love maroon woolies and can’t really imagine dressing yourself or the kid in anything else. There are professional photographers who ask families to come in matching outfits, feeling it lends harmony to their composition. This is from the same school of thought that asks all your wedding guests to conform to a strict dress code. Back to family fashions – maybe its just a feeling of fairness. I remember my mother’s one serious attempt to make clothes for us at home involved a pinafore skirt for me and dungaree trousers for my brother . In cream with appliquéd red hearts. Crickey!

Simplicity 8020
Simplicity 8020

But it can be a little bit more practical than that. Certainly for the home dressmaker there is always the temptation. You have a small piece of fabric left over after a project and it cries out to be made up for someone smaller. Like your little girl. Or your little girl and her doll, or teddy bear, Alice. Occasionally you can love a fabric design so much that you go back and got another piece just to make it up again, but knowing you don’t need two items in the same fabric end up getting out a continental pattern magazine, tracing off and sewing up a jump-suit for your daughter. At 8 months pregnant, enormous as a mountain, it is surprising that you could get behind a sewing machine.

Summer 1990 - as big as it gets!
Summer 1990 – as big as it gets!

The thing is – this is what happened. Here is Esme in the matching jump suit. I don’t know if it is unbuttoned or if I thought a plunging neckline would suit a four year old, but there you go.

Esme (4) and George (2)
Esme (4) and George (2)

Looking at these two pictures now a few thoughts occur:

  • I still love the fabric – blues, and turquoise with red, pink and white are just so appealing to me, and actually a good choice for my (and Esme’s) cool-bright colour direction
  • the scale is huge and probably too big even for the enormous woman I was at that time. But maybe it is OK?
  • for Esme the scale is definitely too large, but it still looks pretty cute
  • George, in contrast, looks a bit too manly in a navy blue polo neck
  • I am fairly sure I traced the girls’ pattern from a Dutch pattern magazine. At the time I attended a class called Making Clothes for Children and Babies, in Battersea, run by ex-nun Jo Johnson.
  • I don’t think I used a pattern for my tent dress. It looks like I adjusted the bodice and then gathered lots of fabric to cover up the bump that was soon to be Augustus
  • I am certain that my father took the photographs. This is because the carefully ironed and folded tea towels in the first picture were undoubtedly my mother’s doing
  • the picture was taken in Caldervale Road in Clapham in July 1990

Have you ever made matching outfits for family members?


8 Responses

  1. Kristy

    Great photo of your former pregnant self, it’s fun looking back at those moments in time. I’ve made clothes for my daughter from the off cuts of my projects, but I take great care to ensure we’re not wearing them at the same time because I definitely don’t want to be dressed like a five year old!

  2. @TheSohoMod

    Kate very game of you to publish the “tent dress” but you are right the fabric is lovely. I am disappointed that you don’t have a picture of the pinafore and dungarees your mum made.

  3. foamofdays

    Those commercial pictures look rather creepy to me, reminds me of Aldous Huxley’s hundreds of identical twins in the Brave new world.. Although I understand the “practical” aspect, as a child I “inherited” my older brother clothes that my mother would alter for me. That resulted in me wearing trousers and playing with soldiers toys throughout my childhood 🙂

  4. thornberry

    I often make garments for my girls from the same fabric, or else I use the same pattern but different fabrics. They like it! Honestly, they do! And on occasion I will even be wearing a garment from the same fabric, but I try to avoid that as much as possible!

  5. Kbenco

    I love seeing sewing pasts. It is certainly impressive to be sewing at that stage of pregnancy. I am sure I was lying about complaining instead.
    My poor, long suffering daughters frequently had clothing made from the same fabric, or different colourways of the same print. Being suitably brainwashed, they loved this when they were little. I also made them clothing from remnants of my own things, but did not wear them at the same time as they appeared on the offspring.
    My daughters still have clothing made from the same fabric, but when in the same city, co-ordinate their outfits so as not to match each other.

  6. ejvc

    Totally have made Charlotte stuff from remnants and what-not. She doesn’t mind. Also I went through a phase of making matching outfits for her dolls of all the clothes I made her. THAT, she loved.

  7. Alix

    Hi Kate. I just discovered your blog yesterday and am in the process of reading the entire thing. Very inspiring! I read your entry this morning about the 3 dresses in similar fabric (pink flowers on blue background). I think this qualifies as a fourth in the same vein! Anyway – must get back to my reading project – and then onto some inspired sewing! Thanks.

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