I have to preface my “how-to” with a story:

In high school I always had trouble finding prom dresses. I mean, I was super tall and the style was to have big floral mid-calf dresses. Oh, and the big hair and bangs. The hair thing wasn’t a problem for me. The floral thing was pretty easy to come by too. But the calf length? Now that was trouble for someone who was almost six feet tall. There wasn’t a dress in the stores long enough for me.

So, one summer my best friend and I discovered the secret answer to my dress-finding angst: Just give up on buying dresses and make our own. We started by making skirts, and gradually geared up for actual dress-making.

I had my mom take me to Calico Corners…the absolute best place for big florals. Now, you may ask, didn’t I realize that the fabric they sell there is really for curtains and upholstery? And to that I answer, Yes. I totally knew it. But I’m telling you, those floral patterns were dreamy.

So I worked for hours hunched over my sewing machine and headed to each dance dressed as a moving wingback chair or duvet cover. (We had a lot of dances at East High…yes, the high school of High School Musical fame. This one was a particularly huge group, but the dress probably illustrates my point best out of all of them. Gotta love that shiny, upholstery sheen it’s got.) Then there was graduation:These “beautiful” dresses didn’t stop there. No way. I made things I wore on my mission. (Those Romanians didn’t know what hit them as I roamed the streets in my own floral bouquets.) I even made a floral pants-suit that I wore on my study abroad to Jerusalem. Boy howdy did I ever think I was stylin’.

This story brings me to my point: how to delight a 10-year-0ld.

1) Give in to her begging and agree to help her make a her Halloween outfit.

2) Dust off the old sewing machine that she has no idea you know how to use.3) Act like you totally know what you’re doing as you combine two different patterns and cut fabric out of old curtains you bought at Good Will.4) Sew in an actual zipper (this does wonders for her eye-sparkling amazement).

All those floral wonders sure came in handy after all (despite being pretty embarrassing to look back on). I can sew, which, as luck would have it, SERIOUSLY delights my daughter. Elle, thanks for being my girl…a girl after my own heart.(Grace and I made her Amelia Bedilia apron too and Lucy’ll be making her big debut today with her own home-made belly dancer pants…pictures coming.)

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  1. WOW! Sweet costumes! My favorite quote from this is “… headed to each dance dressed as a moving wingback chair or duvet cover.” Totally laughing out loud on that one. We called those dresses “curtain dresses”. That is so awesome that you made all those clothes to suit your needs. I am pretty sure there isn’t anything you can’t do! These flashback pictures are so awesome.

  2. I just think you are the best Shawni. I now know who to call when I need a new sunday dress. Thanks for sharing those delightful pictures as a reminder of the days of crispy high hair and our lovely sense of style

  3. Oh Shawni….I can’t believe those styles back then! Lets just pray they don’t EVER come back. Not that you don’t look gorgeous because you could wear a potatoe sac and look great but man oh man!!!
    I love that you guys made the costume! I wish I could sew!!! Can’t wait to see pictures of all the kids dressed up.

  4. cute costumes! who thought of amelia bedelia, thats adorable. I love how you took matters into your own hands with the big floral dresses. In high school my sister made a mini skirt out of astro-turf and also a pink paisley shirt that I actually wore to work! (together as an outfit) yeah…wishin I had a picture of that!

  5. I remember a floral dress or two like that from the Boston era – I could pick you out on the T at the Kenmore stop, so I knew when to get on! Awesome that you can sew…I can put a button on and that’s about it!

  6. OK this may well be my favorite of your posts EVER! Thanks for taking me back a few years!

    Loving how Elle is standing and tell Grace that Ameila Bedilia is still absolutely my favorite!

    Happy Halloween!

  7. LOVE all those old pictures. I’m almost positive Heather and I made skirts out of the EXACT same fabric as the one in your mission picture. We were all about the big florals!!

  8. Such a fun post!! Thanks for the great mission scan, Shawni 🙂 Glad I made the blog! I love the girls’ costumes. And I love the Amelia Bedelia hat! You are so darn talented.

  9. Whoa… those pics just sent me on a trip down memory lane! When you put you hair in a ponytail(with high bangs too of course) did you wear a clip in bow the size of a China too… or one of those long “banana clips”? I love that sewing your own skirts in kind of coming back in style – it’s so vintage!

  10. Just decided I’m getting Ruby her own machine for Xmas, some pillow forms and fabric (for a bench in her room), a sewing kit, and lessons from MOI. So excited about the meaning, practicality, and usefulness…Brandy

  11. Just decided I’m getting Ruby her own machine for Xmas, some pillow forms and fabric (for a bench in her room), a sewing kit, and lessons from MOI. So excited about the meaning, practicality, and usefulness…Brandy

  12. Shawni,
    I don’t know if you read my blog ever, but maybe you heard we moved back to CA? We’re in Walnut Creek now and I just want to get on the list that says if you are ever out here we want to be photographed by you. Okay? Pretty please with a cherry on top!

  13. The girls are so darling – I love your creations. I have loved my recent sewing lessons with Lindsay. And Shauni – you are a riot in your big florals!! You are one brave lady to post those!

  14. No sir! Your date, the blonde guy behind you and the dark haired guy on the far left (Brian, I think) were all my BYU freshman-year family home evening brothers. They practically lived at our apartment at Heritage Halls (as much as is possible at BYU!)–I feel so awful that I can’t remember their names. They were so cool. Maybe you can help me out! What a small world. I think I even have pictures of them with my roommates and I at a BYU preference dance (in similarly poofy dresses!). So funny!
    Oh, and I love the costumes too!

  15. Shelley, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I can’t find your blog! I did see it at one point and now when I click on your name it just goes to a page that won’t connect me. If you get this let me know where the heck it is so I can catch up! Miss you!

  16. Oh my heck Shawni, I’m in Jakarta just giggling and smiling from ear to ear! I forgot those magnificent dresses and I also forgot how handy you are at that sewing machine. Fabulous costumes! Hug those cute Halloween kids for me. We miss them!
    Love, Mom

  17. Oh I just can’t wait to teach my girls how to sew. It really is one talent that I want them to grow up with. There is so much pride in creating your own personal things/clothing. Just last Sunday my almost 4 year old and I sat down and made our first thing together…a blanket for her polly pockets to sleep under. It was sure fun. Your girls look adorable in their costumes. I LOVE the Amelia Badelia costume, so glad she’s known to the little ones still.

  18. Thanks for the laugh seeing your old dresses. I loved the permed hair too. My mother said that I’d regret not letting her teach me how to sew and I do in many ways.

  19. Okay, I got the post and am trying to make my picture the right size to fit in my wider frame:) I just can’t figure it out. When I go to photobucket to resize it only let’s me resize at their set sizes. How do I get it to let me do a custom size? Check out my header again — see how it’s over the lines? That drives me crazy. ANyway THANKS for the post.:)

  20. Shawni – I just read post after post how impressed people are by you – but you are sooooo impressive – I never knew you served a mission! So neat to know. The high school pics – way funny! I didn’t see the big bow and white hose with white heels – ha ha – I wore the same stuff – I would thought you were so styling! I saw your cute girls at the fall festival they were darling. All my girls have their own sewing machines – I hope they will be good sewers (they are learning from grandma, not me) – Andi

  21. Ha Ha Ha! Loved those old pics. But you really did carry those florals off well! Gunne Sax had nothing on you!

    Your kids are darling and their costumes look amazing! I can’t wait to see Lucy in the belly dancer costume!

  22. Oh Shanwns, Thanks for the memories. Those dresses make me want to redo my drapes! Can you believe we swapped those around too. Wow, our skin is pretty orange — can you say “fake and bake?” I love that you made your halloween costumes this year! they are darling. Way to go. Miss You tons!

  23. Shawns, I am soooooo glad you picked dance photos without me in them! I love that we sewed together. I’ll remember to thank my mom for making me learn. The costumes are awesome and so are you! Mo

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