Late in bed one night several years ago, I had an epiphany. I was frustrated by the lack of creativity in my career and searching for inspiration to fulfill creative desires in my day-to-day life. Sparing details of the history that led to the epiphany, let me just tell what happened: I mentally examined my stockpile of fabric, larger than anyone is entitled to; I reminisced on my love of vintage fashion; I considered my small collection of vintage children’s clothing (never able to pass up a wonderful find at a thrift store or rummage sale). Finally, I recalled living in Portugal in my early 20’s, a full-grown woman being called “Menina”- little girl in Portuguese- by the local characterful ladies. Suddenly it came to me: I would design and sew vintage-inspired fashion for little girls and I would call my enterprise Menina.
Fast forward to the present time, Menina exists as both my pride and joy and a thorn in my side (as a human girl of my own might). She has given me the creative outlet I lacked, but has also been a source of frustration due to my inattention to building a business to match my original epiphany. This is due to some true obstacles in life over the past several years. But if I’m honest, it’s also due to my own lack of discipline for creating the vision I held for this sweet little girl. She has her own room, and lots of “things” (a logo, a label, furniture and decor for her yet non-existent storefront). What sadly she lacks- as some children lack from their mothers- is my time. But this, along with the sorry-a** state of our Brooklyn apartment, is something I intend to start changing this fall.
So, thank goodness for Sophie, a dear friend’s daughter who is turning two. Her birthday party Sunday compelled me to finish the sweet dress pictured here, inspired by a 1950’s pattern and made from a fabric remnant bought at an estate sale in Sun City, Arizona. The apron is cut from a hand embroidered table runner, tied in the back with a wide satin ribbon. The dress can be worn with or without the apron.
The skirt on this dress is very full, though it can’t be told from the photo, but it’s the kind that twirls like a bell when the little girl wearing it does pirouettes. I love that the hem is about four inches deep. Children’s clothing used to be made that way, to let-out as the child grew, not be gotten rid of as the clothing was outgrown. This dress is about a size 3, and won’t fit Sophie just yet, but she will grow into it! I hope she’ll wear it while playing tea party, or riding her tricycle, or on Saturday morning errands to the hardware store with Dad. Menina dresses aren’t precious, they are meant to be loved and worn for the simplest or most special occasions. They’re part of a wardrobe for girly-girls, and a tribute to a time when dressing up a bit was the way everyone dressed all the time (How often have I been asked, “Why are you dressed up?” when I simply am wearing a dress?).
Part of my commitment to reviving Menina is to spend at least three hours in her room each Saturday and Sunday Upstate. She needs lots of attention, but with gardening season winding down, my thoughts are turning to indoor pursuits and I’m anxious to spend time with Menina, to see what she might become.