The Passover Dress

So, just to warn you, I know that this is a sewing blog, but this post is going to get historical and personal, and if that’s not your thing, I just wanted to warn you straight away, and you can feel free not the read this, really, I wont mind. Of course, I’m never all about the stitching and the snipping, but still, just so you are aware before you dive in, you’ve been cautioned.

So, I decided to participate in the wonderful and talented Lucille‘s Sew for Victory challenge, and honestly, I really didn’t think too much about this before I did it. After all, there are a lot of sewing challenges and sew-a-longs and dares out here on the interwebs and really I’ve participated in (and continue to participate in) many of them. And I do love this period of dressing and pattern making, I do, the lines, the designs, the fabric efficiency, it’s wonderful! It is. And it’s a great challenge, I’ve been thrilled to see what other people have been making.

But recently I was watching an episode of Foyle’s War with my roommate (a  fantastic series, everyone should watch it) and all I could think was, thank god I wasn’t born in this period. Because if I had been the age I am now, or any age, really, in the 1940’s, well, I would probably not have survived. After all, I’m Jewish.

This week is Passover, in fact, it started on Monday night, at sundown, as all Jewish Holidays do, start at sundown, that is. Passover is a celebration of the exodus from Egypt, a celebration of freedom from oppression and a recognition of the cost of freedom and the Jewish struggle for liberty in every age and generation. We celebrate our escape from the bondage of Egypt year after year with a seven-day festival and a retelling of the biblical story, accompanied with a flat tasteless cracker, Matzoh, which is called “the bread of affliction” for a reason. Because it’s the worst.

At any rate, when I think about the 1940’s, I can’t help but think about the major event that dominated that decade. And, honestly, can any of us really ignore that? The war effected everything, and it CERTAINLY effected fashion on a fundamental level. It effected fabric production and hemlines and cuts and refashioning and everything. 40’s fashion is specific because of the specific events that shaped it’s existence. But I’m I suppose I’m loathe to idolize or at least glorify that decade because of what it would have meant for me to have existed within it. I could not be more glad not to have lived through the 40’s. It’s only through the grace of history and fate that my family, for the most part, happened to have survived the war via avoiding alternative homicide (ask me about Russia in the 20’s!). But we were the unbearably lucky ones. And for the most part, we were the exception to the rule.

So when we Sew for Victory, as fun as it has been for me, and really, it has been fun, I love this period, I love these patterns; I can’t help but think about the realities of this period, and the implications that it had for the real people who lived and died in this time. So I decided to wear my 40’s dress to my Passover Seder, and as I did, I celebrated the holiday. and reminded myself of how lucky I am, how lucky my family is, and how unlucky so many of us have been. This holiday, this Passover, is the time that we remember, that we spend with the people we love, that we tell each other, Next year in Jerusalem. And what does that mean? It means, next year, we will all be together. Next year, we will all be free.

There is a poem that I have recently read, and love:

When I die
Give what’s left of me away
To children
And old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry,
Cry for your brother
Walking the street beside you.
And when you need me,
Put your arms
Around anyone
And give them
What you need to give to me.

I want to leave you something,
Something better
Than words
Or sounds.

Look for me
In the people I’ve known
Or loved,
And if you cannot give me away,
At least let me live on in your eyes
And not on your mind.

You can love me most
By letting
Hands touch hands,
By letting
Bodies touch bodies,
And by letting go
Of children
That need to be free.

Love doesn’t die,
People do.
So, when all that’s left of me
Is love,

Give me away.

Obviously nothing else I can say will matter as much as that. So here is my sewing:

This is the dress I made:

PD 2PD 3

The pattern is Simplicity 1720. It’s an easy enough pattern, though the skirt has a ton of gores, though I can’t complain about how it hangs, because I love it!.

PD 4

The fabric is a rayon from an Ebay sale almost a year ago. I was concerned this would look too 1990’s, but, I actually think it works well.

PD 5I did french seams throughout, and though the front has facings, I just did bias tape for the neck and sleeve hems.

PD 7I love the way this hangs, I think it’s surprisingly modern.

PD 8Check out the details!

PD 9I love the back yoke, fussy as it is.

PD 10These buttons where unbearably expensive, they cost me more than the fabric. That is a real story. I got them at M and J trimmings, and I was so intimidated that I didn’t bother to ask the price until I was ringing it up. And it was HIGH.

PD 11Real Talk? These shoes probably ARE from the 40’s. They were my grandmother’s.

PD 6

I can honestly say that I love this dress, I do. It needs that belt (for REAL the bodice is too damn high) but I do love it. And I wore it to Passover, despite the chill. You gotta pretend it’s spring, right? Fake it till you make it…

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48 Comments

Filed under Clothing, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage

48 responses to “The Passover Dress

  1. my family were gypsies in Germany during that time and needless to say they didn’t fare well at all either, so I tend to not look at that decade too closely. I think the dress works very well on you.

  2. The dress looks great on you, good job! And I do agree that we shouldn’t see past decades as “perfect” – we might love their fashion, but we shouldn’t forget horrible things happened then, sometimes.
    Cheers!

  3. Judi

    That is a beautiful post!!! I love the poem…I’m going to frame it. Your Passover dress is also beautiful, as are the spendy buttons…they add so much they are worth the money.

  4. I love this post. And the dress, obviously. I think the rememberance of WW2 is so different in different parts of the world. I live in the netherlands, my granddad was captured by the germans to work in workcamps twice, and both times he escaped. I sometimes worry, with the individualisation of society, and the opinion of (some of) the public towards ethnic minorities, and the fear of ‘islamisation’, that this is a breeding ground for another war. We are so lucky to live in a country where there is no war, where you can say what you want without getting in jail or killed for it, and I think it is taken for granted bij way too many people.

    I wish you a lovely passover with your family!

  5. That is a very moving poem. I wish you a lovely Passover in your gorgeous new frock 🙂

  6. The dress looks great! And it looks fantastic on. I love the poem you put up- do you know who the author is?

  7. punkmik

    thank you for sharing. very powerful. Love your dress and what it meant for you to wear it.

  8. really important words and thoughts – thanks for sharing them.
    and what a poem. “so, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.” that captures the agony and the beauty of death and love so well.
    aaaand, the dress is perfect!

  9. The dress looks great. Happy Passover!

  10. Amy

    It’s beautiful! It might be my favorite thing you’ve made.

  11. what a beautiful post. thank you.

  12. Oona sent me here. Thank you for sharing this, I just passed it on to a dear friend who is also celebrating Passover this week.

  13. Thank you for such a thoughtful & personal post. Sometimes the things that are the hardest to read/write are the things that need to be read the most of all.

  14. What a lovely post. I think you’ve taken a really thoughtful approach to remembering and honoring a decade that brought so much sorrow and suffering to so many people. Thanks for sharing that beautiful poem.

  15. What a beautiful dress . . . and even more beautiful post! Many blessings to you and your family, my dear!

  16. I second Ginger, you did a beautiful job of remembering a tragic time in history. And I’m thinking I’m going to print that poem off and frame it, I don’t generally care for poetry, but that one was beautiful. Do you know the name and author?

    I think your dress is very period appropriate, and it looks great on you! 🙂 And the fact that those are your grandmother’s shoes is too awesome!

  17. Your dress is beautiful, as was your entire post. Love the poem!

  18. Beautiful dress, and beautiful thoughts surrounding it. Thank you!

  19. Your dress is beautiful and so is your inspiration behind it. Part of my grandma’s family fled to America to escape Germany during WWII, but not all of them made it out. It’s wonderful that something as simple as a dress can symbolize so much more. You should be very proud.

  20. this is an important and well written post, it is all too easy to glamorise the past and something as simultaneously simple and huge as if i was alive then i wouldn’t’ve survived brings it back to reality Well done, I hope you had a lovely passover celebration with your family and your dress is gorgeous too.

  21. Leah, this was such a beautiful read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, and the dress is lovely as well!

  22. Lee

    Leah, thanks for your meaningful post. In every generation they rise up to destroy us, and in every generation we sew.

  23. Thank you for sharing this post, it was beautiful and very thought-provoking. Your dress is lovely, too, and wearing your grandmother’s shoes with it is a wonderful way to remember and honour the past 🙂

  24. Loved the story and your dress is great!

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