I grew up in the forest, quite literally. My mom never wore makeup, shaved anything, wore perfume, or anything satin. She had a couple of hippie dresses, a pair of leather sandals with a one inch wedge, and aside from a perm or two in the eighties, ignored fashion as much as possible.
She did sew however; work shirts for my dad, pants and skirts for herself, bathrobes, endless items for me and my brother. So she had a collection of patterns and fab
rics that I loved to paw through, making a mess, admiring the illustrations, picturing outfits for my dolls, myself. Each year, before school started in September, we would go to town and stop and the fabric store to pick out a pattern and fabric for something new for me. She taught me which fabrics suited which styles. (No, a plaid taffeta with gold embroidery might not be practical for overalls.) I was allowed to help her cut out the pattern, and eventually I learned enough so that I could sew simple clothes with her help, until I got frustrated and passed it off to her, usually with several stray seams needing to be ripped out. I guess that's where it started.
My other source of childhood inspiration was the Sears catalog. Hours could be spent pouring over the options. To me it seemed quite stylish. I would make one of my friends go through it page by page, playing a game where we would race to point at the one item we wanted most. My friends only enjoyed doing this with the Wish Book issue, but I could have fantasized about slickers and sweater-dresses, blazers and bikinis.
The Sears catalog also helped out with another favorite pastime: paper dolls. My mom would make the bodies for me, cut out of a Corn Flakes box, and help draw the clothes that I would colour in. Then I realized I could cut clothes out of the catalog to fold onto the dolls. I have a very vivid memory of sitting in the vegetable garden, shaded in between rows of corn, flipping through the big fat summer issue, cutting out the latest in practical warm weather togs.