December was the most hectic month for my stay-at-home working Mom. As a sought-after dressmaker among middle-class women in the capital, Georgetown, Mom had little time for Christmas shopping, home decoration, and preparation of our traditional Christmas dinner specialties. Guyanese love to party. The Christmas and year-end festivities meant parties galore: office parties, nightclub parties, and house parties. The greatest fete of all was the Old Year’s Night Ball to welcome in the New Year with a bang.
As early as October, to ensure that their dresses were done on time, Mom’s clients who had several functions to attend would start bringing in their dress materials. For the Old Year’s Night Ball, no expense was spared when choosing the best imported fabrics. Clients could select designs from fashion magazines—JC Penney, McCall’s, Sears, and Vogue—Mom made available. A few clients brought clippings of photos from women’s magazines featuring the rich and famous. At the time, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jacqueline Kennedy were the rave. I enjoyed a front seat view of the woman’s world of dolling up for parties and other social events to attract a mate or to hold onto your man or husband.
I was a thirteen-year-old teenager in high school when Mom began sewing for three attractive working-class women of Portuguese descent. All in their twenties, the three friends worked in the office wing of Bookers Guiana General Store. To protect their identity, I’ll call them Catherine, Marcella, and Yvette. Catherine was the most beautiful with hair and features to rival those of the French actress Catherine Deneuve. Yvette had muscular shoulders and arms from playing tennis at a competitive level. Marcella was a dark-haired beauty like the American actress Rita Morena in West Side Story (1961).Continue reading