At age 14, as was common back then, she left school and became an apprentice at a local sewing factory in England. She learned to properly sew there and over the years, came to know how to make raincoats, blouses, skirts, dresses, anything. If there was a new pattern, they only needed to hand it to her and she could sew it together while many others struggled. The others were only used to sewing the same part over and over, but my mother could work the whole garment. She was speedy too. You had to be if you worked piecework (you’re paid by the piece).
Growing up in grey Britain after the war, my mother dreamed of heading to Hollywood to design costumes for the stars. She saved and saved for the boat passage from England to Toronto and headed there. She quickly found a tailoring job and set about saving once again.
My parents met at a dance, got married and when one of the women at the tailor shop where she worked told her about where to go to get immigration papers for America, my mother went and within a few short weeks, she and my father were loading everything they owned into a Volkswagen mini bus and heading to Hollywood.
They drove from morning until night. In Britain, they would have crossed the country in that amount of time. In America with the old roads, they were in Michigan. The car broke down and they have lived there ever since.
Again my mother quickly got a job in the best tailor shop in Detroit. She made men’s suits until the shop was robbed and she was held at gun point. She never returned to work for many years. I was born and she directed her energies and her love into making all of my clothes (many of which were Princess Diana recreations), reupholstered our chairs/sofas, made curtains, bicycle bags, quilt, and hold-alls for small engine airplanes.
My mothers dresses did end up in Hollywood and the Cannes film festival just not as expected. I wore them to a job interview I once had (came to London instead) and to a number of film premieres.