Joan Marie, my mother, loved the song Coat of Many Colours sung by Dolly Parton. It must have been because of the love the person in the story had for her mother, who had been creating a coat from rags, with many fabrics and colors in it. Other made fun of the coat but the young woman didn’t care as her mother had made it with love. Isn’t there a lesson in there for us all?
Many poor people were recycling without even realizing that it was good for the environment. It was done out of necessity and it was no good to complain about getting an old coat that was given new life. Some mothers, like mine, were taking old coats and turning them into brand new coats. The inside became the outside of the coat. How amazing was that idea! And couldn’t we learn from it today?
It seemed to mark a person back then if you had a turned coat, but if the seamstress was skilled enough, no one ever knew that you were wearing one. I know that I wore several of these coats and I felt proud that it looked new and looked good on me. The seams would be let out to fit you, after you had grown from the previous year, and the fabric always looked fresh and often a different color.
I didn’t realize that this was recycling until years later when I was in university and I bought fabric or old coats and made my own coats and blouses. Taking apart a coat you’d get at a thrift store and cutting it to follow a pattern was similar to the turning of an old coat from childhood years. It was cheaper than buying one and I always got lots of compliments on the handmade clothes. I’d knit five or six different colored scarves, coil them around my neck, over my new coat and I thought I was the belle of the ball!
I have my friend Joan to thank for teaching me how to sew. She must have answered a thousand questions when she first showed me how to use a sewing machine and pattern. I admired how she made many outfits from new fabric she bought. She had an important job and she was always dressed nicely.
I can hear that song now as if it were yesterday In my coat of many colours that my mama made for me… My mother would sing it aloud and get us to sing with her. The part about the Bible sticks with me as we had a large Bible and prayer books which Mom insisted on buying. We were told to be very careful with all of these books and they were in great shape, even after my mother died. We wouldn’t dare cut them up or mark on them. There were pages at the front where Mom wrote down births, deaths and marriages.
Imagine a child or teenager today wearing a turned coat! I’m sure he or she would wear it, if a parent approached it in the right way. It would probably go over big with all the environmentally conscious people out there today. It would be right up there with going to Value Village on Kenmount Rd. to find that perfect blazer or skirt for under ten bucks. And what would it really mean in the scheme of things anyway?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZlgDQbvo9I Dolly singing Coat of Many Colors