When We Were Young Post: My Childhood Style

When Suz asked me to be a part of her series When We Were Young last week, I loved the idea! I have four daughters, but this is the first time I tried to make something for one of them inspired by my 70’s childhood style!

I became a stepmom to my husband’s daughter, then 6, when I married him at the ripe old age of 23. My stepdaughter is now 27! Then I had my son, now 20,  my daughter, 18, then my next daughter, 11. And finally our last baby, who I had at 39. So I’ve been both a young mom and an older mom. But it was not until I had my last child that people told me my child ‘ looked like me ‘. Finally!

The thing is, I have hardly any photos of myself at Gigi’s age. People didn’t take as many pictures back in those days, and the ones I do have I am quite the ragamuffin in…. But my dad did scan one photo of me cleaned up, and he sent it to me. Most of my photos look something like this…..Hoover St copy

That’s me and my dad and my brother . I grew up in Hollywood, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, back in the seventies when Los Angeles had little traffic, real estate was cheap, and Hollywood was still very rough around the edges.
Some might even say it was seedy in those days. There were actually sometimes hookers walking around on Sunset Boulevard. The are has been cleaned up a lot since those times.I learned quite young, to take care of myself and be careful living in an urban setting.For instance, my school was in Hollywood and I used to take two buses to get there at the age of twelve. Down Hollywood Boulevard on the 181 bus where I would get off and catch another bus, the 210. But lots of kids did that! I don’t think many parents would let their kids do that now. My parents weren’t bad. It was just a different era. Kids were a lot more independent.

But I was happy. When I was really little, my mom didn’t know how to drive and she took us places on the city bus. We used to go to MacArthur park for picnics. We lived on a little street just off of Sunset & Vine in a rented bungalow that was once lived in by the old film star, Jackie Cooper, when he was just starting out. All the kids played out in the street and we were pretty much left to our own devices. The overprotective, hovering parents of today were nowhere in sight. Moms kept a watchful eye out the window, but they mostly just left us to play outside all day in a neighborhood many would raise their eyebrows at today. And there were so many other kids outside as well that nothing bad ever happened to us.

My dad was  just starting work at the movie studios and when my mom had me, his boss, a producer, gave him lots of his own kids’ hand me downs for me to wear. His name was Danny Thomas.Kids_Sharon_Stroller-web See that chubby one in the stroller? That’s me. Yeah, I was a big baby! The cute angelic one on the right? My brother! My mom was a hippie who had come to LA via San Francisco via Seattle where she had left the day she graduated high school. My dad was a young photographer who had hitchhiked out west from New York city to find adventure. He ended up meeting my mom on a beach in Venice, and the then came my brother and me. Typical LA story.

me1973So here is the outfit I was inspired by that my dad scanned and sent to me. I love little matching shorts suits for children so it was perfect.When We Were Young_ Sew Country ChickAnd here is the outfit I made Gigi. I was surprised that I didn’t have the exact same color in my piles of hoarded fabric as my outfit in the photo. I did have one, but it was going to be too lightweight for shorts. I work as a costume designer part time, and everyone I know whose grandmother dies seems to call me when they need to get rid of fabric.

I loved this bright yellow cotton, which was most likely vintage, so I decided to make a brighter version of my shorts outfit. A modern version of me! I was going to go out and get some black knee highs and red sneakers, but as usual, I was running up against the last minute, and these little blue sandals are just so cute.gigisteps2

I drafted the pattern myself. It’s really a simple design and was very quick to draw up. I used the instructions for making a basic block from the book Metric Pattern Cutting For Kids. I LOVE that book. Although the drawings of kids with plain, white eyeballs in it are quite creepy.

I probably could have added more ease to the patterns, but I wanted them to be fitting. I remember my clothes being fitted as a child.gigistepsbackShorter tops and high waisted shorts were popular for kids in the sixties and into the early seventies. With the crop top being a big trend for spring, I thought it would be fun to make one for kids. Of course, if I was going to make a crop top, I would have to make high waisted shorts too, right? Right! I made a wide waistband and inserted some elastic. As you can see, she’s straight as a beanpole so these shorts don’t even need a zipper! I made a facing for the neckline and for the button tab in back, even though I used bias tape. That was overdoing it. It was one of those projects that I just sort of started making without a very clear plan, and let it take shape as it went.gigistepsdetailAnd I may have made that top just a wee bit too short, so I added the eyelet trim. I would have added the cute red trim around the neckline too, but sadly I was just short a few inches! I trimmed the neckline with bias tape, instead.gigistepsneckgigistepscocoI’m trying to use up the many trims I have collected in my travels and in my thrift shopping. I also live an hour from the downtown LA fabric district, were everything is so cheap! I have a good amount of fabrics and trims to choose from.gigiyellowsteps


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  1. says

    Thanks so much for sharing your childhood stories & photos. So you live in the country now but only an hour from LA – sounds perfect, best of both worlds! I love this set you’ve made for your daughter – so cute!!

  2. says

    love gigi’s outfit! and i really enjoyed reading your story about growing up in the 70’s (and those pictures are so fun!)

  3. Nicole says

    Love it!! Thanks for Sharing your story Justine. I love the picture of your dad and you crossing the street… reminds me of my own 70’s father! You always “rock the Retro”!!!

  4. says

    So cute, Justine! Gigi does look just like you, but so do your other daughters. They have your beautiful cheek bones!