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Making clothes for kids is 'sew' overrated

My name is Tracy, and I'm sewing challenged.

I'm admitting this today in hope that my children's future teachers, coaches and club advisers will never again expect me to sew, stitch or do anything remotely crafty.

My story is one of humiliation and embarrassment, but I hope by telling it, I will give voice to all the moms out there who want to live up to this tenet of traditional womanhood, but fall painfully short.

It happened a while back when my 8-year-old daughter came home with a choir dress that was supposed to be pretty close to her size. (That is, if she were as tall as Heidi Klum).

To make matters worse, I ended up not seeing the dress until late in the week when my daughter informed me that it needed to be hemmed for a concert in two days. I was a little worried. But I'm no slack. I can do a hem.

Upon closer examination, this wasn't like hemming a pair of pants. This was a long gown with gathers and pleats more suited for the Dowager Countess. I was clearly out of my league, but I knew it was too late to hire a seamstress. So I forged on.

I won't go into the gory details, but to summarize: I cut off too much material. If a choir dress could bleed, this one would have gushed. It was ugly.

I was desperate. What was I going to do? That's when I went for the duct tape. Yeah, seriously. I tried to duct tape the material back on the dress. A proud moment for all of womanhood.

I kept thinking about my own mom, who died 20 years ago. She was an awesome seamstress. I look back at old snapshots of us as kids. She sewed matching dresses for us as well as the cutest Halloween costumes: a mouse, a princess and an angel.

Even now when my daughters are playing Barbies, I come across adorable little Barbie clothes she sewed.

I will never do that for my daughters. Matching clothes come from Gap Kids, costumes from Target, and Barbie? Well, she's on her own.

It's not like I wasn't taught how to sew. I took eighth-grade home economics. I have clear memories of struggling to make a terrycloth shorts outfit in 1978. After we sewed, the teacher had us put on our new creations and model them at a nursing home.

I remember being none too confident as I modeled my shorts in front of a row full of residents in wheelchairs. And it didn't help when one woman whispered (read: shouted) to her friend, "Well, I think those are just WAY too short!"

All was not lost. I might have gotten a "B" on the shorts, but I got an "A" on the description the teacher had us write for the fashion show: "Thanks to Rocky Balboa, boxer shorts are the hottest trend of the '70s." (I'm not sure if that was true, but it sounded good.) It was pretty clear I would be a writer, not a seamstress.

Nonetheless, 30 years later, I think the world is still trying to make me one. Even now, it is assumed that when a button falls off or a patch needs to be sewed on, it is we moms who must do it. I protest. To quote the famous boxer Roberto Duran when he was getting pummeled by Sugar Ray Leonard, "No mas." No more. I quit. I know when I have been beaten.

My child, in fact, no child, should have to wear the clothes we sewing- impaired moms are pressured into making. They don't deserve to look like an extra in a community theater production of "Oliver." They must have dignity, and I must hire a seamstress. But if you ever need someone to write a script for a fashion show, I'm all over it.

Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and an employee of Forum Communications Co.