Grandma's Homemade Dress

In Attire
Relationship: Im/migrant
Grandma's homemade flower dress
Grandma's homemade flower dress

I have kept this dress as a keepsake of “Maa-Maa”, my late paternal grandmother (in Cantonese). It is a reminder of our family tradition of sewing our own clothes, one that has been shared by my grandmothers, aunts, mother, mother-in-law, and sister. The practice of making – whether out of necessity, economy, or enjoyment – has been formative to my life, and has taught me to use whatever is at hand, to be creative, and to cultivate my own style.  Maa-Maa was born in Toisan, a village in southern China in the 1940s. After she moved to Hong Kong and married my grandfather, he went to the United Kingdom to find his fortune. She stayed in Hong Kong to take care of three young children, while he opened up a fish and chip shop, and sent money home. My grandmother also did some sewing to make ends meet. The family eventually reunited in the UK, and my parents were later married there.  In 1981, my parents moved our family to New York. Maa-Maa joined us when Ye-Ye (paternal grandfather) passed away, and the tradition of sewing continued in our home together. Grandma had her own distinctive style, and added lots of pockets – inside and outside – to store her many knick-knacks. She had special places for money, her ID, and even snacks. She inspired and encouraged me to cultivate my own style. And I owe my love of creativity to her.

Place(s): China, Hong Kong, England, New York
Year: 1981

– ML

Relationship:  Im/migrant Im/migrant