CENTERVILLE — The shelves are filled with ribbon and elastic, pegs on the walls hold spools of thread in every size and color and fabrics are tucked under the table and around the room near sewing machines that stand at the ready.
Each item helps tell the story of the woman who has worked in the room for the past 50 years, and the students who have worked beside her.
Margaret Farmer will be celebrating her 50 years as a teacher of dressmaking next week, and is inviting former students and friends to an anniversary celebration on Saturday, May 31, from 2 to 4 p.m. in the LDS Chapel at 160 S. 300 East in Centerville.
Those who come are asked to bring a favorite project – perhaps even one they can wear, and any old photographs of projects. A light lunch will be served and organizers request that there be no gifts.
It was in 1964 that Farmer began teaching interested students of all ages the skills of pattern making, drafting, tailoring, sewing and every phase of custom dressmaking.
She had learned those skills as a student of Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City in the 1940s. She was in the city during the celebrations marking the end of World War II, and though it wasn’t the photo made famous in LIFE magazine, she remembers a young sailor dipping her backwards in a celebratory kiss.
Another favorite memory came when she was back in Utah and was invited by a friend, Clyde Sandgren, to perform for the first time the song that would become the Cougar Fight Song.
When Farmer opened Margaret’s School of Custom Dressmaking in her basement in 1964, she shared all she had learned in New York with her students.
Her four children helped with her classes as they grew up.
“She always said that she had the best of two worlds because she was a working mom but she was always home and accessible to her family,” said her daughter, Klixi Jacob.
Klixi, said Farmer, pretty much grew up in the sewing room.
Over the years, Jacob said her mother has kept alive a dying art.
In 50 years, Farmer said she has seen styles change a bit.
“It used to be we really worked at getting a small waistline and holding our tummies in,” she said. “No longer is that the case,” she said, something she blames on jeans with a wider, boyish waistline.
“If they want to wear attractive clothing to their own liking, they need to know how to do it,” said Farmer.
The high prices of older patterns being sold on the Internet prove there is new interest in old styles, she said.
The art of mending is also an important skill, she added. “How many times have they thrown things away because it has a little hole?”
On Monday afternoon at Margaret’s School of Custom Dressmaking, one teen worked on a dress, another young woman was putting together a sleeping bag for a doll, and another was creating a blanket.
There are never more than six students in a class, but Farmer said she can’t guess at how many she has taught in her 50 years because so many have come for repeat classes.
Some students, in fact, have been with her almost as long as she’s been operating, she said.
In other cases, students have come from universities for instruction and to fill credits.
Farmer, now 88, has made dresses from pictures and created lots of wedding dresses.
Her summer schedule offering 13 classes of two hours each, is full.
“We can make almost anything that you want to make,” she said. “We do a little bit of everything.”