Early American style displayed at the dressmaker's shop, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, November 2004

Early American style displayed at the dressmaker’s shop, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, November 2004

“Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.”  —  Faith Baldwin

I imagine most of you remember Scarlett O’Hara’s reinvention of her parlor curtains, as well as Carol Burnett’s hilarious parody of it.  I admired Scarlett’s ability to work with whatever she had, which often wasn’t very much.   In our era, when new clothing is relatively easy to obtain, we scarcely ever re-fit or repurpose garments, but time’s alterations continue unabated.

As Jeff and I have aged, I have reached the conclusion that no trait is more necessary for thriving in late life as the ability to adapt to change.  For some of us, change is exciting in certain situations, but the types of changes that go along with getting older are not all of the stimulating, desirable kind.  Research tells us that even positive change is stressful.  How to cope, then?

Perhaps Baldwin’s analogy is helpful.  Start with a lovely, flattering dress that has gone out of style, or no longer fits.  A clever seamstress can refashion the cut and details to accommodate the new circumstances, keeping the classic features of the original while adding touches here and there that disguise and decorate.  And a really talented seamstress can do this more than once with the same gown.  Maybe we can do something similar with our daily lives.

I’ve grudgingly made some adjustments to what I expect my body to do now.  I cannot tolerate the same amount of eating, exercise or excitement I relished when I was younger.  I’ve added some interesting details, though, that weren’t part of my life thirty years ago.  Focusing on the wealth of experiences, memories and relationships that have deepened over time keeps me from wallowing in regret over what now belongs to the past, or what never was.

Have you been busy with time’s alterations?  Have you a new lace collar, some eye-catching buttons or different hemline to share with us?  Give us some hints on re-inventing!  And enjoy your new look – on you it’s fabulous!


  1. No new lace collar, nor buttons; but I do believe I have a deeper understanding of timeless truths like those of Ecclesiastes 9:11. “Time and chance happens to all.”

    • Eric, the older I get, the more I understand the beautifully poetic truth of that book. Some find it depressing but I think it’s ultimately comforting. BTW – years ago one of our ministers was doing a sermon series from that text. One of the listeners was apparently unaware that it was a series, simply a linear study of that book, and about 3 weeks into it, he approached the minister and said “You need to be more positive – your sermons are absolutely depressing!” or something along those lines. 🙂

  2. Sheila

    Julia, you may enjoy this story that ends with words of wisdom. Last week, I decided to sell some of my treasured handbags. I went to the shop, the deal was complete and I left the handbags behind. The money in hand just didn’t seem like enough, so I fretted! Our daughter, Stephanie, after listening patiently, (several times), assured me,”It’s not about getting rich; it’s about getting rid.” My alterations will be downsizing.

    • Sheila, I SO need to hear these words! Sometimes I remind myself that another person can actually USE what I’m not using and it appeals to me from a standpoint of “recycle and re-use.” I have to remind myself that having something sit unused in my closet is no better than throwing it away. In library school they taught us that librarians no longer need to save and conserve books (as they did for centuries) because they are now plentiful. Our priorities now are access, access and access, or as the great Ranganathan said in his 5 laws of library science: “Books are for use.” So just remind yourself that someone will be enjoying and using those handbags! 🙂 Thanks for reminding me that I need to get SERIOUS about downsizning.

      • Sheila

        Julia, I may just be in “training” for downsizing but I feel as though I’ve taken the first step. Even if it was a baby step, it was a start. Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed the card! I think of y’all so often, really feel as though I’ve come to know you.

        • Sheila, I feel the same way. The card was so lovely too, seashells and feathers and beautiful pastel colors. Makes me smile just thinking about it. I so appreciate your friendship!

  3. Lynn

    Re-watching the Carol Burnett parody was a great start to my morning! I just moved my youngest daughter to Chicago –and coincidentally while we were there we watch the sound of music one evening to rest. I never tire of the line —when God shuts the door He opens a window. As we age I do see doors shutting behind me …but a window then appears. I think about my grandbaby arriving around Christmas!

    • Lynn, congratulations on the upcoming grandbaby – it will be wonderful. I too love that line from The Sound of Music and have thought of it many times over the years. Sometimes I have a hard time finding even an open window and in my impatience I’m tempted to start sawing through the floor :-). Hope your daughter gets settled in smoothly and has a great first year of school there.

  4. A fun spin on something that isn’t always so fun — aging!
    Thanks for the new outlook. 🙂

    • You’re welcome, Barb! Life continually reinvents itself whether we like it or not, so we may as well do it with flair!

  5. I find myself in the waiting stage. Do you know the book by Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go” I feel perpetually stuck. I am waiting for my hair to grow and the weight to drop off. Waiting for Stephen to find a job, waiting to make vacation plans or change the house up. Waiting, waiting. I hate myself for it. It seems like a lack of faith somehow but I can’t get over the hump. Keeping you and Jeff in my prayers. Give my love to Matt. I am WAITING to see you again!!! We must do that. Love you. Thanks for this beautiful photo.

  6. Don’t know what more alterations Time has planned for me.
    Glad that I am more comfortable now as I feel the dress fits me better now. May be I should do some more changes myself so as to feel finally it belongs to me. Not sure if I got the analogy right.

    • Yes, you got the analogy exactly right. The great thing about alterations is that we tend to get better at them as we go along, and the dress gets more comfortable too. Hope you are having a wonderful week!

      • bobritzema

        It sounds like a circular process–time alters our circumstances, we adapt in some way, time then makes further alterations, we adapt again, and so on. Sometimes the changes that happen to us come too quickly, and it takes a while for us to adapt, but most of us eventually catch up.

        • Yes, and maybe it’s just my advancing age (I’m 57 this year) but it seems that the changes are happening WAY, WAY too fast for most of us, at least in terms of the overload of stimulation from all the digital trappings. We are actually dealing with changes on at least two different levels, the physical (our bodies, the earth, mutating germs, etc.) and the technological, which often exacerbates the negative fallout from changes of the physical. All things considered, I think most people are pretty remarkable, when we stop to think about it. Not perfect by any means, but capable of amazing things.

  7. Absolutely true.

    • Thanks, I am so happy you agree!


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