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Dear Eunice Farmer: This fall my husband and I will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. I would like to wear a long dress and jacket without too much fitting. If possible, I would like to be able to shorten the skirt after the affair so that I can get more wear out of it. -- Dorothy M.

Dear Dorothy: I have selected a wonderful pattern for many special occasions. If any readers have one coming up, you might want to buy this pattern now.

Butterick 5885, sized 8-24, is actually a three-piece ensemble. The skirt is straight; however, the outfit would look great with palazzo pants or an A-line skirt. The shell is semifitted, and the jacket comes in two lengths -- fingertip or full length. Select a drapey fabric that isn't stiff but has a little body. Satin-back crepe would be an excellent choice because you can use the satin side for the banding at the hem and sleeves.

Sew for a living

Dear Eunice Farmer: I just retired and have always loved to sew, but I never had enough time. I would like to start a little alteration service. I have a background in sewing and tailoring, but I have no idea how much to charge or how to get started. Please help -- your advice is always right! -- Ginnie L.

Dear Ginnie: I love your idea. You won't have any trouble finding customers, because everyone is in need of simple alterations since clothes are so shapeless today.

I would go to your local dry cleaners -- they always need help. Another option is to work for an upscale shop in the alterations department. Then you will have an idea of how to begin and how much to charge. When you eventually work in your own home, you can charge less; however, don't sell yourself short. Decide what your time is worth and charge accordingly. Be upfront with your customers, and tell them you charge by the hour. If they change their minds, the price goes up.

This can be a very lucrative business, so be fair, be prompt, do great work, and you will be surprised how much money you can make doing something you enjoy!

Patterns from smaller firms

Dear Eunice Farmer: Recently I visited a large city and, of course, went to the fabric stores. I found several small pattern companies that had some unusual patterns I had never seen before. They were very up-to-date fashions. I am wondering why you don't recommend them in your column. -- Lynne C.

Dear Lynne: You are right; there are quite a few independent pattern companies today. Some of them are not as accurate as the major companies. Also, many leave too much to your imagination when it comes to instructions.

Unfortunately, I can only recommend patterns that are available in most areas. These smaller companies' patterns are sold in very, very few stores. You can be sure that I will be watching their progress, and when they are nationally available, I will be more than happy to promote them.

Sewing tip

When your zipper doesn't slide up and down easily, rub the zipper with the point of a lead pencil -- the lead renews the zipper's use.

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