Saturday, July 30, 2011

That '70s sew

This Simplicity sewing publication from 1973 – a thrift-store treasure discovered by my sister – is a hoot, especially for those of us old enough to remember boyfriends in suede bell-bottoms. But how would you interpret its title? 

At first glance, I took it to be a manual for males: "Sewing [Instructions] for Men and Boys." A second later, I thought, no, it’s from the ’70s – it must be “Sewing [Clothes] For Men and Boys [to Wear]." 

So I was impressed to find, on reading the introduction, that Simplicity was aware of – indeed, was embracing, tentatively – the ambiguity of its title. "If you’re a woman sewing for the men in the family, or if you’re a man making it on your own, we've written this book for you," it assured readers.  

But the women were getting jobs instead of sewing for the men in the family, their daughters were demanding admission to shop class instead of Home Ec., and that optimistic pun, "making it on your own," never really applied to sartorial ambition. In the end, we achieved equality by outsourcing our belt loops and buttonholes (and our hand-crafted bookends, too). We've come a long way, baby ... 


Pearson Report said...

I'm from this era and sewed many a shirt for my then husband.

Career and other "more important" things came along and my Pfaff found residence in a closet.

Now, decades later, out it comes and is still ever the eager little accomplice; it's helping my daughter find her sewing bone! I figure the one thing that never loses value is a skill like sewing!

Great little post!

I am going to follow! You have some interesting things here - worth topping up my coffee for and taking a stroll around your blog.

Cheers, Jenny

Bryan White said...

Well, "embracing the ambiguity" was a simple enough matter for them, I suppose. They were just providing instructions on how to sew men's clothing. They didn't really need to concern themselves over who was doing the sewing. It could be a trained chimp or a beagle with thumbs for all they cared.

I do like that "making it on your own" part.

Ø said...

Note that, either way, the idea that a male might be sewing something for a female was playing no role.

By the way, these guys on the cover, the white guys anyway, are scary-looking. If they had shown up on The Rockford Files they would certainly have been taken for crooks.

Frank Little said...

... or candidates for The Village People.