Sewing patterns are little time capsules that reveal so much more than the fashions of the day. The offer many glimpses into the daily lives of the owners. It’s not uncommon to find altered pattern pieces cut from the daily newspaper or patterns stored in rice bags from the grocery store. Notes of alterations, fabric choices, even personal letters can be discovered. Often these glimpses are personal, but sometimes they speak much more broadly.
When finding vintage sewing patterns, it’s not uncommon have the name of the original purchaser written on the envelop. These were placed on hold for customers. Of my pre-80s patterns, more often than not the owner’s name is written in the Mrs. + Husband’s first name + Married last name.
This pattern stood out to me in particular for another reason…..
Yes, it’s a junior’s pattern AND a maternity pattern. Just look how young this woman looks? It’s like Gidget is going to give up her surfboard for the ironing board. It’s slightly terrifying. But it’s pretty accurate of the time periods. the average age of marriage since record keeping of such things started in America in the 19th century was 20-22. until the 1990s then suddenly… the age rose to 27 on average.
Rebecca Traister’s “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation” addresses this shift and the history of the women who have had adult single lives. The book was a pretty great jumping off point of what I hope to be a much more chronicled population, single women. The book was illuminating and actually quite funny at times. “Abolitionist women only wanted to free slaves so they could hook up with the black men, yeah seems legit. Or the Tinder mantra, “Dick is abundant and of low value.” Other times it was laughing to keep from crying.
On one hand the book is incredibly validating in how much this marginalized (hello cat lady) population has shaped history and charged the forefront of so much positive change; on the other hand it chronicles the maligning of a significant section of society, which is particularly difficult to stomach when it comes from other women.
I remember my mom receiving letters addressed for her using my father’s name into the 1990s. I can’t imagine this complete disregard for the individual today. There has been an insurgence in home sewing and sewing patterns. I’ve heard people speak of this as going back to traditional values or being “real” women, whatever that means. I can’t imagine future generations finding current sewing patterns with our husbands names written across them. You don’t have to be around modern sewists for long before you realize modern sewing is all about individual expression of self.