The sewer’s art
Any of you who live in Ohio, consider yourselves in luck. It looks likes you’re perfectly placed to visit an intriguing exhibition at the Costume and Textiles Collection of the Ohio State University (or OSU) called “The Sewer’s Art: Quality, Fashion, and Economy”.
The exhibition runs till June 27th 2009 and features 49 beautifully constructed garments made by four style-conscious women from the beginning to the end of the 20th century. Also on display are their fabric swatches, sketches, pattern books, mock-ups and photos.
More information is available on the exhibition’s website, which states:
“Home-sewn” and “home-made” have become pejorative terms, generally associated with crafts of low quality. This does a great disservice, to those with high levels of skill and creative ability who produce beautiful clothing at home that rivals that produced professionally by fashion designers. The garments produced by the home sewers featured in this exhibition combine the same elements implemented by the fashion designer: fashionable style with quality materials plus creative inspiration. In spite of a frequent need to economize, home sewers often do more than merely copy a picture on a pattern. They exercise their creativity by choosing fabrics and trims and by combining or altering paper patterns to achieve the desired look. This creativity is The Sewer’s Art.
Isn’t it inspiring that the skill and effort involved in garments sewn by everyday women at home is now being celebrated as worthy of exhibition in museums? Although of course it’s always amazing to see haute couture garments, designer fashion and costume from centuries ago on display in galleries, this celebration of home sewing acknowledges an important part of fashion history. In the first half of the 20th century, the majority of women were not popping over to buy clothes from the Paris couture houses, they were buying patterns, choosing fabric, making design decisions, fitting, snipping and sewing and wearing their finished work with pride.
Those of us who can’t get to Ohio but are interested in the social history of home sewing could head over instead to another interesting site. This one is by Sarah A. Gordon, and is called “Make it Yourself” Home Sewing, Gender and Culture, 1890-1930. This site (which is in the form of a Gutenberg E-book) is an in-depth analysis of the history of home sewing, complete with images and actual interviews with sewers that you can listen to.