Making Clothes for the Older Woman: Post-War Pattern Cutting and Dressmaking Home Instruction Texts

Wroe, Hannah (2023) Making Clothes for the Older Woman: Post-War Pattern Cutting and Dressmaking Home Instruction Texts. In: Everyday Fashion in Britain since 1600. Bloomsbury Academic Press. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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In post-war Britain, following a decade of rationing and shortages, women faced the challenge of how to attain clothes that were affordable, well-fitting and fashionable. With mass-manufacture clothing production well-established, garments were sold in standard sizes. These often neglected the complexity of style and fit and offered little to the ‘older woman’. Home dressmaking offered this demographic the opportunity to access/wear clothes that fitted and were desirable. With some skill and dedication, they could become their own ‘personal dressmaker’.
Most home-made clothes - especially everyday clothing for the older woman - have not survived. There is, however, a rich cultural record of home dressmaking methodology which can be analysed through the investigation of the home instruction texts that enabled older women to make better-fitting garments. Using the published works of E. Sheila MacEwan and Agnes M. Miall as case studies, alongside home correspondence course material such as the Haslam Dresscutting System, this chapter will examine who was defined as the ‘older woman’, what were her perceived sartorial needs, what skills were specifically identified as needed by this group, alongside considering the potential agency home dressmaking offered to the creation of everyday dress.
This chapter will argue that home dressmaking was an opportunity for many ‘older women’ - who were inadequately serviced by mainstream fashion production - to attain individuality alongside well-fitting clothes, therefore democratising fashion. Studying these texts helps to recreate the possibilities of everyday fashion for non-standard fashion consumers where the material culture evidence is limited.

Keywords:Post-war fashion, dressmaking, pattern cutting, historical contexts
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V147 Modern History 1950-1999
W Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Design
ID Code:50614
Deposited On:13 Dec 2022 10:49

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