Monday, March 30, 2009

mccall's sewing book, 1963

a while back we went to a library book sale, and i scored a couple of wonderful books.

my favorite is mccall's sewing book, copyright 1963. i spent the entire evening after i got it just reading all the introductory material. lest you are new here and don't know me very well, i do not really know how to sew. i was drawn to this book mostly because my mom is an amazing seamstress, and she learned to sew around the time this book was written, and i just love anything from  the 1960s.

i wish each of you could come for coffee and we could flip through the pages together. it's that good.

here are a few of my favorite excerpts from the text:

"...if you are one of the lucky few who is a 'perfect' size 10, 12 or 14, you can find, if you search diligently, ready-made garments that you can wear right off the rack."

[the LUCKY few who is a perfect size 10, 12 or 14?? awesome.]

"Realistically, of course, few women have the money it takes to be a full-time patron of the haute couture. Even fewere are so perfectly proportioned that any ready-to-wear garment will fit perfectly without some adjustment to individual measurements. They are subject, too, to the curse of mass production--thousands of copies of their dress--any of which is just waiting to be met at a party, PTA meeting or at the home of a friend."

"First, study the general effect you present to the world. Are you short or tall, fat or thin, average in weight and height? How is your posture? Are your shoulders squared and straight, or do they have a tired droop? How about your tummy? Is it flat and tucked in? Is your head held confidently high? Is your waistline clearly defined? Are you well proportioned, or do you bulge in the wrong places? Are you tall enough for your width?

[I can't stop laughing at some of the word choices and how now they are so non-PC, like "droop," "bulge," "fat."]

"Because the appearance of clothes is improved when placed on a well-proportioned figure, now's the time to begin correcting any irregularities."

[irregularities! haha]

"If you want to camouflage a figure irregularity, such as heavy hips, you will want to avoid the use of black and use instead medium or grayed colors that blend with the background."

Then here are some categories of body types, after which the book proceeds to tell which type of clothes look best on each of these:

tall and slender
tall, too thin
tall, heavy
short and slender
short and plump
small bust
low, full bust [this word "low" here cracks me up]
thick rib cage
round shoulders
narrow shoulders
short neck
long neck
prominent abdomen [hahahaha]
prominent derriere [hahahaha!!]

i will leave you all with a list of different types of clothing the modern '60s woman needs in her everyday wardrobe if she is to lead an acceptable life:

at home: "The homemaker often makes the big mistake of thinking she does not have to look her best when doing her daily chores. Actually, ill-fitting clothes lower her morale and make her less able to cope with everyday trials." [wow, clothes can do this for me? i thought farming my kids off to grandma's might do the trick on this one...]

on the job: "Clothes that are too tight or too revealing are taboo in an office. Dress, low-cut clothes should be avoided. Casual clothes that look wonderful on the campus are out of place in a more sophisticated business atmosphere."

for school: "A few basic dresses for social occasions such as church, teas, informal gatherings, and a party dress or dressy separates for formal functions will complete the schoolgirl's wardrobe. Of course, a good cover-everything coat is a necessity."

for sports: " a spectator at sports events, choose comfortable, sturdy-looking clothes. Separates, simple dresses and classic suits are always appropriate." 

for shopping: "By this, we mean shopping in a city department store. Slacks and shorts are taboo."

for traveling: "Tailored clothes are always best. Flared skirts are more comfortable to sit in, and give a more pleasing look as well...Resorts require rather gay, festive clothes; cities more conservative businesslike costumes, while rough country life demands casual, comfortable garments.

[someone needed to use the thesaurus to avoid using "comfortable" about 100 times in the intro...]

for club activities: "Dressmaker suits, simple dresses, such as the sheath, shirtwaist and coat dress are always appropriate."

for evening parties: "The formality of your evening clothes will depend upon the community you live in."

what struck me most when i read all of this is that i envision the 1960s as a sort of liberating time for women, but in the early '60s, there was still so much of that "homemaker" mentality left over, wasn't there? and also, my mother-in-law is 79, and she is very particular about what she wears. she is always asking me, "what are you going to wear to dinner? church? the orchid show?" to which my response is always "jeans and a t-shirt." 

my, how times have changed! 


sew nancy said...

great find. i love old sewing books.

you got to love those descriptions of body types.

what they say about store bought clothing can be true though.

my mom always asks me what i'm going to
wear to events weeks in advance.

also. my aunt thought i should wear white gloves to interviews back in the early-mid 90's...

Mrs. H. said...

Oh love this! I really think my mom might have this book - the pink cover looks sooo familiar. :-)

And, oh, how I was born in the wrong decade (sometimes century!) I would love to go back to the more formal times with different clothes for different activities. I don't wear heels and pearls ;-) around the house a la June Cleaver, but I sure love to tie on a frilly apron and get down to homekeeping business! :-)

Thanks for sharing this Kristi - it was fun to read. (And not just because I'm a "perfect" size in this book! haha) I'm going to see if my mom has it!

Ms. Avarice said...

Old book win! I have a book similar to that about sewing your own bras and panties. The 2nd wave of feminism was brewing in the sixties, but not until the later years. The big changes happened in the 70's so this book was published just before it all started. I love the body shape categories, they are hilarious!

Hannah said...

I am so jealous! What a great book! Maybe you can let me peak at it... thanks for hanging out with me yesterday, it was so fun!