Making Clothes for the Older Woman

From Making Clothes for the Older Woman by Agnes M. Miall, London 1948. Click to enlarge

Imagine how excited I was when I discovered this British title on World Cat—Making Clothes for the Older Woman. As an older woman who sews, it seemed custom designed for me. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t what I got.  Essentially this is a book about altering sewing patterns if you don’t fit standard sizes.  It also includes time-worn advice for those getting on in years—don’t choose bright colors, don’t accent your weak points, and don’t wear styles that are too young.

The author, Agnes Miall, focuses on fixing what she sees are the main figure flaws of older women—too thin, too flat chested, too stout, too busty, too hippy.  She illustrates her ideas through six different types, shown above.  Throughout the book there are tips on what “Juno,” for example, should do to look better in her clothes.

I didn’t recognize myself in any of these figures.  While I share many qualities with “Augusta”—average height, wide hips, generous thighs, the description didn’t fit in other ways. My shoulders are on the broad side, I have a short waist, and a very flat back.  And where is the figure with no waist?

I wonder what kind of research went into deciding on the six types.  Perhaps Miall was a dressmaker and chose them from her own experience. However, some of her generalizations are just bizarre. For example, she warns about the difficulty of finding suitable colors for those with a very florid skin tone. “Juno, Marianne and Augusta are the types to be over-florid.” (20) What does a body type have to do with skin color?

Miall goes through the all the steps of making a dress, from finding the pattern to putting in the hem.  She gives clear advice on how to get a good fit, starting at the shoulders.  For the Augustas among us, she shows how to make patterns wider at the hips; for the Junos she gives advice on how to increase the shoulder size.  I suppose I could follow the guidelines for a kind of split personality, with Augusta hips and Juno shoulders.

So this was not really the book of my dreams.  However, if you find it at a yard sale for fifty cents I would be glad to take it off your hands.

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3 Responses to Making Clothes for the Older Woman

  1. I think I am an Agusta, but would rarely if ever wear a v-neck. The only difference in my sewing now is I have to remember I have a thicker waist…. which really isn’t an issue as A line dresses tend to be my go to and I am certainly glad I do now sew for myself as the cut of RTW fits me less well now, especially if it has a seam at the waist.
    I find the advice dont go for bright colour unusual as I find that now my hair is grey I am more inclined to wear a brighter colour as if I wear a pale colour I just ‘blend’…..

  2. JS says:

    I’m sort of an Editha. I’m short, but my measurements are nowhere near as big.

    A couple of decades ago, I went to a fancy dressmaker to have a suit altered. In the waiting room, there was a book called something like “Fitting Challenges for the Older Figure.” I didn’t look at it. I didn’t know how to sew at the time, nor did I want to think about being older and having additional “challenges.”

  3. Nann says:

    Just call me Augusta! LOL.

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