Sewing Classes in Chicago, ca. 1960

September is National Sewing Month, and I’m happily turning my attention away from our fraught political climate to find photos of older women practicing this craft.  The American Sewing Guild, of which I’m a member, calls sewing “an art and life skill.”  The life skill part of that equation was perhaps most apparent during our terrible spring, when most of those with sewing machines were churning out masks.  Now that you can buy masks in the grocery store, perhaps the art of sewing will once again bring me joy.

The photo above, estimated to be taken around 1960, shows that it is never too late to start sewing.  The African American woman on the left is teaching two older women students how to lay out a pattern.

When you blow up the photo, you can even see what they are making. Laid out on the table with the fabric are instructions for an apron by Simplicity Patterns. Aprons were often offered as a beginning project back in the day when women wore a lot of them. These days a starting project is more likely to be a loose pair of pajama bottoms.

There isn’t much in their clothes that says “1960” to me, but we really can only see the teacher’s outfit in any detail.  She wears what looks like a very close fitting shirtwaist decorated with an interesting shirred pocket.  And did you notice all the dots? They are everywhere—the teacher’s dress, the student’s scarf and even the fabric on the table.  Not a stripe to be seen.

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2 Responses to Sewing Classes in Chicago, ca. 1960

  1. JS says:

    “September is National Sewing Month, and I’m happily turning my attention away from our fraught political climate to find photos of older women practicing this craft.”

    A wise decision.

    I learned how to sew when I was around what I imagine to be the age of those women although I look younger in part because almost everyone today looks younger. No one in my family sewed and my junior high school classes were worthless because they were too large and the machines were often dirty and broken. Even my sister said that the girls (only girls, of course, took sewing back then) who did well in the class had mothers who sewed and sewing machines at home.

    It’s never too late to learn something that fascinates, but I really wish I’d learned how to sew well much earlier in life. There are so many skills involved and I would have benefited from being able to make nicely fitting clothes that expressed my personality. I could never find anything I liked, or if I did, it was far too expensive or too large. My style icon was Ally Sheedy’s character in St. Elmo’s Fire. She had some beautiful lace blouses.

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