We have nosy neighbours whose kitchen window is directly across from ours. Also, we are skint. So, I spent my weekend sewing kitchen curtains. First, I had to work out, given how much fabric I had–how long and how wide–how many panels to cut; then how wide to make the hems; how deep to make the channel for the curtain rod; and so on. And it suddenly struck me: curtains are, basically, just flat rectangles with finished edges. It must be mind-numbing to design a pattern for, say, a dress. start with a flat rectangle, make it into this shape:
Now, this particular dress was probably made by an experienced and gifted professional, but not so for most of its lowly contemporaries, and those that came before it. Most dresses–and trousers, and shirts, and so on–would’ve been made in the home. And, prior to the second half of the 19th century, would’ve been made without the benefit of a commercially-produced sewing pattern.
William Jennings Demorest and Ellen Louise Demorest began the home sewing pattern industry in 1860 by holding fashion shows in their homes and selling the patterns. This was the beginning of the Mme. Demorests’ Emporium of Fashion. They published a magazine, The Mirror of Fashion, which listed hundreds of different patterns, most available in only one size. Patterns were of unprinted paper, cut to shape, and could be purchased “flat” (folded), or, for an additional charge, “made up” (with the separate pieces tacked into position). The latter version was intended to compensate for the absence of detailed instructions.
So, until the second half of the 19th century, the clothes of the common people were made at home, and, most likely designed by the maker. Who would have undoubtedly been…well…a woman (or girl). And this got me to thinking about women and spatial reasoning. Again, start with a flat square, and make this:
Or start with string, and get this:
I don’t even know what else to say. Suddenly, these women-can’t-reason-spatially claims don’t just seem sexist and wrong; they seem knowingly dishonest.
My curtains, by the way, look great. Well, much better than the nosy neighbours’ faces, anyway…