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The Culture of Sewing

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The Culture of Sewing: Gender, Consumption, and Home Dressmaking

Edited by Barbara Burman

Throughout its long history, home dressmaking has been a formative experience in the lives of millions of women. In an age of relative affluence and mass production, it's easy to forget that just over a generation ago, young girls from middle and working-class backgrounds were routinely taught to sew as a practical necessity. However, not only have the skills involved in home dressmaking been overlooked and marginalized due to their association with women and the home, but their impact on women's lives and broader socioeconomic structures also have been largely ignored.

The first serious account of the significance of home dressmaking as a form of European and American material culture, this book explores themes from the last two hundred years to the present. Including gender, technology, consumption, and visual representation, the contributors show how home dressmakers negotiated and experienced developments to meet a wide variety of needs and aspirations. Not merely passive consumers, home dressmakers have been active producers within family economies. They have been individuals with complex agendas expressed through their roles as wives, mothers, and workers in their own right and shaped by ideologies of femininity and class.

This book represents a vital contribution to women's studies, the history of fashion and dress, design history, material culture, sociology, and anthropology.

Barbara Burman is a writer and former academic at the University of Southampton and the University of the Arts, London. She is co-author of The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women's Lives, 1660-1900, and the editor of The Culture of Sewing. She is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and lives near Cambridge, UK.

Berg Publishers, 1999, softcover, 9 x 6 inches, 368 pages.