First off, Gentle Reader, I'll just tell you now that I'm a season behind on Mad Men. We're slow like that. So this commentary is only valid up to Season 2, Episode 6. If there is something relevant that has happened since then DO NOT TELL ME. Or I will hunt you down. With vengeance. I have access to stat counters. I can find out where you live (uh... within, you know, 150 miles--- BUT THAT'S ALL IT TAKES FOR SOMEONE WITH A GRUDGE TO BEAR. Remember this.) If you haven’t watched Mad Men, then this may be really boring. But I (being a good person) won’t tell you anything that will ruin it for you if you do start watching it. Just saying.
I mention all this because I just spent fifteen minutes scouring the interwebs for a specific screen shot from Season 2, Episode 1. I actually thought about taking a picture off my own TV. (Seriously. How pathetic is that?) Because I saw something in it that made me think, "Aha!! SEWING." To be honest, this isn't my reaction very often when I watch TV. So it was memorable.
"And what did you see?” you ask. Well, Gentle Reader, it was a shot of Peggy sitting in church with her sister. The sister is holding a toddler and when she stands up to go to communion, she hands him to Peggy. And I realize, the sister and the baby have on matching clothes. He's wearing pants made out of the same fabric as the sister's dress.
"And your point being?" you ask in a sardonic voice. (You, Gentle Reader, can be somewhat snide. Or at least, that’s how it comes across in my head.)
My point is simply that despite my habitual lack of thinking about sewing while watching TV, I have once or twice mulled over the fact that so far none of the women in the show seem to sew. Which is interesting, given the period and context. Is it that none of the women are in a position to need to sew, so they don't? Joan is not the sewing type, granted. Betsy could be, but she's wealthy. Peggy is relatively poor, she could certainly do well to sew for herself but doesn't seem to. Is it because she's a working girl (not in the, you know, prostitutional sense... unless you count copywriting, which in fact I think you could be forgiven for doing)? She maybe doesn't have time to sew.
But clearly the sister does. That makes me happy. Because I think sewing is a pretty substantial part of being a woman in 1962. Take the following story, as related to me by my mother last week:
In the summer 1968 my parents - 18 years old, freshly married and toting a 6 week old baby (that's me) - moved from South Dakota to Minneapolis. They possessed virtually nothing, just enough to fit into a tiny little U-Haul trailer that could be pulled behind their crappy old car. Shortly after moving into their new apartment, my dad announced to my mom than his work pants needed hemming (at this point I could already see where this story was headed, but then I know my mother).
Dad: "My work pants need hemming."
Dad: "Well, get out your sewing machine...."
Mom: "What the (deleted expletive-deleted expletive)? I do not own a sewing machine!"
Mom: "You helped pack up everything we own in a 4 foot by 4 foot trailer. Did you see a (deleted expletive) sewing machine?!"
I may have paraphrased. My point is, in 1968 my dad could not conceive of a girl who did not own a sewing machine. Or at least know how to hem up pants. (Now granted, my mom probably did know how to hem up pants, but she would not have volunteered that piece of information willingly and probably didn't own a needle or thread. I do know my mother.)
To my mind his assumption isn't so surprising, as every other woman around me from that time period did know how to sew and my mom’s mother and several of my parents' aunts made their own clothes. It was what you did if you didn't have a lot of money or you had a difficult body-type to fit (or possibly, although it wasn't readily apparent to me in any of these instances, if you just enjoyed it).
So while my view of Mad Men is skewed by my own personal recollection of people who wandered around in the 60's, I'm glad to see that somewhere buried in there amongst the stylish clothes and drama are some sewing women.
Props to Peggy's Sister and the Matching Toddler Pants.