Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Mad Mentality


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."

Mom: "And..."

Dad: "Uh."

Mom: "----"

Dad: "Well, get out your sewing machine...."

Mom: "What the (deleted expletive-deleted expletive)?  I do not own a sewing machine!"

Dad: "-----"

Mom: "You helped pack up everything we own in a 4 foot by 4 foot trailer.  Did you see a (deleted expletive) sewing machine?!"

Dad: "----"

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.

Singer 1965 Touch-and-Sew


  1. And props to you for publishing a picture of a sewing machine I actually own! Hee hee.

  2. Dude, Mad Men isn't even shown on TV over here and I'm caught up through season 3!

    And, hello, I'm fairly certain that machine is the machine I learned how to on, back in the day.

    Are you planning to make some coordinating outfits for you and your girls?

  3. Hey, a sewing machine is in evidence from season 3 at Halloween (I am not giving anythng away by saying this) Back in the 60's Mom's made Halloween costumes. MyMom (who was not domestic by any description) made many of mine when I was too young to make my own. That's what moms did back then (and still do now)

  4. Re: the making of matching outfits: One of the things that made me notice this in the show is that when I started sewing for myself and the girls, I made a very conscious descision to not make anything for them out of left-over fabric from my own clothes. Or nothing that was very obvious.

    I come from a long line of pioneer ancestors. I know some "We bought a bolt of fabric cheap and now everyone has to have the same dresses" clothes when I see them.

  5. My Mum was a 1960's Mum who couldn't sew. Her mother used to make all her clothes and she hated them. Every photo I have of my Mum as a girl she is standing behind a rose bush to hide her clothes. Hence I didn't learn to sew from her! Maybe it skips generations.

  6. ooh! ooh! try Project Rungay. they've been going through season by season talking about the clothes the women wore. i know there was a screen shot from that episode at the part where they're in the church with the toddler.

    you'll have to go back in their archives a bit to miss the reviews of the current episodes but i know it's there. they also do mention some of the outfits that peggy wears that may have been homemade, especially in the earlier seasons when she was just starting out and wouldn't have had the money to buy fancy new clothes.

    linky link: http://tomandlorenzo2.blogspot.com/2010/07/mad-style-peggy-olson-s2-part1.html

    bummer. i found the pic but it's dark and you can't really tell what anybody's wearing.

  7. Technically my daughter and I have matching jeans, (same fabric and same pattern) but once you add the flannel-backed cutouts on hers and the various mods I made to mine I don't think they really look alike. The kids have had the odd set of matching outfits, some of them home-stitched (though not by me)... it doesn't bug me if it's not an everyday thing.

    The creepiest was a pair of identical twins in Tyo's swim class years ago. I never once saw them dressed in anything BUT identical clothes.

  8. I haven't seen one single episode of Mad Men. Sad, but true. I let the Bravo housewives bicker in the background of my sewing room and Anderson Cooper visits occasionally. But, now you've got me interested, Gentle Writer, and looking forward to checking it out. I'm gearing up to try some Lekala patterns and start Halloween sewing! Boo!!

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  10. Girl, where have you BEEN?

    I mean, literally, not sarcastically regarding watching Mad Men.

  11. Peggy may not sew *anymore* because she moved out and probably can't afford a sewing machine. Plus, she probably grew up wearing mom-made and now that she's a career woman, wants none of that. Well, that's my guess.

    As alluded to above, there is actual sewing in the Draper household. And even later shots of the machine in non-sewing scenes.

    My parents married in 1960. My mom grew up sewing, as did her mom and my dad's mom. My mom sewed all during my childhood and I remember loving our super-groovy Mother/Daughter outfits. My sister didn't come along until I was 8, so I had those outfits all to myself. After that, my mom made sister and me coordinating outfits for holiday pics, but thankfully never exactly matching.

    It took me a long to time start sewing, even though I knew how from just being around it, precisely because my mom and the grandmothers sewed. All I had to do was ask and somebody made/mended it. I actually did know how good I had it, but that didn't stop me from abusing it. ;-)

  12. So, your faolks not from Minnesota then? Or is all that 'expletive deleted' from the Drak Side of Minnesota?


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