Sister Susie's sewing shirts for soldiers;
Some soldiers send epistles, say they'd sooner sleep in thistles
Than the saucy, soft, short shirts for
soldiers sister Susie sews.
World War I ditty
Since World War I, the fingers of Susie and her sistershave become as nimble as professionalsand thereby started a new kind of home sewing boom. In the 1920s women who could not afford to buy even cheap store dresses did most of the home sewing. But no longer. Women are still sewing to economizebut on the fanciest dresses that Paris can design. Inundated by fashion news, furiously taking up and letting down to keep in style, some 35 million women are sewing profits for an industry that will reap close to $1 billion this year. Home sewers will spend $400 million for fabrics, $290 million for accessories, $270 million for home sewing machines, $40 million for 90 million patterns. About 20% of all feminine clothes are now made at home by women who sew an average of four to six garments a year.
Trading Up. Every calculated change in Paris means more money spent. So fashion-bent have sewing women become that patternmakers have all but junked the simple housedress designs that used to be their bread and butter. What more and more women want is the kind of high-fashion Vogue patterns long sold by Conde Nast. The originals would cost perhaps $600, but-almost any woman can copy them for the cost of a $3 pattern and $50 worth of fine fabric (Vogue patterns even supply a Paris label).
McCall Corp. (1958 pattern sales: $11 million) is matching other patternmakers in their new efforts to stay only a few months behind Paris. Last spring McCall produced the Dior trapeze line at the same time it appeared on U.S. ready-to-wear racks. Last month it brought Paris Couturier Pierre Cardin to the U.S. for a nationwide tour to publicize the six designs that he has made specifically for McCall's fall catalogue. McCall, says Pattern Boss Herbert Bijur, "is frankly trading up into the Vogue class."
Well below the high-fashion class is Simplicity Pattern Co., No. 1 in the field and the only maker that sells nothing else (expected 1958 sales: $20 million). "We work for the girl next door," says President James J. Shapiro. "We want to sell Fords with lots of chrome, not Cadillacs."
Art Form. The biggest pattern buyers are now women in families with incomes above $7,500. Millions of women now rank sewing as their No. 1and often onlyhobby. "There's a whole new climate," says Simplicity's Shapiro. "They do it as an art form."