Sunday, November 25, 2012

Prose and illustrations from 1963's "Sewing Pants for Women"

"Sewing Pants for Women," written by Elsé Tyroler and published is 1963, is described on the dust jacket as "the first book devoted exclusively to altering and fitting pants for women, written by an expert who has measured and fitted thousands of pairs."

The preface establishes some context regarding the evolution of the need for pants specifically designed to fit women:
"Until World War II, pants were a man's prerogative, designed for men by men. Then Mother became an inventor of necessity. Off to defense plants she want, doffing aprons, donning pedal pushers, Capris, Bermudas, Jamaicas, and even short shorts. The clothing industry was caught with its preparedness down. Everyone, from patternmaker to manufacturer, took up the — sorry we must say it — slack, turning out women's pants by the only fitting methods the knew; men's tailoring. Results? Womanly curves were firmly entrenched in pants fit for men — and a new field of humor was created for cartoonists."

Tyroler has a fun touch as a writer, which is pretty neat given that she's clearly a master dressmaker first1 and wordsmith second. Here are some more examples of her breezy writing:
  • "Pants have turned out to be rather important. They are worn for cocktails as well as gardening. They turn up in silks and satins under floating evening skirts. They stride forth on the golf course where they are expected to be as flawless as madame's game is not.2 They constitute the suburban uniform for the supermarket circuit."
  • "Some women are long from ankle to knee, some are long from knee to hip. It couldn't matter less which you are, unless you have ambitions for the Folies Bergere, or unless you have a hankering for a pair of Bermudas, Jamaicas, house boy pants, pedal pushers or any type of pants whose length relies upon the knee!"
  • "What is the back rise, anyhow? When you look at the blueprint of a pair of pants, the back rise is your sitting room! It is the extra bit of length built into the center back seam to give you the necessary leeway for sitting, bending and walking. No one can appreciate it more than the poor unfortunate who has heard that ominous rrrrrip in public!"
And here are some of the additional illustrations from the book. (No illustrator is credited.)

Finally, here's an advertisement from the back cover of the dust jacket for a set of patterns by Elsé. I think most of us — with the possible exception of Shawn Bradley, Yao Ming and Mark Eaton — can be very glad that most women do not, in real life, look the women in this advertisement.

1. According to a 1968 newspaper article I came across, Tyroler, based in Los Angeles at the time, was a "European-trained designer and dressmaker" with "a coveted Master's Diplome in Dressmaking and Pattern Drafting, garnered from years of European training."
2. Annika Sörenstam, Lorena Ochoa and many other stars of women's golf would beg to differ.

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