"Make It Yourself"

by Sarah A. Gordon

Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture, 1890–1930

Interview with Jane Dunn

Sarah Gordon: OK, did your, so, did your mom sew when you were little?

Jane Dunn: Oh yes.

Sarah Gordon: Do you remember? What did she make?

Jane Dunn: She must have made some things for herself. She was a very large lady and when my aunt came to visit, who was also a very large lady, the two of them used to sew together and help fit each other. And I got all the scraps to make doll cloths out of. And mother made me some very nice things that I recall.

Sarah Gordon: Really. Anything in particular that you remember, that you liked?

Jane Dunn: Well, she made me a lot of these little white dresses that had sort of a long torso and then an insertion where you could run a ribbon through to make a sash and below that a little skirt fluffed out. And it was, oh, some kind of a light cotton material.

Sarah Gordon: Sounds very sweet.

Jane Dunn: It was! I also remember one of those. I also remember that I had pink and blue sashes that ran, a satin ribbon about three inches wide, that ran through –

Sarah Gordon: Oh, that's wide.

Jane Dunn: - the eyelet type insertion and then tired in a bow in the back. I remember that, and I remember an outfit that my mother and my aunt together made. And it was a wool coat with some pleats on it and it had a gray fur collar, a caraco, I guess you'd call it, and a little muff to match. I remember that, early on.

Sarah Gordon: Right. That's nice. Did your mom, if she's making a coat, that's pretty sophisticated. That's, I think of coats as difficult.

Jane Dunn: Yes, well, they evidently were very proficient. That didn't phase them.

Sarah Gordon: Did they ever talk about how they learned? Or, you don't remember.

Jane Dunn: I don't have a clue.

Sarah Gordon: Did your mom, because she was so proficient, did she use patterns? Or did she make them? Do you remember if she -

Jane Dunn: Truthfully I don't recall, truthfully. As we discussed the other day, I guess patterns were very sketchy and a lot of people, you know, did their own, I think, just using basic measurements, things like that. I know many times my mother and my aunt and I would be shopping and we’d see something in the window, and my aunt would look at it and she would say, "Oh, I can do that!"

Sarah Gordon: Oh! Right! That's great, that’s a real talent.

Jane Dunn: Yes.