"Make It Yourself"

by Sarah A. Gordon

Home Sewing, Gender, and Culture, 1890–1930

Interview with Margorie Durand

Sarah Gordon: [Speaking of Durand's mother, Martha Eleanor Stromme Ewen] So do you remember, did she, she would make things for the whole family and everything, did she use --

Margorie Durand: All the baby clothes, all the little children's clothes. She could make the cutest dresses, she had the best ideas. I saw her make a dress for a neighbor, it was adorable. I see them in stores now I and I think "Mom wouldn't like that …"

Sarah Gordon: Not as good! Did she come up with all her own ideas, or did she use store patterns, or how did she do it?

Margorie Durand: Yes, she would use patterns. And what people do who sew a lot, is that they'll get parts of favorite patterns, and then they'll make up their own. Because that particular pattern fits someone well and then you use it, and you then can change either the top or the skirt or whatever you're going to do. So that's where they use their creativity.

Sarah Gordon: Where did she buy her things?

Margorie Durand: Sears, Roebuck catalog and Montgomery Ward catalog. Catalogs were well used.

Sarah Gordon: So it's all catalog, yeah. You can look at the catalogs now, the old ones, and look through them, from the 20s or the 10s or anything, in the library. So she, did she buy her fabric from the catalog too, or did she buy that in the town?

Margorie Durand: No, she bought it from the catalog.

Sarah Gordon: So everything.

Margorie Durand: I had silk blouses and wool crepe skirts to wear to high school.

Sarah Gordon: Wow!

Margorie Durand: See, when I look at the prices now and look at them I think gee, that was an everyday thing! Silk was very easy to do up, this is a… She always bought good quality stuff, because cheap stuff doesn't last.

Sarah Gordon: Right.

Margorie Durand: You're not going to waste your time sewing on cheap fabric. So you use good quality and it lasts, it comes out looking like new once it's washed and ironed.