By the 1920s RTW was on the rise; with more and more women now working and facing added responsibilities at home. Buying ready made clothes became increasingly fashionable and popular.
The collapse of Wall Street in 1929 and the economic nightmare that followed, interrupted that trend for a short time. The staggering unemployment and the uncertainty of the Depression caused women to take to their sewing machines once again. As Women’s Home Companion magazine noted ” sewing was back in style.” For many women buying new clothes during this time was simply not realistic. Even for those who could afford it spending on new clothes was frowned upon, often seen as frivolous and impractical. Being “thrifty” was now the new norm.
Some women used sewing as a way to supplement their household incomes, for others it was the only way they could earn a living. The Works Project Administration (WPA) part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal offered sewing lessons to poor families, and work that paid women to sew. Patterns in newspapers and magazines as well patterns from companies such as Butterick, Vogue and Simplicity were abundant.
The Singer Sewing Company often took out full page ads in women’s magazines to publicize their newest sewing products and promotions. Singer provided everything from lay a plans to special classes on how to remodel your old clothes. In-house staff were always available to provide guidance, and special sewing tips that were all free of charge!
The ad shown here features a few of Singers newest products for 1939. A fit mannequin made to a woman’s exact body shape was the newest and easiest way to get THE perfect fit for your clothes. The process was simple and quick – or so they said. After donning a protective undergarment, a Singer specialist would mold a “soft plastic material “ on your body section by section ( each section took a “comfortable 30 min.” to harden ) or 2hours! Once all the pieces were removed and finished off, they were assembled, lacquered and ” you had a practical dress form that will never loose its shape” all done to your exact shape and measurements. Shortly thereafter it was shipped to your home.
Now making clothes for yourself could be done quickly and efficiently, since there were no more endless ‘try ons’ needed. All of your new clothes could now also be made much more quickly using their new “Tuck Away Sewing Room” shown at bottom left of the page. This consisted of a folding double length sewing and cutting table, as well as a portable sewing machine all of which could be tucked away in your closet! It was that easy.
The ad below from 1941 illustrates one of the many styles that could be made using Singers newest electric machine. Singer also supplied a wide variety of different fabrics, and trims. Endless sewing supplies and patterns from all the major companies provided one stop shopping for everything women needed to make their own clothes.