Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Singer Sewing Centers (1951)

Good morning!
Look at all these beautiful 1950-1951 fashions! Did I poach these full-color photographs from a Sears and Roebuck catalog? A high-fashion copy of midcentury Vanity Fair? Nope! Actually, each of these ladies is modeling a McCall's sewing pattern! And all the patterns, fabric, sewing notions...seems like everything but the permanant wave, lipstick, and sling-backs can be made courtesy of Singer Sewing Centers. What a place it would have been!

Considering how few people in my age group sew these days (excluding all you fabulous retro seamstresses out know I'm jealous!), the only places I could think of to buy rick-rack and thimbles are big-box craft retailers (Jo-Ann's, Hobby Lobby, etc) or an ever-shrinking section at the back of old Walmarts (where most of the inventory has to do with doing your wedding on a shoestring). Imagine what a solely-devoted-to-sewing superstore, maybe conveniently located in the town square in central Anywhere, U.S.A., must have been like in 1950!

Remember how all the girls in Sonny's birthday party photo looked like they were plucked from a Happy Days costuming session? Well, how I Love Lucy is the polka dot dress on the right? Some stereotypes of fifties' dress are actually authentic! Whodathunkit?
Whoever did this ad campaign was stuck with the unenviable task of making the operation of sewing machines look glamorous. It's easy to carry off an air of sophistication and mystery in the finished product of a Vogue pattern dress; it's a little harder to look soignée with your finger stuck in bobbin-setting part as you try not to run a hole through your living flesh. Or when you have to take out the stitches in a crooked seam AGAIN. Yet! I think they were somewhat successful in conveying that take-charge-it's-not-even-that-difficult attitude that makes people like me want to buy a sewing machine. And that's something! I get intimidated thinking about threading a needle. Yet the promise of being able to make my own tailor-made, red and white candy striped playsuit SINGS OUT TO ME from this ad.

One thing you can count on when you buy a Singer Sewing Machine-- your living room curtains are going to look awesome. Can you see the wishful thinking put into this set decoration detail? Any kind of curtains you want! You can make those, like, practically first thing! The two top sewing machines I like the best-- especially the one on the right, which looks kind of like a dresser or side table you would see in Jean Harlow's bedroom. Just to the right of her polar bear rug. Side note: I wish I had a bedroom like Jean Harlow.

One thing I thought was pretty neat about the buying-a-Singer process is the promise, with each sewing machine sold, of eight lessons at the Singer Sewing Center from a bonafide professional seamstress. I love how the model meant to be that seamstress in the pictures below looks like a chic, efficient, capable woman in that fifties', Barbara Stanwyck mold. Look how intensive the one-on-one work being done here is! It inspires confidence as to the thoroughness of the course-- but speaking personally, it might take more than eight lessons to make a dressmaker outta this gal.

How am I going to get to this so-called Singer Sewing Center class, you ask? What if my town doesn't boast a location? Well, if they have them in Jackson, MS, Fremont, NB, and Billings, MT, I'm pretty sure they'll have one within Oldsmobile driving distance of  your 1951 hamlet. I love how the storefronts aren't uniform--  back when revamping an old, solid building made way more sense to people than tearing one down to make sure all the locations were cookie-cutter alike (I'm still mad at you, any-name-brand-drugstore-in-America), these locations feature the distinctive first initial in the front window and the brand name in letters. Isn't that more than enough to distinguish the store as being what it is?

Look at the above store in the lower right hand corner (confusing enough?)-- the one in Minneapolis. Here's the "think pink" interior of the same place!! Do you love it?

Classes in progress at the store. There's Barbara Stanwyck's sister again!

And if you weren't convinced by all the niceties thus far presented to you, think of the savings! I really like the "spend money to save money" angle of these ad bylines. 

Did your mother or grandmother sew? Did she have a Singer in a place-of-pride in your house growing up? If you sew, what do you like or dislike about the shift from sewing-only stores (like Hancock's) to everything-craft-plus-home-decor-plus-sewing stores?

That's all she wrote for today...see you guys tomorrow!


  1. Whoopee! Today I packed my Singer sewing book in my bag to brush up on my welt pocket procedural. It is the very self-same book pictured here. Kismet!! And, yes, there are at least "1000 illustrations".

  2. The Elizabeth Lefoldt character in ."The Help" would love to frequent these shops!

  3. I can't believe they gave away free classes with purchase. How awesome is that? I really could have used those. My Singer is a hand-me-down and I've pretty much only used it to make one belly-dancing crop top and not very well at that. The sewing machine is now in the closet in the guest bedroom where it belongs. (I'd actually really love to be a crafty person but I end up with crafting ADHD.)

    My grandmother once told me that she was deliriously happy when northwest Arkansas finally had enough department stores to ensure that she'd never ever have to sew anything ever again. Of course, she also told me she once sewed through her finger, so she could be a bit biased.



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