From The Archive: Needles and Notions: Sewing-Inspired Tattoos

This was originally posted by Lauren Michel in August 2010.  Like clothing, tattoos have long been used as a form of adornment. What is your job field and do you cover up? Do you ask your employees to hide tattoos?

Among the many delightful personality traits common among my generation y students is their love of tattoos. While I, personally, am ambivalent on the subject, I still appreciate well executed skin art when I see it.

One of my courses this fall addresses personal and professional appearance. With visible tattoos being common among generation x and y workers (and their bosses), the rules of professional dress and tattoos have changed in recent years.

For this course, I use a textbook last updated in 2004, and although that is relatively old for a fashion text, I use it because it is still very appropriate for the requirements of the course. When it comes to subjects like tattoos, I bring in my own more recent sources, including information on how tattoos are perceived by different generations and those from varying cultural backgrounds, and the process of laser tattoo removal (it turns out it is not nearly as quick and simple as some students think it might be).

I don’t tell my students not to get tattoos, but I do gently recommend that they consider how they may at some point in their lives have a situation (such as employment, for example) in which all ink must be covered all the time. We also talk about health regulations in the tattoo industry (in my region, for example, a business license is all that is required to operate a tattoo studio), and safety when getting a tattoo.

To see images of contemporary tattoos from around the world, the internet is a great resource (pre-internet, your local beach,or tattoo magazines and conventions were your only options). There are several large tattoo photo-sharing websites, but for ease of browsing, quality of photography, and interesting subject matter, my favorite at the moment is flickr. I find sewing related tattoos particularly fascinating. Here are some of the highlights from a recent flickr search.

For further reading, you may enjoy the following:

Delio, Michelle (1994). Tattoo: The Exotic Art of Skin Decoration. St Martin’s Press: New York, NY.

Green, Terisa (2005). Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo. New American Library: New York, NY.


Image Credits: Each image in this post, while hosted on WornThrough, is linked where it was originally posted on flickr. Additionally, links to the flickr profile pages for the users who posted these photos to flickr are included below.

Credits, from top:

  1. Sewing machine: SecretLentil
  2. Needle and thread: LDCdesigns
  3. Pin cushion: kelly_helene
  4. Scissors: imagingermonkey
  5. Sewing machine: kelly_helene

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