Continuing on the theme of fashion and dressmaking education today and in the last 100 years, I am interested to consider why have education curriculums changed so significantly in the past decade- when dressmaking, needlework and sewing skills were very prominent. I recently looked at the work completed by my Grandmother in her education in the late 1930’s- a series of beautiful samples of finishes and seams, all neatly pressed, labeled and with perfect precision.
I am fascinated by these samples, with the millimetre care and attention to perfecting this technique. Learning these high-end sewing skills are the basis of a career, knowledge and opportunity for a future in garment construction. Do fashion courses teach to this level of detail today? Are we losing the knowledge in education of how to develop a pattern and create a garment? Or is it a matter of lack of learning the basics first?
What core sewing and construction skills of garments are covered on the courses you teach? Do you think Fashion Design students should have a strong grounding in sewing and construction? I remember at University and being told you should as a designer, have an understanding and ability to make your ideas- otherwise how do you know if they are going to work? I think this is very true, and an ethos I pass onto my current students.
Sewing, in my opinion, is a life skill, and it should have a presence in the national curriculum which sadly is not so prominent any more. Sewing can be a career, a specialism within the fashion industry, and we should be upskilling individuals to be able to produce detailed sewn items. Such as when Mary Portas began the Kinky Knickers factory in 2012- upskilling out of work individuals and allowing them access to a career! Recently I attended the Disseminating Dress conference, where there was a paper about ‘Educational Needlecraft’ by Margaret Swanson and Ann Macbeth, published 1911. This book opens with:
‘This book represents the first conscious and serious effort to take Needlecraft from its humble place as the Cinderella of Manual arts, and to show how it may become a means of general and even higher education.’ (McMillan. M. Preface, P1)
Educational Needlecraft then maps out a creative curriculum, split by age, lesson and topic. It covers a wide arrangement of needlecraft such as darning, hemming and seaming in great detail for ages 6-24yrs old. I am interested to read how this book is set out, and curriculum developed. The preface discusses the creative development of the student when young, needing colours and adventure, and then more precision when older. Also a social responsibility is discussed in reference to changing fashions and children wearing hand down worn out clothes. This preface references how 12-year old girls would have the abilities to cloth themselves and others. Today many of my teenage students would not be able to create garments for themselves, let alone when they were 12. The detail in this book, first published in 1911, mirrors the detail I see in the folder my grandmother collated samples and careful notes she made of the lessons she attended.
Why do you think this was this an important life skill in the 1900’s, but does not appear in main stream education today? Should we blame fast fashion? I would love to hear your opinion upon the importance of sewing in society today. I am very interested to hear how in different countries, the skill of sewing may be delivered differently or have more of a social importance. Many countries around the world produce most of the clothes we wear today, I am interested in how these countries teach individuals to have access to these careers.
Swanson, M, Macbeth A. Preface by M. Macmillan (1911) Educational Needlecraft. London: Longmans, Green and Co.