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Modern Miss

GailAnn | Posted in Feedback on Threads on

Many of us see a need to encourage the next generation of needlewomen.  Certainly, the editors of Threads have done their part with such ventures as  Sewstylish.

I recently came accross a lovely little publication.  8 1/4″ X 11 1/2″ format.  60 pages + 8 pages of ads and coupons.   It is “MODERN MISS:  Simplicity’s fashion magazine for home economists and their students!”  I adore it!  The issue I have in my possession is Fall-Winter 1957.

This would, of course, be an excellent addition to any sewing classroom.  I think it may fit into some of the life skills or parenting classes as well.

Simplicity patterns are prominently featured as are “1 yard skirts”.  There are articals about the virtues of wools and linens, interfacing and stories about fashion shows, health classes, vocational programs, and career opportunities for young women just out of high-school, as well as, stories about home ec classes across the country. 

Ads are placed for foundation garments, sanitary products, laundry supplies, self-care (good grooming), sewing machines, buttons, thread, and irons.  What I like the best, is in the front are coupons that can be cut out and sent in for free samples and booklets.

I’ve been out of high-school for some time now, but I am wondering whether this avenue of encouraging fashion sewing among young girls is being filled?  Gail


  1. Gloriasews | | #1

    I remember those 1-yard skirts!  I made several at the time.  Now I have to make sure the fabric is wider than 36", alas.  I also have a 1959 Simplicity sewing book, which is very well illustrated.  It was only $ .65 at the time. 


    1. GailAnn | | #2

      Cost is probably a huge factor in encouraging young ladies to sew.  I don't remember being required by Home Ec or 4H to buy anything more costly than the money I could earn by 2 or 3 hours babysitting on a Saturday afternoon.  Gail

      1. katina | | #3

        I wonder if Threads could do an article from our contributions on how/when/where we learnt to sew. Could be a one-time only column, maybe like the letter pages.


        1. AmberE | | #41

          I think that would be wonderful for the Nostalgia column.

      2. Gloriasews | | #4

        I don't think cost would be a huge factor in teaching your women/girls to sew in Home Ec.  A lot of these girls spend a lot of $ on their clothes, anyway.

        When I took sewing in Home Ec., we weren't limited to anything - we could choose the fabric, pattern, notions that we wanted, so everyone chose what they could afford (if price was a problem, which it was in my case, as I only earned $ .25/hr. babysitting). Unfortunately, some chose really difficult patterns that were beyond their skills/knowledge, so that probably made them give up & never try it again, eh?


        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #5

          When I took Home Ec, we were given guidelines to purchase fabric and patterns by.  For example, the pattern had to have a waistband or sleeves with a cuff, buttons or a zipper, facings-no linings.  Fabric must be listed on the pattern envelope, cannot be a knit, must be economical.  The Teacher actually showed us some suitable types of patterns, and some unsuitable so we knew the difference.  Then she showed us fabrics that we were to look for for those types of patterns.  It did limit us a bit, but kept us all on a level that we could actually all learn from and afford.  For first and second projects, this was great.  For our third project, we could choose what we wanted, but had to have the pattern approved first.  Cathy

          1. Gloriasews | | #6

            Obviously, your teacher was better than mine!  I made a cotton pique dress at the time, with little capped sleeves with pointed cuffs on them, button front & flared skirt.  Fitting was never included in the course.  I cut the dress to the pattern - result: the dress turned out fine, but the fitting was dismal.  I never wore that dress.  What a waste, eh?  I'm glad & surprised that I didn't give up then & there! (That was in grade 8.  In grade 7, my first sewing class in Home Ec., we made a plain white bibbed apron with a waistband & a pocket upon which we had to embroider our initial).  Imagine the next year making a dress already!  It should have been a skirt or something easier, but most of the girls chose dresses.  In high school, I was able to take just the sewing, not the Home Ec., which was good & increased my skills (better teachers, too).  That was in the 1950s.


          2. GailAnn | | #8

            Fitting is absolutely necessary, unless the ciriculum, is primarily household sewing such as pillowcases, towels, napkins, and tablecloths.  Which is the reason an End of the Semester "Fashion Show" is such an important part of any sewing class. 

            The "Fashion Show" allows the Modern Miss, not quite as accomplished in sewing, to improve her grade, by writing commentary, or programs, coordinating the girls as models, decorating, making and serving refreshments, or sending invitations.  Girls usually recieve valuable personal instruction in posture, public speaking and grooming as well as developing skills useful later  in debate, schollar bowl, or any future vocation where she may need to stand up in front of a critical gathering.


            Edited 6/26/2008 2:25 pm ET by GailAnn

          3. Gloriasews | | #9

            Wow - the Modern Miss had it all, it appears.  I feel so deprived now!  :)  O well, different locations had different ways of teaching, different classes, etc.  BTW, what is a 'schollar bowl'?


          4. GailAnn | | #17

            Schollar Bowl is a scholastic event.  In our town a high school student can "Letter" in Schollar Bowl, as if it were an athlectic sport.  A team representing one school travels to various other schools to pit the strength of thier academic knowlege against one-another.  Gail

          5. Gloriasews | | #24

            Schollar Bowl - very interesting.  I'd never heard of it before.  It sounds quite competitive.  And what is the 'letter'?  Obviously, to me, it's confusing. 

            In this country, we have 'intramural' events, where sports teams & debating clubs pit themselves against other schools, & glee clubs & drama clubs, have one day-long festival during the school year where they all perform, & a school wins a prize.  Spelling bees are big here, too.


          6. GailAnn | | #31

            Once upon a time, usually only boys, could win a chinelle letter badge (In our town of Liberty, the letter is an "L".  When I lived in Dowagiac, the letter was a "D", in Gower it was a "G"), about 6 or 8 inches high, to have sewn on their "Letterman's" jackets or sweaters, to prove their athlectic prowess in Team Sports. 

            Letters are highly sought after.

            I'm not a big fan of Team Sports, thus I see this as a good thing, but there is an opposing opinion afoot. 

            Anyway, in recent years, Letters have been available for those boys and girls who display excellence in other areas:  Music, Diving,  Debate Team, and Schollar Bowl, among them.


          7. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #35

            I always wondered what those letters were for and what the big deal was. Now I understand. Our athletes and scholars get certificates and medals or plaques. Not something you can exactly wear proudly in public ;)
            Thank you for explaining that. Cathy

          8. Gloriasews | | #37

            Thanks for the explanation.  My knowledge is now greater :)


          9. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #10

            I guess I was lucky. My grade 7 project was a green gingham apron with orange ties, and my inital embroidered on the pocket! Grade 8 was a skirt and shirt. Grade 9 was a blouse and a dress. Grade 10 was a skirt, blouse and Jacket. I had to give up Home Ec until almost the end of Grade 12, and Grade 13 when I could fit it in again, then I took it 3 semesters in a row. It always conflicted with the chemistry classes I needed to take. Cathy

          10. Gloriasews | | #13

            It looks like our American friends had better Home Ec. than we did, eh?  My Home Ec. was the same for sewing as yours, except for the dress in grade 8.  The jacket we made near the end wasn't lined, either.  We didn't have fashion shows at the end of the term, either.   I guess it was better than nothing, though, and must have sparked by creativity, as I made most of clothes through high school & ever since.  I've taken a couple of workshops along the way, but mostly learned on my own with the help of well illustrated books.


          11. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #16

            I was fortunate to be coached along by my Mom and my Grandmother.  I itched to learn so badly, that to keep me away from her machine, Mom got me a treadle machine for my 8th Christmas present.  I still have and use it.  In grade 7 I was finally allowed to use the electric machine!  Since then I have mostly made my own clothing, esp. in High School.  By the time I finally got to take Home Ec again, I was already a fairly accomplished sewer.  I ended up assisting the class with laying out and cutting patterns, threading machines and helping the students who were real beginners.  Because of this, the teacher disqualified me from any awards.  I didn't care, I was having too much fun.  That is when I decided that the path I had pursued to that point had been wrong and went on to take Home Ec at college instead of Sciences in University.  Good Choice.  Cathy

            Edited 6/27/2008 8:08 am ET by ThreadKoe

          12. Gloriasews | | #23

            What a great story!  That was a wonderful 8th birthday gift - you were obviously mature enough to appreciate it.  So, are you or were you a Home Ec. teacher?  That was SO unfair of that teacher not allowing you awards - obviously she felt threatened & REALLY annoyed that you were teaching, too, eh?  As we all know, some teachers are better than others, some have much bigger egos than others, but we learned from them (both the good & the bad) all along the way.  Thanks so much for sharing. Happy sewing!


          13. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #26

            No, I probably should have been, but I'm not.  I am an unoffical teacher.  I teach those who ask.  I do it in their homes or in mine.  I love to share my skills, esp. with kids and teens.  I have done a few group things when the girls were younger, and a few party projects for friends kids as well.  I am in the process of bringing it all together to make some sort of business out of it-slowly.  Cathy

          14. Gloriasews | | #27

            Good for you!  It sounds like a good idea & you could do it part-time to suit yourself, eh?  Good luck.


          15. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #28

            Thanks, now the girls are grown, got to do something for myself right?  Cathy

          16. Gloriasews | | #29

            Yes - your time has come.  It's amazing how much we put off while we're raising our families, eh?  There seems to be neither the time nor the money during those years.  At least you still have the energy to pursue this now - go for it - & good luck!


          17. kaitydid | | #20

            you had a grade 13?!

          18. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #21

            It was also known as OAC, a College/University preparation year. I am not sure, but in some places, it would be the equivalent to a junior college. Ontario has phased it out about 4 years ago. It is too bad actually, some kids are graduating as young as just 17, and are opting for a 2nd year of grade 12, even though they have qualified for their certificates. They take the extra classes they want for university, and they feel they are still to young to go. Cathy

            Edited 6/27/2008 11:43 am ET by ThreadKoe

          19. barb2cats | | #43

            My white bib apron, name embroidered on the pocket, I used for years. It is now hanging in the closet waiting for granddaughter (age 3) to grow into it. DD (now 33) wore it during her teen years. So far no stains have become permanent on it. IIRC it was 100% cotton -- maybe Indian Head??

            IIRC that Home Ec apron was made in 1954, and the 'pattern' was a series of squares and rectangles with a mimeograph sheet labeling the pieces, and explaining which piece attached to which. The teacher was a tarter. Satinstitch embroidery done over tissue paper, rather than allowing us to hot iron transfer our names onto the pockets and then embroider the names. She did not allow embroidery hoops either. I'd been embroidering for years by then, and really did not like the lack of precision the hoopless fabric caused.

            The dress I made in that same class, pattern size selected by the teacher, fit a family friend who was my mother's age, about 20-30 lbs heavier and 3 inches taller than I.  Teacher claimed the dress fit me perfectly!

            It's a good thing Mom was (and still is) an excellent seamstress, or I might have never developed the love of sewing. We still sew together one or two days most weeks.



          20. Gloriasews | | #44

            Your Home Ec. teacher sounds exactly like mine in grade 8 in 1953 - wonder if they were related? :)   How rigid they were, eh?  We both learned the mechanics of sewing that year, but couldn't wear the dresses we made, unfortunately.  As for the embroidering, I would have a terrible mess if I didn't use the hoop, but I think 'in the olden days' women didn't use hoops.  She obviously didn't want you to learn the 'easy' way.  How nice for you that your apron still lives on, has been well used, & is still in good shape, as well as being an 'antique' - or is it 'vintage'? :)


          21. barb2cats | | #45

            I'm calling my apron vintage.  Yes, I agree that our teachers must have been relatives. I do not think I've encountered more than one or two other teachers who were as strict during my own student years nor in the years I taught school. Seems funny to write that in the past tense. I have now retired, and am looking forward to a less cluttered house and more sewing time. Now, I just need to force myself to get up when the alarm rings and get started. The snoose button and a leisurely breakfast can certainly eat up time.


          22. Gloriasews | | #46

            I've been retired for 2-1/2 years & time has really slowed down.  I only set my alarm now if I have an early appointment, but I'm usually up by 7:30 anyway.  I'm still trying to declutter after moving in April, when I got rid of literally tons of stuff, but I'm not unpacked yet, either - there is always tomorrow if it's too hot today to tackle :).  The faster I get it done, though, the soon I can get back to sewing.

            As for the 'past tense', it really doesn't seem that 'past', does it?  We're still young in our heads, thank heavens :).  Have a great day.


          23. GailAnn | | #7

            Those requirements presented a "level playing field" where all could learn, many accomplish, and some excell.  Just like life.  Gail 

          24. sewchris703 | | #11

            I remember making a gym bag and a gathered skirt for 7th grade sewing.  In 8th grade, I made bell bottom pants and a sailor top that I cut short and added elastic to make it a midriff top.  That outfit I wore in the fashion show at the end of the class.  In 9th grade, I made a green plaid (uneven plaid if I remember correctly) dress with a pleated skirt.  The instructor didn't want me to make it as she was afraid it was going to be too difficult.  But I got my way and the dress turned out perfect.  I also made a corduroy 3-piece suit--lined jacket, pants, and skirt in the 9th grade.  But then I went into the 7th grade sewing class alreadly knowing how to use patterns and sew clothing.  I learned on Barbie doll patterns when I was 9-10.


          25. Gloriasews | | #12

            You did really well - a whole wardrobe while you were in school.  Good for you.  It probably helped that you had sewn prior to grade 7, but, nevertheless, you learned all the important stuff by the time you were out of high school. 


          26. sewchris703 | | #15

            I wasn't an ideal student.  I went into the 7th grade sewing class as a know-it-all and that attitude didn't change in 10th grade.  None of the instructors that I had ever saw my projects between beginning and end.  I never asked for help or waited to be told what to do next.  Other than the pattern making class in 2007, those were the only formal education in dressmaking that I had.


          27. Gloriasews | | #22

            Too bad about your teachers, but then, your 'difficulty' probably didn't help matters :).  Are you still difficult? haha   Nevertheless, you are still sewing today, so you did learn something along the way - that's what counts!  Thanks for sharing your teen years.  Happy sewing!


          28. sewchris703 | | #30

            Nothing can keep me from sewing.  I even would sit and sew when I was supposed to be on bed/couch rest when I was pregnant.  I'd sew until I  couldn't stand the pain in my feet.  Then go lay down until the pain became tollerable again.

            I have learned 90% of my sewing knowledge from mentors instead of formal classes.  I learned alterations when I worked in an alterations shop; I learned production sewing by working for 2 custom drapery places and one rtw square dance dress company; I learned bridal and special occasions at my current employment--the bridal shop.  I learned to knit from my mom and crochet from my mother-in-law.  I think it was my grandmother who taught me how to embroider and a girl friend taught me counted cross stitch.  And I'm self-taught in other needlearts areas.


          29. GailAnn | | #33

            You are a blessed and wealthy woman!  The knowlege you've gained, and the sistership you have enjoyed can never be taken from you.  Do you have daughters?  Imagine the broad and rich legasy you have to leave!  Gail

          30. sewchris703 | | #34

            I tried teaching my dds how to sew.  The oldest knows the basics but only sews if I'm right there to take her through it step by step.  My 2nd never did get the hang of it.  But my 3rd is teaching herself to sew with her roommate's sewing machine.  She asks me questions long distance.  So there is still hope.  Of the 3, she is the one that just might have inherited my sewing ability.  I have always been able to translate her drawings into clothing and costumes for her.   She even draws the seams, darts, gathers, etc into the picture.


          31. Gloriasews | | #36

            You received an excellent education from your friends & relatives & all the jobs you had (& you got paid while you learned at the jobs, rather than having to pay for classes).  How lucky you are!


          32. GailAnn | | #18

            I guess I "kinda" thought that was the idea..................By the time we graduated from high school we should be able to sew every necessary item of clothing, as well as any necessary cloth household item.  Thus, equiping us to care for ourselves and our homes in the world beyond high school.    Gail

          33. Gloriasews | | #25

            Even though our Home Ec. wasn't so detailed as yours, I still continued on sewing for myself, my kids, my husband, my home,  & enjoyed every minute of it, learning as I went, with not many failures - until my body matured & fitting became a problem :).  I believe that, once you know the basics, you can handle pretty well anything that you decide to make - & I refuse to give up on the fitting!


          34. GailAnn | | #32

            I still sew quite happily for my "mature body", but I've given up on ever looking anything like the pictures on the envelopes, or in the fashion magazines.  The sweet young things should enjoy their sweet young looks.  While we glory in the wisdom of our age.  Gail

          35. Gloriasews | | #38

            I agree with you about the pictures on the pattern, compared to me, but we make the item to flatter ourselves, don't we?  Also, I do think the sweet young things really do enjoy their bodies (more than we did at that age).  And yes, I'm older & wiser, too - a good thing!


          36. sewelegant | | #47

            I think your reference to learning how to sew on Barbi doll patterns is an excellent way for young girls to want to learn how to sew.  Like many who confess to their age in this forum I was a product of the 50's high school scene and we did not have anything like the Barbi doll patterns to refer to.  I remember having a doll and wanting to make a dress, but could not figure out how to do it and ended up with a piece of fabric and rubber bands to hold it on.  My mother sewed but she was not adept at nor had the time to sit and figure this out for me.  A Barbi doll pattern would have been the perfect answer.

          37. sewchris703 | | #48

            I got my Barbie doll in 1960 and my first Barbie pattern, maybe the next year or maybe 2 years later.  It was an Advance pattern for 35 cents.  I still have it.  Before mom bought the pattern, we would buy a printed panel that had the clothes printed on it.  You just cut out the pattern pieces and sew them up.  The directions were also printed on the panel.


  2. User avater
    purduemom | | #14

    Sadly, my middle school building did away with the sewing portion of the related arts rotation this year.  The sewing lab became an electronic music lab! 

    Truthfully, I believe the home ec sewing program began its downward spiral when it became co-ed.  Making a half slip, basic skirt, etc. where patterns and fabric had to be purchased individually became sewing a pillow, locker caddy or shorts from a kit.  I can remember in 6th grade, taking a new pair of Levi's and covering them with hand embroidery - oh, now I wish I still had those! 

    One look at the way many young girls dress and it is clear that there has been little intervention when it comes to fashion, foundation garments, etc.  Thank goodness for 4-H! Even though I sewed and started my DD sewing garments for herself early on, I don't know if she would have been as motivated to push herself (or I to push her)without the competition of 4-H. Both of us learned more during her 10 years than I would ever have imagined and have so many wonderful memories.  

    I continue to help with the County clothing project, hoping to foster a love for sewing at even the most basic level. 

    As is evident from reading Gatherings, those of us who sew have quite a sense of humor and seem to be just plain fun!! Why would anyone NOTwant to join us?


    1. GailAnn | | #19

      Amen!  And bless your good work.   You have a ministry in every sense of the word.  Gail

  3. stitchagain | | #39

    Would not it be cool if Threads would periodically reprint an article from those old timey sewing magazines?

    It would sort of be like the vintage garments they sometimes feature. 

    It would show the difference between instruction then and now.

    1. GailAnn | | #40

      Yes, yes, indeed.

    2. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #42

      You are Brilliant! Wonderful idea. Cathy

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