In Australia today, almost any woman, regardless of age, will recall when asked, a mother, grandmother, aunt or neighbour bartering her sewing skills between family and friends, or earning an income from paying clients. Working within their homes, these women provided a means for acquiring clothing and managing individual wardrobes. Yet little is known of these women, and of their experiences of working as a dressmaker.
This discussion explores the experiences of Australian women who sewed within their homes for paying clients in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Connected by the three strong narrative threads of what they did, how they did it and where they did it, the examination of these women’s stories reveals how the dressmakers managed the challenges of combining family responsibilities and paid work within their homes, and brings to light the contribution they made to popular notions of fashionability, style, and dress in mid-20th century Australian society.
DR JENNY-LYNN POTTER is an Academic with experience in teaching and research across the fields of Sociology, Health and Behavioural Sciences, and Gender and Sexuality. This lecture draws on material taken from Jenny-Lynn’s doctoral research, ‘For Fun or Profit’: Women Working as Home Based Dressmakers in Post War Australian Society, (La Trobe University, 2015), bringing together her Academic interests with her first great love – the making of clothing and fashion.