Not even the most poorly paid shipping clerk

One more from Why Men Fail:

Not even the most poorly paid shipping clerk would dream of trying to make his own shirts, and confidential investigation would probably reveal that mighty few darn their own socks.  Yet the cities are full of women on march larger salaries who not only make their own clothes, but cook their own meals and do their own laundry.

So in 1927, it was more unusual to cook for yourself than it was to make your own clothes?  When did that flip?


5 thoughts on “Not even the most poorly paid shipping clerk

  1. olderwoman says:

    That’s not quite how I read that. To me it reads as if it takes for granted that women cook and do laundry, and men never do, and is remarking on the gender difference in women making their own clothes and men not. It seems to be seeming surprised that relatively well-off women made their own clothes. Although, on your side, I’m pretty sure that a hundred + years earlier, gentlewomen were supposed to do sewing and mending, while laundry and cooking were done by servants.

  2. olderwoman says:

    Oh, regarding now, I don’t know all the numbers, but cooking is the household job men are most likely to do and laundry the least. I think few sew any more. I was told by friends that there are New Yorkers who never cook, always eat out and store things in their ovens. But I don’t think that is the custom outside New York. However, the rise in restaurants and fast food surely implies that families are eating home cooked meals only part of the time. And home cooking itself often involves food that was largely prepared elsewhere and is just warmed up at home.

  3. valuevar says:

    As olderwoman implies: the phrasing is clearly humorous (“confidential investigation”?), though, as olderwoman again said, there may have been a class of women who made their own clothes yet had a cook do their cooking and a washerwoman do their laundry (or had one maid to do both).

    Also: I don’t know about the US, but, in much of the world, ready-to-wear became dominant only around the 60s. (I am guessing that the shift in the US came at some earlier point in the 20th century, but not before.) Before that point, people got shirts made at the haberdasher’s, suits could be made by at tailor (expensive) and so could dresses (even more expensive?), but most women made most of their own dresses, as well as children’s clothing, say.

    Burda started including patterns for clothes in the postwar period (1952, Wikipedia tells me) and was an international success.

  4. valuevar says:

    I”n 1923, The New York Times reported on the decline of the dressmaking business brought about by the increasing popularity of women’s ready-to-wear. The reporter interviewed the executive chairman of the Associated Dress Industries of America, who spelled out the change in women’s buying habits. According to him, it was no wonder that women faced with the need to acquire fabrics, trims, and notions used in making a garment; to find the time to work out the design of the garment with the dressmaker; to schedule several fittings and alterations; and finally to end up with a garment that “just screams ‘home-made,’ and does not bear that chic, natty air of a garment designed, cut, and tailored by experienced craftsmen and artists,” would prefer shopping for a ready-made garment.”

  5. […] 4 Jan 2018:  Why Men Fail, Morris Fishbein and William White, eds. (1928) (second post) […]

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