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Men in Fashion:

Do people react differently when you mention men who sew or men who design? Is there a bias in labelling women as dressmakers and men as tailors when these are fairly different professions? It seems that in my personal experience the "general public" assume that men do not sew. Well, perhaps watching the popular Great British Sewing Bee of 2020 may change your mind, as five of the twelve contestants were men, as well as Matt Gage making it to the finals. Another contestant Mark Francis left his job after the series to pursue a career in sewing, and specialises in mens and ladies wear. Another popular "male who sews" is Peter Lappin, a guy from New York who has gained much popularity through his sewing.


Brave the Bias:

In junior school girls learnt to sew and boys did woodwork. In secondary school I took Home Economics as a final exam subject where we learnt, amongst other things, to cook and sew. I took the subject because I already knew I wanted to work in fashion. Although I learnt to sew when I was younger, it may have seemed a strange hobby for me because although I was creative, I was an extreme tom-boy. It may have seemed unusual that I wanted to design clothes but my incentive was to change people's outlook, and probably to design more boyish clothing for girls! We had one guy who chose Home Economics and bless him for sticking it out because it was not a popular choice for boys.


When I studied fashion at college however, about half of the class were male, and the more we studied, the more we all realised how many top designers are male. So men absolutely do sew, and do it exceptionally well. My fashion college director was male as was my design lecturer and sewing tutor. Sewing has that combination of creativity and mechanics which many men seem to excel at.


This is Not a New Thing:

I have a vintage Singer sewing machine. I bought it from an elderly gentleman neighbour who was 97 at the time. He sewed and repaired his own clothing, no stigma attached. There is much history of men who sew, including sailors and soldiers who had to sew as there was no other option! They regularly had "make and mend" days which were, I guess, like bank holidays as a work day which wasn't regular work. Tailoring as a trade began in the Middle Ages where cloth sellers were requested to "tailor" the cloth to be worn under armour. During the Renaissance, fashions started to change more drastically and people moved on from sewing their own clothes at home, to hiring the services of a tailor.


Tailoring is referred to 'making custom clothing for men" which I believe is why we associate the craft itself with the male gender. The art of dressmaking is fairly self explanatory, as it involves making clothing for women. These descriptions do not actually define the gender of the professional, only those whom they supply.


The Sew Bro:

The rise of men who sew have now been titled "Sew Bro's" which adds that "manly" gender edge. I believe that men who sew often push themselves further as they make ladies-wear for wives and girl friends or even drag for boyfriends (as Matt Gage does), as well as making menswear. There are sometimes boys who sign up to sewing classes but it is still not a popular choice for them. I will soon be launching regular sewing classes for kids and I am keen to find ways of drawing more boys in. In fact I need to find ways of drawing more girls in too as sewing is also seen as a "dated" craft. I do however believe that there is a change of attitudes due to lockdowns and our recent time finding things to do at home!


Sewing blogs by men are also ever increasing. A good page to follow is "Male Devon Sewing" by Jamie Kemp who was also a Sewing Bee contestant and his sewing page has continued to rise in popularity over a few years. He was taught to sew as a child by his nan, then started sewing again when he was planning his wedding and discovered the cost of getting tweed waistcoats made for his groomsmen. He is now a full time dad, sewing blogger and tailoring teacher.

A stitch in Time:

Maybe in hindsight sewing has never been a "ladies only" hobby or trade. Although home sewing could do with more media coverage to lessen the stigma, I do have hope for the future with the rise of gender equality (and racial equality and age equality!) where anyone can express themselves creatively and learn skills which will benefit them throughout their lives. Home sewing, tailoring and dressmaking are beneficial in many ways other than a career choice, but you'll have to read my other blogs to find out why. Or try out sewing for yourself and enjoy the mix of focus, creativity and dexterity while also developing patience while using a seam ripper!


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