Apr 1, 2013
Readers, there are so many mysteries in the universe: Do dogs go to heaven? What really happened to Jimmy Hoffa? Will we ever see a sequel to Imitation of Life?
But perhaps the biggest mystery of them all is why, in the early Seventies, American sewing pattern companies decided that what the home sewing market was really clamoring for were men's suit patterns. That's right folks, in the period of free love, Woodstock, and LSD, it was like, Time to stitch up suits for the menfolk!
I'm not talking just coordinating blazer and slacks, I'm talking actual suits, many even with vests.
Perhaps even more mysterious, however, is that this unexplained trend lasted throughout the Eighties and Nineties and there are still a few suit patterns in print (though most look like they were designed no later than the early Aughts).
You can even make a home-sewn tuxedo!
A little background: in the Nineteen-forties and Fifties there were a few men's sports jacket patterns out there, along with a handful (four? five?) of men's dress pants patterns. These were few and far between partly because men's styles hardly ever changed, and women -- the vast majority of home sewers out there -- were sewing mainly for themselves and their children.
Back when most men wore suits as a matter of course, especially those who worked in white collar jobs, men purchased their suits either ready-to-wear or had them custom-made by a tailor. Sewing a men's suit required tailoring skills that the average home sewer was unlikely to have, a lot of different supplies were needed, and the results had to look professional -- a men's suit was not a house dress.
Then in the mid- to late-Sixties, more men's commercial blazer patterns begin to appear, and then suddenly -- BOOM -- the suit pattern explosion.
Here are a few things which may have contributed to this boom, but I'm really grasping at straws here:
a) The development of polyester and other synthetics made sewing a suit at home a little easier. Also fusible interfacing and double knits.
b) New "funky" men's style trends that made men more interested in wearing the latest fashions, like loud plaids, bell bottom pants, and wide lapels. Think Shaft.
Today, these vintage men's suit patterns are so ubiquitous on eBay and Etsy, usually at such low prices (less than $10), and they're so often uncut, that I wonder how many people ever actually used them. Did you or anyone you know?
Readers, I ask you:
1) Were you aware of the 1970's Men's Suit Pattern Explosion (or MSPE)?
2) How do you explain it?
3) Will we ever see a return to loud plaids?
Happy April, everybody!