Friday, May 14, 2010

Church World Service 20 - Men's Work Clothes Set

Before 1963

This pattern was produced by McCall for Church World Service (CWS).  McCall has a long tradition of cooperative ventures; see their pattern supporting the Red Cross during WWI, Red Cross Pattern 35, Taped Hospital Shirt.  It would be interesting to know if McCall produced the CWS pattern gratis or simply at cost.  It would also be interesting to know if McCall did the pattern drafting or if CWS hired this out on their own.  I'm guessing that the somewhat amateurish illustration was produced by someone at CWS.

A section on the instruction sheet explains the goals:

Personal dignity and self-respect -- these are the things you provide for refugees, disaster victims and other needy persons overseas through the United Clothing Appeal of the Churches.
New clothing, in the styles requested by our friends abroad, will represent in a most meaningful way the Christian concern and compassion of the American churches for those who desire above everything else to stand on their own feet.
The pattern reflects a time when women (always the primary consumers of home sewing patterns) had the time and the skills needed to sew for others.

This set of work clothes has been simplified in ways that meet the specific needs of both the seamstress and the recipient.  Note that the sleeves are just hemmed, because setting in cuffs takes time and can be fiddly to do well.  A hemmed sleeve that is too short might be unattractive, but it won't flap and get in the way an unbuttoned cuffed sleeve does and can be easily rolled up. The shirt front is closed with gripper snaps, quicker than having to make button holes and sew on buttons, and as long as the snaps don't pull out, maintenance free for the wearer - no buttons to lose and have to replace.  The elastic waist bands in the slacks and shorts will assure a broad range of fit.  Although the pattern doesn't call this out, made up in cotton broadcloth, these clothes could be used for pajamas.

Church World Service is still in operation.   A few simply drawn patterns for infants clothing are available, but for the most part the expectation is that donors will supply purchased clothing.


Diane Shiffer said...

That is so neat... I am really touched by this pattern and the description. It reminds me of Dorcas in the Bible (incidentally, my favorite woman of the Bible) who sewed garments for the poor... I can't wait to check out that link.

Nancy said...

very neat piece of history. Not sure how I feel about elastic waisted men's pants, but it makes sense when you don't know who you're sewing for.

Vande Historic Costuming said...

There is still a kind of modern equivalent - the pillowcase dress - but it certainly doesn't reflect as much skill, or time taken, as your pattern.... said...

I'm really intrigued by cooperative ventures and the social aspects of work, particularly charity work. Did the makers work individually at home, or did they get together at their churches and have full days of cutting out, marking, sewing, finishing, tagging, and bundling? How did they raise the money for the supplies? Were the efforts large enough for them to be able to negotiate wholesale prices?

Since I picked up this pattern I've seen another CWS pattern for clothes for children in Asia; I'd love to find out if CWS produced a utilitarian pattern for women's clothing.

While I personally find these clothes pretty unappealing, I have heard from multiple sources that from the recipient's perspective, there is a real difference between being given used clothing and being given new clothing. New clothing, while possibly very ugly, is yours. I think this is what CWS means when they speak of dignity.