Oh Fashion, where art thou?

Bear with this blog post as I'm transcribing notes on the back of envelopes instead of free-blogging. I never write anything out longhand any more (yay! technology!) so this should be interesting. I'm primarily right handed but because of my disability, I tire easily when writing things out. How I ever managed to get out of high school writing, I dunno. Perhaps it was because computers were just being used in homes by the time I hit middle school. I digress. I was inspired by Peter's post over at MPB to get back to writing more about what I love. Sewing. The fashioning of garments, specifically. And even more specifically, my crusade against crappy clothing for boys. I am not alone, apparently, in my quest for sartorial splendiforousness. Tim Gunn & Carson Cressley also have a "thing" against crap clothing. But school age kids - boys especially - seems to be my mission in life. Go figure. Must be the fact that I have one of those models at home. On with the blog...

It's a fact that home sewers are left with few choices when sewing menswear. Look at any pattrern book and you'll see it's true. This is even more evident when sewing for school aged boys. As a mom of a boy, I made a decision when he was a baby to no let him dress in "typical" Ready To Wear (RTW, hereafter). I was going to sew all his clothes. And I did for the most part until he went to grade school. The exception was "grubby" clothes and t-shirts and those were relegated to "water day" at preschool and playing in the yard. Yes, my son was the infant in dress slacks, dress shirt, sweater vest and tie. He would ask to wear his "bow" to church when he was 3 and 4 years old.

Gratuitous Kid Pic: Christmas 2010 - Almost 5 years old
After kindergarden things got a bit dicier. The reason for the shift away from a more formal look? A lack of decent pattern and the expense involved.

Anyone who says home sewing is cheaper or "more economical" than buying RTW is either lying or able to score deals that the rest of us mere mortal aren't privy to.WHen I can buy a pair of pants for the price of a zipper, why would I bother sewing?

Setting aside the cost factor for a moment, let's examine just how badly the deck is stacked against home sewers for boys that are not infants/toddlers. Cute baby clothes for boys exist. Toddler clothes can be adorable, too. For our purposes, a toddler wears a size 3 or smaller. I know I'm being arbitrary, but my almost 7 year old wears a size 4/5, so I'm going with that. But it's as if they suddenly STOP needing clothes once the attend grade school. In the current catalogs, it's painfully obvious that boys are being given the shaft.

Simplicity has EIGHT pages of boys' patterns. ALL of which also contain the grown man's counterpart. With one pattern per page, they were broken down thusly:

1 PJs - including DOG pjs. A dog? SRSLY? Are we equating men with animals now? Or am I overthinking this? What if I don't have a grown man OR a dog? What am I supposed to do with all those extra pattern pieces? Wallpaper with them?
I can haz pjz?

1 boxer shorts - which according to Tim Gunn are ALWAYS the wrong answer.

2 - yes, TWO - sets of different "Western" shirts/vests

2 Shirt/vest combinations. One might have had bow ties. Again, bowties - always the wrong answer.

1 short sleeve shirt/cargo shorts combination. With the most abominable shirt fabric in the history of ever. Cargo shorts - ALWAYS the wrong answer. But don't take my word for. Take Tim Gunn's. Seriously. The man is a GENIUS.

1 "sportswear" or "dressy casual" long sleeve shirt/long pants.

In contrast, there are ONE HUNDRED TWENTY SEVEN pages for girls. Even allowing for some duplicates because that's how Simplicity rolls when they offer a pattern in 2 size groupings for girls, that is a HUGE disparity. You do the math. The worst part of it is that there's no FASHION involved. No DESIGN. It's all just "Plain Jayne".
The Man They Call Jayne - source
In some cases there are "unisex" items for kids under age 10, but I'm not counting those since generally they are pyjamas. Simplicity is by no means the only pattern company guilty of fashion sexism. McCall's, Vogue & Butterick, along with Kwik Sew, are ALMOST as bad. The one pattern company that typically does a good job of having a decent amount of boys' wear with some actual STYLE to it is Burda. Unfortunately, the Burda catalog wasn't available at my local fabric mega mart this morning when I was flipping the pages. And while I will sit at a table and count patterns on the pages, I draw the line at hand-checking each pattern envelope in the drawers.
I would do anything for love, but I won't do that.

What do we want? Better sewing patterns for boys!
When do we want them? Yesterday!

My personal pattern collection numbers over 800 and roughly 75% of them are vintage. I've noticed a trend with patterns dating before the 1980s - there was a decent variety of boys' and mens' fashions with more visual interest. And not just in the trainwreck 1970s wide label/bell bottom phenomenon. Even in the more "conservative" mid-century, mens' & boys' fashions had appeal and style lines that were interesting and offered a respite from the t-shirt/elastic waist cargo shorts trend that seems to permeate boys' clothing today.

There is a distinct void in boys' fashion today between toddlerhood and adulthood. And we wonder why young adult males don't know how to dress anymore... Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting a return to the the three piece suit to mow the lawn - not that that model ever existed - but there needs to be a happy medium.

Maybe one way to revive fashion for young men and boys would be to return to school uniforms and stricter dress codes. I'm not suggesting that every school should adopt a Dalton Academy Warblers-esque uniform. But something clearly needs to be done. There's NOTHING wrong with button-shirts and ties. Harry Potter and his chums saw to that.
My children attend a public school with a uniform. Polo shirts for boys and girls - q'uelle horor! with khaki, navy or black pants/shorts for everyone and skirts/jumpers for girls. I don't know WHAT would happen if I sent my son to school in a kilt or a bona fide skirt like Marc Jacobs. But that is a subject for another day. All I can say is that if girls must be forced to wear polo shirts (ick), then boys should be allowed to wear skirts. Fair is fair, after all.

In closing, I think I'd like to see a little bit more formality in every day life. What say you all?


meridith said...

i have a friend whose son (about your son's age maybe a year or two older) wears SUITS all the time.

K2 said...

My son is about 3 years older than yours. I don't sew for him for the same reasons you list. Cost being primary. Why sew a t-shirt for him when I can buy them so cheap? Of course, finding t-shirts without corporate logos or sassy sayings on them is also difficult. Luckily he goes to a school with a uniforms. Navy slacks, white polo, and a navy sweater vest or cardigan on top.

Nina Suluh said...

Thanks so much for your lovely comments! Uniforms for everyone!