Let's set the platform first here. This topic has been brewing with me for a long time as I have been witnessing its expression online repeatedly, each time with quite a sting. Now, I know you are immediately going to jump to an assumption here. You are going to say, " Bunny is an older woman. She is feeling slighted. So what? So she writes a blogpost." No. This topic crosses a broad spectrum from our newest sewists to our oldest and most experienced. They all have prejudiced assumptions made about their abilities, their skills, THEIR STYLE, their experience and more. It is across the decades of sewing experience and practice and really needs to be acknowledged, discussed and stopped.
Ageism and the Sewing Community
Ageism is practiced, like all prejudice, from a viewpoint, one nurtured by upbringing and ignorance and reinforced by our culture, media, workplace, and social associations. Let me give you a perfect recent example.
That was Ageism in the Sewing Community.
It is a good thing my daughters weren't being taught by this teacher as I would have gone straight to the Superintendent of the school district and rattled some serious chains.
You may think you don't see Ageism in the Sewing Community but it is there every day. At least every day I see someone post a lovely dress or outfit, beautifully made and fitted and someone asks/says "Wow, how old are you? and the maker responds with her age. What then proceeds is a lot of "Wow, you don't look 63!" or fifty or 70 or whatever the age is. I am going to paraphrase Gloria Steinem here when she was interviewed on her fiftieth birthday by some famous journalist, forget who.
Journalist: I can't believe you are fifty. You look great.
Steinem: This is what fifty looks like.
Can we just tell our makers they are beautiful, fabulous in their new outfit, made an incredible garment, the fit is amazing, etc. Why does their age have to be a measure of their accomplishment here and asked about? I see this over and over and it bugs the heck out of me.
There is more to this topic before you think I am being one sided here. How many negative pages have you read on social media about "entitled Millenials"? There are scores and scores in the sewing community. I have read many of these types of comments, actually pages, just on PR. Different generations do things differently and all generations inherit the future. Millennials seem to be advancing in age and a newer generation of sewists is on the horizon now as well. Newer sewists are just as guilty of Ageism as the longer experienced. I've often witnessed an assumption of lack of computer capability by older sewists on the part of younger sewists. Another is the assumption that if the knowledge is not from Youtube it is not worthy of learning and therefore experience is devalued. That is a big one I see too often. Newer sewists need to assume nothing about experienced sewists and what and how they learned all they know and vice versa. It is still knowledge. It goes both ways.
I would like to make a couple more points about Ageism in the Sewing Community.
Too long, aging has been something that is the brunt of a joke. Just like that original FB post I mentioned, the teacher made being old a joke to her students. Being old is presented as a joke all the time. Be aware of this and how you comment, post and live on social media in the Sewing Community. Millennial jokes are just as offensive as "old people" jokes in our community and only serve to separate any sense of community that exists.
There are amazing sewists of a more advanced age out there. They have terrific style and can sew like magic comes from their fingers. One of my favorites is Margy of A Fool for Sewing. While she has stopped blogging a quick jog through her blog will impress you with her skills and incredible style.
Another fabulous sewist who impresses me nearly every day is Ms. Vera of Alterations and Design by Vera of Savannah, Georgia. She is an extremely hardworking designer who does highly skilled work all with a smile and loving every minute. Her work will blow you away. She can sew or fix ANYTHING as you will see as you go through her page. Ms. Vera, once in a while, will regale us with a new outfit she made for herself for church or a new hairdo and makeup she chooses to share. She doesn't miss a beat when it comes to trends and always looks stylish in rare glimpses of her personal life.
ETA: There are many platforms in social media. I don't partake in Instagram, at least not yet, because I just simply don't have the time. I enjoy writing and the depth of socialization that blogging has provided me over the years. I also enjoy FB as I can get quick inspiration and also help others as well and they often help me, too. But you have to draw the line somewhere so Insta is not on my agenda. I do listen to sewing podcasts a lot and enjoy having them in the background as I sew and organize and plan. I feel like I am with friends and getting to know others in the community. Again, it is that depth of the experience. I have tried Insta a few times but just find it very shallow and it doesn't hold my interest.
Listening to podcasts made me realize some things. Where are older sewists? Where is the voice of experience? It is nearly nowhere, people. I want to commend podcasts that have really broken that rule and I ask WHY have not others? There are only two podcasts I listen to where an older sewist is part of the team. Their participation greatly enhances the quality of the podcast. We all know our tongues get looser as we age and the more seasoned team members here are no exception. They are delightful. And their knowledge is priceless as well.
First, there is Clothes Making Mavens. If you have not heard their podcasts you are really missing something. They are working seasonally now and will re casting soon with a new season but all of their casts are still on line and worth listening to. Barb Emodi, long time blogger, writer for Threads magazine, book publisher and all around sewing expert, is on the team with Helena, Lori and Hila, talking about very interesting topics in the sewing world. They never run from controversy and are great conversationalists. They always admit what they don't know and when they have been stumped and failed and when they have scored and succeeded. They interact wonderfully with Barb discussing particular topics where her experience is valued and clearly shown. It is all pretty loose, or seems enjoyably so. Barb contributes tons of wit and wisdom and can be counted on for laughs and giggles and an occasional shocker or two. It is clear the other members of the team really value her input. Why aren't other podcasters making experienced sewists part of their regular programming? Are they afraid to look less experienced? I don't know but from what I have seen (heard) it adds greatly to the entertainment value of the podcast, never mind what we learn from such a wealth of knowledge.
Another podcast I would like to acknowledge for its clear acceptance of all in the sewing community is The Self Sewn Wardrobe and their podcast "Sewing Out Loud". This podcast is quite unique in that is broadcast by two women, no biggy, right? Well, these two women are biggies. They are a mother and daughter team, both extremely knowledgeable sewing professionals who have done it all from owning sewing related businesses to now podcasting and every sewing related activity in between. There is classic, mother daughter chatter, often hilariously pitting the two generations, and always informative and entertaining. Mom is into aerial acrobatics and makes her challenging costumes and Mallory has small children and a husband, while pursuing a busy professional life. One of the hall marks of Mallory and Zede's businesses, besides, skill, and experience, is acceptance of all.
We need more Self Sewn Wardrobe and Clothes Making Maven type podcasts where those doing the casting are not just talking about their own personal experience but talking with those who have a longer, wider sewing experience than they do. I just don't hear it out there. From where I listen, I here other podcasts that consist of not much more than discussions of new patterns and how to sew certain fabrics. I have heard Barb Emodi and Zede Donahue add a great depth of knowledge to what other casts cast out there. They can't be the only ones and shouldn't be. I think we need to demand that all voices are heard in the sewing community and not just those who have sewn only Indie patterns. Experienced sewists have sewn Indie patterns as well but for some reason they are not being brought into the podcasting community with interviews or as team members. Barb is a great example but just check out Pattern Review to see many others older sewists sewing Indies. Many have done so for a long time.
There are countless more women like the ones I have mentioned above, women of high skill and style. They are valuable members of the sewing community and DO NOT look or sound or make clothes like the depiction of an old person that the FB poster put out to her students. Crap like that has got to stop. Comments about entitlement and millennials does too and really is so yesterday. It is still always so wrong to generalize a whole generation. ANY GENERATIONAL PREJUDICE IS WRONG, SO JUST STOP IT AND SEW ON. Share the love and the passion. Always in peace and love,,,,,,,,Bunny