The Saddest Thing in Life

Did you know this? I did not know this. Fortunately a couple ladies from the 50s did, and they wrote a sewing book. I found it in my magical Canadian library, and I am now learn-ed in the tragedies of hippiness. Matter of fact, they can school you on all manner of figure flaws. How I wish I could have taken this fount of information home with me...

We're currently watching Mad Men (not even on the end of season two yet, no spoilers por favor). Rob suggested it, and having seen the amazing inspired creations in the blogosphere, I was down. Now, I spend 2 hours a night in furious silence, blurting out at the lead: HE IS A DICKHEAD I HOPE SHE STABS HIM IN THE NECK every so often. What the hell with men in the fifties? What the hell with women in the fifties?  

That said, can you imagine the amazing Joan adhering to the rules in a book like this? I don't know what's in store for her character; maybe she loses all her morals like everyone else in this show (she was just passed over for the script reading position and I wanted to firebomb the TV) but god I love her.

I'm in the middle of a project that breaks several no-no's for the "short one / wee bit" depicted in these pages. Hopefully, I'll be breaking the broad-shouldered rule in the near future.  

That "wrong" picture is FABULOUS. I'm SO making that. 

Please do click on the pics to enlarge, I've uploaded them full strength in order to pass these words of wisdom on. What can i say, I'm a giver.  


  1. OMG, I have this book, I recognized the line about "pear-shaped" instantly! The whole thing is a hoot and a half.
    Oona, when do we get details on the 30th?

  2. Oh I fit into the "short" and perhaps "plump" categories and I think I could rock that "wrong" dress. Apparently you've found a cause to rebel against. ;)

  3. Body snarking through the ages...thanks for sharing!

  4. I have a book written in the 60s that actually has great figure flattery advice -- I should post it, it's hilarious!

    My college roommates and I had to look up boiling an egg in a cookbook from the 70s (we were making Easter eggs and wanted to avoid the green ring around the yolk) and spent hours laughing at the beginning description, which was all about how you would greet your husband at the door with dinner ready, good clothes on, soothe his fevered brow, etc etc. Aside from June Cleaver, I don't think anyone ever did that!

  5. Oh, Oona, don't succumb to the fashion fascists of the fifties! (say that three times fast). Thre is no "wrong" and no "right"--only what makes you feel amazing and powerful, no matter how tiny and pear-shaped, or short and plump, or tall and gangly you are.
    You know what they say about rules...

    BTW, LOVE your SewWeekly challenges!
    (And I love those early '60s styles in Mad Men--Christina Hendricks was just made for the wiggle dress)

  6. "If you are less than 5'-3", you are called short."

    You will get me into trouble at work, because that made me LOLOLOLOLOLzy.

    I am so totally from now on going to insist, "I am not short. I am called short."

    mkaaaaay... word verification: "adsneg". This isn't really all that interesting. Except that I know that I have had that word verification before. That is a little freaky.

  7. Oh Ooona, you don't know the half of it. That's not an outdated sewing book.....it's a textbook still taught to all Canadian schoolgirls in order to point out how inherently flawed we are, and how it's the saddest thing in life. That's why Canadians have the reputation for being so quiet and polite: we're silently weeping inside over our sad life.

    Excuse me; I have to go cry now about my 88/76/102 figure.


    (Yeah, any info about next week? I was about to book something, but then I thought I'd better double check before I shell out!)

  8. Wow. I want to read this book. Judging from what I can glean off the pages, there can be nothing right about a woman's figure. I'm waiting to see the paragraph titled, "Are you too perfect? Here's how to cover it up". It actually sounds pretty funny.

  9. OMG! And here I've been happily flaunting my hippy hips and sewing a fitted sheath when, apparently, I ought to have been crying on the inside and concealing my feminine curves. Oh well. Great post! LOL

  10. ha ha! I love vintage figure guides. I have a patternmaking book from the 30's that taught me that square necklines are only for women with exceptionally beautiful necks. Not decolette, bust, shoulder - NECK. I don't even know what an exceptionally beautiful neck looks like.

  11. Thank you Oona! After all this time, now I know what I'm called. Short!

  12. Hurry up and watch more Mad Men, then we can discuss it! Oh Joanie, you and your big booty light up my life.

  13. I kind of love how these old books don't mince words (I have a sewing book from the forties or fifties that's similarly blunt, including plenty of "right" and "wrong" silhouettes. That being said, these are the rules that are meant to be broken.

    I have always craved that "hippy" look. Maybe I should get me some of them Dior hip-pads...

  14. firstly...I have that book! It makes me giggle when I read it :P (but there's good stuff in there too).

    secondly...Woot for NOT being short! Although people CALL me short all the time, at 5'4, clearly I am NOT SHORT. I'm one inch and a smidge away...

    er. Unless I've been lying about my height all these years and deluded myself. About being 5'4.

  15. Hi Beangirl,

    Due to your interest in word verification (and mine) I just had to pass along this BBC article I read recently. Check it out. It's far out:


    Spam weapon helps preserve books

    Word verification -- "anissess"
    The process of assessing the anise content of anisette? Or is it really me helping to decipher some ancient book or manuscript?

  16. Hahaha, how to make a woman want to hide in a dark room for the rest of her life!

    I was squinting at one of the other pages which said:

    "Want your arms to look more beautiful? No little puffed sleeves or short capped sleeves for you! Choose a pattern that permits you to cut sleeves full length"


    Hide your arms because they are ugly and always will be, so there! Don't even hope to wear short sleeves because you will look like a giant hippo!

    What a find, wish you could have kept the book

  17. I have this book too. As well as several others I enherited from my Grandmother when she passed.

    After reading a few pages, I flipped back to the front to make sure it wasn't written by a man. What was with women of the 50's? Who knows. I'm proud to sew and wear whatever tickles my pickle whether its a No-no or not!

    *Raises a glass to those who love their hips.

  18. Mad Men: the angrier you get, the better it will get. Trust me. x

    P.S. "Tickles my pickle." Tee hee.

  19. I think I have an earlier edition of this book somewhere around here, and the illustrations are just as amusing! Like you, some of the "wrong" ones I quite adore! lol.

    I had to giggle when I read the "saddest thing in life" is being a pear shape. rofl. Guess I missed the memo that I'm supposed to be upset about having large hips? ;)

  20. I have a few books like this from the 50's. The writers were so strict, even cruel....but they did know how to dress a lady:) I agree that "wrong" pic kinda rocks.

  21. I have to be honest, ALL the wrongs are my favorites. What's wrong with ME?


  22. @ everyone: i love these comments even more than the book!

    and, you'e welcome to all: i'm glad to let you know the lot of you are short, hippy, and should hide your arms. it's high time someone said it. vicki, godsakes, stop crying. there's no crying in sewing.

  23. I stopped watching Mad Men for the very reasons you underline after 2 episodes of the first season. I had to live through it, it does not entertain me to relive the traumas in my life. Wearing those clothes and their undergarments was one of the bigger traumas.Yikes. So, if you go outside to read or water the garden and wash the sidewalk during this show, I would support your choice.

  24. Well, hrumph. Good thing that "hippy look" is the happiest thing in life for mr. threadsquare. Also, I just read this weekend in Fit for Real People the difference between being short & being petite, and apparently it all boils down to proportion/leg length. So put that in your corset and squeeze it.

    ps - Mad Men keeps getting better, though I'm not current either :)

  25. Oh my, I found that book this summer with some rejects from a library sale and had quite a giggle. I now know a pearish type like me can't wear those peplum suit coats I seem to want to put on every morning. Oh dear.

  26. I love rules like this. Some folks walk around in clothes that don't flatter themselves because they don't know better. But they can LEARN! Now if you know the rules, yet choose not to follow because they have their own style, then that's cool. Yeah Rules!

  27. Wow! There's a way to dress that will hide the fact that I "spread out" - I never knew! I have a 1950s book called "Successful Dressmaking" by Ellen and Marietta Resek. It mentions adjustments for "irregular figures" (Turns out I have one of those as well!) but I think the true gem is the short poem accompanied by small sketch at the start of each chapter. Some of my highlights are, "To set in a sleeve causes so much strife/That many a man will divorce his wife" (should have had that put into my wedding vows); "Hem lines always catch the eye/It is easy to guess why!" (see picture of man ogling woman's legs as she walks up stairs) and of course, reassurance for those of us who aren't too bright: "Choose style and colour in connection/With figure, hair and the complexion/If you are not by nature smart/Then dress with chic and lose not heart". Advice to live by!

  28. I am called "short".
    I guess I'm a wee bit tiny doll?

    I am also a fan of the Mad Men and I also get really upset when annoying stuff happens to Peggy. She's my girl. Hopefully she gets some personal style goin'...

  29. cool!!!!!!!!!! loved the illustrations!!!!! :D


i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied, if not always written!