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Fabricating Consumers

The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan

Andrew Gordon (Author)

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Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN: 9780520267855
November 2011
$57.95, £39.95
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Since its early days of mass production in the 1850s, the sewing machine has been intricately connected with the global development of capitalism. Andrew Gordon traces the machine’s remarkable journey into and throughout Japan, where it not only transformed manners of dress, but also helped change patterns of daily life, class structure, and the role of women. As he explores the selling, buying, and use of the sewing machine in the early to mid-twentieth century, Gordon finds that its history is a lens through which we can examine the modern transformation of daily life in Japan. Both as a tool of production and as an object of consumer desire, the sewing machine is entwined with the emergence and ascendance of the middle class, of the female consumer, and of the professional home manager as defining elements of Japanese modernity.
List of Illustrations
Preface

Introduction

Part One: Singer in Japan
1. Meiji Machines
2. The American Way of Selling
3. Selling and Consuming Modern Life
4. Resisting Yankee Capitalism

Part Two: Sewing Modernity in War and Peace
5. War Machines at Home
6. Mechanical Phoenix
7. A Nation of Dressmakers

Conclusion

Appendix: Some Notes on Time-Use Studies
Notes
Select Bibliography
Index
Andrew Gordon is Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History at Harvard University. His previous books include Labor and Imperial Democracy in Japan (UC Press) and A Modern History of Japan.
“The book will excite readers interested in material culture, gender and socioeconomic change—the forces that defined Japan’s experience of modernity. . . . A brilliant portrait of modernizing Japan.”—M. William Steele/International Christian University Social Science Japan Jrnl
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Meiji Machines

First Machines

In 1841 five fishermen were caught in a storm and shipwrecked on a small island more than two hundred miles from their home in Japan. Close to starvation, they were rescued six months later by an American whaler and brought to Hawaii. The youngest of the group, age fourteen and possessed only of the given name Manjirō, stood out as curious and smart. He was befriended by the ship's captain, and in the spring of 1843 he was brought for a proper Christian education to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, next to the whaling port of New Bedford, and renamed John Manjiro. After his schooling, this extraordinary young man embarked on a three-year voyage on a whaling ship, followed by a gold-rush journey to California, before he returned to Japan in 1851.

In the early years of Japan's famous "opening" to the West in the 1850s and 60s, Manjiro's mix of experience and talent allowed him to play a fascinating minor role in Japan's relations with the United States. His facility with English and his knowledge of American customs and technology won him a position as advisor-interpreter on the first official Japanese mission to the United States, undertaken in 1860 by the Tokugawa regime to ratify the trade treaty earlier negotiated by the American envoy Townsend Harris. One episode in that journey neatly represents the spirit of an era of extraordinary fascination (mixed, to be sure, with fear) about the outside world, especially the world of the "barbarians" from across the sea. Several members of the mission found their way to the laundry room of their hotel in Washington, D. C. A drawing in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (figure 1) captured the "curiosity of the Japanese at witnessing the girl working one of Wheeler and Wilson's sewing machines in Willard's Hotel laundry," vividly depicting a time when even proud samurai were willing to poke around the backstage of their lodgings, and when Americans were no less curious about their visitors. The accompanying article noted that "their curiosity was greatly excited, and their inspection was close and minute into the modus operandi of that wonderful machine, ... and it was understood that one of Wilson and Wheeler's sewing machines would be prominent among the most valued articles they would take back with them to Japan." Manjiro was not among these men. After crossing the Pacific, his compatriots grew suspicious that Manjiro was spying for the Americans, and they left him in San Francisco when they continued east. It is not known whether any of these curious travelers actually brought home a sewing machine, but we do know that Manjiro was no less excited by this mechanical wonder; while awaiting the delegation's return to San Francisco, he bought a sewing machine to bring home to his mother.

Contrary to popular belief in Japan, this was probably not the first sewing machine to enter the archipelago. Documentary evidence suggests that Townsend Harris presented a sewing machine as a gift to the shogun's wife early in 1858. It is virtually certain that some of the Westerners coming to Japan in 1859 to take up residence in the treaty ports brought the machine with them as well. Woodblock prints from the early 1860s that depict treaty-port life show large-nosed Western seamstresses serving the foreign community with sewing machines (figure 2). But Manjiro's sewing machine was certainly the first to find its way into an ordinary Japanese home. (More precisely, it was the first to be turned away from a home.)

Manjiro's extraordinary story helped to establish a narrative of Japanese-American relations as a history of uplift and enlightenment featuring generous American tutors and eager Japanese tutees. It also exemplifies a process explored throughout this book: the transport, together with goods and technology, of new ways of life-and new ideas about daily life-in a world of two-way but asymmetrical exchange.

Why did Manjiro bring back this machine? At first glance the answer is simple: filial piety. But while such a sentiment was surely part of the story, a fuller and more interesting answer must recognize the modern spin he would have given to this time-honored concept. Manjiro returned from the United States in 1851 with a deep understanding of industrial technology; his enthusiastic explanations of steam engines, locomotives, and telegraphs had won him the respect of no less a figure than the daimyo of Satsuma. He had clearly embraced an American faith in the power of machine technology. Although the sewing machine was not yet being produced for household use on a large scale during his first American sojourn through 1851, by the time of his second journey to the United States, sewing-machine manufacturers were proudly touting the product for reducing the weight of women's household labor. An, 1858 flyer for the Ladies' Companion Sewing Machine "call[ed] attention of the public to these CHEAP LABOR SAVING MACHINES." The Family Sewing Machine Company in 1861 called its product "the great time-saver and benefactor of our race" As Manjiro shopped for a machine for his mother, he surely encountered such claims and would have found them persuasive.

If so, he was moved in his gift-giving not simply by a Japanese family morality of the Edo era, but by the modern idea that material progress would uplift humanity. This was not an idea his mother would embrace. We are told she responded with disappointment, not pleasure, when she discovered that the tight stitching of the machine was poorly suited to sewing of a kimono, whose outer piece and inner lining had to be loosely stitched so the garment could be taken apart to be cleaned, and then resewn.

In facing this question of the fit between the sewing machine and her accustomed dress, Manjiro's mother was among the first people in Japan to argue by her actions that Japan's material culture was an impediment to the spread of the sewing machine. Over the next century, a vigorous debate took place over the suitability of sewing machines for the stitching of what came to be called wafuku (lit., Japanese clothes). This neologism inscribed in Japanese culture a sharp contrast to a second new coinage, yōfuku (lit., overseas clothes, or Western clothes) alongside a parallel linguistic divide between Japanese styles of sewing (wasai) and Western ones (yōsai).

The list of objects and practices defined in Meiji times as Japanese or Western by the first syllables of wa or yō ranged from food and drink to books and music. The incipient debate over the suitability of the sewing machine for Japanese dress focused quite specifically on the fact that one of the great merits of machine stitches-their tightness-was a demerit for a customary mode of dress that required loose stitching. This debate unfolded over the years as part of a larger discourse on the place of cultural forms and practices often newly defined as "Japanese" in a modern world understood to originate in the West. This modernity was understood at times as a threat from a West with power to colonize, at times as a resource to resist that threat, and at times as an irresistibly attractive new way of life. Contributors to the discourse of modernity in daily life, as we will see, explored the dilemma faced by Manjiro's mother as they debated the merits of what came to be called the "double" or "two-layered" (ni-jū) life combining practices marked "Japanese" with those marked "Western."

The sewing machine was therefore among those objects that carried into Japan new and at times contentious ideas concerning women's roles, the idea of progress, and the roles to be played by technology, by individuals, and by nations on the march toward an improving future. At the time of Manjiro's voyages, the idea that new technology and machines would transform both the world and individual lives for the better had been articulated clearly in American culture, but was not yet widely spread or deeply rooted in Japan. By the start of the twentieth century, the positive value of progress and the need for all individuals to contribute to the advancement of civilization and nation (or empire) was well established on both sides of the Pacific. The sewing machine would become explicitly linked to the possibility of progress for women in particular. As increasing numbers of women began to use the machine in Japan, they gave these ideas an impressive, at times surprising, range of meaning.

The Empress's New Clothes

Until the end of the nineteenth century, actual users of the sewing machine in Japan were for the most part limited to three groups and locations: tailors and dressmakers in the handful of treaty ports where Western traders and their families had been allowed to live and work since the late 1850s; garment factories producing Western-style uniforms for the military and for the modest number of men working in modern industries, especially the railroad; and an elite world of Japanese gentlemen and ladies in Tokyo. But interest in the object and the new modes of dress that came with it extended well beyond these locales.

In the treaty ports, tailor and dressmaker shops equipped with sewing machines began to appear in the 1860s and early 1870s. Early tailors and dressmakers were Western men and women, followed by immigrant Chinese tailors from Hong Kong or Shanghai, who first appeared in 1868. Starting in Yokohama, the first Japanese tailors and dressmakers opened shops in the 1880s, almost all of them men who had learned their trade as apprentices in Chinese or Western businesses. The clientele for the tailors gradually came to include elite Japanese men. Following the Meiji emperor, who first wore a Western suit in public in 1872, "the leaders of the new Japan" had adopted a style-"the top hat and black morning coat"-of recent British and North American origin that conveyed the "responsibility and self-discipline" of the rulers of a modern nation. These were the men whom Basil Hall Chamberlain memorably described in 1891 as the "modern successor[s]" to the samurai, "fairly fluent in English and dressed in a serviceable suit of dittos."

Female demand for the dressmakers' services increased, with a time lag of about fifteen years, as Western dress became fashionable among aristocratic Japanese women in the mid-1880s. This was the Rokumeikan era, named for a ballroom in Tokyo where elite Japanese men and women danced and mingled with the Western community. To meet the demand, Japanese-owned shops opened in the capital. Records exist for thirty-four tailor shops and just one dressmaker in Tokyo in 1880. By the decade's end, one finds more than 130 garment makers, fourteen of which served women.

These were modest numbers. Similarly, the sewing machine itself had as yet found only a limited market in Japan. Worldwide in the 1850s and 1860s, no single manufacturer stood far above others. Manjiro's machine was made by Wilson and Wheeler's, one of several leading American manufacturers competing as well with German and British producers. By the 1880s, however, the Singer Sewing Machine Company had emerged as the unchallenged champion of this extraordinarily popular good. It sold eight hundred thousand machines annually, accounting for fully three-quarters of the global supply.

In Japan, sewing machine sales were low, and Singer was not yet dominant. The company operated through a Belgian agent, Edward Sang, whose territory ranged from India and Ceylon to Japan. Only scattered and inconsistent records of Singer's Chinese and Japanese sales activity survive from this era, but the company clearly sold only modest numbers through Sang or other agents. An 1884 report notes the sale of 635 machines over a six-month period in Yokohama (490), Nagasaki (90), and Hiogo (Kobe; 55), while an undated "Summary of Business, China and Japan, 1882-1886" lists total sales in both countries as only 117 for 1884, 355 for 1885, and 924 for 1886. The discrepancies in the 1884 reports may reflect the fact that Edward Sang was pocketing proceeds that he should have remitted to New York and covering up the related sales. Sang's malfeasance was uncovered in 1888, and Singer cut ties with him, but sales did not increase over the next decade. Until the turn of the century, German producers held the largest share of the small Japanese market. Customs records from the late 1890s show the total value of sewing machine imports from Germany to be triple that of those from the United States, with British makers in third place.

Compared to the modest presence of tailors or dressmakers and the limited sale of machines, the cultural impact of this object from the 1870s through the turn of the century was substantial. The history of the Japanese word for sewing machine offers semantic evidence for its centrality in defining what contemporaries called a new era of "civilization and enlightenment." In the earliest documents that mention it, from the 1860s, the sewing machine is named prosaically enough, either with Japanese characters that literally mean "sewing tool" or with Japanese phonetic symbols that approximated the pronunciation "sewing machine" (shuu-ingu ma-shee-nay).

The phonetic label took hold. As it did, the adjective sewing dropped from colloquial use, and the word mas-shee-nay was distilled into just two syllables: mishin. In the early 1870s, this term began to appear in newspaper advertisements and articles (in 1872 with a parenthetical Japanese gloss), and the mishin became a sideshow attraction in Tokyo's Asakusa entertainment district. About thirty years before it began to make its way into Japanese homes in relatively large numbers, the sewing machine had become an object of popular curiosity. With the name of machine, pure and simple, it stood as the emblem of a new era of wondrous technology.

By the early twentieth century, no less a personage than the Meiji empress was reported to desire this object. In September 1905, the London Times correspondent in New York described "the finest sewing machine ever made in this country ... just completed at the works of the Singer Sewing Machine Company." That July, Alice Roosevelt, the famous twenty-year-old daughter of the president, accompanied Secretary of War William H. Taft on a large diplomatic mission to Japan. According to the Times, Miss Roosevelt met with the Meiji empress, who "expressed a desire to possess an American sewing machine." Informed by his daughter of this illustrious person's wish, the president placed an unusual order with Singer, asking the company to be sure that "every part of the machine where there is no friction is gold-plated.... A special messenger will probably carry it to Japan."

No follow-up report of the actual delivery can be found in the London Times or other sources, but that the Meiji empress desired this good makes sense. The surprise is that she had not yet secured one. For two decades, she had been encouraging women, at least those of status and wealth, to adopt new modes of dress and new techniques of dressmaking. Both the timing of her advocacy and its ambivalent articulation reveal that Japan's rulers were acutely interested in and anxious about the daily-life impact on women of their modernization program.

The empress had moved a good bit more slowly than her husband in changing her clothes and those of the women around her. In 1872, the emperor donned Western dress for occasions of state. In 1873, the conscription law imposed military service and Western uniforms on all classes of young men. But into the 1880s the empress continued to wear Japanese clothing exclusively, even at ceremonies to inaugurate Western institutions, such as the Tokyo Normal School's kindergarten. In historian Sally Hastings's nice formulation, the imperial couple was "a mismatched pair."

Women were gradually but cautiously brought into the circle of modernizing practice. In 1886 the empress began to wear Western dress in public, and the next year she issued a famous "court circular" requiring her attendants to do the same. Published in newspapers and magazines, this document had an impact beyond the aristocracy. It set out model behavior not only for court ladies but for all who aspired to high social status. With a logic that may strike contemporary readers as stretched beyond the breaking point, the circular invoked ancient precedents to legitimize this change. Court regulations and changes in dress dating back to the seventh century were said to have "paved the way for today's clothing style," because Western dress resembled ancient Japanese dress, even as it was "convenient for action and movement" appropriate to the new era.

With changes in dress came a call to change dressmaking. From the time of its arrival, the sewing machine had been linked to Western dress for both men and women. Like Manjiro's mother, users continued to consider the machine's tight stitching poorly suited to Japanese clothing, whether ceremonial or for daily life, but well suited to Western garments. The empress's circular echoed and reinforced this connection between modes of dress and sewing by telling women that along with new clothing, it was "only natural to adopt the Western method of sewing."

At the same time, she put forth two cautionary themes that would echo for many decades. First, buy local: "In carrying out this improvement, however, be especially careful to use materials made in our own country. If we make good use of our domestic products, we will assist in the improvement of techniques of manufacture on the one hand, and will also aid the advancement of art and cause commerce and industry to flourish. Thus, the benefits of this project will extend broadly, not limited simply to the customs of dress." Second, be frugal: "In changing from the old to the new, it is very difficult to avoid wasteful expenditures, but we can certainly achieve our goal if everyone, according to their abilities, makes a special effort to lead a frugal life. These are my aspirations for the reform of women's costume."

The empress and her ghostwriters were among many walking a tightrope as they advocated change for the sake of national power and progress, while seeking to protect both the domestic economy and what they identified as a virtuous tradition of frugality. Echoing the concern of Manjiro's mother, they raised issues that would emerge after World War I in a wide-ranging debate on the burden of the "two-layered life" of Western and Japanese practices. The empress and those around her were also preparing the ground for a new ideology of womanhood to take root in modernizing Japan, that of the "good wife and wise mother." One of her jobs would be to cope with this double burden.

The historians Sharon Nolte and Sally Hastings have identified the years following this imperial pronouncement, especially the span from 1890 to 1911, which neatly bridges the start of Singer's full-scale operations in Japan, as the time when "the state articulated piecemeal its official definition of women's role in industrialization." They persuasively argue that the feminine virtues put forward by bureaucrats and their allies "cannot be dismissed as simply remnants of the traditional family system.... Their virtues included working outside the home for wages and saving in the modern banking system." Two new assumptions underlay state policy toward women: "that the family was an essential building block of the national structure and that the management of the household was increasingly in women's hands." The good wife and wise mother served family and society by the pursuit of education and, where necessary, employment. Fulfilling her domestic role was understood to be a public duty.

Sewing and sewing machines figured prominently in efforts to promote the ideal of a good wife and a wise mother in service of family, nation, and empire. Hata Rimuko was the first principal of the Singer Sewing Academy, founded in 1906, and a well-known advocate of Western machine sewing. She put forward Russo-Japanese war widows as exemplars of the "self-reliant" woman who was to be trained at her Singer Academy. Such students would learn modern skills appropriate for both full-time household managers and those who faced the need to support their families. Hata was echoing the exhortations of the empress, who during the Sino- and Russo-Japanese Wars supported the newly founded Japanese Red Cross, visited military field hospitals, and encouraged women to work or volunteer as nurses in Western uniform.

Fascination with the sewing machine-and a sense of its multiple meanings-was also conveyed visually in this era in the popular genre of woodblock prints depicting the life of "civilization and enlightenment" as enjoyed by the symbolically powerful imperial circle. One of many examples is a fanciful 1893 print showing the Meiji empress and her ladies-in-waiting enjoying a lakeside sewing party (figure 3). This print represents a wide range of new roles for women as it vividly connects the sewing machine to various virtues and possibilities. Machine sewing, like hand sewing, could nurture traditional feminine virtues of disciplined work and care for others. But it also connected to modern transformations underway in women's dress, the activities involved in household management, and the spread of machine technology. By using this good, the print suggests, it is possible for women not only to take part but also to take pleasure in joining the nation's modernizing efforts. All these concerns would be central elements in the meanings given to the sewing machine in Japan over the following decades.

Singer Sets Up Shop

The Meiji empress was not alone in embracing with caution a world of imported goods and practices. Ambivalent attitudes toward the West-its power, its practices, its ideas, its people-were at the heart of Japan's modern experience from the time the first trade treaties were concluded. When the Tokugawa negotiators signed the "unequal treaties" that integrated Japan with the Western-dominated economic and political order in 1857-58, they surrendered control over setting tariffs and gave foreigners extraterritorial privileges in the treaty ports. But in exchange, they won a prohibition against foreigners doing business, owning property, and traveling or residing outside designated ports and settlements. When Japanese diplomats began to negotiate new treaties in the 1880s, the fact that such prohibitions might be abolished in exchange for regaining legal and economic sovereignty provoked fierce public opposition and near-riots.

This opposition had relaxed some when the Japanese and British agreed on a revised treaty in 1894, an agreement quickly followed by similar treaties with the other Western powers. The agreements opened the Japanese interior to what was colloquially termed "mixed residence." Anxiety certainly remained, expressed in fears that Westerners would spread evils such as materialism, gender equality, and "foreign insects poisoning the nation." But with Japanese victory in the Sino-Japanese war the following year, these fears were submerged by a wave of public enthusiasm at the twin achievements of (near) equality with the Western powers and the status of empire (the Qing ceded Taiwan to Japan as a colony). In July 1899, the era of "mixed residence" began without major incident.

Although no smoking-pistol documents connect the two events, it seems certain that the opening of the interior led Singer Sewing Machine Company to end its reliance on agents and sell directly to machine users. To implement the direct sales strategy it was already using with brilliant success in most of the world, Singer had to be able to purchase or lease property for retail storefronts in towns and cities throughout Japan. The end to the "mixed residence" prohibitions made this possible. By a neat coincidence for those who like to mark historical boundaries with the Western calendar, the timing of the new treaties meant that the first steps toward "mass" marketing of the sewing machine in Japan came precisely at the start of a new century. And the fear that "mixed residence" would allow a company like Singer to spread materialism and offer a measure of power to women was not entirely mistaken.

It is impossible to pinpoint the start of Singer's direct operations to the exact day or month, but it is clear that the first Singer store in Japan opened in Tokyo sometime in summer of 1900. Yubita Kanzō, born in 1877 and the son of an owner of a sewing machine repair shop in Tokyo specializing in German machines, recalled in 1947 that, "when I was 23, Singer opened its store in Ginza and asked would I join them." Three documents support this dating. A Japanese-language flyer advertising the "Singer Model 28 (Family) Sewing Machine" (somewhat oddly) states, "printed May 16, 1900, published September 1, 1900." A Japanese-language "Singer Sewing Machine Instruction Manual" for family-type models is also marked as "printed on May 16, 1900," but was "published [in] March 9, 1901. And customs records for 1900, though not specific to Singer, show a fourfold increase over the previous year in the value of sewing machine imports from the United States.

We can conclude that plans under way in the spring of 1900 reached fruition with an official opening that summer. It is possible that the proximate cause of Singer's direct sales initiative was the advent of "mixed residence," while the specific summer opening in Tokyo was timed to follow the auspicious marriage of the Meiji emperor's son (later to be the Taishō Emperor) in May, 1900. In any case, Singer followed by opening its "main store" in Yokohama in 1901, and it quickly expanded its network of retail outlets.

The history of the sewing machine as an item of relatively widespread purchase and use by women in thousands of homes throughout Japan-the story of the mishin as an item of "mass" consumption-begins with the advent of Singer. A 1903 report filed by Hata Toshiyuki, an important figure in the company's early history in Japan, teaches us something of the appeals used in the company's marketing and their connection to the values put forward by the empress in her rescript and represented in her ladies' woodblock image.

Born in 1870, Hata graduated Tokyo Imperial University in 1899 at the relatively mature age of 29. With many of his classmates, he entered the higher civil service, in his case the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. In 1902 the ministry sent him for a year of foreign study in the United States. His supervisor encouraged him to visit the Singer Company and learn of its operations. Hata not only came away enthused at "the potential for this company to contribute to commerce and friendship between the United States and Japan" but sufficiently impressed to leave the ministry in October 1903 for a managerial post in Singer's Japanese operation. His enthusiasm was infectious; his wife, Rimuko, introduced above, joined him in the "family" business in 1906 as founding director of the Singer Sewing Academy.

In the report he submitted to the ministry, Hata nicely conveyed the sense of mission of C. H. Pierce, head of the Singer Export Company. Pierce was not willing to accept the idea, certainly bad for business in a place where Western dress, especially for women, remained uncommon, that sewing machines were incompatible with the fabrication of Japanese dress: "Singer's object in selling machines in Japan is not limited to Western sewing, since Singer machines can also be used to sew Japanese clothing."

Pierce hoped to challenge established gender norms as well. Hata remarked that Pierce made the case "with passion and conviction" that "the situation of Japanese women is pitiful, for all the housework falls on their shoulders, as does the burden of serving parents and caring for children, so that the burden on Japanese women for the sake of the progress of the nation is too great to bear. If Japanese women used Singer machines, they could do in an hour the work that normally took a day. So, selling Singer machines in Japan will not just serve the cause of corporate profits, but will contribute to the advance of Japan's material civilization." Armed with such a vision, which it put forward in other non-Western and colonial contexts as well as in the West, Singer was well positioned to sell its sewing machine as a necessity for the "good wives and wise mothers" whose mission was to work with their husbands and families to build Japan as a modern nation and empire, a place of wealth and power. The company was both reflecting and helping to generate new ideas about good wives and wise mothers in the years when this role was being defined and articulated by state officials, including the empress. As Singer established itself as the premier seller of sewing machines in the land, it directly and indirectly shaped the practice and understanding of modern life and the consuming household. And in some measure, it allowed women to push at the boundaries of their prescribed new roles.

Who Sewed for Whom, and Where?

However limited, the initial spread of the sewing machine in Japan and the early steps in the transformation of sewing and dress practices were part of a global story. The sewing machine spread rapidly around the world in these same decades, and its diffusion was the product principally of a single company with a remarkably effective and uniform selling system. Everywhere it quickly moved from the realm of marvel and novelty to occupy an important place in the fabrication of garments in factories, small workshops, and homes. But if the story was in large measure global, it is nonetheless true that questions of who sewed what, for whom, and where were answered differently from place to place. To understand modern patterns of use and negotiations of meaning in Japan, we must briefly examine the preindustrial organization of garment production and consumption in a comparative frame.

It seems fair, if sweeping, to generalize that prior to the nineteenth century, the majority of sewing and fabrication of dress around the world took place in the home. In Europe, as Anne Hollander notes in her study of modernity, gender, and dress, "It must always be borne in mind that until the last third of the nineteenth century ... there was virtually no ready-to-wear fashion for women, only outer garments and headwear. What was not custom-made was homemade or second hand. In fact, most women, rich or poor, knew how to sew or understood sewing." This statement applies as well to non-Western societies, where there was an even greater proportion of home-made than custom-made wear.

The phrase "what was not custom-made" in Hollander's generalization points to the critical variable factor, especially as we consider the appearance of the sewing machine in Japan along with Western sewing and dress. Before the sewing machine spread globally, one finds differences around the world in the prominence of the specialized professions of tailors or dressmakers who custom-made garments for multiple customers, as well as paid seamstresses who stitched together particular clothing pieces either at home or in workshops. It appears that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a divergence took place that set much of Europe, along with its American colonies and new nations, apart from other places, Japan among them.

In the former, before and during the industrial revolution but well ahead of the spread of the sewing machine, the fabrication of clothing first for men and then for women moved out of the home and into the hands of specialized producers: tailors and dressmakers as well as pieceworkers. Hollander notes simply that "huge numbers made their living" by this artisanal handiwork. In Britain, by the early nineteenth century production of clothing outside the home, whether by artisans or in garment factories, had become widespread. In her study of "the female economy" of dressmakers and milliners in the United States, Wendy Gamber dates the takeoff of these trades from about 1800 through the 1840s, sparked by what she calls an "antebellum consumer revolution." By 1870, dressmakers and milliners comprised the fourth largest women's occupational category in the country, and-of importance in thinking comparatively-they "did not simply transfer domestic skills to the marketplace; more often than not, they learned their trades in the workshop, not the home." The subsequent story of garment production in the United States, in Gamber's telling, remained outside the home, as a struggle unfolded between garment shops, where independent dressmakers made clothes to order, and factory or workshop production of ready-to-wear clothes sold in department stores. By the 1920s "the factory claimed an undisputed victory over the garment shop."

In Japan, in sharp contrast, through the end of the Tokugawa era (1868) most clothing was fabricated in the home. Liza Dalby nicely summarizes the situation at the moment when Western dress (and Westerners) appeared in the treaty ports in the 1860s. "Traditional dress had not required tailoring. Dry goods merchants sold bolts of cloth in a standard kimono width, and women of the household made it into the required article of clothing. Sewing at home formed a major part of women's work, for although it was not difficult-straight seams and minimal piecing-it was constant." The time demand resulted in significant measure from the fact that traditional dress "was taken apart and resewn at each washing." The scientific time survey had yet to be invented, of course, so comparison with later practice or other places is not possible, but on the eve of Japan's modern revolution, sewing was clearly a time-consuming element of daily life.

Outside the home, used clothing was sold to relatively impoverished city dwellers, but there was no significant commercial market for ready-made or custom-made new clothing. Dalby's concluding point is important as we trace the continued importance of home-based sewing and the time it required, whether by hand or machine, whether for Japanese or Western dress from the 1860s forward: "Since the making of clothing was not a professional activity, there was no pre-existing group that might logically have made the switch to sewing yōfuku. The profession of tailor [and we can add, that of dressmaker] had to be created from whole cloth."

As Western dress began to spread during the 1870s, especially among men, and as sewing machines entered Japan as well, the organization of garment production changed significantly. Not surprisingly, the direction of change reflected these initial conditions, even as an important new gender divide emerged in the production and consumption of clothing. We have seen that men in the offices of the new government and in modern businesses turned to Western suits as early as the 1870s and {apos}80s, and Western wear was adopted early on for military uniforms and increasingly for male factory laborers. By the late 1880s, Western pants (zubon) had completely displaced traditional men's wear such as leggings (momohiki) or the skirtlike hakama. Women in the home neither possessed nor acquired the tools or the skills to make Western menswear, so that by the end of the nineteenth century, the new profession of the tailor, wholly the province of men working outside the home, had become well established, along with the production in small workshops, again staffed by men, of ready-to-wear Western clothes for lower-level clerks and the like.

The story for women, both in the production of dress and their preferred styles of wear, was quite different. A few women set themselves up in dressmaking businesses outside the home, but their numbers-fourteen in Tokyo by 1890-hardly compared to the growing corps of tailors-well over one hundred-who were fabricating menswear. This vanguard of dressmakers was a noteworthy portent, but a tiny number in a nation of close to twenty million women in 1890. Western dress for ordinary women would gradually spread, first to young girls, students, and young "working women," from the early 1900s into the 1920s, and then in the 1930s to a growing minority of adult women. But customary forms of dress-now dubbed wafuku, or "Japanese clothing"-remained the preferred choice for the majority of adult women. And not only this wafuku, as in the past, but also those forms of Western dress that did win some adherents, were still sewn in the home by women for women.

It was thus most common by the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth to find male tailors in business outside the home serving male customers who wore these clothes to work, while women inside the home produced, laundered, and repaired both Japanese- and in some cases Western-style dress for themselves and for their children. This remained a time-consuming element in their daily routine or, for the wealthy, the routine of their servants. It is tempting to map such a gender-divided system of production and consumption of dress onto a divide between a modernized world of men's wear, professionalized and commercial, mechanized and scientific, attuned to national and global trends in fashion, and a traditional realm of women's dress, the domain of amateur home sewers. But such a bifurcated perspective is wholly misleading. Rather, although the location of sewing in modernizing Japan-outside the home for men, inside for women-was gender-divided, the form of its practice was not. As it did for the tailor shop, the sewing machine and new modes of sewing and garment production would bring modern life directly into the home in the form of professionalized training, a new science of home economics, and market-oriented, mechanized fabrication of clothes. It also helped create the role of the women as consumers-in-chief of the modern home.

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