Att läsa mönster: Kvinnor, kläder och grafisk kultur i Sverige 1881-1981

Projekt: Övrigt


The main purpose of this research project is to examine and analyse the function and impact of print culture in the development, diffusion and reading of paper patterns for women’s clothes production in Sweden, and to explore related mechanisms and powers of ideological patterns within the culture of home sewing.
Printed matter that carries neither text nor traditional images is a neglected part of the history of print culture just like home sewing is an overlooked segment in the history of textile production and women’s history. With new image printing techniques, increased advertising and the invention of commercial paper patterns, there was a rise in both home production of garments and the launch of women's magazines with patterns for home sewing in Sweden at the end of the 19th century. With a pattern, cheap fabric and a sewing machine, women could gain control of their own dresses and their own appearances. As the double sense of the word "pattern" indicates, the use of patterns for sewing had an inherent potential of standardization of women's clothing. However, patterns in the sense of ideals and patterns of fashion, as well as in the sense of patterns on fabric, like for example flower patterns, could also awaken a desire or offer an opportunity to break with conventions of class and social order. This project wants to explore the manifold meanings produced when print culture and home sewing met in the pattern. This “meeting” will be analysed from the point of views of book history’s understanding of graphical communication as an interplay between society, culture, technique and economy.

Specific aims of the project:
1) Explore the production and dissemination of commercial paper patterns in Sweden 1881-1981
The first aim of the project is to explain and demonstrate how commercial paper patterns were produced and disseminated through tracing and mapping the history of patterns for women's clothing in Sweden. The study will enlighten the function and impact of graphic culture in pattern creation and dissemination of patterns for clothes production, mainly with regard to women as producers and consumers. When and how were the patterns produced in Sweden, how were they disseminated and used? How were women enticed to buy patterns and to sew their own clothes and how did this change during the period?

2) Investigate the reading of instructive patterns
The second aim is to give new insights to the history of reading with a focus on users of instructive visual objects. I will demonstrate how the patterns were received and used, and show how printed text, numbers, lines and dots on paper could convey dreams, inspire women, and contribute to the democratization of clothes fashion. This part of the study will introduce patterns as a new source in book history, and shed light on how instructive texts and images have been read and used, which ends they have served and how they have been interacting with social issues in a broader context.

3) Analyse physical patterns as ideological models
The third aim primarily concern theoretical questions and the meta level of the project. It focuses on the function and impact of printing technology and graphic production for the emergence of new ways of thinking and for the diffusion of ideas and ideals for women, in fashion and in private clothes production. How can an investigation of the production, dissemination and use of paper patterns further our understanding of patterns as ideological models? How can it illuminate the impact of printing technology on society? How can the fields of fashion and home sewing gain new impetus by means of book historical perspectives?
Gällande start-/slutdatum2019/01/012022/12/31