What Howe Hath Wrought – The Sewing Machine is So Sensational!

by Derek Holser, Tastemaker in Residence

Do clothes make the man? Or does the man make the clothes?

It began with fig leaves in the Garden, and it continues with skinny jeans in the Garden State.

After millennia of fabrics and cuts, styles and stitches, the utilization of cloth to cover the body and project both decorum and design remains a key component of human society.

From the savvy robes worn by brilliant Greek philosophers to the casual elegance of modern hipsters, men have fought and followed trends to find their place in the hierarchy of stylishness.

While many hours were spent in selection, dying, weaving, and manufacturing clothing for many centuries, a key turning point in the evolution of originality arrived just over a decade before the Civil War.

A tumultuous time beset the United States of America. The frontier was wild and wanton, and the cities were dirty and diseased. While our nation worked its way from adolescence to adulthood, and roiled to the brink of battle between brothers, a single man battled his way through the courts to protect his invention. An invention that would bring freedom to many amateur tailors the world over.

That man, Elias Howe, Jr., filed the US patent for the sewing machine in 1846, then he headed to England to work on some sewing. While he was away, Isaac Singer started making and selling sewing machines. Elias returned to the States and began fierce litigation to defend his patent. After six contentious years, Howe won. His grandkids were really happy, as the royalties from his patent made him a fortune. 

And check out that sweet hairdo.

Don’t feel too bad for Singer. He worked out a deal with Howe and he ended up making improvements and applying superior marketing to advance his sewing machine much more effectively than Howe. Whether by Singer or Howe, by the early 1900’s, nary a housewife in the country lacked a sewing machine. 

Which brings us to today. We all owe Mr. Howe a debt of gratitude. We also owe Singer the same. They made possible great clothing like those made by my friends over at www.thesewingrabbit.com

It’s an amazing site filled with lots of great D-I-Y patterns and instructions to sew to your heart’s content. Check it out!

On the other hand, maybe if Howe had never filed his patent and Singer had never sold his machines, we wouldn’t have to see shirts like this:

You’d think he could at least pretend to like the shirt. It just goes to show, no matter how convenient life was made by the sewing machine, there’s no substitute for style!