Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan


Andrew Gordon. 2011. Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan. University of California Press.


The sewing machine opens a window onto the social transformations of the 20th century that turned Japan into a society in which the great majority understood themselves to be members of the middle class, defined not only by where they worked, but also by what they bought and how they bought it. Through study of the selling, the buying, and the using of the sewing machine in the early-to-mid twentieth century, I address globalization as a “localizing process” in both the realm of discourse and in social and economic practice. On the demand side, the focus is on women users in the home, with attention as well to home-based commercial production by seamstresses or dressmakers. On the supply side, the main actors are Singer Sewing Machine Company and then its Japanese competitors. An extraordinary variety of meanings and experiences attached to this object, which allows us to study the modern transformation of daily life with its continuing harshness, its new opportunities and its new imposition of discipline on both the men who sold it and the women who used it. Keywords: business history, cultural history, daily life, gender, globalization, middle class, modern Japan, modernity, social history.