1908 Ladies Fashion and My Vintage Singer Sewing Machine



When I read through old letters between women there is a common pastime that is often mentioned…sewing. I was fortunate to have a Singer Model 27-4 passed down to me, and it currently serves as a unique piece of furniture in my home. The drawers have become a catch-all for decades, housing everything from 100-year-old spools of thread, to one of my son’s infant-sized diapers I can’t part with, and finally a cassette tape from the early ’90s entitled “Jessica’s Boogie Songs” (I shudder to think what is on that).


20190823_120305 (1)

Through years of opening the drawers to throw in a random hair tie or pen, I never really noticed the owner’s manual that still lives in the drawer after 111 years. For this post, I decided to share some of it with you, as well as some images of artwork from the famous American portrait artist, John Singer Sargent, who was producing work during the time this machine was manufactured. By looking at his portraits of women (I chose all images from the year 1908 specifically), we can see the types of garments that would have been produced on the Singer Model 27-4.

First, images from the instruction manual:

img009 (2)img010

If we look at an inflation calculator, we see it was not cheap to make repairs to your sewing machine in 1908. It appears to have cost $35 for a new feed dog, which in 2019 money would be over $900.

1908 Portraits by John Singer Sargent:

John Singer Sargent, Miss Eliza Wedgwood and Miss Sargent Sketching, 1908
John Singer Sargent, Almina, Daughter of Asher Wertheimer, 1908
John Singer Sargent, The Black Brook, 1908
John Singer Sargent, Cashmere, 1908
John Singer Sargent, Mosquito Nets, 1908



Published by


Welcome, I'm Jessica. I renovated and moved into my grandparents' old home in early 2018. When my grandmother Jane was alive, she loved to sit outside on a swing with her cat Boots (who still lives here) and read. As we were cleaning up around the house I found a box of letters sitting in a swing outside that she was going through in the time before she passed. I stored them away and recently started reading through them myself. 100 Years of Letters is intended to share those family letters (some of which are over 100 years old) with the world and to keep the history behind them alive. Curl up with your coffee, a cozy blanket, and possibly a cat, and join me on this journey through history!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s