The genetics of sewing

Sewing mystifies me. And I think it’s something genetic. Because whenever I find myself in a sewing shop – Spotlight, Lincraft, any of those shops I never even knew existed before I got married – I see the pattern. The genetic pattern of behaviour.

Women who go to these shops know where everything is. Instantly. They can walk in the doorway and within five seconds determine whether or not what they want is in there.

The men are bewildered. They walk around slowly, perhaps looking at things, perhaps not, but certainly wondering what it all means. Strange devices adorn the shelves. More varieties of different brightly coloured material than was used in the entire career of the Village People. And in the corner, rows upon rows of patterns. Patterns for clothes.

Wait, you mean clothing is MADE? I thought it just grew on coat-hangers.

Actually, when I was at school I used to work in a menswear shop. That’s where they sell clothes for men, not where men come in to swear.

It was always a battle to keep everything tidy in the shop. Don’t believe the cliches that men aren’t fussy about what they wear. And even if they aren’t, their spouses or mothers are. Almost everything in the shop got tried on by someone at some stage in time. Except perhaps for that rogue pair of flared jeans that had been at the bottom of the Levi’s pile for fifteen years. Generally, the trick was to be folding things back up while the customer was trying on the next piece of clothing.

There was one customer who used to come in regularly. After a while, we all got to know him because every time he came in, he’d try on everything in the shop. Well, not everything, but certainly a large proportion of the garments on offer. But he never bought anything. It was absolutely impossible to sell anything to him. So after a while, we just tried to look busy when we came in.

One day he came in, and one of the newer people served him. He didn’t know, poor guy. Sebastian, by some miracle, had never served this bloke before. The rest of us just stood back and sniggered.

But we were all amazed when half an hour later, Sebastian reported that he’d actually achieved the pinnacle of his sales career, and sold this man a pair of underpants. Incredible. We were suitably impressed.

Ten minutes later, the man came back, and returned them. And I never found out why. Sebastian just didn’t want to talk about it.

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