Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management


Apparel, Merchandising, and Design

First Advisor

Ellen McKinney


Retro sewers, defined for the purposes of this study as women who sew vintage-inspired or vintage-reproduction clothing for themselves for everyday use, are a group that has not previously been studied. Retro sewers represent a unique subset of the home sewing market that overlaps with the vintage clothing market. The purpose of this study was to understand the motivations and the methods for retro sewers and how their motivations and methods intersect. This study utilized a qualitative, grounded-theory approach with interviews as the primary data source. Eighteen retro sewers from English-speaking countries were recruited from the researcher’s personal network, Facebook groups dedicated to retro sewing, and snowball sampling. The participants were purposively sampled to ensure maximum possible diversity in age, race/ethnicity, geographic location, decades preferred, and types of sewing patterns used; these sewers participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Participants were asked questions about why they value a vintage appearance and why they use sewing for themselves to create their desired vintage appearance, how they use sewing for themselves to create their desired vintage appearance, and how their motivations and methods intersect. Questions were also asked about their views on feminism and how those views impact their retro sewing.

The core theme emerging from the analysis of the interview data was that retro sewing is an expression of identity. The expression of identity through retro sewing is a postmodern fashion phenomenon, motivated primarily by nostalgia combined with a desire for uniqueness and mediated by symbolic interactionism. Retro sewing provides identity continuity through connection with family, one’s personal past, and a collective past; the aesthetics of historic clothing are a major reason that clothing, specifically, is chosen as an avenue for the expression of nostalgic identity.

This study provides information about this segment of the home sewing industry, which can be used by sewing pattern companies, fabric producers, retro clothing companies, and purveyors of nostalgic goods to produce products that will appeal to retro sewers. This study also provides a new context for the application of several theories, including nostalgia, symbolic interactionism, and expression of identity through clothing.

Copyright Owner

Charity Suzanne Armstead



File Format


File Size

199 pages