Emancipation Suit put women on road to freedom



Carolyn Ossorio has found Sarah Little, right, owner of Black Anchor, to talk about the many designs of the ubiquitous T-shirt. Image Credit — Carolyn Ossorio.


On Nov. 8 the kids and I will be filming a cooking show demo with celebrity chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and community activist Tom Douglas … umm no pressure.

There’s an old Loretta Lynn song I sing when I need a little courage infusion.

“I was born a coal-miners daughter . . . We were poor but we had love…and that was something that Daddy made sure of.”

Now I wasn’t born a coal-miners daughter and we didn’t live in a house in Butcher Holler. But our mamma, (we’re not Southern either, but whenever you sing a Loretta Lynn song, you have to use a deep southern voice). Anyway, Momma always encouraged my sister and I to never take no for an answer and to always follow our dreams sans Loretta Lynn.

The dream I’m following right now is a kids cooking television show. And somehow singing that song from the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter” gives me courage when I’m doing laundry or washing dishes as the shoot date approaches and self doubt creeps as I’m scheduling the film crew with the Seattle Art Institute and devising intricate childcare options—I wonder do I have the chutzpa to do this dream?

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Yes, with the help of Loretta Lynn and a new T-shirt for the occasion, I believe I can.

A couple of years ago I started wearing T-shirts in the same way Donald Trump wears three piece business suits . . . empowerment.

The favorites of my collection consist of Big Lebowski’s grinning Kahlua and cream smeared mug, Gizmo, and The Cat in the Hat. We can thank Susan Taylor Converse for that!

Unless you’re an expert in 19th century women’s undergarments you might be wondering who is Susan Taylor Converse?

She’s only the godmother of the modern T-shirt.

The T-shirt evolved from one patent of a one-piece flannel called the “Emancipation Suit” on Aug. 3, 1875 by Susan Taylor Converse.

The “emancipation suit” was literally physical freedom for women. Emancipation from brutally tight corsets meant to shape women’s waists into unnaturally small forms. It is suggested that the reason women seemed so fragile, expected to faint at anytime, was because their corsets prohibited proper breathing.

Today’s T-shirts have evolved even further and with modern technology it is possible and affordable to use it as a medium for personal expression.

So if you’re looking to make a personal or creative statement there is no better place than Renton’s own Black Anchor T-shirts & Printing.

I would pass the wee little shop at 235 Main Ave. S. in downtown Renton. Just the name, Black Anchor, conjured the image of a swashbuckling pirate and the desire to say, Argh.

Gearing up for Christmas last year I was on the prowl for something special for Amelia. I was walking past Black Anchor T-Shirts and peered into the store window. I saw a child’s bouncy and thought…it’s custom t-shirt time.

I telephoned the proprietress of Black Anchor T-Shirts & Printing, Sarah Little. I told her about my daughter’s art. “Send it over!” she replied and I could hear her baby daughters voice in the background.

Sarah brings her daughter to work with her everyday. I asked her what was her motivation.

“I do this so that I can work and be with my kids. I’m a big supporter of small business and family first and I’m lucky enough to make it work.”

Sarah certainly makes it work. She’s produced the Renton FilmFrenzy T-shirts. She also produces Mary’s, I love Renton T-shirts, and the City of Renton’s 5000 Facebook fans T-shirts. All of her business comes from word of mouth.

Sarah has made it affordable for me to create a custom birthday T-shirt for my sister, a plants and zombie combination for my daughters variety show and is now helping me with the cooking show T-shirt. I decided on the image of my hero Pippi Longstocking.

“I love Pippi!” Sarah said.

Of course she did.

I asked Sarah what she loves most about her job.

“I love it that people come to me with the craziest thing and they are so excited to talk to me about it. “Right now I’m working on a Free Phoenix Jones T-shirt.” Sarah said referring to the self-proclaimed superhero in the news this week that Seattle prosecutors might file charges against for allegedly using pepper spray to break up a fight.

I had no idea the history of T-shirts was so rich. And yet it seems very appropriate that wearing one emblazoned with Pippi Longstocking makes me feel a freedom from inhibition and convention—in other words emancipated. Look out Tom here we come.

I love suggestions! If you know of people or places in Renton that surprise, delight and inspire the community, drop me a line at carolyn@pippimamma.com. Also follow Carolyn on her blog, www.pippimamma.com.


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