The speaker in Adrienne Rich's poem “Women” says nothing about herself other than that she can, for the first time, see who her sisters are. We might argue, however, that the three women described in the poem are actually three different aspects of the speaker's (and quite possibly the poet's) own identity.
If we accept this proposition, we can learn much about the speaker/poet. First, we learn that the speaker sees her sisters clearly as they sit on “rocks of black obsidian.” Some people think that black obsidian has special properties that cleanse the psyche. This supports our theory about the three sisters begin aspects of the speaker/poet's personality, for now that she is cleansed, she can see herself clearly.
The first sister is “sewing her costume” for a procession of some sort. She will be in the public eye, and she will be transparent with all her nerves visible. These images tells us that the speaker considers herself vulnerable when she is in public, yet she tries to put on a costume to hide who she really is. It apparently doesn't work, for others see right through that costume down into her being, to her nerves. The choice of the word “nerves” suggests that there is anxiety involved in such public appearances.
The second sister also sews, but she is trying to repair the seam over her heart. This metaphor suggests that her heart has been broken. She still feels the tightness in her chest, the pain and anxiety of a love lost. She hopes that by sewing up the space, by hiding it and pushing it down deep, she will be able to ease that tightness.
The third sister looks toward the sunset. She is, perhaps, dreaming of something far away. Her stockings have been torn, which suggests that she has had a difficult time recently. She is disheveled in appearance, yet “she is beautiful.” She has learned something from her experiences, and she looks outward in hope and longing.
If our theory is correct and these three women do represent aspects of the speaker/poet, we have learned quite a lot about her in this twelve-line poem.