Posts Tagged ‘Regency trade’

Gentle readers: Today I present to you this chapter about The Dress Maker in its entirety from a book in the public domain, Book of English Trades, and library of the useful arts, published in 1818.


Image from the book: "The plate represents the Dress-Maker taking the pattern off from* a lady, by means of a piece of paper or cloth: the pattern, if taken in cloth, becomes afterwards the lining of the dress."

Under this head we shall include not only the business of a Mantua Maker, but also of a Milliner: for, although in London these two parts of in fact the same trade, are frequently separate, they are not always so, and in the country they are very commonly united.

The history of dress would be as voluminous as the history of mankind: dress is a thing subject to almost daily fluctuation, so that a history of the ladies’ dresses in England, for merely half a dozen years, would furnish matter for a bulky volume; we shall therefore not attempt it, but merely observe that the best, and, perhaps, the only excuse for such continual change in the empire of dress, is the opportunity which that change offers of employment to those persons who would otherwise have no immediate claim upon the rich and opulent; and thus, what would be retained in their coffers, is now scattered in a variety of ways amongst the community in the purchase of luxurious dress, and in the alterations which fashion is continually introducing.

In the Milliner, taste and fancy are required; with a quickness in discerning, imitating, and improving upon various fashions,which are perpetually changing among the higher circles.

  • Silks and Satins, of various sorts, are much used in this business; which were formerly imported into this country, but now are manufactured ia great perfection in Spitalfields and its neighbourhood.
  • Gauze is a very thin, slight, transparent kind of stuff, woven sometimes of silk, and sometimes only of thread.
  • Crape is a very light, transparent stuff; in some respects like gauze: but it is made of raw silk, gummed and twisted on the mill, and woven without crossing. It is used for mourning, and is now a very fashionable article in court-dresses.
  • Spangles are small, thin, round leaves of metal, pierced in the middle, which are sewed on as ornaments to dress.
  • Artificial Flowers are made, sometimes, of very fine coloured paper, sometimes of the inside linings upon which the silk worm spins its silk, but principally of cambric, which is a kind of linen made of flax, and was first manufactured at Cambray in France, whence its name.
  • Ribbands used by the Milliners are woven: of these there are different sorts, distinguished by different names; as, the China, the sarcenet, and the satin.
  • Muffs and fur tippets are sold by the Milliner; but the manufacture of them from the skin, is a distinct business.
  • Velvet is also used by Milliners, and is now much in fashion: it is a sort of stuff, or silk; the nap of which is formed of part of the threads of the warp, which the workman puts on a channeled ruler, and then cuts, by drawing a sharp steel tool along the channel of the ruler, to the end of the warp.
  • Muslin is a fine sort of cloth, wholly made of cotton, so named from the circumstance of having a downy nap on its surface, resembling moss, which in French is called mousse.

Dress Maker

The Ladies’ Dress-Maker’s customers are not always easily pleased; they frequently expect more from their dress than it is capable of giving. “Dress,” says Mr. Addison, ” is grown of universal use in the conduct of life. Civilities and respect are only paid to appearance. It is a varnish that gives a lustre to every action, that introduces us into all polite assemblies, and the only certain method of making most of the youth of our nation conspicuous: hence, Milton asserts of the fair sex,

-Of outward form
Elaborate, of in ward, less exact.’

“A lady of genius will give a genteel air to her whole dress, by a well fancied suit of knots, as a judicious writer gives a spirit to a whole sentence, by a single expression.”

The Dress-Maker must be an expert anatomist; and must, if judiciously chosen, have a name of French termination; she must know how to hide all defects in the proportions of the body, and must be able to mould the shape by the stays, that, while she corrects the body, she may not interfere with the pleasures of the palate.

The business of a Ladies’ Dress-Maker and Milliner, when conducted upon a large scale and in a fashionable situation, is very profitable ; but the mere work-women do not get any thing at all adequate to their labour. They are frequently obliged to sit up very late, and the recompense for extra work is, in general, a poor remuneration for the time spent.

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