ABSTRACT

The failings of dressmakers are almost as favourite a topic of conversation as is the degeneration of domestic servants, wherever women most do congregate; the changes being rung on their exorbitant charges, bad fit or style, incredible consumption of material, and unpunctuality in sending home articles distinctly promised at a given time. Good, and even mediocre dressmakers have more work than they can manage, often increasing their prices for the sake of keeping their business within certain limits, and it is this which leaves the middle classes to the tender mercies of incapable persons, who yet demand, and obtain, payment that should in these days of fashion books, patterns, shop-window displays, and sewing machines, ensure style, cut, and elegance. It has been urged that if ladies paid more promptly dressmakers would be less unreasonable in their bills. This might be so with court modistes, but the wives and daughters of professional men are not able to run up long accounts, and it has been proved that no advantage is given to those who pay on delivery of every dress over those who settle once a quarter, half-year, or occasionally send ‘on account.’ Many of the evils are due to the lamentable ignorance of ladies themselves, as some dressmakers are quick to see whether they may ask or charge for several more yards than will be put in the costume without its being discovered that they could not be used, and the same profiting by their customers’ ignorance is evidenced in the quantities and prices of linings, trimmings, tulle quillings, &c., all of which are often doubled; and after every imaginable and unimaginable item has been put down in / this way, there is still an exasperating 3s. 6d. for ‘extras’ to every article. Dressmaker woes are much more readily overcome than the servant grievance, and it is because I so firmly believe that every month brings home to English matrons and maids the necessity as well as the wish to make their own clothes, and thus save disappointments, as well as many pounds towards their pin money, 1 that I shall endeavor to assist them in attaining so desirable an end. Re-making old dresses and altering new ones spoilt by second or third-rate dressmakers, is the lot of hundreds of girls in good social position, nor can they lose caste in any way by turning what is too often wholly idle time to such a practical purpose. Even if a tolerable amount of society is kept, each woman of a family, except, perhaps, the mistress, who has household engagements in addition to those common to all the members, can, with the help of a sewing machine, make her entire wardrobe for the year, and yet have leisure for improving her mind, for recreation, or duties to others. A vast number of ladies are amateurs who only need a little guiding to be completely successful in this branch of work, and others are anxious to test their powers from the commencement, so that I shall try to be sufficiently explicit to meet the latter class as well as the former. The desire to learn has often been experienced without the means of learning, for although there are classes held by a few dressmakers, they are composed of ladies’ maids and milliners’ assistants intending to start business themselves; and naturally, such associates are objectionable to private people. The Ladies’ Dressmaking and Embroidery Association, 42, Somerset-street, is however, free from all such objections; and the committee has found it answer admirably to give lessons in cutting-out, fitting, and making Ladies who desire to gain some knowledge of dressmaking for home use and can only spare a short time, pay a fee of a guinea a month, or five guineas for six months’ instructions. The workers attend daily, and the hours are from 9.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., except on Saturdays, when the work room closes at 2 o’clock.