The Millinery and Garment Trade

The garment trade employed both men and women. Men worked as tailors, because they were thought to be better able to cut and sew through the many layers of fabric required for suits and corsets. Women were typically seamstresses and milliners. As the demand increased for ready-made clothing towards the end of the nineteenth century, garment-making became more mechanized. Within garment factories, men had the more skilled and well-paid jobs such as cutters, and women worked the sewing machines.

Garment advertisements from the journal The Delineator

Garment advertisements from the journal The Delineator 1890, Photo © CMH

Millinery, however, continued to be a prestige custom trade. At this time, every woman wore a hat when she left the house, so there was great demand for millinery. Creating hats by hand required creativity and attention to detail. Ladies’ headwear shared the same elaborate decoration seen on bustles and crinolines. In 1893, Miss Paynter, a successful Toronto milliner, advertised that she offered her clients the city’s “most fashionable and popular millinery and dressmaking establishment.” Miss Paynter made this straw bonnet, built on a woven straw foundation and ornamented with an embroidered net handkerchief, brocade ribbon and velvet flowers.