Minnesota Dressmakers Resource

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The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.

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Minnesota Dressmakers Resource

By: admin | What's New | December 16, 2016


Visually stunning women’s formal wear is a highlight of the MNHS costume collection.   Minnesota Dressmakers:  The Business of Dressmaking is expanded research about costume in the MNHS collection dating between 1880-1920. About 100 garments are identified by the label of the dressmaker’s business sewn into the garment and represent 25 different prominent businesses operating in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Dressmaking by 1900 had become the third most important occupation for women.  These business owners and the seamstresses they hired supplied custom-made fashion to their clients at a time when ready-to-wear was an emerging concept.   Enjoy this new resource   that provides business histories and biographical information on the women engaged in this work.

The research to identify these businesses took on a life of its own as staff, volunteers and interns combed city directories, newspapers, census data, death records, birth records, family papers, photographs, maps, and probate records.  Occasionally, we found family members to interview. We looked at every possible source of information for clues into these women’s lives in order to imagine their relationships as proprietors, workers or clients.

This project was supported by The Bean family grant for business history, the Ken and Nina Rothschild Endowment fund for business history and women’s history, and support from Art and Cultural Heritage Funding.

Linda McShannock, Associate Curator

Minnesota Dressmakers:  The Business of Dressmaking