History of Tailoring

26 Jan 2011

According to "The History of Tailoring," the art of cutting and sewing cloth developed in Europe between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The Oxford English Dictionary's first reference to the word "tailor" is from the year 1297 A.D., by which time weaving and tailoring guilds and cloth merchants were well established in Europe. In England, custom tailoring is known as "bespoke" tailoring, a term coined in London's famed Savile Row fashion district. In the era of the robe and the toga, fine cloth made the man or woman. After the advent of tailoring, the cut of the cloth became at least as important as the cloth itself, and a relationship with a good tailor was indispensable to the person of fashion.


A tailor spurned could make life miserable, too. A celebrated courtesan of the Victorian era, Catherine Walters, who went by the nickname "Skittles," had a disagreement with her tailor over a bill in excess of three hundred British pounds (over $28,000 in today's currency). The bill was for a riding habit and "numerous alterations." One can only imagine the difficulties that led the tailor to demand such a sum. In any case, the lady demurred, the tailor sued, and the case wound up in court, to the presumed embarrassment of Ms. Walters and to the great delight of The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, which reported that "'Skittles' speaks of a fashionable tailor as being 'one of the old war-horses of the trade.' A heavy charger we suppose." Ouch!


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