The business of dressmaking.


Dressmakers, Owatonna, c. 1890.

The dressmakers represented in this collection operated prominent custom clothing businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We can identify their work through the labels stitched into the dresses. This collection does not document women who provided custom work for their neighbors, nor many dressmakers working before 1880. While we have accounts of these dressmakers from family and friends, they seldom stitched labels into their finished work.

Labels are common only after about 1880 and only for a relatively small number of the more prominent businesses.

The dressmakers documented here worked in various settings. Some worked in their own homes, often with a small team that might include family members (McReynolds). Others opened shops in locations convenient to their clients, such as downtown office or retail buildings (Molloy) in St. Paul; (McGahn Importing) in Minneapolis. Still others rented space in prominent department stores (Worley) at Mannheimers; (Helen Gjertsen) at Dayton's. The exclusive dressmakers operated from their own salons (Boyd; Christianson) and employed as many as 100 seamstresses, tailors, cutters or fitters.

Their names are listed below in date order. These dates represent the span of years they were in business and listed from ealiest to latest.

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