The business of dressmaking.

Molloy 1879 -1913

Molloy Mary O'Keefe Molloy. Photographs of Mary Molloy’s dressmaking shop give us a window into her business and employees. She operated from 1879 to 1912; based on the photos, she employed as many as 30-40 seamstresses. Her workshop appears typical of its era, with stations designated for specific operations. Stations were set up for sewing in boning, for sewing coats and other heavy materials, and for sewing fine fabrics. One area might have a button machine; others would handle hand embroidery, cutting, finishing with lace, ribbon, fasteners, dress shields, and boning, and finally pressing. A desk was designated for accounting work. Mary Molloy operated her business from the three-story brick Forepaugh Block on West Seventh Street, a St. Paul business district. MNHS has garments made in this shop dating from 1891 to 1913. Molloy’s clients included well-to-do Minnesotans from the Twin Cities, Hastings, and other towns with good rail service to the Twin Cities.

Sequined black satin and lace evening gown

Born about 1862 in St. Paul to Irish immigrant parents, Mary Molloy was described by her employees and family members as a "strong woman who never raised her voice to anyone." As a young, fashionably dressed woman she established herself as St. Paul's premier dressmaker, known for yearly trips to the fashion design centers of New York and Paris. She was trained by Madame Parquet, a Paris-born dressmaker who had a dress shop in St. Paul during the 1870s. Mary and her husband and business manager, Herbert, raised four children. She was well-organized and ahead of her time, detail-oriented, and with an "adventuresome and liberated spirit."

See additional images of clothing from her business

See Minnesota History Mary Molloy: St. Paul's Extraordinary Dressmaker

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