Dressmaking and Sewing

Having the services of a dressmaker was essential for merchant class women in the early and mid-19th century. While men’s clothes were beginning to be mass produced at the time, women’s clothing was still made to the individual measurements of the customer.

Women selected dresses from fashion plates in ladies magazines such as Godey’s Lady’s Book, and dressmakers replicated the dress from the illustration.

Fashion Plate, Godey’s Lady’s Book, March 1841
MHM 2002.4608.3

Like other members of their class, the Tredwell women were adept at plain and fancy needlework, considered a genteel, domestic pursuit. With the advent of the home sewing machine in the mid-19th century, it became more common for women to do most of their sewing at home, rather than hiring a dressmaker.

Sewing machine
Iron, wood, paint, gilt
MHM 2002.3418

Pin Box
Late-19th century
MHM 2002.3403

Needlework box
Wood, mother-of-pearl, paper, silk
MHM 2002.3406


Crochet Hook, Stiletto, Needle Case
Mid-19th century
Metal, bone, ivory
MHM 2002.3410.3a – .3c

19th century
Stainless Steel
MHM 2002.3423

Sock darner
19th century
MHM 2002.3424

MHM 2002.3425

Pin cushion
Mid-19th century
Silk, stuffing
MHM 2002.3415

..Our Stuff, Ourselves: An Intimate Look at the Tredwells’ Private Lives..




..Letter Writing..


..Personal Hygiene..

..Dressmaking & Sewing..

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