Busks, Basques and Brush-Braid Cover Image

Busks, Basques and Brush-Braid

British dressmaking in the 18th and 19th centuries


Pam Inder

978-1-3500-6092-0 (online)
978-1-3500-6089-0 (hardback)
978-1-3500-6090-6 (epdf)
Buy this book bloomsbury.com


The dressmaking trade developed rapidly during the 18th and 19th centuries, changing the lives of thousands of British workers. Busks, Basques and Brush-Braid focuses on the trade and the people within it, from their working conditions and earnings to their training, services and relationships with customers.

Exploring the lives of dressmakers in fact and fiction, the book looks at representations of the trade in the plays and novels of the time, while surveying the often harsh realities of the workers’ lives. From the arrival of the sewing machine to the influence of the department store, it explores the impact of mechanization, commercialization and modernity on a historical trade. Pamela Inder illuminates a new world of dressmaking enabled by goods like paper patterns and magazines, and sets out to investigate the increasing monopoly of female dressmakers in an industry once dominated by male tailors.

Drawing on a range of original and hitherto unpublished sources – including business records, diaries, letters, bills and newspaper articles – Busks, Basques and Brush-Braid reveals the untold story of the dressmaking trade. Beautifully illustrated with over 80 images, the book brings dressmakers into focus as real people, granting new insights into working class life in 18th- and 19th-century Britain.

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