Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

Department

Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

First Advisor

Linda Welters

Abstract

During the early twentieth century, dressmakers struggled to compete with the burgeoning ready-made industry. Anna and Laura Tirocchi, Italian immigrants from Guarcino, owned a prominent dressmakers shop in the Federal Hill area of Providence, Rhode Island, from 1915 to 1947. The Tirocchi sisters made dresses, blouses, and coats with imported Parisian “robes”, which are pre-embellished lengths of fabric, as a competitive strategy against the advancing ready-made industry. These robes arrived as layers sewn at the top to a low thread count strip of fabric with a tag identifying the importer and a label identifying the country of origin. Robes for dresses included plain fabric for a slip between layers of ornamented fabric that required minimal stitching to create a garment. The unfitted, tubular shape of twenties fashions made construction especially simple. These robes are now rare artifacts in historic costume and textile collections, and little is published about them. The researcher examined robes and extant garments from the Tirocchi collections housed in the Historic Textile and Costume Collection at the University of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum and evaluated their use as a strategy in dressmaking businesses, an industry in transition. The Tirocchis’ use of robes as a competitive business strategy against the ready-made industry was short-lived. Anna and Laura used robes most heavily during the fall of 1922 through 1923, after which the sisters increasingly began to rely on the sale of ready-made garments rather than custom made garments.

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