March 7th, 2008

Buying a female wardrobe in Victorian era

Every time I revise this book I seem to have a new question...

Setting: It's a fantasy world, so there is some leeway. But generally, 1880s England or America.

Situation: Okay, I have a man of decent means (although not super-rich) who is purchasing a new wardrobe for a young woman. She really needs it. They're in the big city for a day, and then they're leaving to travel to his home close to a smaller town outside of the city.

I've researched this quite a bit already with the materials I have, and with various searches, but I still have some questions. I understand that ready-to-wear clothing was just becoming available at this time, but that women would generally still have a dressmaker make their dresses and that only things like capes and gloves might be purchased already made. I also read that there were some clothes that were sort of partially made and just needed to be assembled to fit the wearer, or something like that.

So, my question is, how fast would a dressmaker be able to make a wardrobe, and how would this process go? Would he take her a dressmaker in the city and have her measured for the clothes and have them sent along when they were finished, would he just have the local town dressmaker make them (and if so, would she go to his house or would he take the girl to see her?), would a big city have a place to get ready-to-wear dresses at this point, or...what?

Anything (website or reference book) pointing to detailed information on a visit to either the dressmaker or the department store, whichever ends up being applicable, would be appreciated as well.

Thanks in advance!
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