Mme Demorest’s Emporium of Fashions – 473 Broadway, New York
We think our lady readers will be both interested and benefited by having their attention called to the results which may and have been made to flow from female ingenuity, talent, and industry well directed and perseveringly applied to special and useful objects.
A recent visit to Mme Demorest’s large establishment in New York, and a knowledge of some interesting facts connected with the rise and progress of a department of business which she has made almost exclusively her own, has impressed us forcibly with this fact; and in the encouraging stimulus which they afford to patient effort, aided by natural genius, will repay the time spent in becoming acquainted with them.
System of dress-cutting
Many ladies remember the slow and tedious process of Dress-Cutting which was in general use ten years ago, and the distressing doubt and uncertainty which was always felt lest the material, beautiful and costly as it often was, should be rendered nearly valueless by a bad or inaccurate fit.
No rules existing except the Dressmaker’s own judgment, uniformity of excellence could not be expected. One good fit was no guarantee for the next; every new dress requiring the same long wearisome process of pinning and cutting to fit the form, trying and. retrying before it finally reaches the hands of the owner. At this time, Mme Demorest was a practical Dressmaker, and, like all others, encountered the difficulties resulting from so slow, tedious, and inaccurate a process.
But, unlike other members of the same profession, she was not willing to set down and accept so stupid and laborious a method, without at least an effort at discovering a principle, which might form the basis of a reliable and perfect system. In the prosecution of this work, she found a valuable assistant in her husband, and as the result of their united labors, was produced the simple yet really beautiful and valuable system for cutting dresses by measurement, which we presented to our lady friends in a recent number.
This system of Dress-Cutting is easily understood, and is as certain as the art of Daguerreotype in arriving at an accurate result, and places within the reach of every dressmaker, and every woman who desires to do her own fitting, a scientific method for cutting dresses more perfect than could have been acquired by seven years apprenticeship under the old system, or rather want of system.
The novelty and merit of Mme Demorest’s system of Dress-Cutting commended it at once to experienced judges in the arts of the wardrobe. The first premiums, generally accompanied by special laudatory notices, were awarded on every occasion upon which the model was exhibited, including the World’s Fair at the Crystal Palace, New York, and it has now found its way not only into the hands of enterprising dressmakers, but also into many private families all over the country.
How the pattern idea originated
The ingenious and successful idea of supplying plain and trimmed patterns of the different parts of ladies and children’s wardrobe originated also with Mme. Demorest, and probably grew out of the various plans suggested by the new system.
Charmed with the perfection and elegance of the fit, ladies at a distance were frequently desirous of securing an exact copy in paper of a waist of a dress which particularly pleased, and sometimes desired the sleeve also for their own benefit, or that of a friend. This suggested to the fertile mind of Mme Demorest the advantage of displaying a few favorite models in tissue-paper, and this was quickly followed by the selection of proper colors for the representation of trimming, etc.
The first exhibition of this kind consisted of about one dozen patterns, which attracted much attention. Almost immediately the small show rooms were crowded from morning until night, a throng of ladies frequently stretching out upon the sidewalk. This extraordinary demand made the creation of facilities for supplying an absolute necessity; the slow process of cutting by hand was quickly replaced by the accessories of machinery, which was at the same time both more rapid and more accurate.
Simple duplicates, and the variations of styles suggested by the requirements of different tastes, was the limit of Mme Demorest’s first expectations; but it was very soon found desirable to employ original and skillful designers, and profitable to import from the fountain-heads of London, Paris, and Berlin the latest novelties calculated to attract attention and admiration in the world of fashion.
By this time, 1853, a more extended sphere of operation became necessary, and the establishment was re-moved from Canal Street into more spacious quarters, No. 375 Broadway. In 1860, the tide of business moving up made a change of location necessary, and the present large and commodious building, 473 Broadway, 26 feet front by 60 feet deep, is now entirely occupied by this establishment as follows: First floor, show-room and publishing department of Mme Demorest’s Mirror of Fashions, an illustration of which is here presented. Second floor is occupied for dress and corset making. Third floor, for the manufacture of Prize Medal Skirts. Fourth floor, for pattern making.
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Source publication: Godey's Lady's Book
Publication date: 1862