“He Who Wears a Bespoke Suit, Does Look Like a Gentleman”: Tailoring in Finland from the 1920s to the 1960s

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Textile crafts have mainly been women’s work in Finland, but tailors—the makers of men’s suits and coats—have mostly been men. There were still 2,500 tailors in Finland in the 1940s, but bespoke tailors gradually lost their customers because of ready-made clothes. However, in the countryside, bespoke tailoring lasted until the 1960s. One of those country tailors was the author’s grandfather, Einari Tiainen (1908‐76), who worked as a tailor from the 1920s to the 1960s. In this article, Finnish tailoring practice is studied from the point of view of Einari Tiainen, but also from the point of view of trade publications. This article concentrates on the processes of designing and making clothes, and on the gendered aspects of tailoring practice. In order to define tailoring in contrast to dressmaking, this article compares the country tailor’s practice with that of his sisters who were dressmakers. The study shows that garment making was divided between the tailor and the dressmaker according to gender, different traditions and values in the design and manufacturing of men’s and women’s clothes, as well as the types of and structural differences in the clothing. The changes of bespoke tailoring in Finland are also explained. Bespoke tailoring declined because of industrial garment making, made-to-measure suits, and the changes in clothing and consumer habits.

Keywords: clothes; craft; dressmakers; tailors; trade magazines

Document Type: Introduction

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175183512X13505526963985

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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