Professional Identity and the Textile Trade

In the eighteenth century tailoring was a skilled trade serving the upper classes. By the end of the nineteenth century the sewing machine had been invented, encouraging mass production by ‘clothing operatives’ who were often poorly paid and worked in sweated conditions. A number of trade unions were formed to try and improve the conditions of workers in the textile trade and to represent their interests. These included the Amalgamated Society of Tailors and Tailoresses (1866), Amalgamated Union of Clothiers Operatives (1881), Amalgamated Jewish Tailors, Machinists and Pressers Trade Union (1893) and the London Society of Tailors and Tailoresses (1905). In 1920, the Tailors and Garment Workers Union was formed (an amalgamation between the Scottish Operative Tailors and Tailoresses Association and the United Garment Workers Union). This was followed, in 1932, by the formation of the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers (an amalgamation of the Tailors and Garment Workers Union and the Amalgamated Society of Tailors and Tailoresses).

All of the images and texts published in this virtual exhibition are for private use only and not for copying, reproduction or publication. They are low resolution images only. The copyright holder for these digital images is the People’s History Museum, except for the Tailor’s Notebooks and the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers (NUTGW) pamphlet which have kindly been contributed by the Working Class Movement Library, Salford. Copyright of the original artwork, photographs or products may be held by the artist, maker, photographer or agent. By choosing to view the collections via this website you have accepted these conditions.

We would like to thank Ingrid Francis (MA Museum Studies, Newcastle University) who has worked on the construction of this virtual exhibition as part of her placement at the People’s History Museum. We would also like to thank the National Co-operative Archives, People’s History Museum and the Working Class Movement Library for permitting items from their collection to be used in this exhibition.