The Millinery Market

This passage from Twelve Letters to a Young Milliner  says a good deal about the mindset of women in terms of fashion and shopping. The passage comes from an 1883 advice manual for new milliners set in the form of letters.

With this general idea of the quality of your stock the next question that will confront you will be this, “Where shall I buy?” If it were a stock of soap or of sugar, of boots of of bedsteads, the place they came from would be of little consequence. If the soap took out the dirt, the sugar sweetened the tea, the books kept out the water, and the bedsteads did not fall to pieces, it would matter but little to the customer whether they came originally from New York or from New Orleans, from Boston of from Buffalo; but when it comes to articles of wearing apparel into whos manufacture taste and fashion enter, the customer does wich to know wheterh they are bough in th ewoods or in the center of civiliazation. In articles of Millinery, in which fashion is so large an element, it is of the highest importance that they come from the center of fashion. Present to your customers two Hats, both of the same style and quality; mark the one, New York; the other, Smithville, which will be sold first? There is but one answer to the question. Even the woman that buys a Hat but once in five years, if one ther be, will choose the Hat marked New York. Now, you buy your goods to sell; therefore, buy goods that will sell. You have neither the time nor the money, nor is it your duty to teach a benighted generation that Smitheville goods are superior or equal to New York goods. A Milliner’s life is too short for any such Quitotic enterprise. This prejudice is favore of New York Millinery may be without foundation, may be unfair, but it exists; and a beginner in the trade, if she desires success, must yeild to that which is useless to resist. If it becomes noised abroad, in the beginning of your business career, that your goods are out of date, that they are old style, in a word unfashionable, you may as well dispose of your stock at acution and go into the book-peddling business. Let your neighbors see that your boxes and bundles have the New York mark upont them and your reputation for being in the height of fashion will be estableished. That such reputation is neede for success, you will not deny.”

 The same guide continues… A millinery saleswoman – “She will know the names of the braids used in Hats where and how they are made. She will inform herself about the reputation for taste acquired by different manufacturers and wholesale dealers. Her knowledge of artificial flowers, the materials used, mode of manufacture, will be as extensive as her reading can make it. It is said that the female nature has a large share of curiosity in its make-up. Some customers desire to know all these things. If they find your assistant able to give them this information in a pleasant and an agreeable manner they feel sure that you understand the business and that what you say is so and not guessed at.

Again, this knowledge of the goods enables the assistant to set forth their advantages in a stronger manner than she would otherwsie be able to do. This inspires confidence in the buyer, and the occasional buyer soon becomes a regular customer through the influence of your intelligent assistant.

Published in: on March 23, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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