In the Tirocchi archive, there are a number of customer ledgers
that generally span a "season" in the shops businessfrom
October of one year to October of the next. Clients typically made
the bulk of their purchases in the fall and the spring, with the
fall of the year being regarded as the beginning of a new social
season and the occasion for adding to or improving ones wardrobe.
The ledgers contain a section in the beginning of the book with
pages tabbed with letters of the alphabet. In this section, the
clients names are listed alphabetically with the page number
of the ledger that records their transactions for the year.
Upon turning to a particular clients page in the ledger,
the curators are able to see at a glance what kind of customer she
was. The clients name and address top the page. Following
is a dated listing of all the garments and accessories purchased,
and the various dressmaking services required, along with the prices
It might be noted that a certain dress was made or purchased, that
an alteration was done, and that an accessorysuch as a handbag
or scarfwas bought. Each transaction would have a separate
line for its brief description.
Sometimes a delivery date is recorded. Usually there is a record
of payment, and sometimes a notation about billing. At the end of
the listing, the charges are totaled, thus showing at a glance what
each client spent in a particular year.
These customer ledgers were summary records for the shop. The curators
have surmised that someone in the shopprobably the bookkeepertransferred
information about client orders from the daybooks to the
customer ledgers, most likely at the end of the year.
Curators and scholars have found the customer ledgers fascinating.
Not only do they give a general overview of the business of the
shop, they shed light on customer preferences and buying patterns.
Because the transactions are entered as brief descriptions, the
curators can trace and analyze the flow of the business. The ledgers
reveal how many gowns were custom-made and how many were ready-made;
the sales of accessories; and the percentage of the business comprised
by dressmaking services, such as makeovers, alterations, repairs,
cleaning, and pressing.
The books also record fashion trends, allowing the curators to
see what the women were buying from season to season, and how they
altered dresses from previous seasons. Billing and payment notations
often show what a personal business the custom dressmaking business
was. Delayed and partial payments had to be accepted by the Tirocchis
in order to keep their clients.
In short, the customer ledgers are at once business, fashion, and
social records. As such, they are valuable research resources for
a variety of purposes.
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