Letters are a unique and valuable aspect of the Tirocchi collection.
Most of the letters were written by clients, but a small number
are copies of letters written by Anna. They offer an invaluable
window into the contacts between the dressmakers and their clients,
showing a range of relationships that includes the hostile and occasionally
threatening, the businesslike and matter-of-fact, and the friendly
and even affectionate.
Since most of these letters come from clients who lived or were
traveling outside Providence, they give only the rarest glimpses
of the more frequent dressmaker-client contacts that came over the
telephone or at 514 Broadway. However, the letters in the Tirocchi
archive are the finest and fullest collection of letters to a single
dressmaker that have yet come to light.
Some of the letters seem to show genuine friendship between Anna
and her clients, as illustrated by a chatty thank-you letter from
Anna to a client who was vacationing in Florida and who had sent
her a gift. Another client wrote to express concern about Annas
health and to urge the use of a medication that had helped her with
a similar complaint.
Satisfied customers wrote of the pleasure they took in their clothing.
Some, however, sent simple acknowledgments that they had received
clothing the shop had sent. If customers were not pleased with their
garments, they let Madame Tirocchi know in letters that did not
Clients also wrote to inform the Tirocchis that they expected fittings
on a certain date and time, not taking into account the schedule
and workload of the shop. They also demanded to have dresses ready
when they wanted them and complained if they thought someone else
had received preferential treatment from the sisters.
These letters reveal a double standard about time held by the Tirocchis
clients. On the one hand, they felt justified in making unilateral
demands on the dressmakers time; on the other, they insisted
that the dressmakers respect their social and travel schedules.
Another area of client relations and business matters that the
letters illuminate is the matter of payment. Customers pushed to
be quoted fixed prices for their garments, then often asked for
extras and expected the price to remain the same. When surprised
by their bills, they wrote to complain. Sometimes, even during the
prosperous years, customers wrote to delay payment because they
had not received dividends or other money expected, and sent partial
payment or postdated checks. Copies of a few of Annas replies
are in the archive, revealing how she dealt with these delicate
Customers also wrote to cancel orders, for very good reasons (serious
illness or mourning) or due to whimsical changes of heart. Madame
Tirocchi coped with this type of letter as best she could, though
it must have been disappointing at the least and costly at most.
^back to top
>> explore other evidence discovered in