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 Anna’s 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 mince words.

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 Anna’s replies are in the archive, revealing how she dealt with these delicate matters.

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.

[ printable version ]


   Sources and Methods
   The People
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      Address Books
      Shop Announcements
      Bills   |   Day Books
      Employee Address Book
      Inventory   |   Ledgers
      Letters   |   Payroll
      Time Books
      Travel Records
      Vendor Account Books
      Vendor Invoices
      Vendor Letters
      Vendor Promotions
   Custom Dressmaking



The Correspondence Database allows you access to many of the letters in the Tirocchi collection.