The Tirocchi sisters established business relationships with vendors
from the earliest days of their business. In the beginning, they
ordered fabrics and trims and notions with which to make the custom
gowns ordered by their clients. A little later, they added lace
and fine lingerie to their offerings. Still later, as ready-to-wear
clothes and department stores challenged their business, they added
ready-made garments and accessories such as handbags, hats, and
scarves to their inventory. All of these items had to be ordered
from manufacturers and suppliers.
Business in the early twentieth century was done more often by
correspondence than by telephone, which was still somewhat of a
novelty. The Tirocchi archive contains letters from vendors to Anna
Tirocchi, and copies of letters she wrote to them, all typewritten.
Some of the letters contain instructions from Madame Tirocchi to
a supplier about how the garments she had ordered were to be customized.
This practice was common among the "ready-made couture"
vendors who sent out model books with illustrations of dresses that
could be ordered and tailored to a customers needs and desires.
Unlike ordering from a catalogue today in which only size and color
can generally be specified, in this era, a dress truly could be
customized with different details of styling and fabric and trim.
Madame Tirocchi was not timid, either, about writing to her vendors
to complain about merchandise that arrived late, or not to specification,
or of inferior quality. She stated plainly just what she expected
the vendor to do to rectify the situation. She also wrote to return
garments that werent right or didnt sell or were refused
by the client.
There is also correspondence in the archives from vendors demanding
payment. If Madame Tirocchis customers were slow in paying
her, she was often unable to pay her own bills. This becomes awkward
on occasion. There is even a copy of a letter in the archives from
a customer to one of Madame Tirocchis vendors explaining why
she couldnt pay the shop yet. Evidently Anna had prevailed
upon the client to write in hopes that the vendor would give her
more time on her account.
All these letters reveal the nature of a dressmakers business,
with all the timing problems and difficulties that stemmed from
a business based on the whims and controlled clothing budgets of
a female clientele. They reveal Anna Tirocchi as shrewd businesswoman
and they help scholars trace links between established vendors and
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