As the focus of A. & L. Tirocchi changed over the years to meet the competition of the new department stores and ready-to-wear clothing, the clientele of the shop changed, too. The Tirocchis had some clients who stuck with them for decades, but many more faded away, and at the end the younger generation did not patronize the shop as their mothers and grandmothers had.

The customers who discovered the Tirocchi sisters’ custom dressmaking business in downtown Providence around 1910 were evidently young matrons who sought their services for two reasons. They needed a dressmaker to alter, repair, or make over various items in their wardrobes, and they wanted new gowns. In the beginning, The Tirocchis’ business was split between these different but complementary functions.

A few came at first, perhaps having met one of the sisters when they worked for another prominent Providence dressmaker upon their arrival in the city. Word spread, then others came: a next-door neighbor; a cousin; a sister; a close friend; a sister-in-law. In the shop’s address books, especially in the 1930s, many entries include notations such as "Mrs. Brayton’s friend," "Peck’s sister-in-law," "Mrs. Horton’s daughter," and "Mrs. Booth her mother." Presumably, many customers and the connections among them were so well known to the Tirocchis that such notations were unnecessary. In fact, these notations most often referred to out-of-town clients, whose connections might not have been so well known as those of local clients.

The original clients brought their daughters, too, as the girls became young women. It was just then, however, in the 1920s, that ready-to-wear took off and youth culture was featured in mass advertising. The daughters began to think the Tirocchi shop was old-fashioned. One later said that her mother loved going to the shop but that she "couldn’t wait to get out."

The Tirocchi sisters re-tooled their business to bring in more ready-to-wear dresses and sporting garments. These appealed more to the maturing young women but, as might be expected, they mostly found their own sources of clothing rather than stick with their mothers’ choices. One way in which the Tirocchis did gain their business was in offering custom wedding gowns and trousseaus and dressing for the entire wedding party. Throughout the 1920s, the shop maintained their original list of clients, added new ones, and kept some of the daughters.

In the 1930s, however, many clients fell away because of the Great Depression and its effect on their personal wealth. Fashion trends may have kept others faithful, however. The streamlined, body-skimming designs of the ‘30s did not flatter aging figures, and ready-made versions of these styles flattered even less. The Tirocchis’ older clientele, therefore, relied upon Madame Tirocchi’s skill and advice to keep them fashionably and flatteringly attired.

By the late 30s, however, there were very few regular clients left and few new ones coming in. Furthermore, Anna Tirocchi’s health was failing and she was not inclined to try to develop new business. The shop was effectively closed by 1939, although the most faithful clients continued to buy garments and purchase services into the early 1940s. The last ledger covers the years 1941-47. Anna continued to sew for eight women, but by 1942 most of these women had turned to other sources for their wardrobes. Her most valued client, Mrs. Peck, continued to come to the Tirocchi sisters until Anna’s death on February 26, 1947.

[ printable version ]

  The Family
  The Business
  The Clients
      Valued Clients
      Social Life & Wardrobe
      Relationship to Anna
      Changing Clientele
  The Workers




You can learn more about the Tirocchi clients in Susan Porter Benson's essay, "Clients and Craftswomen: The Pursuit of Elegance."