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 shops address books, especially in the 1930s, many entries
include notations such as "Mrs. Braytons friend,"
"Pecks sister-in-law," "Mrs. Hortons
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
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 "couldnt 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 Tirocchis 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 Tirocchis 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 Annas
death on February 26, 1947.
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