By the 1860s, stylish American women could see original designs
by Charles Frederick Worth, the first true fashion designer, in
the popular publication Harpers Bazaar. As other designers
appeared on the scene, their creations could also be seen in new
fashion magazines. By the turn of the twentieth century,
this was the primary method of spreading news of fashion trends
from Paris, the seat of fashion.
At first, the gowns were illustrated with drawings, but as photography
became more sophisticated in the early twentieth century,
the fashion press used more and more photographs of new designs.
At the same time, fashion and art were merging in the eyes of the
artists, who dabbled in many of the arts. These artists not only
painted, but also created textile designs and fashion illustrations.
Some journals of the day printed both fashion illustrations and
photographs, along with short articles on fashion by modern writers.
Until the Second World War, even mainstream fashion journals like
Vogue and Vanity Fair continued to publish fashion
illustration by modern artists, encouraging the connections between
fashion designers and visual artists.
Vogue functioned in America not only to provide sketches
and patterns of fashions derived from Paris models, but also to
promote French couture. One of Frances premier designers,
Paul Poiret, wrote in a special thirtieth-anniversary edition of
Vogue that the magazine "is today one of the best methods
of communication with a distinguished clientele," revealing
the importance for him of reaching the American clientele.
In America, wearing Paris fashion ensured that others would recognize
the wearers status as a cultivated and wealthy person, perhaps
able to travel to Paris, certainly able to afford the best her own
locality could provide, be it local cultural life or the best dressmaker
in town. For the Tirocchi clientele, nothing less would do to proclaim
their status as wives and daughters of newly wealthy industrialists,
a new elite of active and intelligent women in a vibrant city with
a long history and a monied elite.
The Tirocchis subscribed to both Vogue and Harpers
Bazaar. No doubt many of their clients also subscribed to these
magazines at home, but they were able in the shop to consult the
magazines and could order a dress made from one of the sketches
they saw illustrated. Vogue illustrated as many as 33 models
from Paris in each issue, and about twice as many American dresses.
Advertisements provided many more images.
As a result of their familiarity with fashion magazines, by 1920
clients were asking for couturiers by name instead of favoring designs
sewn and trimmed by Madame Tirocchi herself. The sisters turned
this development to their advantage by embracing it and offering
their customers copies of Paris couture from supply houses in New
York that had paid for the right to copy them in the same materials
as the original, then stitch up copies to order for retailers like
A. & L. Tirocchi.
Custom dressmaking declined for many reasons in the early twentieth
century, but the increasing popularity of the fashion press, which
championed couture and a worldwide fashion industry, was a major
factor hastening its demise. Women saw what they liked in the pages
of fashion magazines and were no longer satisfied with dresses that
were not identified with the style of a particular fashion designer.
>> read on about Fashion
in the 1900s