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Monday, 16 April 2018

No readymade garments in the Regency? not true!

I'm working, among other things, on 'Daisy's Destiny', latest in the Charity School series, and was looking into milliners' shops in the Regency, via adverts in the newspapers.  I got to see a lot covering tailors, corsetry and so on. Most Milliners also seem to have sold ready made dresses.
One thing which struck me was the number of times the advertisements said "Dresses ready, many sizes kept in stock. Country ladies have only to send their size and a dress may be despatched immediately."  Tailors also seemed to keep suits of clothes in stock, which 'could be quickly altered for an exact fit', and livery for servants, a complete suit costing around four quid, was probably, if not 'one size fits all' made in several sizes all of which doubtless conformed to the British Army standard fit.
That's to say, 'too big', or 'too small' aka 'fits where it touches'.

I have been asked to update this with an approximation of what the prices mean nowadays.  This isn't that straightforward, as some things cost more and some less, but for a rough guestimate, shove a couple of zeros on the pounds.  As for shillings, there are 20 shillings in every pound and 12 pence in every shilling.  A guinea is a pound and a shilling.  

Radford and co.,   of 188 Fleet Street, who made gentlemen's attire and ladies' habits, claimed to be able to make a suit of clothes in 5 hours.  Impressive! Now, I know I could cut sew a pair of trousers in 5 hours - with a sewing machine! so I assume that they had many tai
lors working on different pieces at once, and Mr. Radford or one of the 'co' did the finishing.  Radford's appeared to make bespoke clothing, and offered:
Elegant coats of superfine, £3/3/- to £3/10/-
Great coats faced with silk, from £3/3/- to £4/4/-
fashionable waistcoats from 8/- to 15/-
Best double-milled Kerseymere breeches from £1/5/- to £1/9/-
Blue or mixed trousers from £1/1/- to £1/12/-
Nankeen or drill trousers from 13/-
Ladies habits completed by experienced workers, 4 to 5 guineas [does this imply they let the apprentices loose on completing the other clothes as it was the habits completed by experience workers?  revealing!]
 Suit of livery complete £4/10/-
Ladies and gents travelling coats from £2 to 5g
Radford and co., were certainly around from 1817.
In 1810 there was a Radford's Hosiery at 52 Cheapside, selling 'all manner of hosiery, gloves, flannels, drawers, ladies' invisible dresses.'
I haven't tracked down what ladies' invisible dresses are, but I'm guessing some kind of undergarment to hold a gown's line better. A Mrs Morris, previously known to her clients as Mrs Robertshaw, also sold invisible dresses and waistcoats [implied for women] of real Spanish lambs' wool so maybe undergarments for warmth?
One thing Radford's Hosiery held were brown cotton stockings for boots, as well as silk stockings, cotton stockings and silk stockings with cotton feet.  who knew?
I do not think this is the same Radford as Radford and co., as in 1819 there was a Radford's at 118 Cheapside, selling 'elegant silk stockings and French kid gloves'; it looks as though Radford's hosiery expanded and moved down the street to a better shop.  One wonders, however, if the two Radfords were related.

Now Smith and co.,, of 146 Strand, specifically state that they keep readymades in stock.They also offer bespoke, and specialise in naval and military uniform and liveries.

as to ladies' wear, this seems to range from Miss Blacklin's shop in Blenheim St selling millinery, corsets and ready-made dresses to L. Collins, corset maker to her Highness the Duchess of York, who had a shop at 5 London Rd, but who also advertised 'Ladies waited upon at their respective residences.'

Certainly many shops offered ready-made mourning clothes, and childbed-linen.  Birth and death then, as now, was profitable.


  1. It makes sense that there would be some ready made clothes or half constructed clothes. WE are so accustomed to dealing with aristocrats or talented less wealthy who had clothes made or made their own. We forget the many who couldn't afford to have clothes made to measure or couldn't make their own.I imagine there would be more men's garments made up. Very interesting.

  2. in today's terms those suits will be around £400, my son got a half price wool suit from a reputable menswear, but still off the peg, for £240, so that kinda adds up to similar. I am sure there were cheaper garments made in less fashionable streets from cheaper fabrics, so that there were clothes catering to every budget, as well, as we both know, the flourishing second hand trade.

  3. Well-informed article.You can add sundries if you like - Jane Austen paid: 3 pairs of silk stockings 12s (12 shillings) - Bugle trimming 2/4 (2 shillings/4 pennies) 2 pelisse' 17s each (17 shillings) Straw hat (colonial) 8s - bonnet 1 guinea.

  4. it's nice to have a purchaser's list of costs as well, because the adverts rarely give things like bugle trimming. thank you for that.
    Sometimes there were discounted goods which had been bought up from bankruptcy sales as well, when goods were as little as half the normal price!

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