"Advertisers operated in a similar gray area between old and new models of consumption. Diamond Dyes published an ad in 1895 with the text: "To dye or not to dye, that is the question: whether it is better to wear that faded, shabby dress and endure the scornful looks of all your well-dressed neighbors, or to purchase a package of Diamond Dyes and restore its freshness in another color — making a new dress for ten cents." Once again we see the early use of certain advertising tactics — the emphasis on a brand name and a sales pitch based upon sociopsychological appeals rather than utilitarian claims — that historians generally associate with later phases of mass merchandising. However, this ad does not attempt to challenge the prevailing values of thrift, reuse, personal handiwork, or custom clothing. Purveyors of female garments created ads attempting to promote standardized goods in a customized context, using headlines such as "Your dressmaker told us" or text such as "Fashionable modistes the country over are studying how to make the new Princess dress skirts hang properly. We have have solved the problem."
In short, the women's clothing industry was not immune to the onset of a culture of mass production. Yet it did not respond as the men's industry did with a shift to ready-made garments, but rather by incorporating productive and distributive advances into a context that continued to emphasize custom work. This happened because for women, custom clothing and fashionable attire embodied a set of cultural values singularly appropriate to the gender politics at the time."
Click on the book cover to go to the U.Penn press page for this book by Rob Schorman.