Skräddaren, sömmerskan och modet: arbetsmetoder och arbetsdelning i tillverkningen av kvinnlig dräkt 1770-1830

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The aim of this study in textile studies and cultural history is to gain a greater understanding of what happened to the division of labour and manufacturing techniques when female fashions changed in the period 1770-1830. This was a time of upheaval as regards fashions, and a change in dress practice. The decades around 1800 were a period of major societal and cultural transformation. Female fashions and their manufacture can be inscribed in these processes. With a more polarized perception of the sexes fashion and textile work, particularly sewing, came to be closely associated with femininity.

The empirical material comprises extant clothes, handbooks of tailoring, fashion magazines and written material from both public and private life. It has been of great significance to link the written and material sources, combining the approaches of textile studies and cultural history. Instead of proceeding from the perspective of a particular group of producers, it has been possible to study different actors on an equal basis, with material culture as the point of departure.

The first part of the thesis discusses the concept of fashion and how fashion can be understood during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. In a Swedish context this is closely related to the concept of folk costume.

The second part deals with the organization of the craft and the gender division of labour. In the 1770s and 1780s, clothes for both men and women in Sweden were made by male tailors. The study argues that women who made fashion clothes for other women became frequent and officially visible during the years around 1800 in Stockholm. At the end of the 1820s the male tailors seem to be absent from the profession in the city. In an international perspective, the Swedish development differs from the situation that previous research has demonstrated in France and England. The process is interpreted in terms of demasculinization and feminization.

The third and fourth parts examine how cutting and sewing techniques were affected when fashions changed in the decades around 1800. Two traditions for the manufacture of female fashion clothes can be identified in Europe during the period. The French and English seamstresses’ technique involved simpler methods of both cutting and sewing, whereas the tailors in the German sphere showed vigorous development in both processes. The study reveals the tailors’ competence in the sphere of practical sewing, with a new image of tailoring consisting of both cutting and sewing.

Manufacturing techniques and the organization of the work mutually affected each other. The organization of the craft influenced the possibilities for technical development. The techniques used had consequences for the way the work could be organized. The differences between different manufacturing traditions problematize the image of fashion development as aesthetically and technically homogeneous.


External organisations
  • Uppsala University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cultural Studies


  • Textile studies, dress history, object-based study, cultural history, fashion, tailor, seamstress, tailoring, manufacturing techniques, tailor’s books, cutting, sewing, division of labour, gender, guilds, the diaries of Årstafrun
Translated title of the contributionThe tailor, the seamstress and Fashion: Working methods and division of labour in the manufacture of female dress, 1779-1830
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Uppsala University
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Nockert, Margareta, Supervisor, External person
Award date2010 Jun 3
Place of PublicationStockholm
  • Nordiska museets förlag
Print ISBNs9789171085382
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2010-06-03 Time: 10:15 Place: Gustavianum, Auditorium Minus, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala External reviewer(s) Name: Lönnqvist, Bo Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Jyväskylä ---