If a trade school of the kind described in the previous section were established it would be possible to give at night short unit courses in machine or hand sewing to those workers who wish to extend their experience and prepare themselves for advancement, utilizing in the night classes the equipment of the day school. It is probable also that special day classes could be organized during the dull season to give beginners the opportunity to learn new processes and extend their knowledge of trade theory.
At the time of the last census the total number of women in Cleveland employed as milliners or dressmakers was approximately 5,000, of whom about seven-tenths were dressmakers and about three-tenths milliners. For the most part they were of native birth. The proportion of young girls engaged in these occupations was relatively small, the age distribution showing that only about one-third of the milliners and less than one-fifth of the dressmakers were under 21 years of age.
Four distinctive lines of work are done by those who are classified by the census as dressmakers and seamstresses: dressmaking proper, usually carried on in shops; alteration work in stores; general sewing done by seamstresses at home or in the homes of customers; and the work of the so-called dressmaking “school,” in which the dressmaker helps her customers do their general sewing.
Shop dressmaking is in the main confined to the making of afternoon and evening gowns and fancy blouses. Nearly uniform processes of work are maintained and the workers in the different establishments need about the same kinds of abilities and degrees of skill. There is a strong and increasing tendency towards specialization of the work.
Among each 100 workers in dressmaking shops about 13 are head girls, 55 are finishers or makers, 16 are helpers, eight are apprentices, and the rest are lining makers, cutters, embroiderers, errand girls, shoppers, and stock girls.
Alteration work constitutes a separate sewing trade and consists of the adjustment of ready-made garments to individual peculiarities. It furnishes employment to several hundred workers in Cleveland.
The weekly wages most commonly paid to each class of workers in dressmaking shops may be roughly stated as follows: apprentices, $2 to $4; helpers $6 to $9; finishers or makers $10 to $12; and drapers $18 to $20. Lining making, done in most shops by apprentices or helpers, pays from $4 to $6 a week. In one shop a specialist on linings received $12. Women cutters, found in two shops, and doing supervisory work similar to that done by drapers, earned from $15 to $25. Hemstitchers earn $10 to $14 and a guimpe maker in one shop earned $12. Errand girls were found at $3 and $6; stock girls at $8, $12, and $13; and shoppers at from $3.50 to $10.