Beginners in alteration departments are started at from $5 to $7. Regular alteration hands earn from $7 to $18, the average being $9 or $10. Fitters earn about the same as drapers in dressmaking shops, averaging from $15 to $18, with a range of from $10 to $25.
As a rule comparatively little time is lost through irregularity of employment. Workers average from 10 to 11 months’ work out of the year. Establishments usually close during the month of August and for one or two weeks in the spring. Workers in alteration department average 11 months of work. Dress alteration work is steady, while suit and coat alteration is irregular.
Apprenticeship in dressmaking comprehends a trying-out period of from six months to a year. Most shops take apprentices, the proportion in the trade being one to every 12 workers; and an effort is made to keep these new workers if they are at all satisfactory. There is no standardized apprenticeship wage. Girls may serve without pay for six months, or may start at from 50 cents to $4 a week. At the end of six months they may be earning from $1.50 to $6. The lack of any wage standard in apprenticeship probably accounts for the fact that it is difficult to get girls to enter this trade.
Millinery requires the handling of small pieces of the most varied sorts of material, most of it perishable. The materials must be measured, cut, turned, twisted, and draped into innumerable designs and color combinations, and sewed with various kinds of stitching. The main processes are making, trimming, and designing. Making consists in fashioning a specified shape from wire or buckram and covering it with such materials as straw or velvet. The covering may be put on plain, or may be shirred or draped. Trimming consists in placing and sewing on all sorts of decorative materials. A combination of the two processes of making and trimming, known as copying, consists in making a hat from the beginning exactly like a specified model. Designing is the creation of original models.
The increase in the use of the factory-made hat has decreased the number of workers in custom millinery, and has also had an effect in diverting business from small retail shops to millinery departments in stores. The number of millinery workers constantly fluctuates, not only from season to season, but from year to year. According to a close estimate not more than 2,000 workers were actually engaged in millinery occupations during the busiest part of 1915. Between 1,200 and 1,400 were in retail shops; about 300 were in millinery departments in stores; and about 300 more were in wholesale houses.
The data collected indicate that the wages of workers in retail shops are lower in general than the wages of workers in millinery departments in stores and in wholesale houses. Makers in retail shops earn from $3 to $16 a week, the average being about $8. Trimmers earn from $10 to $40, with an average of about $18. Out of 45 retail shops, only 22 paid as high as $10 to any maker; 15 paid as high as $12; six paid as high as $15; and only one paid over $15.