Tailor’s block

Made 1918-2003

The craft of tailoring gradually developed in Europe from the twelfth century. In Australia, tailors were once a common sight in country towns and suburban main streets. Before the 1800s a suit ‘made to order’ was reserved for the wealthy. By the late 1800s increasing numbers of Australian working men had at least one good suit as a sign of respectability. Suits could be purchased ready-made, made to measure from a local tailor or the fabric and style could be chosen at a men’s wear store and th...

Summary

2007/127/18
Tailor's block, wood / metal, maker unknown, used by Ron and Maxwell Gillman, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, 1918-2003

A tailor's block. It is made of a light coloured wood. It has a flat rectangular base. Two pieces of wood protrude upwards from the base, one piece near it's front and one near it's back. On top is another piece of wood that has a flat top and curved edges. One end is smaller than the other. Screws hold the block together.

Dimensions

300 mm
220 mm

Production

Maker and place unknown.
1918-2003

History

This block came from Ron Gillman's tailor shop in Wagga Wagga. Ron was a third generation tailor. His grandfather, Joseph Gillman was a master tailor who arrived in the Riverina in 1883 from England. He established a tailoring business in the same year at Cootamundra and later in Hillston, Narrandera and Lockhart. Joseph and his wife had eight children, three of them boys. The three sons joined Joseph in his business and he taught them the trade. Two of the sons, Joseph Jnr and Maxwell opened a tailoring shop at 216 Baylis St Wagga Wagga in 1918. After eighteen months Joseph Jnr decided to start his own business and Maxwell carried on at Baylis St as M M Gillman. In 1932 Maxwell's son, Ron, went to work for his father at age 14 during the height of the Depression. During 1938 the business moved next door to 214 Baylis Street and in 1946 the business name was changed to M M Gillman & Son. Maxwell retired in 1949 and Ron took over the business.

Ron was trained to cut but did not do so until his father retired in 1949. Work done in the tailor shop was strictly divided along clear lines. For example, only the men did the 'tailoring' which was the hand sewing. The women were employed to machine sew straight seams and their wages were about half that of the men. There were eight people, the highest ever number, working in the shop in 1940. These included Maxwell, Ron and six women, two of whom were Ron's sisters.

Half of Ron's clients were farmers and half were working men. Professionals in the area took their tailoring requirements to Sydney. Much of a tailor's profit came from selling the material to make the suit. If a customer supplied the material profits were reduced. Ron said: 'that's the cream ... selling the material was the cream, making the job was the skim milk.' Prices were based on a day for a tailor to make a pair of trousers and four days for a two-piece suit.

Ron was a high class tailor. The styles of suits, jackets and pants that he made remained conservative over his career. Tailors sat cross-legged on their work bench, supporting the garment on their knees while they finished off by hand. Ron's workroom and those of his father and grandfather were behind the retail area that was at the front of the shop.

In 1970 Ron moved to the Nelso Arcade at 117 Baylis Street and he took as much of the old shop as he could. In 1992 he made his last suit, however he kept his shop open for alterations until November 2003 when he closed up shop.

This block was used by Ron and Maxwell. It was used for pressing open seams. The end of the block was used to press areas such as the inside shoulder.
Gillman, Maxwell 1918-2003

Source

Gift of Ron Gillman, 2007

Cite this Object

Tailor's block 2014, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 March 2017, <https://ma.as/366968>
{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/366968 |title=Tailor's block |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 March 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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