Tailor’s cotton reel

Made in England, United Kingdom, Europe, 1949-2003.

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

2007/127/36
Cotton reel, wood / possibly rayon / paper / ink / metal, made by Westminster, probably made in England, used by Ron Gillman, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, 1949-2003

A wooden cotton reel. There is a label stuck to the top that has the following printed on it: 'THE "WESTMINSTER"', 'FAST DYE' and '... TWIST'. Parts of the label are missing. It also has a depiction of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster. Thread surrounds the centre of the reel. The thread is olive green in colour. There is a metal pin holding the thread together. The bottom of the reel has a label that has mostly come off. '...UARANTEED HAND MADE' is all that can be read.

Dimensions

68 mm

Production

Made by Westminster. Probably made in England.
1949-2003

History

This cotton reel 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.

Ron used different types of thread while Maxwell only used silk thread. He kept a silk hank in a tin of baking powder size and would unravel it as needed.
Gillman, Ron 1949-2003

Source

Gift of Ron Gillman, 2007
17 September, 2007

Cite this Object

Tailor's cotton reel 2014, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 November 2017, <https://ma.as/367025>
{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/367025 |title=Tailor's cotton reel |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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