- Dressmaker as an adjective denotes clothing made in the style of a dressmaker, frequently in the term dressmaker details which includes ruffles, frills, ribbon or braid trim. Dressmaker in this sense is contrasted to tailored and has fallen out of use since the rise ofcasual wear in the mid-twentieth century.
- Mantua-maker, in the eighteenth century a maker of mantuas, or in general a dressmaker.
- Modiste, a maker of fashionable clothing and accessories, with the implication that the articles made reflect the current Paris fashions.
- Sewing professional is the most general term for those who make their living by sewing, teaching, writing about sewing, or retailing sewing supplies. She or he may work out of her home, a studio, or retail shop, and may work part-time or full-time. She or he may be any or all or the following sub-specialities:
- A custom clothier makes custom garments one at a time, to order, to meet an individual customer’s needs and preferences.
- A custom dressmaker specializes in women’s custom apparel, including day dresses, careerwear, suits, evening or bridal wear, sportswear, or lingerie.
- A tailor makes custom menswear-style jackets and the skirts or trousers that go with them, for men or women.
- An alterations specialist or alterationist adjusts the fit of completed garments, usually ready-to-wear, or restyles them. Note that while all tailors can do alterations, by no means can all alterationists do tailoring.
- Designers choose combinations of line, proportion, color, and texture for intended garments. They may have no sewing or patternmaking skills, and may only sketch or conceptualize garments.
- Patternmakers flat draft the shapes and sizes of the numerous pieces of a garment by hand using paper and measuring tools or by computer using AutoCAD based software, or by draping muslin on a dressform.
- A wardrobe consultant or fashion advisor recommends styles and colors for a client.
- A seamstress is someone who sews seams, or in other words, a machine operator in a factory who may not have the skills to make garments from scratch or to fit them on a real body. This term is not a synonym for dressmaker. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, a seamstress did handsewing, especially under the putting-out system. Older variants are seamster and sempstress.
- Sewist is a relatively new term, combining the words “sew” and “artist”, to describe someone who creates sewn works of art, which can include clothing or other items made with sewn elements.
Marie-Jeanne Rose Bertin(July 2, 1747, Abbeville, Picardy, France – September 22, 1813, Épinay-sur-Seine) was a French milliner and dressmaker to Queen Marie Antoinette. She was the first celebrated French fashion designer and is widely credited with having brought fashion and haute couture to the forefront of popular culture.
When Marie Antoinette arrived in France from Austria, she embraced France’s new styles and fashions as one of the ways in which to show her sincere appreciation of her new country. She was introduced to Bertin in 1772. Twice a week, soon after Louis XVI’s coronation, Bertin would present her newest creations to the young queen and spend hours discussing them. The Queen adored her wardrobe and was passionate about every detail, and Bertin, as her milliner, became her confidante and friend.
In the mid-18th century, French women had begun to “pouf” (raise) their hair with pads and pomade and wore oversized luxurious gowns. Bertin used and exaggerated the leading modes of the day, and created poufs for Marie Antoinette with heights up to three feet. The pouf fashion reached such extremes that it became a period trademark, along with decorating the hair with ornaments and objects which showcased current events. Working withLéonard, the Queen’s royal hairdresser, Bertin created a coiffure that became the rage all over Europe: hair would be accessorized, stylized, cut into defining scenes, and modeled into shapes and objects—ranging from recent gossip to nativities to husbands’ infidelities, to French naval vessels such as the Belle Poule, to the pouf aux insurgents in honor of the American Revolutionary War. The Queen’s most famous coif was the “inoculation” pouf that she wore to publicize her success in persuading the King to be vaccinated against smallpox.
Marie Antoinette also asked Bertin to dress up dolls in the latest fashions as gifts for her sisters and her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. These dolls were called “Pandoras,” and were made of wax, wood or porcelain. There were small ones the size of a common toy doll, or large ones as big or half as big as a real person. They were in vogue until the appearance of fashion magazines.
Called “Minister of Fashion” by her detractors, Bertin was the brains behind almost every new dress commissioned by the Queen. Dresses and hair became Marie Antoinette’s personal vehicles of expression, and Bertin clothed the Queen from 1770 until her dethronement in 1792. Bertin became a powerful figure at court, and she witnessed—and sometimes effected—profound changes in French society. Her large, ostentatious gowns ensured that their wearer occupied at least three times as much space as her male counterpart, thus making the female figure an imposing, not passive, presence. Her creations also established France as the center of the fashion industry, and from then on, dresses made in Paris were sent to London, Venice, Vienna, Saint Petersburg and Constantinople. This inimitable Parisian elegance established the worldwide reputation of French couture.
Under the Queen’s generous patronage, Bertin’s name became synonymous with the sartorial elegance and excess of Versailles. Bertin’s close relationship with the Queen provided valuable background into the social and political significance of fashion at the French court. The frequent meetings between the queen and her couturière were met, however, with hostility from the lower classes, given Bertin’s high prices: her gowns and headdresses could easily cost twenty times what a skilled worker of the time earned in a year.
During Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment, Bertin continued to receive orders from her former prized customer, for much smaller, almost negligible, orders of ribbons and simple alterations. She was to provide the former queen’s mourning outfit following the execution of Louis XVI, recalling a dream that Marie Antoinette had had years before of her favorite milliner handing her ribbons that all turned to black.
During the French Revolution, when many of her noble customers were being executed or were fleeing abroad, Bertin moved her business to London. For a while, she was able to serve her old clients among the émigrés, and her fashion dolls continued to circulate among European capitals, as far away as Saint Petersburg. She eventually returned to France in 1795, where Joséphine de Beauharnais briefly became a customer, but Bertin found that the fashion excesses of the era had waned after the French Revolution ended.
As the 19th century dawned, Bertin transferred her business to her nephews and retired. She died in 1813 in Épinay-sur-Seine.