Jews and the garment industry

Comes word that the Yeshiva University Museum is hosting an exhibition entitled A Perfect Fit: The Garment Industry and American Jewry 1860-1960 from December 4, 2005 – April 2, 2006. For a fascinating run down of Jewish and apparel industry history, see the Exhibition Highlights which says in part:

To understand the schmatte business or rag trade, as it is playfully called, one must realize the role American Jews have played in designing, altering and literally stitching together the whole business.

From the early threads of 19th century immigrants seeking success in American, to tailors and peddlers, pressers and cutters, designers and manufacturers, models and moguls, A Perfect Fit showcases the impact and influence of American Jewry on the world of fashion. Well-earned homage is paid to stellar household names, and also to the masses of skilled, hard working immigrants who plied their trade in virtual anonymity. Together they fashioned an industry that helped propel the American economy as it launched the livelihood of tens of thousands of American Jews.

In addition to the exhibition, a series of public programs have been arranged. These include:

· Walking Tours of the Garment District – A former garment industry worker, now a professional tour guide, leads us on a colorful tour of the front doors and back rooms of New York’s fashion industry.
· Film series highlighting feature films and documentaries about the era.
· All in a Days Work: Sharing Stories of the Garment Industry – brings in designers, fabric cutters, seamstresses, tailors and retailers to give narratives of their personal experiences in the industry.
· Readings and Reviews, a series bringing in contemporary authors who bring different perspectives of the immigrant experience in the garment industry.
· Walking tours and showroom tours in the garment district are also planned.
· Demonstrations and studio workshops will illustrate pattern making/sewing and printing, painting, drawing on surface treatments allowing visitors to embellish fabric.

I wonder if something I’ve noticed will be mentioned -that the seasonal market calender was traditionally arranged to permit observation of Jewish holidays- Christmas seems to fall so inconveniently in accordance with fall market launches. If like me you cannot attend, an exhibition catalogue underwritten by Levi Strauss is available. The catalogue includes over 170 color photographs of historic costumes, archival documents, advertising, and industrial equipment blending fashion, history and culture. 96 pages, 9 ¼ in. x 11 ¾ in. for 30.95 ($4 S&H included). Order your copy here.

The exhibition is held at Yeshiva University Museum, 15 West 16th Street, NY NY. Tel: 212-294-8330.

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One comment

  1. Susan Claire says:

    We have two day weekends in the United States thanks to the early work of the heavily Jewish International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), so if the calendar skips around the Jewish holidays, it is not surprising.

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