Tailors

The word ‘Tailor’ is derived from the French ‘Trap’ meaning cloth and thus ‘Trapier’, a seller of cloth. This was corrupted into the English form ‘Tailor’. Although the Tailor Trade has long lost its Seal of Cause there is mention of one in a Burgh record of Documents confirming a Tailor Seal of Cause of 1525.

The Tailor Trade is still carrying on the charitable work which was one of the main purposes of its formation. Help for the poor of the Trade is still an objective, although great care has to be taken that any such assistance does not affect Social Security and other benefits. The Trade has also been very active in other respects. In recent times, in addition to funding a bursary, it has established a student prize in the Textiles Department of Dundee College.

With a healthy membership and regular meetings, it continues to take a prominent part in the affairs of the Nine Trades and of those working in the clothing business. The Tailor Trade looks forward with optimism to a long and useful future.

History of the Tailors

In 1521 there were no erratic changes in the fashion of garments, yet, as their business was to make the clothes of women as well as men, the Tailors formed a large craft and normally followed their calling in the houses of their customers, but were also found in their own workshops.

Tailors frequently worked in the homes of their customers. This made it very difficult for them to control “unfree” tailors. Unfreemen were possibly excellent tailors who had not been entered into the Craft.

By 1681 they allowed tailors from the Hilltown to work in specified areas of the burgh under an annual licence and strict controls. Eventually, in 1765, they permitted the tailors from the Hilltown to have a vote in electing the Tailor Trade’s Deacon and even elect their own Deacon and Boxmaster acting under the supervision of the Dundee Trade.

By 22 November 1790 the Hilltown masters wrote to the Trade offering to purchase their freedom to trade in the town. They offered to pay Three pounds Ten shillings and eight pence Sterling as full payment of their dues on being entered as free Masters. This was agreed.

Around 1946 Reform Street was then the ‘Saville Row of Dundee’, there being well over a dozen tailors working there. Tailors at that time would be seen going to work wearing morning tails and silk hats.

In the 1950’s Dundee there were as many as 44 Tailor shops in and around the city centre. Of these at least 12 still had a hand-made facility for making suits on the premises. Today, only the wealthier members of society can afford a bespoke suit. As ever, life has indeed gone full cycle.

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