Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/Trimmings and trimmers

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The river rolls sluggishly and drearily, this damp March morning, past the Temple Gardens, whilst the mist which lies heavily on its surface floats on shore, partially obscuring from view the evolutions of the Inns of Court Volunteers, who, in spite of the unfavourable weather, are exercising in this favourite summer resort of the surrounding inhabitants. There they go, at quick time, across the once well-kept lawn, making a regular “slough of despond” for the gardeners to fill up at some future time: “right and left,” “advance,” “retreat,” “present arms,” “forward,” are the cries that ring hoarsely through the misty atmosphere, as skirmishers dart behind trees, spring out from quiet corners, or fall into line at the word of command. Strange, that in this Christian nineteenth century the noisy note of preparation for war should rouse the echoes of the brave old Temple, even as the clang of the barbed war-horse, and the clash of mailed footsteps, awoke them in the chivalrous times of Richard the Lionhearted! With what scorn, we fancy, would the quiet inmates of those sculptured tombs in the haughty Templars’ ancient church gaze upon yonder cloth-robed warriors, could they rise from their long sleep, and view the mimic foray. And yet, no steel-clad Knight of the Cross, struggling for possession of the Holy Sepulchre, ever fought with truer courage, or more determined bravery, than these simply-clad Volunteers will strike for the holy sanctuaries of hearth and home; and the same dauntless ardour that laid Acre in ruins will hold Old England’s shores free and unsullied from the footprint of a foreign foe. But hark 1 the clock strikes one, two, three—ten, warning us that our business lies far beyond the historic, time-hallowed precincts of the mighty dead! A few steps, and the turmoil of active Fleet Street bursts upon the ear, as we turn westward. Pausing a moment to cross the road, a group of grey-coated riflemen brush hastily past, and, as the simple braided uniforms meet our eye, we forget war and all its attendant miseries, and wander far away to the busy haunts of commerce, where that very trimming to the Volunteers’ coats was manufactured. And this reminds us that the history of “Trimmings” still remains one of those things which ought to be and are not. Turn over the leaves of any periodical published within the last fifty years, and therein we find written, “The life, death, and last ashes of a cigar”—“The tale of a coat”—“History of a pin”—“Adventures of a needle”—“Travels of a piece of cotton”—“Walks of a stocking”—“Glass-eyes, and those who use them”—“Something about shirts”—“A word on wigs, by a hair-brained bald pate,” &., &c., and so on to the end of almost all manufactured and unmanufactured articles. But never, to our remembrance, do we recollect seeing one single word about “Trimmings.” And without “trimmings” what would man or woman be? How shorn of all that gives the finishing effect to their appearance without trimmings! As well walk bootless as dress without “trimmings.” Kings and queens, warriors and statesmen, lawyers and clergymen, doctors and merchants, old ladies and young ladies, pretty women and ugly women, high and low, rich and poor, all pay their homage at the shrine of “Trimmings;” and these few sheets shall be our offering to their departed glory. Yes, alas! departed. They are not what they were. But we will speak of them in the pride of their prime, ere war and fashion robbed them of their “fairest proportions,” and the French treaty gave the finishing blow to the declining trade.

Going back, therefore, to 185—, we will enter one of the most celebrated and oldest-established “trimming-houses” in the City. But a few words first may not be out of place respecting the rise and progress of this manufacture. Between twenty and thirty years ago, it is said, there were only three manufactories in London, but in 185— they had increased to such a degree that over-competition seriously injured the profits of the “hands,” as well as in some respects those of the masters.

At the first-named period, a first-class manufacturer employed, directly and indirectly, at least 500 men, women, boys, and girls, and an establishment of this kind was looked upon as a great boon to the inhabitants of the densely populated districts of the metropolis in which they abounded, absorbing their surplus labour.

Under the head of “fancy trimmings” are classed an immense variety of goods, principally ornamental: fringes of all descriptions, plain, fancy, and beaded gimps and braids; crochet fastenings for mantles, do. headings for tassels, fringes; do. collarets for mantles, fancy tassels, girdles; fancy buttons of every conceivable variety; plain crape trimmings for ladies’ dresses; do. bugled; do. machine; crape collars, cuffs, &c.; bugled lace, finger gimp, ornaments for dresses, cloaks, &c. The following articles, though not strictly denominated “trimmings,” are made at many houses:—Gold, silver, steel, pearl, glass beaded, and spangled nets; do. plain silk and chenille; head-dresses; do. ribbon bracelets; crochet, netted, and knitted neck-ties; cuffs, collars, and children’s shoes; fancy garters; embroidered smoking caps; falls and fancy ties; together with every description of needlework for ladies’ dresses that the fashion of the day prescribes.

No firm carries on all these branches, but each confines itself to three or four. Thus, there are the fringe, the silk, the gimp, and the crape houses; but buttons are a staple commodity of all but the last; for, so long as women and children wear dresses, so long will fancy buttons be in request, unless the old-fashioned strings again come into Page:Once a Week Dec 1860 to June 61.pdf/271 Page:Once a Week Dec 1860 to June 61.pdf/272 Page:Once a Week Dec 1860 to June 61.pdf/273