It wasn’t so much fashion itself that underwent seismic shifts in the mid 19th Century, but rather the production of clothing. The sewing machine had been invented in 1846, and by the early 1850s everything began to change. Whereas once the designation of social class was achieved with relative ease by observing whether an accomplished tailor had a hand in the production of someone’s attire, high-speed manufacturing suddenly clouded distinctions. Finely constructed clothing might be had without so much as a nod to the tailor, and at a fraction of the price.
And speaking of sewing, is the A. Wheeler identified as the designer or proprietor of these upper avenue fashions (that’s the Astor House in the background) possibly related to sewing machine magnate Nathaniel Wheeler of Wheeler and Wilson?
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