Friday, 14 September 2012

Look for the union label

As promised, here is one of the earlier dresses I'll be listing in my shoppe. It is one of my favourites. The cut of the dress is extremely elegant with a flattering cowl-neck collar and unusual button detailing and the material is a lovely, mid-weight crepe.

Not only is this dress a beautiful item of clothing, it also belongs to the history of the American labour movement as it was union-made by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU). An interior label sewn inside the top of the dress states the maker(s) as 'The Sidneys'. 

The dress was given to me in perfect - perhaps even unworn - condition with a lovely brown packet containing two spare buttons. I will, of course, send these with the dress! 
Through online research, I have found out that 'The Sidneys' were based in New York, where many members of the ILGWU were concentrated, and that the dress probably dates from the mid-1960s (certainly post-1964 according to the date of the union label). I also began to wonder if perhaps 'The Sidneys' name was a reference/nod to Sidney Hillman, who was an American labour leader and head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

Reading about the history of the ILGWU, I discovered that members of the union put on a very successful Broadway musical named Pins and Needles in 1937. Because the female cast worked in the factory by day, they would fit in rehearsals in the evenings and at weekends. The songs are all pretty memorable but I'll leave you with the lyrics from Sing Me A Song With Social Significance:

I'm tired of moon-songs of star and of June songs,
They simply make me nap
And ditties romantic drive me nearly frantic
I think they're all full of pap 

History's making, nations are quaking
Why sing of stars above
For while we are waiting father time's creating 
New things to be singing of

Sing me a song with social significance
All other tunes are taboo
I want a ditty with heat in it, 
Appealing with feeling and meat in it!

Sing me a song with social significance
Or you can sing 'til you're blue
Let meaning shine from ev'ry line
Or I won't love you

Sing me of wars and sing me of breadlines
Tell me of front page news
Sing me of strikes and last minute headlines
Dress your observation in syncopation!

Sing me a song with social significance
There's nothing else that will do
It must get hot with what is what 
Or I won't love you.

I want a song that's satirical
And putting the mere into miracle
It must be packed with social fact
or I won't love you

Sing me of kings and conf'rences martial
Tell me of mills and mines
Sing me of courts that aren't impartial
What's to be done with 'em tell me in rhythm

Sing me a song with social significance
there's nothing else that will do
It must be tense with common sense
or I won't love you.

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