As social and industrial changes gathered pace it seemed important for the Victorians to make clear distinctions between the classes and clothes signalled the status or aspiration of the wearer. Also, the difference between male and female roles in society was evident by the mid 19th century when men wore sober, dark suits and hats while women continued to wear colourful elaborate clothes.
Better clothing became more widely available with improvements in garment making. Isaac Singer's sewing machines first appeared in the city in 1856 leading quickly to industrial production of ready-made clothes particularly for men and children. Women could more easily make clothes for themselves as paper patterns were supplied free with magazines and there were many small dressmaking establishments to cater for all tastes and pockets. This enabled women to respond to changing fashions with the frequent complaint that it was difficult to tell servant from mistress.
The variety of goods available was enormous with shops to cater for every occasion, including mourning. However of increasing importance were the new department stores with comfortable surroundings and tea-rooms that provided middle class women with a suitable place to socialise outwith the home. At first these were established in Argyle Street and Buchanan Street, but by the end of the century when many women were beginning to adopt more practical tailor-made suits and women at the Art School were advocating more utilitarian dress, Sauchiehall Street had become the most fashionable shopping area.
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