The village dressmaker is located in a small stone house at the corner of Queen Street and Maple Road. The house is an excellent example of masonry techniques used by veterans of the British army when they worked on bridge and canal construction in the 1820s. This stone building was originally a rear addition to the large brick home, in Upper Canada Village, which is called Crysler Hall.
Step inside the dressmaker's house and admire the stone slop sink in the kitchen's east window, but watch your head on the sloping ceiling as you go upstairs to the bedrooms. Low ceilings were a practical, but sometimes awkward, solution to space and heating considerations.
By the 1860s, communities were well established along the Front - the earliest settled areas on the northern banks of the St. Lawrence. While most women continued to make everyday clothing for themselves and their families, there were social occasions when women wanted to look their best, and there were local dressmakers to help them. By 1871, there was one dressmaker for every 200 women in the area.
Women in North America and Britain looked to France for the latest styles. Empress Eugenie of France set the fashion and designer, Charles Worth, provided the latest designs. The 1860s brought a dramatic change in the fashionable silhouette. At the beginning of the decade, a triangular body shape with oversized hoop skirts and wide pagoda sleeves was the fashion. By the end of the decade, the style was rectangular, with slimmer bustled skirts and tightly-fitted sleeves.
A visit to the village dressmaker offers visitors an opportunity to understand the role of women who, by practising a trade in their own home, contributed to the family's economic fortunes. Unlike the businesswoman who, perhaps, operated a local store, or an employee who worked in a business or factory, or even the farmer's wife whose economic contribution was hidden within the farm's financial success, a local dressmaker actually was paid cash for work done in her home.
Visitors to the dressmaker will be able to ask for fashion advice, look at fashion illustrations from Godey's magazine, and handle reproduction garments made from a variety of fabrics. Adults, and also children, will be challenged to discover the purpose of some of the tools used in the trade, to understand the differences between the tailoring and dressmaking trades, and to learn the hand-sewing techniques employed in creating a garment of the 1860s.