s this century-long history of needles and threads, of fashion
headaches and "dress stomachs," coming to an end? Will wom-
en's-garment manufacture simply leave the high-rent and rela-
tively high-wage districts of the major urban centers and move de-
finitively "offshore," away from the island of Manhattan and farther
and farther away from the banks of the Seine? The American indus-
try has now moved west. California recently surpassed New York
in American apparel production, and Los Angeles seems to be rival-
ing New York City's reputation for sweatshops as well. "Paris fash-
ions" are now made not only in the French provinces but in Ro-
mania, the Mauritius Islands, and in Southeast Asia, like everyone
else's clothes. 1
Indeed, the refrains of decline have been so central to recent
writings on the garment industry that it often seems as if the Western
world's history of ready-to-wear were about to vanish like Singer's
sewing machines. Singer sold off its sewing-machine division in
1986. Even the
has faded, having merged with the men's-
wear and textile union to form
the Union'of Needletrades,
Industrial and Textile Employees. The historian's only comfort, in
that case, is that the timeliest histories are often written just as the
subject is about to disappear. Yet even historians like to imagine the
Previous Page Next Page