Early history of the garment industry:
“Prior to the mid 19th century, the majority of Americans either made their own clothing, or if they were wealthy, purchased "tailor-made" customized clothing. By the 1820s, however, an increasing number of ready-made garments of a higher quality were being produced for a broader market. The production of ready-made clothing, which continued to grow, completed its transformation to an "industrialized" profession with the invention of the sewing machine in the 1850s. The need for thousands of ready-made soldiers' uniforms during the American Civil War. Uniforms for sailors, western prospectors and plantation slaves further expanding the garment industry. By the end of the 1860s, Americans bought most of their clothing rather than making it themselves.With an ample supply of cheap immigrant labor and a well-established distribution network, New York was prepared to meet the demand." -wiki
Shirtwaist Factory-New York's Lower East Side Photo 1911
This image is from NYC's Lower East Side, year 1911, the tragic year that 146 immigrant workers died from the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Before then not much attention was paid to the dangerous working conditions in the factories despite the shirtwaist strikes and Ladies Garment Union formed in 1909.
This Group photo of seamstress's sitting at their sewing machine stations, will soon benefit from the preventable, unfortunate tragedy. The infamous fire that changed American industrial history for workplace safety and woman's rights. For the nation to push for fundamental reforms, exposing the dangerous working conditions in small sweatshops, gaining improved wages, less strenuous hours and better (safety standard) working conditions.