The Wholesale Mantle and Costume Trade Board regulated wages for workers who made certain types of tailored clothing for women, including women's suits or 'costumes', and outer garments such as cloaks or 'mantles'. Two separate Trade Boards for wholesale mantle and costume workers were created in 1919-20: the Wholesale Mantle and Costume Trade Board for Great Britain (established on 13 December 1919) and the Wholesale Mantle and Costume Trade Board for Ireland (established on 31 March 1920). In 1922 the Irish Board was transferred to the control of the Irish government in 1922 and a separate Trade Board for Northern Ireland was created.
The trade board papers in the Trades Union Congress archive include 6 files relating to the Wholesale Mantle and Costume Trade BoardsLink opens in a new window between 1919-1925. As part of the Modern Records Centre's 'Sweated trades' digitisation project, we have made a selection of these documents available online, including the items highlighted below. It is also possible to browse all of the digitised material relating to the Wholesale Mantle and Costume Trade BoardsLink opens in a new window.
Illustration: Coat room, Leonard Street Works of Curzon Brothers Ltd., London. Image included in 'The Sewing Machine in History and Practical Application to Tailoring'Link opens in a new window by Lewis Lyons, T.W. Allen and W.D.F. Vincent (John Williamson Co., Ltd., 1920s).
Wages and working conditions:
Summary of Trade Board minimum rates of wages:
Joint letter from C.J. Healy of the Wholesale Mantle and Costume Manufacturers' Federation and Andrew Conley of the Amalgamated Tailors' and Garment Workers' Union. They call for a reduction in wages.
Scope of the Trade Board:
Not all workers in Trade Board regulated industries were eligible for the minimum wage, employees who were regarded as doing peripheral jobs (such as messenger, delivery driver, etc.) could be excluded. In some cases the Trade Board was required to rule on 'questions of scope' - whether the work of certain employees came within the scope of the Board (and the minimum wage). Submissions to the Board on questions of scope can include information about manufacturing processes and types of work done by individual employees.
This guidance was provided by the Ministry of Labour for Trade Board inspectors. Manufacture of tailored women's garments could either come under the Wholesale Mantle and Costume Trade Board or the Retail Bespoke Tailoring Trade Board, non-tailored garments were covered by the Dressmaking and Women's Light Clothing Trade Board.
Information about cases relating to workers in a warehouse and an order and dispatch department. It includes details of the sort of work that they did.
Queries about whether certain types of work came within the scope of the Trade Board, including the jobs of coat folding, pattern hand, keeper of paper patterns, ticketing, cleaning and errands, and typing instructions and drawing diagrams.
The unnamed firm bought in the majority of their clothes from other companies in London and Paris and altered them in-house to fit the individual wearer. The question of scope asked whether the workers who did the alterations to blouses, dresses, coats, skirts, etc., would come within the Trade Board rates.
Letter enquiring whether the company's East End outworkers, examiners, porters, packers and counting house clerks would all be eligible for the Trade Board rates. A similar query is also availableLink opens in a new window.
Query about whether a girl employed to run errands and sweep and tidy the workroom would come within the scope of the Trade Board.
Each change to the recommended minimum wage was publicised by the issuing of printed notices by the Trade Board. Individuals and organisations then had a set period of time during which they could submit formal written objections to the proposed changes. Inevitably, when wage rates increased most objections were sent in by employers; when rates were reduced most objections were sent by trade unions or workers.
Copy of a resolution passed at a meeting of union and non-union workers in Manchester. A letter from John Gandy-Bewick, Manchester workers' representative, is also availableLink opens in a new window.
123 objections were received, 122 from workers and trade unions, and 1 from an employer. The names and addresses of all objectors are included together with summarised information about the reasons for the objections (the high cost of living was the main reason). Letters of objection from A. Potter of Ilex Works, Stoke Newington, and B. Twigg of Saltley, Birmingham, are reproduced in full.
Trade Boards could issue permits of exemption which allowed employers to pay less than the minimum wage. Permits were given to workers who were regarded as having a physical or psychological disability which affected their work. Applications (usually submitted without the employees' names) include short medical profiles of the individuals.
The Wholesale Mantle and Costume Trade Board papers include a series of applications for permits of exemption and statements of permits granted. These include cases relating to workers who were described as having a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including "old age", "chronic dyspepsia", war wounds, "artificial leg and weakness", "infantile paralysis" (polio), rheumatism, "defective vision", "spinal curvature", "severe rickets in early childhood", "gastritis" and "St Vitus Dance".
An index to these documentsLink opens in a new window is available
Learners, juvenile workers and training:
Statistical information about the number of learners officially employed between April 1920 and June 1921.
Extract from 'The Drapers' Record'. It reproduces a resolution passed by employers' representatives in support of the Trade Board and quotes from a "strong letter of protest" about learners' wages sent by the Hartlepools Textile Traders' Association.
Summary of a report from the London (Central) Juvenile Advisory Committee on the "permanence or impermanence" of jobs for girls in wholesale tailoring. It found that a "high percentage [were] known to have left their situations within a comparatively short period".
Letter from the Ministry of Labour. It confirms that "unskilled jobs such as errand running" can be done by learners at the start of their training.
Inspection and enforcement:
Summary report containing information about inspections of firms and irregularities identified over the course of the assessment period.
The complaints were made against Heaton, Ltd. and Hope Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Leeds.
Trade Board and trade union representatives:
Letters between J.J. Mallon, F.W. Leggett of the Ministry of Labour, and Madelaine J. Symons and P. Cutlack of the National Federation of Women Workers relating to attempts to increase the number of NFWW representatives on Trade Boards which dealt with the manufacture of women's clothing. The National Federation of Women Workers' "claim of two seats was somewhat hotly resisted by Mr. Conley [of the Amalgamated Tailors' and Garment Workers' Union] who urged that they had no claim whatever to representation".