Kellsey grew up on earth during the early 1900’s the history of her craft just a century earlier had been one of only a few occupations open to women which offered a skill and a sense of belonging to a trade, and which promised, at least after the apprenticeship period was served, a decent and respectable living.
Dressmakers were involved in an old type of commerce the business of producing women’s clothes made to order. However, in the 1830s and 1840s, the growing middle class created a new demand for cheap ready made clothing (the work of the bespoke tailor was simply not affordable). Like many trades in the 1830s and 1840s, tailoring had therefore shifted from the unionized labor of skilled male artisans to the cheaper labor of women. To serve this growing market for cheap clothing, many women worked at home sewing ready-made clothing (also called “slop” and “slop-work”) for very low piece-rates. The women who sewed slop could be young, but they were sometimes older and widowed with children and other relatives to support. Sewing men’s shirts, even for starvation wages, was often preferable to the only other option, domestic service, because it allowed one to remain independent (an important factor for middle-class women and distressed gentlewomen).
Nearly a centry later the victorian era was upon the merchant class and women were still helping thier families financially. Her parents Charles and Ann owned thier own shop serviceing both male and female sexes. Her father tailored the most fashionable of suits and Mother Ann was a master of silk. Kellsey as a child first assisted with threading needles as parents eyes would deteriorte over the years from working into the late hours of the night. Her mother fashioned what Kells thought to be the finest dresses. Kellsey progressed with light stitching of undergarments and oft practicced sewing straight tight lines on scrap fabrics. Often she’d be sent out to on deliveries of scarves, shirts, or simple night wear. As she grew older she assisted with measurements and finishing the sewing when her mother eyes couldn’t focus any longer. Kells as a young lady, could sew simple gloves, shirts, night shirts, bloomers, and chemises. Silk was an expensive and fine fabric, she wan’t quite proficient yet and a mistake on a cut line could be costly.