From 1915 to 1947, Anna and Laura Tirocchi, immigrant sisters from Italy, operated the A. & L. Tirocchi dressmakers’ shop in an historic Victorian mansion on Providence’s Broadway. Across the shop’s doorstep came women from many of the city’s prominent families. They ordered the latest in Paris fashion tailored from the most luxurious imported textiles; either custom-made, in the early days, or more often after 1924, exclusive ready-to-wear. Through the back door came the young women who stitched the clothing: skilled women from the nearby Italian American communities of Federal Hill and Silver Lake.
When you enter the exhibition, you step into the ambience of the Tirocchi shop. As with all the arts, fashion and textile design reflect the aesthetic of their time. The fashions and textiles chosen by the Tirocchi sisters, found in the still-intact shop in 1989, reflect advancing modernism in the art world of the early 20th century. Couturiers and textile designers participated actively in movements from cubism to the International Style, bringing a new and irresistible élan to fashion.
This time capsule of a shop flourished in Providence from 1915 to 1947, when fortunes were being made in the textile, jewelry, machine parts, rubber, and oil industries; when increasing freedom and the right to vote were won by American women and were reflected in new clothing styles; and when two aspiring dressmakers and their young Italian-American employees found fulfillment in bringing high fashion from Paris to Providence.