Ready-to-Wear and Ready-to-Work

A Century of Industry and Immigrants in Paris and New York

Ready-to-Wear and Ready-to-Work

Comparative and International Working-Class History

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Book Pages: 448 Illustrations: 10 illustrations Published: January 1997

Author: Nancy L. Green

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > European History, U.S. History

Nancy L. Green offers a critical and lively look at New York’s Seventh Avenue and the Parisian Sentier in this first comparative study of the two historical centers of the women’s garment industry. Torn between mass production and "art," this industry is one of the few manufactauring sectors left in the service-centered cities of today. Ready-to-Wear and Ready-to-Work tells the story of urban growth, the politics of labor, and the relationships among the many immigrant groups who have come to work the sewing machines over the last century.
Green focuses on issues of fashion and fabrication as they involve both the production and consumption of clothing. Traditionally, much of the urban garment industry has been organized around small workshops and flexible homework, and Green emphasizes the effect this labor organization had on the men and mostly women who have sewn the garments. Whether considering the immigrant Jews, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Chinese in New York or the Chinese-Cambodians, Turks, Armenians, and Russian, Polish, and Tunisian Jews in Paris, she outlines similarities of social experience in the shops and the unions, while allowing the voices of the workers, in all their diversity to be heard.
A provocative examination of gender and ethnicity, historical conflict and consensus, and notions of class and cultural difference, Ready-to-Wear and Ready-to-Work breaks new ground in the methodology of comparative history.


“As one of the few practitioners of comparative history, Green makes real contributions to both French and American history.” — Olivier Zunz , Journal of Modern History

“Equipped with an impressive scholarly apparatus, Ready-to-Wear is a readable history with a happy minimum of social science jargon. — Jonathan Frankel , Dissent

“Green has written a book that is both delightful and profound. Comparing the women’s ready-to-wear businesses of New York and Paris over the last century and a half, she tells the stories of the industry’s structural imperatives, organizational variants, changing workforce composition, workplace relationships, union struggles, and ethnic kaleidoscope in a beautifully integrated and engagingly written narrative.” — Christopher H. Johnson, American Historical Review

“Nancy Green’s magisterial view of the garment industry focuses upon two ties, each terribly conscious of the other. As different as New York City and Paris are, she yet finds similarities in the organization of needlework and the composition of the labor force.” — Journal of American Ethnic History

"Green's study is ambitious not only in its chronological and comparative breadth, but in analytical sophistication as well." — Jefferson Cowie , International Labor and Working-Class History

“Nancy Green consistently challenges the narratives and categories by which labor historians, sociologists, economists, and journalists have addressed the history of urban garment production. Green’s analysis is a tour de force.” — Donald Reid, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“This is a terrific, wide-ranging, and convincing comparative study. It provides the big picture, analyzing the garment industry and particularly ‘ready-to-wear’ from the point of view of economic, social, cultural, political, and gender history. Ready-to-Wear and Ready-to-Work provides a much-needed synthesis which is all the bolder for the original research on which it is built.” — John Merriman, Yale University


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Nancy L. Green is Professor of History at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.

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Winner, Gilbert Chinard Prize (presented by Society for French Historical Studies and the Institut Francais de Washington)

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1874-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1884-2
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