To the girl with an ordinary amount of intelligence, and possessing energy and a pleasing personality, the drapery trade presents a splendid opportunity for a successful business career. To one so endowed the work is remunerative, and to the girl who is determined to succeed it will not be found altogether uncongenial. As in every other walk of life, the prospects are very much what one makes them. In the drapery trade the high positions that are occupied by female workers are exceedingly lucrative, but they are only attained by years of undivided attention to business.
"I am convinced," Mr. John Lawrie, the managing director of Messrs. William White-ley, Ltd., once told me, "that far more appointments of importance in the drapery trade will be held in the future by women than has hitherto been the case."
His statement is supported by the fact that many large establishments, both wholesale and retail, are now placing departments in the charge of women that have hitherto been controlled by men. Why? Not because their labour is cheaper; not because they are more capable organisers, but because they are naturally better acquainted with those peculiar articles of women's wear that form the features of the department. I have in mind especially the millinery, costumes, corsets, and underclothing departments, in which directions they can be expected reasonably to appreciate the requirements of the public more readily than buyers of the sterner sex. In the "heavy" branches of a drapery business - such as the dress materials, flannels, and linens - man's position stands unassailable.
When first entering the drapery trade, there is one important question that must be faced by every female assistant. "Am I," she must ask herself, "going to take my business seriously, or am I just doing this to kill time for the next few years?" handsome and spacious showrooms that the larger retail houses allot to the sale of millinery will probably be found more congenial than life behind a counter. To the capable assistant promotion is steady, and a buyership, either with the same firm or elsewhere, is within the reach of every girl who is determined to succeed. The salaries paid by the more important retail firms to a good woman buyer range from £150 to 400 per annum.
Referring again to the living-in question, the girl who contemplates a career in the drapery trade should remember that it depends entirely upon herself whether she resides in "out premises" or not. Provided that she can command a salary that will enable her to "live out," she will find few obstacles in her way in doing so. As an ordinary saleswoman in the millinery department, she should experience no difficulty
Assuming she answers the first portion of the query in the affirmative, it behoves her to gain such experience as will fit her for the responsible posts that I have referred to. As was pointed out in the last article, she must first secure a thorough knowledge of as many departments as possible. Then, and not until then, will she be in a position to specialise. Premature specialisation is frequently fatal to a successful career.
Assuring herself, at length, that she is sufficiently competent in business generally, a girl should find little difficulty in securing a transfer to that department which she considers offers her the best prospects.
The millinery trade will present an excellent field for her enterprise and industry. A good milliner invariably commands a higher salary than that usually paid to her sisters in other departments. Work, too, in the earning sufficient to enable her to live comfortably with her parents or in lodgings. Her weekly wage with a reputable firm should not be less than 21s., and this will be considerably augmented by the commissions, premiums, and bonuses that are generally given upon the sales she effects. About 1 per cent. is usually paid upon all sales. Premiums are higher, and special rates are placed upon articles that the buyer is particularly anxious to clear. Reverting to the question of salary, many assistants are paid much more liberally, though their duties carry with them greater responsibility.
There are other assets which are useful. even imperative, but which are, strictly speaking, beyond the bounds of everyday commerce. In considering the appointment of a young lady to the millinery showroom, it will be found that employers give preference
Woman's Work to those applicants possessing a pleasing and smart appearance, and to those who are above the usual height, though perhaps the latter recommendation is not of so much importance in the millinery department as it is in the costumes. It will be found, however, that with the growth of the showroom system there is an increased tendency to select those assistants who demonstrate good and genteel taste both regarding their appearance and address.
The costume, corset, and underclothing departments offer similar prospects to those associated with the millinery. My references have been purposely confined to the retail branch of the trade, inasmuch as it offers a far wider field for feminine labour; but work in the warehouses in the large cities will be found equally interesting and remunerative, and the hours perhaps somewhat lighter. There is practically no living-in in the wholesale trade, and salaries rule, in many cases a little higher.