London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand apparel.
THE multifariousness of the articles of this trade is limited only by what the uncertainty of the climate, the caprices of fashion, or the established styles of apparel in the kingdom, have caused to be worn, flung aside, and reworn as a revival of an obsolete style. It is to be remarked, however, that of the old-fashioned styles none that are costly have been revived. Laced coats, and embroidered and lappeted waistcoats, have long disappeared from -hand traffic—the last stage of fashions—and indeed from all places but court or fancy balls and the theatre.
The great mart for -hand apparel was, in the last century, in ; now, by of those arbitrary, and almost always inappropriate, changes in the nomenclature of streets, termed , Dials. " finery" was a common term to express tawdriness and pretence. Now Monmouth-
|street, for its new name is hardly legitimated, has no finery. Its -hand wares are almost wholly confined to old boots and shoes, which are vamped up with a good deal of trickery; so much so that a shoemaker, himself in the poorer practice of the "gentle craft," told me that blacking and brown paper were the materials of Monmouthstreet cobbling. Almost every master in now is, I am told, an Irishman; and the great majority of the workmen are Irishmen also. There were a few Jews and a few cockneys in this well-known street a year or back, but now this branch of the -hand trade is really in the hands of what may be called a clan. A little business is carried on in -hand apparel, as well as boots and shoes, but it is insignificant.|
The head-quarters of this -hand trade are now in Petticoat and Rosemary lanes, especially in , and the traffic there carried on may be called enormous. As in other departments of commerce, both in our own capital, in many of our older cities, and in the cities of the Continent, the locality appropriated to this traffic is of narrow streets, dark alleys, and most oppressive crowding. The traders seem to judge of a Rag-fair garment, whether a cotton frock or a ducal coachman's great-coat, by the touch, more reliably than by the sight; they inspect, so to speak, with their fingers more than their eyes. But the business in Petticoat and Rosemary lanes is mostly of a retail character. The wholesale mart—for the trade in old clothes has both a wholesale and retail form—is in a place of especial curiosity, and of which, as being little known, I shall speak.