- Trade guilds date back to India (circa 2000 B.C.) and shoemakers' artisan guilds developed during the Roman Empire. Most guilds required long apprenticeships before achieving master status and had strict rules in order to maintain quality and control production. Medieval guilds protected and developed their members' jobs by controlling their education and progression of skill levels from apprentice to craftsman to journeyman and, eventually, to master and grandmaster of their craft.Guilds began to spring up in major European cities and specialized in trades such as millinery, textile manufacturing, footwear, dressmaking, and tailoring. These early guilds were elitist, mostly male-dominated groups that placed many restrictions on their members based on their skills. Some guilds became extremely powerful. Of particular note was the French tailors' guild, Maitres Tailleurs d'Habits. Government policies favored guilds, which in turn often impeded technological progress and maintained a sense of government control. One example is Barthélemy Thimmonier's sewing machine, created in the early 1800s, which was destroyed by journeymen tailors who felt that the machine threatened their livelihood.Functions of guilds were to oversee pay scales and to set work standards. Many guilds adhered to restrictions including the number of apprentices that could be trained, the quantity of a particular item that could be made, and the prices at which items could be sold. These and other restrictions, coupled with industrialization and modernization, led to the demise of guilds. However, modern-day trade unions and trade associations are somewhat reminiscent of the guild concept.
Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. Francesca Sterlacci and Joanne Arbuckle.
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