Of all the tradesmen in London the tailors are, no doubt, the most combative—as might be expected from the necessity which lies upon them of living down the general bad character in this respect which the world has wrongly given them.
Anthony Trollope ~ Can You Forgive Her?
Anthony Trollope frequently used the character of a tailor was to advance the plot of a novel. Often a scene with a tailor was to show the financial state of one of the other characters. William Makepeace Thackeray did this in Vanity Fair with the character of Becky Sharp.
More often than not, tailors did not get paid for their work, which is one of the reasons they were despised. It was an embarrassment for a gentleman to be in debt to his tailor; his fine clothes might fool all of London society into thinking he is rich, but his tailor knew better. And he knew that.
I feel sorry for tailors, both literary and real. I feel combative on behalf of all middle class men and women who are defrauded by the wealthy with whom they do business. It is grossly unfair for anyone to cheat a person out of his or her rightful earnings, but it is especially despicable when the cheater is rich and his victim is not.
One of the themes of Anthony Trollope’s novels is social inequity; he exposes the disparity that exists between the classes. The tailor is his poster child. Good for you, Mr. Trollope.