Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Danger of DUST!

House Dresses and Dressing Sacks. The Delineator 1909. Percale or galatea or some other 'tubable' material. TUBABLE... Ok there's a term I can pocket for future use in my story.

"There was a time when the Mother Hubbard wrapper seemed to meet all the requirements of negligees, house gowns and bath robes. Nowadays, wrappers and curl papers have gone out of fashion except within the strict seclusion of one's own bedchamber. Yet it is a feminine trait, shared by all women alike, from the transplanted peasant of Little Italy to the society women in her boudoir, to shun shirt-waists and dresses in the early hours of the day, as one would shun the plague. One can hardly say whether it is the instinct of economy, or the sheer love of perfect comfort, that will prompt 95 women out of a hundred to put on a negligee or house gown when their first get up in the morning... The morning duties of a housekeeper keep a cloth dress out of the question in the early hours of the day. Dust is dust, even if it is only the light accumulation that collects overnight in the most perfectly run homes, it is well nigh fatal to a good skirt or dress...."


In an earlier installment of Flo in the City, my novel in progress, based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/, I have Flora getting up in June and getting dressed right away. In fact, she probably put on a wrapper to do her morning toilet, as they used to say. Will change that when I edit the first draft.

This little snippet from the Delineator says something to me, but I am not quite sure what... Clearly, it reflects 'consumer age' values: you need more things today than you needed yesterday. The reasons for needing these new things is usually 'invented'. DUST is the danger here... the reason women need negligees. (I associate negligees with female characters in films from the 30's, 40's and 50's, none of whom were ever doing housework. )The article also suggests it is economical to have a housedress, that it saves money. How can needing new things save money?

This snippet also ignores working women like Marion, who had no choice but to squeeze into their corsets and shirtwaists at sunrise, despite the fact they were the ones who needed to be freed from constraint to walk and run and jump streetcars on their way to work.

So, in my next installment of Flo in the City, I will have Marion going to the Nickel to see Man in the Box and I will also have her falling into a snowbank on her way to work one morning. It is February 1909 and there have been many snowstorms. In the town, it makes for good sledding, but in the city, it creates havoc.

(It stil creates havoc...Odd, this year, in 2010 in Montreal, we've hardly had any snow. Less than in Philadelphia, I think. Imagine! It's mid March and the city streets are clear, and where I live, in the burbs, there's just a shallow carpet of snow that is melting away around the tree trunks. For the past two years, at this time, I've had a rock hard wall of snow obscuring my view into my yard through the picture windows until April and between here and Montreal there were many monstrous mountains of black snow on the side of the highway, some that melted only by July. Not this year. We didn't even have an ice-storm or especially warm weather. We had a drought.)