Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fickle Fashion


Summer makes me think about the fashion of the past. How at ease we are now. How comfortable.  It wasn't always so...

It’s said that women are slaves to fashion. Unfortunately, it’s a very true statement. Here are a few cases that show how fickle women’s fashion has been through the ages, and how we women have meekly followed the trends:

Ruff-Ruff: It’s said Queen Elizabeth I was often sewn into her clothes (it would be 300 years before the zipper made dressing easy.) But beyond that tidbit, I don’t understand the ruff from this era. In order to get fabric to hold its form it has to be stiff. Perhaps this is where the phrase, “Keep your chin up” came about. At least men were subjected too. Enough ruff.

The Anchor Skirt: That’s not a real term, just my take on the shape of the ridiculous side-contraptions that swept through Europe from Russia to France in the last half of the eighteenth century. I understand women often try to camouflage their hips, but please. Didn’t they get tired of entering a room sideways? See 18th Century Fashion
The Great Reveal: After the American and French Revolutions, fashion said off-with-your-head to any dress that required blueprints to create and to wear. The result was gowns that let the skirt fall free from an “empire” waist. As a result, women were discovered to have legs! It seemed as though a dose of reason had finally taken over fashion. But stupidity was just around the corner …  See Regency Fashion

Idiot Sleeves: I didn’t name this one—it’s the real name of the huge sleeves of the Romantic Era of fashion (1825-35). Skirts were simpler but full again—though sometimes they were short enough to reveal a woman’s ankle. Apparently the cling of the full leg of the previous Regency fashion was too much to bear. Or too tempting?See Vintage Fashion

Frankly My Dear: Hoops. Big ones. A hundred years earlier, women had to walk sideways through doors. Now they had to watch how they sat down or the entire world would get a show. At least this style gave women a pretty bell silhouette. Ding-dong-ding swung the bell as they walked.See 1860's Fashion

Baby Got Back: The 1870’s and 80’s brought about the bustle. Padding and cages and over-draping and flounces, pushing out the back of the dresses. Now women had to sit on the edge of their chairs to leave room for what was behind. Backless bustle-chairs were created to solve this problem. At least when they walked there was a nice sway. See 1870's Fashion  See 1880's Fashion

Baa-Baa: The leg-o-mutton sleeves of the 1890’s made wearing a coat difficult. Supposedly the enormous width of a woman’s top half made her waist look tiny. Maybe I should try it. I can use all the help I can get. See 1890's Fashion

Here’s the Skinny: The second decade of the 20th century brought a skinny silhouette. Finally women could sit comfortably in a chair, walk through doorways, and not fear a high wind. Yet some of the skirts went too far (surprise, surprise) and the “hobble skirt” was born. It’s self-explanatory. See Edwardian Fashion

Dapper Flapper: WWI was over, Europe was free of its oppressors (for the moment) and women took note and freed themselves from corsets, hoops, waistlines, as well as sleeves and long skirts. Bare arms, shoulders, knees, and calves. Yikes! Fabrics were sheer and flowing—great for dancing the Charleston, smoking cigarettes, and drinking a dry martini. See 1920's Fashion

The Pants in the Family: The forties had women taking on men’s jobs while the men were at war. Again. With the responsibilities came the ease of menswear. Finally women were allowed to wear pants! No one wore menswear better than Katherine Hepburn.
See 1940's Fashion

Corsets Again?: From the fabric rationing of WWII came the circle skirts of the fifties. And small waists and pronounced bosoms. Think Deborah Kerr’s wardrobe in “Indiscreet” and "An Affair to Remember." Dreamy. All girl. This would be my choice for fashion. It was fabulously pretty and elegant. Of course, this was also the age of Cary Grant and all his luscious movies, so I can’t be certain he’s not  a big part of my choice. See 1950's Fashion

Hobble Skirts II: Pencil skirts accentuated the bottom half and sweaters and cone-like bras accentuated the top. Girdles were essential. No thanks.

Jackie Oh!: Our first lady was the epitome of class in her tailored suits and sheath dresses. But Mod was also in, and took the sheath to higher heights. Our favorite girl was “That Girl” Marlo Thomas.
See 1960's Fashion
Dippie Hippie: The seventies was all about one thing: anything goes. Mini’s, maxi’s, midi’s. Caftans, bell bottoms, granny dresses, gypsy skirts, polyester knit, and psychedelic tie-dye (I wore them all.) It was grungy and dirty and unkempt, but it was oh-so comfy. But would comfy ever coincide with classy?  See 1970's Fashion

Power Woman: I hate to admit it, but I still have a few suits from the eighties. How do I know they’re from that era? The ridiculous shoulder pads and stupid neck ties—tied in bows. Women were trying too hard to look powerful. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.  I need to call Goodwill for a pickup.

And now . . . Oddly, it’s hard for me to pinpoint fashion right now. Comfort is in, but pants are skinny and wide, long or capris. I have dresses that are reminiscent of the 20’s, 40’s, and beyond. Fashionable boots have high heels or we wear flip-flops. It’s almost hard to wear something that’s out of style. As I sit here in my jeans, sandals, and corsetless torso I can count myself lucky that fashion is one element of my life that I don’t stress over. Have we women finally—finally—found enough confidence to make our own choices? Perhaps. Until the next fashion show piques our interest. Just no hoops please.//Nancy

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pioneers and "the Glorious Fourth"

--Summer Greetings from Stephanie Grace Whitson

 How's your summer going? I can hardly believe it's time for back to school sales ... and for me to have not one but TWO grandchildren old enough to start school. Where did the last six year go? But before school starts, we'll be heading to a family reunion "on the beach." While it takes some forethought to manage it, an eight-hour drive for fun isn't really all that unusual for today's families. Back in the 1800s, such a trip would be unthinkable. But that doesn't mean our pioneer foremothers didn't know how to party. July 4 was a huge day for Nebraska'a pioneers. 

“Now, therefore, I, Silas Garber, governor of the state of Nebraska … do declare said county to be temporarily organized … this twenty-seventh day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand either hundred and seventy-seven, and of the independence of the United State the one hundred and first, and of this state, the eleventh.” Thus was Custer County, Nebraska, officially created. It’s interesting that the 2,592 square mile county’s first official document references Independence Day.
             Custer County was a hard place to eke out a living. Houses were built from the prairie sod, and homemakers waged a constant battle against fleas, frogs, and snakes. One early Easter Sunday, neighbors got together with guns, revolvers, rifles, spades, and garden rakes, and killed 133 rattlers. In one day.
            Even in those early days, though, when towns were little more than a few ramshackle buildings squatting on open prairie, celebrating July 4 was an important event. Early photographer Solomon Butcher photographed one such celebration in 1886. You can see the photograph here: http://memory.loc.gov/award/nbhips/lca/290/2904v.jpg.
            One pioneer woman remembered a basket dinner on her first Fourth of July—and the singing of patriotic songs by a chorus. She also mentioned “funny stories told to keep up our morale.” A popular song originally titled “The Beautiful Valley of Eden” became “The Beautiful Valley of Clear Creek” in honor of a new settlement.
            Estell Chrisman Laughlin remembered the “hustle and bustle or preparation a week or so beforehand,” as mothers sewed new dresses for their daughters and cotton suits for their sons. Another woman reminisced, “Mothers spent days sewing, washing, ironing, making button holes, and sewing on buttons, starching and ironing petticoats as stiff as sunbonnets. We wore two or three of those petticoats, ruffles and all. We listened for the guns at sunrise on the Fourth of July morning. There were horse races and baseball games, dancing all afternoon and night, speaking, and other entertainments.”
            Families arrived in town early to select a meeting place for dinner, which consisted of “great quantities of fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, sandwiches, brownstone front cake, and gooseberry and raspberry pie—the contents of the pies having been diligently gathered from canyons and creek banks by children … Each housewife wished to impress the others with her culinary proficiency.” Sometimes the lemonade might even be chilled with ice, cut the prior winter and stacked in an ice house or barn, protected from melting for as long as possible by being covered over with straw and gunny sacking.
            Mrs. Laughlin remembered a Judge Matthews who “reeked of tobacco,” but was popular with the children, “for he could write our named in red and blue fancy script on a little card which he decorated with a graceful winging bird holding a scroll in its beak.”

            In the afternoon, the speaker of the day would “discourse in loud, stentorian tones upon patriotism and what our forefathers had done for us. Old Glory floated aloft in the hot summer air. The people sat about on plank seats, patiently listening and fanning themselves. … When the departing fingers of sunlight withdrew through the trees, there was a general roundup of children. We stowed ourselves into carriages, spring wagons, or lumber wagons, where we sat in all dignity on kitchen chairs, as we departed homeward, tired and happy after a glorious Fourth.” 

I hope your summer has had some "happy and glorious" moments.
Here's one of mine (below)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Feeding time!


Nancy:  My husband and I just experienced the joy of the birth of our fifth grandchild last spring. We’re very blessed that all the kiddos live in town and we have the chance to take care of them. But taking care of babies when we’re nearing sixty…

I am amazed at all the different bottle options out there, from the tradition bottle, to ones that are bent at an angle, to those with disposable innards, etc. Formula containing iron, lactose free...

https://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-BJ1VSyeKN4Y%2FTeDiVgW2v4I%2FAAAAAAAAAoU%2FUSlcVnlP4WY%2Fs200%2Fbaby%2B5.jpg&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*When I was writing my novel, Masquerade, which was set in 1886, I had to do some research about bottles and milk. Was milk available for purchase in the poorer areas of New York City? And what did bottles look like?

Turns out the issue of getting milk into a baby—when the mother couldn’t nurse—has always been an issue. In medieval times, babies drank from a hollowed out horn.  Later on, there were "pap feeders" made of porcelain.  And "pap" was often boiled water and flour.  Sometimes bread or egg was added.

In the mid-1800’s cow’s milk was shipped in wood barrels and would easily spoil. It was a dairy farmer by the name of Gail Borden who did something about it. He was sailing home to the USA from Europe, when they encountered rough seas. The cows on the ship got seasick and wouldn’t make milk—I never imaged that was possible. The babies on board were crying from lack of milk. Personally, when I look at situations like this, the odds of getting a dairy farmer with foresight on a ship in a storm, with cows that couldn’t produce milk . . . it leads me to know that the entire situation was God-arranged.

When Borden got home he started doing experiments with milk and found that it was 87% water. If he boiled it down in an airtight pan, he came up with a condensed version that was resistant to spoilage. On the way to Washington D.C. to get a patent, he met up with a wealthy grocery wholesaler, and together they canned it and tried to sell it. In 1864, the Eagle Brand Consolidated Milk company was formed.

Canned milk was not a huge success. During production, essential fats and nutrients were lost, and people were used to a more watery consistency and a white color (to get the white color, chalk used to be used!) But Borden persevered, and the Civil War was a boon to his business as the troops were sent condensed milk as part of their rations. At one point during the war, Borden produced 300,000 gallons of condensed milk at his Elgin, Illinois plant. It seems that this milk was not a beverage, but just a condensed form of the milk product.

In 1885, John Meyenberg, an immigrant from Switzerland, was producing the first evaporated milk at his Helvetica Milk Condensing Company plant. Soon after, Eldrige Amos Stuart developed a way to process canned, sterilized evaporated milk. By the end of the century, he partnered with Meyenberg and supplied Klondike gold miners milk in 16 ounce cans.

As the twentieth century began, homogenization was implemented, and in 1934, Meyenberg’s company (now the Pet Milk Company) added Vitamin D to their evaporated milk by a process called irradiation. He exposed the milk to ultraviolet light, which created the vitamin (amazing!)

So… canned milk was available for purchase. But what then? How did you feed it to the baby?

Ceramic or porcelain bottles were used in the 19th century, with a piece of cloth or rawhide stuffed into the end for the baby to suck upon. Preserved cow udders were also used. (yuck!) But these containers were hard to keep clean. Bottles became a little more sanitary when glass blowers began to create actual bottles for this use.

In the 1840’s vulcanized rubber came about that made rubber nipples possible. But the smell was horrible, and they were not widely manufactured.

In the 1880’s a type of bottle was created that was advertised as the way to feed your baby. Once the craze caught on, everyone and their brother had their own version of this bottle. It was marketed by many names including “Mummies Darling” and “The Princess Alexandria” (she was the Princess of Wales at the time and was very popular.) But in spite of the marketing, this bottle was a baby killer.

It consisted of a glass tube that held the milk, that had a stopper on it. A length of rubber tubing went from bottle to a bone mouth shield, and a rubber nipple. The big advantage was that the baby could feed themselves, even before they could hold a bottle. The disadvantage was it was impossible to keep clean and children died. Considering only two out of ten children lived to age two, mostly because of hygiene issues, this type of bottle was a horrendous addition to a continuing problem. Even though doctors preached against it, this type of bottle was used into the 1920’s. It’s impossible to measure how many babies died because of the germs formed and left behind in these bottles.

Look at these photographs of babies using these bottles. How odd looking. And more than that, how odd that the parents would let a precious photograph be taken with their baby sucking on one of these. It would be like having a formal picture of your child with a pacifier in its mouth. That first picture of the little boy . . . he looks drugged.

1894 brought a breakthrough that carried the bottle into the 1950’s. A “double-ended” feeder invented by Allen and Hanbury. It was glass and had a nipple on one end and a valve on the other that allowed the milk to flow continually—and made a full cleaning possible.

https://images-blogger-opensocial.googleusercontent.com/gadgets/proxy?url=http%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-ZFow8qV9Gec%2FTeKoyGdMBqI%2FAAAAAAAAAoc%2FlJk2sixyaXA%2Fs200%2Fbaby%2Bbottle.jpg&container=blogger&gadget=a&rewriteMime=image%2F*I was born in 1954 and my bottles were also glass and the usual procedure was for mothers to sanitize the bottles and nipples in boiling water. Then came plastic bottles, and when we fed our three kids (in the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s) I used the Platex nurser (“Most like mother herself”), that had the disposable bags. When the grandbabies came along, I was rather surprised to find that the disposable method had been re-replaced with plastic again.

It’s said that whatever's old is new again, but hopefully, never again with certain baby bottles of the past.//Nancy