When We Girls Couldn't Win And ' The Good Old Days ' Were Probably Awful

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
quill cosmetics corset machine.jpg

This image would have been prewar by quite a few years. Someone stuck a quill into the tightly laced corsets of the day ( which didn't go away ), making the fashion seem as absurd as the towering bonnet worn in the image.

So I'd been poking around in why women wore what could have been called ' silly ' fashion and changed my mind about the entire topic. We have threads on the dangers posed by crinoline/hoops and discussions on how awful it was for you lacing yourself into corset. BUT. Digging around, what becomes clear is the we plain, old couldn't win. Between what we wore and how we girls behaved someone was always digging a quill in us, seemingly.

Here's part of a many-times reprinted poem written by ' the husband '.
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Dress, shoes, hair, hats, manners, ' morals ', wifely duties- it was all fair game. Some of the most savage ridicule was saved for women who insisted on a few freedoms. The several ' bloomer ' fashions for instance tended to be portrayed being worn by women the artist drew as ' unattractive '. Don't get me started- bloomers were a somewhat frantic attempt to be free of all that fabric.

Note the ' pretty ' women looking on in scorn while small children laughed at them. I do like John Leech, mostly, but boy he drew what an awful lot of men complained over. AND these women smoked, too!
quill bloomers smoking women.jpg


Writers, journalists and artists, all men, took a ring side seat. I don't mean they took pot shots once in awhile, you can find some pithy little lecture, piece of overt snark, cartooned barbs and judgemental gospel-according-to-men in nearly every newspaper, per week. Between lecturing, ridiculing, dismissing and reprimanding women, what seems clear to me is ' No wonder it took so long to vote '. HOLY gee whiz. Seriously. We girls couldn't do anything right.

quill chatelaine cartoon leech.jpg

There's a thread on ' chatelaines ', originally a handy set of keys and household tools carried by housekeepers or the household's wife. They became a fashion rage, kind of fun, like a charm bracelet you attached to your belt. And of course they were ' silly ' too.

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And forget adopting your own name, all you young ladies. Beware! I'm glad this warning never took- I was named for my great grandmother who was actually christened ' Annie '.

quill crin cartoon.JPG

You don't have to look hard, as in at all, to find these. There are a few male-attire ' fails ' , not many. Found one lampooning the length of walking sticks.....

quill hair 1863.JPG

Someone correcting what they'd initially meant when snarking about whatever it was women wore on their heads. It's from 1863. An entire war on and there's an argument over how women wore their hair.

And this, which could easily make me swear off Leech anyway.
quill hats.jpg

It didn't take long to get around to our shoes...
quill shoes.JPG

It's a fairly long article, you get the gist.

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This article was longer, too- no need to elaborate. Believe me, there are a LOT more. A LOT. No need to dig very hard. There are endless articles about how ' ladies ' should behave evoked by some notion ' they ' aren't living up to expectations.

Crinolines were indeed a dangerous fashion, fairly intrusive and probably a bear to wear. I'd like to point out the narrow fashions preceding puffed petticoats then crinoline were condemned as indecent, flaunting the female figure. So pick one.
quill crinoline cartoon.jpg


quill cartoon sleeves.jpg

Back to the same artist- I think British, lampooning puffed sleeves. To be fair, this artist tended to pick on men, too.

Intent isn't really to highlight ' Oh those awful men ', however insufferable. It's this judgy thing we're so incredibly good at, looking outward for some handier target than perhaps what may be either in the mirror or the genuine threats out there. We're still not there as far as we girls are concerned- just the other day I tried to pacify the nice Walmart clerk understandably infuriated when the man ahead of my in line told her her hair dye would give her brain cancer. When I laughed, ( his sheer gall was so appalling you HAD to laugh ) he turned to me and said something about how I should know better too, at my age- at which point I laughed so hard, it was just too, too genuinely he stomped off. Guessing back to his bachelor pad.

It's been a lot of years, maybe a lot of centuries. We can do better.
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
Yes, I’ve heard the same falsehood about hair dye. As long as I’ve been doing it, I shuld be dead! Lol!! I started out with a white streak..which was fashionable..but then the streak got bigger, and someone asked me if that was my Grandson..uh..no..my son! Oy! My Grandmother had beautiful white hair. And someday I will look old enough to wear it, but now? No!! I am glad you laughed, and the joke was on him!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Yes, I’ve heard the same falsehood about hair dye. As long as I’ve been doing it, I shuld be dead! Lol!! I started out with a white streak..which was fashionable..but then the streak got bigger, and someone asked me if that was my Grandson..uh..no..my son! Oy! My Grandmother had beautiful white hair. And someday I will look old enough to wear it, but now? No!! I am glad you laughed, and the joke was on him!


OH Lord, laughed so hard! That poor clerk had a tough time seeing how absurd the whole thing was but managed a smile when it was pointed out to her " There goes an elderly, never-married, destined to never be married, bachelor ". ' At my age ', OH goodness, Mrs. V., it was one the funniest encounters I've had. It's awfully rude, laughing in someone's face I know. At my age you'd think I'd know better.
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
I salute women of the day for putting up with that stuff, and I salute them today for living with us men for so long!
Do remember this as you get older..and put the seat down...in our house the whole seat/lid is down. Period.
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
Loved this post !
My wife of forty two years has zero interest in the ACW era, wonder why ?
Meh, the hoops are not so bad. The corset. Well, it’s not supposed to be tied to the Scarlette O form. And I do think that if you put enough boning in the bodice you might be able to get away wiht not wearing a corset. Althoug you would still be considered “undressed”. I can even sing while corsetted!
 
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