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Monday, February 14, 2011

I See London; I See France; Why Do I have These Underpants?

No, really, why do I have these?  Of all the treasure to be passed down through the years I am at a loss as to the survival of this garment.  I admit (because they technically aren't mine) they are not in pristine condition.  Which again begs the question, why save them?  Who saves their underwear for future generations?
Family bloomers from around 1900

Lace and pleat detail on the legs

In my careless youth I tore a family fur coat of uncertain provenance (beaver or bear--I so hope it wasn't baby seal).   I wore it to a Halloween party as a Flapper, and subsequently (almost without guilt) tossed away the rotting pelt believing it beyond repair.   The same party I wore a dress of my own grandmother's making.  It was black and green silk and fit me like it was tailor-made.  But why was I surprised that the 65 year-old thread was disintegrating with every Charleston kick I flung?  It was with shame and regret I discarded the dress deeming it past its use too.  I didn't know I would age into a textile lover and learn to sew.  I could have saved those treasures had I been twenty years older at the time.  Well, maybe not the fur.

My sister and I have carried many inherited clothes through the years.  Some make more sense than others like our Grandmother's wedding dress.  For years we thought it was the dress she wore when she married our grandfather.  I remember our  shock to find the beautiful, simple, silk wedding dress that we played bride in was not worn by Mabel when she married our grandfather Stuart but when she married her first husband David Berg.  David was a man who was systematically cut out of every photo he was ever in with my Grandma.  He was a man we didn't know existed until I found Gram's wedding ring from him under a bed when I was a teenager.  She said "You knew I was married before Stuart".  Um no.  No, we did not and she knew we didn't.  It was just a pretense to bring the information into our vernacular. 

Gram let us ransack her house every time we visited.  She let us paw through drawers and boxes finding joy in watching what caught our fancy.  I think she sometimes deliberately placed things for us to find.  I remember how pleased she was when I found Allen's diaries.  She wanted me to be thrilled and she was not disappointed.

Still none of this nostalgia explains the holdover of some unknown relative's unmentionables from a century ago.  I suppose I have kept them because Grandma did and a quick internet search shows she was not the only one to do so.  There are plenty of Victorian and Edwardian bloomers for sale out there.  So I will do what has been done.  I'll save them for my daughter to pass along to future generations.  However, should she feel the need to throw them out all I ask is that she cuts off the lace first because that is lovely. 


  1. Seriously, I thought those were in my possession and I am so thrilled to know that you have them because I had been unable to find them. I think they were Alice Cass' judging from the size and the date. Or Nora's but it would make more sense to have your mother's knickers rather than your grandmothers...did I just write that? Anyhow when Alice passed away (another spoiler alert) in 1936 I am sure it was Mable Lucas who cleaned out the house and took all the bounty that we are experiencing today. Including these knickers.

  2. Somehow I doubt you were turning the house upside down looking for ancient bloomers. LOL I figure they're Alice's too but not based on size. I don't think Alice was particularly big. Rather, I think the construction of the garment makes them look bigger than the likely wearer.

  3. I just love reading this blog and especially the comments you guys have! Wonderful!! Cousin, Patsy Eccles