Keeping up with the latest trends

This week we finish our look at sewing and clothing.
Apr 27, 2014
Submitted / In this picture from around 1904, Evangie Duffer Gammon an an unidentified friend wear hats that were "in the latest fashion." Gammon, on the right, was a teacher at the school on Pumpkin Branch.

 

This week we finish our look at sewing and clothing.

Every news stand in America has an assortment of magazines devoted to "fashions." And, while most are devoted to women's fashions, there are always a few that feature me's fashions as well.

Of course, "fashions" means clothing, more specially the latest styles of clothing.

Our ancestors were no less conscious of fashion trends. Women on the frontier kept up with the dress styles in Philadelphia and other big cities back east.

A gentleman, a wealthy farmer, doctor, lawyer or politician would be just as sure that the cut of his jacket, vest or trousers were in the current mode lest he be considered a "country bumpkin."

Looking at old photos, we today will sometimes suppress a laugh or mumble under our breath, "Boy, I'm sure glad we don't dress like that today!" Which leads me to wonder, what people will say 100 years from now when they look at our sweat pants, baseball caps, tight jeans and string bikinis?

Yes, fashions have changed over the last 200 years that people have lived in Hartsville…but, they have also changed in their function.

When we say "function," we mean how some clothes options were used compared to today.

If you lived 100 years ago, you had a  pair of :long-johns," or long sleeved knit winter underwear. Why? Because 100 years ago we didn't have electric blankets and central heat.

If you wanted to keep warm, you wore lots of clothes and the long underwear stayed on you from dawn to dusk, and then some…you slept in them.

The late Dean Ford once told me how he and his younger brother Rex would prepare for bed in the winter months back in the 1920s and '30s. Because their bedroom wasn't heated, Dean said that he and Rex would leave the warmth of the family fireplace, climb the stairs to their attic bedroom, open the door and pull the ceiling light switch.

Then, getting their bearing, Dean said, "We would pull the light switch off, get undressed, hit the bed and pull the covers up…all before the light went out!

Women of the past all wore aprons around the house. It was a practical thing to do. Without the luxury of modern washers and dryers, a woman made a special effort to keep her dress clean.

An apron solved that problem, especially in a day and time when women made corn bread, biscuits or cakes from scratch. Flour, baking soda and yeast could stain a dress. But, just untie the strings of the apron and Mom was ready for company, or atlas ready to sit down to supper feeling nice and "presentable."

Ladies and men also wore hats everyday.

Women today might wear a hat to church, but women of the past wore a hat every time they left the house!

And, there were practical reasons for doing so.

One reason was that back when women either walked or rode in a buggy, a hat kept the sun off your face. A sunburned complexion was considered the sign of a poor woman who had to labor outdoors to make living, much like men who were called "rednecks" because bending over in the fields would cause their necks to get sunburned.

Even country women wore bonnets to keep their faces from getting sunburned!

A good hat also kept your hair clean from dust, dirt and rain.

Women didn't hop into the shower every morning back in the past. If you could only wash your hair by first boiling a pot of water over a wood burring stove, you might wear a hat too!

Of course, there was also the need to look fashionable.

Every town had a milliner, or hat maker, Hartsville included. And, the milliner made sure they had the latest fashions in stock, or made to order. The ladies in our photo this week are wearing the latest fashions…and, as I said earlier…boy, am I glad we don't dress like that today!

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