Thursday, 19 April 2012

Trousseaus and Hope Chests

Image from teatowel via Etsy

The move is finally over, and I'm settling down in my new home with Mr Macska.  As he owns hardly anything in the way of furniture and kitchen equipment, it was fortunate that I have a reasonable amount of both.  Of course if this was earlier last century, we would have been married before moving in together!  This made me wonder about what women in the 40s and 50s would have been expected to bring to their new home upon their marriage.

Brides were expected to have a trousseau, which was a collection of clothes and underwear that they would wear for at least the first year of marriage.  The underwear and nightclothes were often beautifully handmade by the bride, and magazines in the 40s and 50s abound with advertisments for patterns and embroidery transfers to use in one's trousseau, such as this one above from 1950 for a nightgown and matching cape.

The bride would also have a 'box' or 'glory box' (also known as a 'hope chest' in the US, and a 'bottom drawer' in the UK) in which she saved household linens, sheets, tablecloths, etc.  Again these were often made by the bride or her mother, or purchased specially for the box. 

Teenager's Weekly was a supplement that ran in the Australian Women's Weekly, and in 1959 they had an article called Talking About Trousseaus. (Click to view this much larger).  It says:
"Australian custom decrees that the girl provide the linen - sheets, towels, tablecloths, etc, generally called the "box" - and her own trousseau, which includes lingerie and some new clothes for the season ahead.  Another Australian tradition is that the man buy the blankets."

The article suggests 6 sheets or more for each bed, and 3 pillow cases for each pillow, as well as 6 bath towels, hand towels and facecloths for each person. It also suggests 6-12 guest towels (I'm assuming these are hand towels for when guests come over) preferably in linen.  As for tablecloths, one needs 2 breakfast cloths (these seem to be easily-laundered, cheerful cotton cloths)
In the Bride's Supplement from the Australian Women's Weekly 1954 I found an article called Your Ideal Home Equipment.  The list for the linen cupboard is fairly standard, with bed linen, bath towels, tea towels and pot holders included.  For the table, it is suggested that the bride needs only one tablecloth with eight matching napkins for visitors, one 'second-best' tablecloth, a breakfast cloth and a supper cloth.

Vintage egg slicer via Etsy

The kitchen equipment is mostly what one would find in a kitchen today, although I do find the inclusion of an egg slicer interesting.  Perhaps 1950s housewives made a lot of egg sandwiches?  A mincing machine and a deep frying pan with a basket are also on the list.

 Fish knives and forks via Etsy

The list of cutlery and crockery is more extensive than today, with specialised pieces such as separate salad and fruit bowls, fish knives and forks, fruit knives, and salad spoons (as well as salad servers).  Also included is an afternoon tea set, which I would imagine not many people possess these days unless they are really into vintage stuff or tea.

This cute little article is from Life magazine in 1951.  When Peggy Cross got engaged, her best friend Betty Jane Bennett (who had been married the previous year) decided to organise what she would have wanted - a practical shower with fewer fancy presents and more useful things for the home.

So Peggy had four separate showers - a cleaning shower, a table shower, a linen shower and a cleaning shower.  Peggy is photographed sitting in the middle of her loot in striped pajamas to match her sheets!

And for those of you who like lists (and I know I do!) here are lists of what Peggy was given for each shower and the prices.  Lucky Peggy got a hand vacuum cleaner for her cleaning shower, and a sewing machine for her linen shower.  I like the fact that she got a glass fruit bowl and marble fruit for her table shower (very important those marble fruit).  Also a mirror for the kitchen, which is a novel idea.