Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes

  I dropped a bag of clothes off at a charity shop last night and had a wander through the store.  As I looked at the racks upon racks of cast-off clothing, I thought about the ease with which we acquire new clothes nowadays, mostly on a whim rather than when they wear out, and how it hasn't always been that way.

   Earlier this summer I visited the little Swedish museum in Vasa, Minnesota, and I remembered I had taken these photos.

.Back in the day, acquiring clothing took a lot of work.  First, fiber had to be grown--in Minnesota, that meant flax or wool.  Then harvested, spun into thread, andwoven on a loom like this one -- all by hand.  If you fancied a color other than beige, dyes had to be prepared and applied from  plants you grew for that purpose.

No one saved the ordinary, everyday clothes because they wore them out, but this delicate wedding dress made its way into the museum. It was hand made and worn by Elin Prenn for her marriage to Henry. 

Another wedding dress, which was often worn as a "best" dress after the wedding until it fell apart, then found another life in the squares of a quilt.

This was a man's handspun linen nightshirt, a summer one if it was worn in Minnesota, I think. Linen is made from the flax plant, bleached, carded, spun, and finally woven into cloth.

It was hand sewn and embroidered by a bride, Martha Person, for her husband-to-be, Erick Larson in 1827 and came with their son to Minnesota in 1857.

I don't think any of the clothing I saw in the charity shop last night will end up in a museum nearly 200 years later!



  1. Cynthia, at my place clothes are everywhere. When I was a child we don't have many clothes. Now since 1990s the situation is completely different. There are a lot of shops and what's more there are spring, summer, fall, winter sales so you can buy clothes very cheap. Also there are myny possibilities buying clothes in Europe and Polish travel very often.So people wear them, not so long and give them to charity boxes. Charity boxes are located next to roads or they are special cars which drive every weekend and collect clothes. But the main problem is the clothes are not good quality. I believe clothes from museum were much better.

  2. It is so true about how easily we acquire clothing these days. I'm one of the guilty parties. I try hard not to buy in excess but yet my closets and drawers are always bulging. Part of it is my sizing fluctuates so much with water retention issue. I do like how they were so frugal in olden days though out of necessity rather than desire I suppose. These days many of us try to be frugal just so as not to waste so much. Clothing is still an area I'm working on ;-)

  3. Actually Cynthia you would be surprised at what top of the range and fashionable clothes you can buy at such low prices at places like St.Vincent de Paul and the Red Cross charity shops, especially in up-market areas.
    I worked with a couple of very smartly dressed women - always the height of fashion.
    So I asked where do you get and more to the point "how can you afford" such up-market clothing. The answer: "Simple, go to the second hand clothes shops".!!!!
    So off I went to the men's section, it was an eye-opener. I got myself some fantastic shirts,
    latest fashion slacks and some top of the range ties. All for about 1/20th of the usual up-market clothes shops. I think all my purchases may have been worn once by the obviously very fashion conscious and well heeled original owner.
    Captain Roald "Colin" Grieg-Vigeland ( FI450 - Icelandair)
    PS: Getting ready for the 9th September - ha ha.

  4. It really is amazing what it took to make the beautiful clothing long ago. I'm amazed at how elaborate clothing was long ago when it was harder to make. Now clothing is more plain and there's less of it. I remember reading once that the poor are harder to identify these days because clothing is so easy to get.

  5. Quite amazing the work that went into garments years ago, but unless you pay thousands these days everything comes out of sweat shops, where people work for very little wages.

  6. Wow look at the work that went into that hand embroidery - so delicate. Thumbs up to Huggybear's comment. This is a passionate subject of mine - so much so that I am currently on the 11th month of 12 months of not buying any clothing whatsoever. It has been refreshing.

  7. You are right about the discarding of clothes so readily. Our local council tries to encourage you to donate them to a charity shop first but if not then they can be put inthe recycling bin so the fabric can be reused.

  8. You are so right about all the clothes that are being produced and discarded again. I used to make my own skirts and dresses when I was young, but never do anymore.

  9. We take a lot for granted, don't we? These examples of "made with love" clothing are amazing.

  10. What a beautiful Wedding dress, and I too believe that not many clothes these days will end up as the olden ones.

  11. I love the clothes, absolutely stunning. There are a few National trust places we have been to that let you try some clothes on (repo of course) I love trying the on especially the ones with a big bustle because they made if fashionable to have a big bum lol x

  12. I am always in awe of the old clothes I see in museums..wondering how in the world each piece lasted so long, and also what the previous owner would think if they could see their wedding gown or handkerchief being displayed 200 years later! I think if we had to go through all the steps to make our own clothes that people would appreciate their value so much more...for that matter- same goes for food and shelter.

  13. I enjoyed this post. Aren't the clothes beautiful! We have so much now. My Mother was born in 1917. She talked about the girls, seven sisters, having one good dress each.

  14. Talk about Snap! This week I went to our local costume museum and will post about it next week, we had the same conversations that we doubt anyone would be interested in our clothes in 200 years, even if they were to last!
    On the other hand when we looked at all the effort that went into creating the look of the day, we all agreed our quick and easy approach to getting dressed in the morning made getting dressed a lot easier.
    Wren x

  15. It is sad that consumerism has lead to making things that don't last on purpose so that more will bought.