LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
[Cousin Ernestine is giving her opinions on everything]
“I'm afraid that'll be a case of marrying in haste and repenting at leisure. They've only known each other three years. I'm afraid Peter'll find out that fine feathers don't always make fine birds. I'm afraid Fanny's very shiftless. She irons her table napkins on the right side first and only. Not much like her sainted mother. Ah, she was a thorough woman if ever there was one. When she was in mourning she always wore black nightgowns. Said she felt as bad in the night as in the day…
‘Mrs. Sandy's gone out of mourning and poor Sandy only dead four years. Ah well, the dead are soon forgot nowadays. My sister wore crape for her husband twenty-five years."
"Did you know your placket was open?" said Rebecca, setting a coconut pie before Aunt Kate.
"I haven't time to be always staring at my face in the glass," said Cousin Ernestine acidly. "What if my placket is open? I've got three petticoats on, haven't I? They tell me the girls nowadays only wear one. I'm afraid the world is gitting dreadful gay and giddy. I wonder if they ever think of the judgment day."
"Do you s'pose they'll ask us at the judgment day how many petticoats we've got on?" asked Rebecca Dew, escaping to the kitchen before any one could register horror. Even Aunt Chatty thought Rebecca Dew really had gone a little too far.
observations: Black nightgowns for mourning! Three petticoats and judgement day! Superb.
Cousin Ernestine is an excellent character, finding horror and morbidity in everything – I like her line
But there's one consolation . . . you'll be spared an awful lot of trouble if you die young.She is ‘a cousin three times removed but still much too close’ of Anne’s landladies and has come on a visit. This is Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables: now grown-up, she is lodging in the small town of Summerside. Windy Poplars is the name of the house, owned by two women she calls Aunt Chatty and Aunt Kate. Anne has been appointed principal of the local school, and will live there for three years while waiting to marry her childhood sweetheart Gilbert Bligh, and some of the story is told via her letters to Gilbert.
The book is a strange mixture of cloying sentimentality and more robust sections like this one, which was very funny. Anne’s busybodying and goody-goodiness get on the reader’s nerves, but occasionally things cheer up. And at least Anne knows that “clothes are very important” – blogfriend Lucy Fisher pointed me in the direction of the book (ages ago) saying it was full of interesting clothes, and indeed it is. Anne gives the young woman Katherine a makeover, saying that we should all try to look our best so that it is more pleasant for other people to look at us – quite the point of view.
Meanwhile Aunt Chatty wants a beaded cape, but has been told by her sister that ‘she was too old for it.’ Anne reassures her and says she must have one. I was envisaging something very evening-y, but perhaps more like this one from the NYPL of about the right vintage?
Black nightgowns obviously were a step too far for most widows, and it is very hard to find any pictures of any such thing, until black nightgowns became more common – the one above is from the 1940s and, you know, doesn’t seem so much like a mourning garment.
The implications of white mourning clothes are investigated here. Anne of Green Gables and the puffed sleeves have featured on the blog before.