Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dressing For Winter in Days Gone By

We’ve had somewhat chilly weather lately; wind blowing quite nicely whipping everything about; one degree the other morning. And my goodness, to watch some of the people you’d think it was forty below! Padded winter jackets, insulated gloves, woolen hats. I did get strange looks walking about with only a hoody, bare head and hands.

Ah but, I would wager a bet some of those I saw bundled to the teeth haven’t really experienced a true north winter.

Now that is where you had to be ready to bundle! When the temperature dipped, the snow cracking under footsteps, frost forming on eyelashes and breath suspended you had to be clothed in layers! 

The first layer of course was winter underwear! For boys and men this was a one piece suit of underwear…buttons down the front and trap door behind. As children we had a great time with dad’s on washday. Clothes were hung outdoors on a clothes line and were frozen stiff as a board when brought indoors to hang on clothes lines arrayed from corner to corner in the kitchen. We’d use dad’s as a dancing partner around the kitchen doing the ‘long john waltz’.

Enough! Girls and women were suited with heavier drawers and undershirts. And – long cotton knit stockings. These stocking were secured with pin-on garters (garters without the belt) pinned to the undershirt - older girls were allowed to wear garter belts; adult women had garters hanging at the edge of their girdle for suspension of stockings. My stockings always were saggy at the knees and mended! My sister’s were always perfectly straight! Not fair. When I got to high school I refused to wear stockings and garters. I wanted nylons. No such luck so I went bare legged and would freeze by legs white and blue. Oh how my legs pained….but no stockings, no siree!

And then – wool! Wool everything. Wood sweaters, wool skirts, wool hats, wool mittens, wool scarves. Everything - itchy, scratchy wool. Wool that shrunk when washed and fit as tight as a glove. And then the outerwear. And guess what – wool! When snowy clothes were hung to dry the kitchen smelled like a sheep pen! And – girls were not allowed to wear slacks. They could however wear wool ‘leggings’ – worn with skirt tucked it and immediately removed once entering a home.

Winter boots weren’t as smatzy as those fashioned today. They were made of rubber with a thin felt coating inside and felt insoles. Worn over top of one’s leather shoes. Certainly not the protection we shop for today for our youngsters and our selves. Stylish young ladies could select those with a real fur cuff.

When the weather became excrutiatingly cold and blizzard winds blow one just added more layers. Usually more sweaters - and always a scarf wrapped round forehead, neck and chin…with only eyes revealed.

The photograph included with today’s blog is of me in my find wool melton cloth cloat. Just outside posing for a picture, so no leggings or boots.

Just in case you think I may exaggerate the snow...this gentleman has just finished shovelling his driveway, it is January and the snow bank he stands on is six feet high and still further snowy months ahead!

And the cold is not exaggerated either....quilts were thrown over car engines; light bulbs suspended under hoods; batteries taken and stored indoors overnight, or cars started every two or so hours; car engines had been known to crack from the cold.

I have also posted art work on you art blog this morning; although totally unrelated to the topic here:-pinnaclesandpotholes


  1. Good Morning Ruby, I am loving these stories of the old days! Makes me cold to read them. I am glad you are writing them down for others in the future to read.

  2. I hope you are indeed keeping them in a recorded fashion they will be a blessing to your family for years to come. I too am enjoying reading them and remembering.