I’m so far behind today on comments here and elsewhere, but I shall persevere!
Oh, my stars. Petticoats and pinafores. Ringlets and ruffled drawers. Little girls were so sweet. Now, I’m not quite that old, but I well remember my aunt fixing my hair in rag rollers to make ringlets for church. Once the ringlets went out, and they’ll stay in longer than you’d think if you use rags, I wore my hair braided. It was long enough to sit on even though it was in a high braid. So, you can imagine working and playing outdoors would be a mess for unbound hair. The ringlets or braids tend to keep a little girl’s hair sort of in order.
I also remember getting dressed up for church on Sunday. My little undershirt with pink bow and rosebud in the center, full length white stockings with elastic garters, patent leather shoes, full slip, ruffled petticoat, dress, dress coat, hat, gloves.
Girls in the antebellum period reflected their mother’s fashions to some extent, with some strong differences such as hem length. Comfort, unless the girl was a working or farm girl, didn’t enter into the picture. Girls wore corsets, though not as constrictive as their mothers (and some of their fathers).
The first layer was the chemise a sort of smocked undershirt that came to the knees or above. In the 1869’s they started tucking the chemise into long drawers, which were heavily embellished with lace and ruffles because they were meant to show. Above were the stays or the corset, which, as I said wasn’t as restrictive as Mother’s. Then a short petticoat, which could be several layers to get the desired volume.
Whereas a woman’s dress buttoned up the front, a child’s dress buttons up the back and usually comes up to the neck. Skirts come to just below the knee at about age five and lower about an inch a year until age eighteen when the girl was eighteen and the skirts were floor length. Both girls and women wore high-topped boots most of the time, which had to be fastened using a button hook. Colors in the south tended to be brighter until the blockade took effect and dyes became hard to obtain. (Hence the birth of butternut uniforms, but that’s another story.)
Everyone wore bonnets or hats and gloves outdoors to protect their skin.
The following is a scene from Rain Crow. Captain Fox has come to see if Lorena has made a decision about spying for him. They walk back into the house where she also has a boarding school and find the girls in the middle of a math lesson. Persy and Lucille are two little heathens who are always in trouble.
Purdy clicked up the limestone stairs beside Fox who opened the door for me. If not for his quick reflexes, he would have walked over me as I stopped dead still in the doorway. At the bottom of the grand stairway were piles of pillows beneath each banister. Girls flocked in the middle of the great hall staring upward where Persy and Lucille perched at the top.
“Go!” shouted Cecile.
The two pushed away and slid down the banisters, laughing uproariously while the crowd cheered them on, each for their favorite. I hurried over to them just in time for Persy to fly off the banister through the air barely ahead of Lucille, and plop down on the pillows, skirt and clouds of petticoats everywhere but where they should be on a young lady. She sprawled out on the pillows laughing too hard to care that everyone could see her ruffled drawers.
The crowd had still not noticed Captain Fox and myself until he burst out laughing himself. “Who won?’ he asked.
“Where’s Imogene?!” I demanded.
Lucille was still giggling, but stood up and straightened her skirts. The crowd parted, wide-eyed. Lucille pointed at Imogene who was left alone in the middle with a fist full of money. “Imogene’s taking the bets. She’s teaching us math.”
“Pity I wasn’t here sooner,” Fox said. “I love a good race. Will you be going again?”
“I should teach you all subtraction. No, they will not. Please don’t encourage them.” I glared at him, but having made many a trip down those banisters myself in my younger day, I wasn’t inclined to say too much lest Maisy or George tell on me. And they would.