Hogskin gloves, nylon fur gloves, sharkskin dresses and string vests

We’ve had lovely weather for laundry recently -it’s so simple for us these days, most fabrics are washable, we have detergents which are not dangerous to us and don’t damage the clothes, and there are products we can use on stains which won’t burn holes or poison us with their fumes. We can check how environmentally kind our cleaning products are and choose those which do least harm, and there are dry-cleaning companies which can help out with more tricky problems.

I’m looking at Ruth Drew’s book ‘The Happy Housewife’, a book of helpful hints and suggestions, and much of it based on radio programmes by Ruth. Ruth died too young in 1960, and this collection is from the 1940’s and 50’s, but I suspect much of the advice was from an even earlier era. I’m looking at the chapter ‘Care of Clothes’ and it starts with four paragraphs – ‘Clothes-Brushes’, ‘Freshening Up a Suit’, ‘Cheering Up Winter Hats’ and ‘Coat Hangers’. There then follows nearly twenty pages of different instructions for different clothes, a whole page on ‘White Fabrics’, and two pages on ‘Shoes’  – evening shoes, silver and gilt kid variety, metal tissue type of shoe, brocade shoes, football boots, patent leather,, skin shoes (lizard etc.) greasy marks on shoes, summer shoes, gaberdine shoes and winter boots (another whole page!)

So with actual clothes (including jewellery and strings of pearls)

  • furs
  • glazed cotton dresses
  • hogskin gloves
  • imitation leather raincoats
  • lambskin coats
  • leather
  • Masonic aprons
  • nylon fur gloves
  • nylon velvet dresses
  • panama hats
  • paper nylon
  • permanently pleated skirts
  • plastic raincoats
  • proofed poplin
  • rubberised raincoats
  • sharkskin dresses
  • stiffening silks and lace
  • shiny skirts and trouser seats
  • string vests
  • swim suits
  • tennis sweaters
  • umbrellas
  • velvet collars
  • wet clothes

This is such a bizarre list – Masonic aprons? Rubberised raincoats as well as plastic raincoats and imitation leather raincoats? And what is paper nylon? I will share with you Ruth’s thoughts on wet clothes another time!

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