Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Trunk of finery

Once upon a time, a young man went up into his attic and found a chest. 
"Hmmm, I wonder what's in this chest," he thought. 
The chest had been in the attic for a very long time.
It had been in his relatives' attics for a very long time before that.
Everyone knew the chest was there, but no one had ever opened it.

On a day when two of his cousins were in town, he opened the chest. 
What wonders would it contain? Perhaps it was empty.

The top layer of the chest was a box filled with embroidered silk shawls, leather gloves, and pieces of lace.

One of the pieces of lace was like a shirt. Perhaps you would wear it over a gown.

Other pieces were handmade lace trims, made of the most delicate thread and intricate techniques.

The leather gloves would reach almost to your shoulder, and the hands were tiny and slender. 

Three old fans were painted with charming old-fashioned scenes.

Some of the little scraps of lace had been cut off of other garments in order to recycle them for future use.

The techniques were many and varied, and the girls exclaimed over all of them, wondering at how they were made.

Some of the pieces they had no idea how they were done, they were so intricate and amazing.

The next layer of the chest contained a heavy velvet cape, edged with fur and lined with satin.

With its two layers, it felt like being wrapped in a large warm blanket. One could imagine coach rides on wintry days and keeping warm in the coldest of weather.

The layers kept on getting better--here below the cape was a wedding dress belonging to the cousins' grandmother's grandmother. Airy and almost dreamlike in its light layers, and adorned with many wonderful details in beadwork, satin, and handmade lace, the dress was a wonder to behold.

They even had a striking old photograph of the bride wearing this dress.

Next came a light summer dress with an allover pattern of handmade lace that had no repeats. The lace was made right to the dimensions of the neckline, side seams, and hem. Would this take someone like a year to make? And would the cost of it be like paying someone's yearly salary?

Next came a heavy black overcoat adorned with handmade black lace. All the seams in this as well as all of the pieces were hand stitched.

Finally, there was a lavender velvet dress that looked fit for a princess. It had beading, handmade net lace, a long train, and a very flattering cut. 

I missed out on the opening of this chest and my cousins' fun dressing themselves in the finery and parading themselves around, but two days later, I got to go with them, experience it for myself and take these photos. What a dreamlike opportunity! What a story that seems the stuff of fairytales! 

1 comment:

  1. Another wonderful story! I wish I could have explored them with you!


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