The skirts of ninety years ago were worn long probably because it was impossible at that time to design and produce attractive shoes and stockings and due to an exaggerated sense of extreme modesty which amounted to prudishness. This, no doubt, prompted the story of the trader of the East whosent the first known pair of silk stockings to the Queen of Spain and had them returned to him by the Queen’s minister with the indignant rebuke that “The Queen of Spain has no legs!”
This quaint print over ninety years old, was an extremely daring illustration, for the skirts of that period swept the ground and any such display as this could only be due to an accident.
The shoes of 1830 were little flat leather slippers without heels often made by the ladies themselves, fastened with ribbons or straps or, when ankle length, laced up the sides, and the garter which held up the hosiery was a long ornamented ribbon wound around the leg several times. Some literature of the day refers to the untying of the garter.
Most stockings of that day were of cotton; for silk and lace creations were treasured for special occasions only.
We of today are accustomed to seeing the most elaborate and beautiful advertisements for hosiery. Full page space in the magazines carry the paintings of celebrated artists linked to clever copy and beautiful type to induce the public to purchase this or that brand of stockings. But this is all a development of modern business conditions. In 1822, and for years after, advertising and selling was not the scientific process that it is today.
A glance at this old clipping from a newspaper of the period shows a stocking advertisement of that time. The space is small, but perhaps when we consider how few publications reached the reader and how few commodities were for sale, this little ad may have been quite as effective in its day as a $5000 page in a magazine of 1922.
A large assortment of goods is set forth and the list certainly proves that our ancestors were fastidious in their dress. It is interesting to note that, for men, both hose and half hose are offered, “half hose” being no doubt the ordinary men s stockings of today and hose, the long stockings that were just then going out of style until reintroduced in the form of golf hose. We can also note the English and French importations and the “rich embroidered silk hose so appreciated by the ladies of every age and time.
People thought for many years that most articles of clothing were superior if they came from abroad, and that is true today in most countries, for many an American product is displayed in foreign countries with pride, while similar products find their way to America.
For several years after the giving up of lace weaving, sticking making at Ipswich was a cottage industry. In summer the open windows let out the whirr and whine of flying bobbins as the busy operatives labored at their task.
Visitors to the old town would pause in the quiet streets, curious to know where the strange sounds came from, and would stop to look in the windows at the new machines. Knitting stockings by hand was a part of every woman’s education; an art she has never forgotten, and naturally the women were curious to see how anything which they did so well could be accomplished by machinery.