Saturday, January 02, 2010

Soft


I sat at my computer this morning (on my microfiber-upholstered chair), wearing a microfiber sweater, polyester fleece yoga pants, SmartWool socks (thanks to my daughter), and Lands' End fabric-and-suede zip-up Weatherly rubber-soled shoes (oh, and microfiber underwear, if you must know), and looked at a picture of a Civil War-era woman.

She was not unattractive, but looked a tad pained, I thought. This could be due to the necessity of holding a pose long enough for the film of those days to be exposed, but I think it must be at least partly due to her clothes. Everything looks so stiff! Those buttons must have been a real trial to do up. And everywhere she went, she had to haul around yards and yards of whatever, with more yards and yards of even stiffer whatever underneath. And way underneath you can be sure she wore a boned (as in real, once-living bones) corset to give her that nice waist. They didn't put much stock in breathing in those days.

Later this afternoon, I lay on my bed—mattress covered with memory foam and latex, cotton sateen sheets over that, then a down duvet topped with a down blanket, and me topped with the microfiber "minky" throw my granddaughter gave me for Christmas—and thought about that woman. She sat on a small, straight-back wooden chair. Her feet were probably crammed into something stiff and pointed. Yes, I know . . . not so different from today's fashionable shoes. But at least today we have a choice. One hundred and fifty years ago, what did people do for soft??

I love soft. I dress fairly casually for work, but even so, when I get home at night I can't wait to change into something soft. Fleece is my friend. I have a throw on the loveseat, and another in my car for winter. I have great affection for my bed and its airy mounds of down. On coldest nights I sleep in cashmere, courtesy of the Salvation Army. Did you know that cashmere sweaters come out of the washer and dryer marvelously fluffy? Try it—with the $2 variety you find at a thrift shop.

So I'm thinking our Civil War ancestors had down pillows (or feathers, more likely), but for the most part their clothing scratched, poked, pinched, and strangled them. It's no wonder the North and South turned on one another; they were probably perpetually irritated. And just maybe the South resented the North for its cooler, and therefore more comfortable temperatures. It isn't as though southerners were able to wear shorts in summer.

We've had the Iron Age and all that . . . maybe we're living in the Microfiber Age. The Age of Soft. And isn't that a pleasure.

10 comments:

Dona said...

I love soft too and am wearing a fleece jacket I've pretty much not taken off since I bought it (and actually slept in it at my brother's house).

There was a time I refused to wear anything that was not natural, even if it was a little itchy or stiff. Not anymore.

Susan said...

Dona, I thought the same thing while I was writing this. At one time I was quite the natural-fiber snob. But polyester has come such a long way in a short time. You probably don't remember polyester leisure suits..... :-)

crystal said...

Nice photo!

Sadly I'm allergic to feathers, but my sister bought me two really fluffy soft synthetic blankets - when I go to bed I feel like I'm in a warm fuzzy cocoon :)

Susan said...

Crystal, just this week I ordered a "down alternative" blanket for my granddaughter. She's not allergic, but Overstock ran out of the down blanket I bought for myself and love. The reviews on the alternative were just as stellar.

Helen said...

I like your hypothesis as to the underlying cause of the Civil War. And feather pillows can be very prickly as well.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Susan said...

Anonymous, I'm going to assume you are a famous editor--if there is such a thing--or maybe Sean Connery. Either way (or neither way, if I'm wrong), thank you for the comment!

Indigo Bunting said...

"...they were probably perpetually irritated..." Wonderful.

I love soft too. Great post. Great visual.

Eulalia (Lali) said...

Soft hasn't been around that long. I remember garter belts under stiff "early" polyester dresses. And in the 50s people used to wear starched and scratchy crinolines and waist cinchers. Sometimes I wonder whether the abundance of soft, comfortable clothes has something to do with the obesity epidemic....

Susan said...

Good point, Lali! I remember that stuff, too. And just yesterday (this is true), as I was about to pull on my favorite Lands' End fleece yoga pants, I wondered if I'd eat less throughout the day if I put on jeans instead. I decided against the jeans, and had what I call an "eating day," a.k.a. wheel spinning.

You may have solved the world's weight problem. I hope you can win a Nobel Prize before the polyester lobby puts out a contract on you.