Saturday, January 02, 2010
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.