NPR recently aired a piece about corsets making a comeback. A very modern woman talked about the joy and inner power she gained by donning what has commonly been thought of, in kind terms, as a torture device.
Constricting my curvy self into a corset held no appeal but the corset discussion made me think about other traditions and objects that have faded into history but should be re-examined for a comeback.
▪ Calling cards: Recently I was stumped over a graduation gift. I thought about the graduate moving on to her future life while still trying to maintain contact with her past.
So I ordered calling cards.
Not business cards, but old-fashioned calling cards. The fashionable set from the early 1800s until the early 1900s would have small, pretty cards printed with their name to take when they went visiting. Like text speak, there was a shorthand language in the way the caller would fold the corners of the cards.
If the woman of the house was otherwise occupied (the era’s version of letting a call go to voice mail) these cards would be placed in a lovely silver tray by the door. A big stack probably felt like posting a photo on Instagram and getting a lot of likes; a small one like getting picked last for dodge-ball.
While I don’t think our world needs another forum for social game playing, my recent grad was thrilled to have a snazzy, small card printed with all of her contact information to give to those she is leaving as well as to those she will meet.
It was a brilliant gift. At least I thought so. Maybe she was just being polite.
▪ Cocktail hour: I don’t need a whole hour and actual cocktails aren’t necessary but is a short time to pause and recap before diving into evening activities too much to ask for?
Remember how Samantha Stephens met Darrin at the door with a martini on Bewitched? Who wouldn’t want that? In real life I don’t know how this is logistically possible, but it would be nicer than being greeted by a whoosh of family racing out that door.
▪ Fans: I think it’s time that the paper or fabric fan makes a comeback. I’m not saying this only as a woman of hot-flash age, but when I fan myself a kid always jumps into the breeze. I have one I keep handy from a friend who gave them as party favors. Oh sure, the plastic, battery-powered, hand-held fans are more effective but damn if I don’t feel just a bit elegant snapping open my not-really-fancy manual, paper fan.
▪ Parlors: I know a lot of older houses still have these. I see them being ripped-out on home remodeling shows in favor of a phrase that can go-away: the Open Concept. But I want ONE hidden from view, quiet and always tidy room for either guests or my lone self to sit. Right now, that’s my bathroom and my guests aren’t too keen on hanging out there with me.
▪ Stylists in the birthing room: Call me superficial but the Glam Squad treatment that Duchess Kate received after delivering two heirs shouldn’t only be readily available to celebs and royals. Yes, we should embrace the beauty and reality of new motherhood, but, really, a little pampering goes a long, long way.
▪ Codpieces: No, probably not, despite the observational entertainment value that would be a case of being doomed for not learning from history. But don’t let me stop you. The codpiece might be the comeback gift that gives you joy and inner power.
Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.