I bought my youngest grandchild Tenley a fancy dress to play in for her birthday. I knew the chances of either of us going to the Royal Wedding were null and void, but what the heck. Every little girl needs a dress to twirl in. I asked her mother Taryn how she was going to clean it and she didn’t even bat an eye. Said her Grandmother, Rena Hastie would know what to do and would take care of it. Now I know– next time I am in trouble with a cleaning matter I am going to call Rena up and ask her what’s what.
Tenley, Me, Julia Guthrie, and Rena Hastie talking history
So how did they clean those fancy dresses they used in the 1800s going to fancy dress affairs? There was no single way to spot clean a Victorian gown. Many lady’s maids had their own special mixtures, perhaps some secret combination of turpentine, benzene, or chalk. Turpentine? Imagine if Febreeze had been invented!
These dresses could be washed, but soap, when applied directly to the fabric, was equally harmful. Instead, the 1856 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book recommends that a lady’s maid:
“Make a lather by boiling some soap and water together; let it stand until it is sufficiently cool for use, and previously to putting the dress into it, throw in a handful of salt.”
My Granddaughter Tenley May 5th 2015 in her dress I gave her. Rena Hastie knows how to cleean it.
It was double rinsed in “clear cold water” and salt. The dress was then carefully wrung out and hung to dry with the folds spread “as open as possible” so that no part of the dress was lying over another part.
The process of cleaning silk dresses was a bit more complicated than simply washing the fabric in soap and water. To remove ordinary stains, a lady’s maid generally employed some variety of spot solution. The 1861 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book describes one such solution comprised of:
“Quarter of a pound of honey; quarter of a pound of soft soap; two wineglasses of gin; three gills of boiling water.” Gin? Did they drink it after the spot did not come out in fear of losing their job?
The Belladonna Dress I designed and weighed 50 pounds that won first prize in the UK- read Greeting Old Friends and New Friends at Ladies Who Lunch in Carleton Place This cost over $150 to dry clean.
These ingredients were mixed well and left to stand until the solution was “blood-warm.” and then be applied to the silk with a small brush. A lady’s maid would next use a sponge to “wet the whole breadth of fabric” and to rub gently over the soiled areas. With the cleaning completed, the silk dress could be rinsed in “cold soft water” and hung up to drain. As for drying, the 1861 edition of Beeton’s Book of Household Management states that:
“Silks, when washed, should be dried in the shade, on a linen-horse, taking care that they are kept smooth and unwrinkled.”
A lady’s maid would then iron the dress while it was still damp. However, if the dress was black or dark blue, Beeton’s advises that, once dry, the dress should be spread out over a table and “sponged with gin, or whiskey, or other white spirits. Vodka sounds good to me, maybe mix it with some tomato juice and make a Bloody Mary while waiting for it to dry.
Granddaughter Sophia previewed Meghan Markle’s dress for the Royal Wedding at our Mother’s Day BBQ yesterday.
So what about Queen Victoria’s dress- or the one coming up from the wedding of Meghan and Spencer? On a Victorian lady’s gown, the collar and cuffs were generally soiled long before the rest of the dress. However, when collar and cuffs were made of lace, the process for washing them was a bit more difficult. For this reason, the 1861 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book advises that every lady “should know how to wash her own thread lace.” I don’t!
The first step was to remove the lace from the gown. According to Godey’s, a lady must then “roll the lace very smoothly and securely round a clean black bottle” and “tack each end of the lace with a needle and thread to keep it smooth.” Once the lace was on the bottle, it was thoroughly sponged with “sweet oil” and then soaked in a wash kettle containing “clear water and white Castile soap.”
Godey’s recommended that a lady leave the lace to boil in the sudsy water for “an hour or more” until the lace was “clean and white all through” The suds were then drained off and the lace was left to dry in the sun. Once dry, the lace—depending on its size—could be wrapped around a ribbon-block or placed between two sheets of white paper and pressed flat in a large book.
I don’t know about you but I am tired after reading all of that and wonder if cleaning the Queen’s drawers was a lot easier than that. ( read Tales of the Queen’s Underwear and all those “Accidents”)
How much do I love royalty? Let me count the ways. Royalty books used to balance my dryer. Killing two birds with one stone. I can pick one of them up and have a read sometimes to lessen the chore of laundry LOL
Not invited to the royal wedding? Well- “Pinky Up” and get your finery and fascinator ready!–You can still celebrate– as you are cordially invited to a High Tea – Royal Wedding style! Saturday, May 19th 3 pm! CrossroadsTea Room from Perth will be serving the best in dainties and Champagne is Included!
Prizes for Best Fascinator & Outfit–
Where? Best Western Plus Perth Parkside Inn & Spa
Get your tickets fast at The Crossroads Tearoom– You know they will be sold out quickly!
40 Gore Street East, Perth, ON, Canada
Join the Hub for the Royal Wedding on May 19 click here
You are invited to the Live Screening of the Wedding of
His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales to Ms. Meghan Markle at the Almonte Civitan Hall.
6 AM for light refreshments
7 AM Ceremony start time
Followed by an English Breakfast and a very special Wedding Cake
MORNING WEDDING ATTIRE ENCOURAGED!
Join us for what is expected to be one of the most watched world wide events. A big screen will be set up to watch the Wedding unfold, followed by a delicious breakfast and wedding cake!
We have 20 Golden Tickets for those interested in the baking challenge and are first come first serve. Golden Cake ticket holders are asked to bake and decorate a wedding cake or dessert ( to serve 8 people).
Cakes will be on display and all attendees will have 1 vote for their favorite cake. Bragging rights and prize for the winner!
We invite you to extend your best wishes to the happy couple by bringing a card, which will be passed on to them. In lieu of gifts for the Royal Couple, and to honour their extensive charitable work, we invite you to donate to The Hub Building Fund.
Tickets are $25.00
For more info and to purchase your tickets, please call Julia Thomas at 613-256-2116, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets can be bought at Blackbirds and Gilligalou Birds in Almonte.
Proudly sponsored by THE HUB and Prior Engagements, Party & Event Rentals
Get ready for the Royal Wedding and make your own Fascinator! Two workshops coming up – April 25th and May 2nd. You too could look amazing with this addition to your wardrobe! Info under a separate event for The Hub! Book your spot today!
Dressed in their finery and enjoying their tea and cupcakes, from left: Carleton Place residents Linda Seccaspina, Laurie Graham and Jennifer Irwin. – Tara Gesner/METROLAND
Queen Elizabeth II honoured with tea party (2015) click here.