Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Vanishing Trousseau



The trousseau is another feminine custom that has practically fallen into disuse. While the trousseau presently seems to be limited to the apparel of a bridal party and the collecting of lingerie, it once consisted not only of clothes but of everything a young lady would take with her into her new life as a matron. Often it would take years to gather together the treasures meant for adorning a future home, as well as embroidering linens and making quilts. There would be special heirlooms passed down from grandmothers and usually it would all be stored in a cedar chest until the bride set up her new residence with her spouse. According to the 1969 Vogue's Book of Etiquette:
Traditionally, the bride has not only a clothes trousseau, but one for her new house as well. This includes her good china, silver, glass; bed, bath, and table linens; and the necessary pots and other cooking utensils for her kitchen. Like many traditions, however, this one is observed or not, depending on individual circumstances. Most brides try to acquire at least a minimum of these appointments, for three reasons. First, a minimum, regardless of quality, is essential for even the simplest way of life unless one lives in a hotel. Second, handsome household appointments tend to become a luxury after marriage, and if a woman does not start out with them she often finds that she never gets around to buying them later. Third and last, quality endures and quality shows. It is true that fine china can get broken, but not as easily as pottery.
I always encouraged the young brides who came to me for a wedding consultation to have a bridal registry. Even if a person does not care for fine china and silver, it is important to have bed linens, pillows, towels and the kitchenware. A cedar chest is the traditional place to store linens, etc. Before the wedding is the time to try to foresee what you might need later and suggest it in the registry to those who want to buy gifts. Many young couples have set up housekeeping together, long before marriage is even discussed, so that planning the trousseau and registry is not quite what it used to be. It is also customary for an expectant mother to prepare a trousseau for her baby.


Artwork: "Grandmother's Bridal Crown" and "The Christening Party" Share

7 comments:

Ms. Lucy said...

This was a wonderful tradition that unfortunately many don't take the time for anymore. I'm not that old, yet I had a trousseau when I got married. It consisted of beautiful hand-stitched linens and tablecloths, cutlery and fine china that my mom began collecting when I was a baby. Blame it on the times (the easy way out)butI've been quite neglectful in this area when it comes to my own daughters-their trousseau is anything but ready...

elena maria vidal said...

I had a trousseau, too, although I had a late start getting things together. But better late than never....

Wendy Haught said...

It seems now that brides are dependent on showers instead of a trousseau. I've never understood when this change took place. My parents married in 1953, and even then my mother was given several showers. She received lots of hand-embroidered linens. I don't think she bought or made anything in advance, though her mother did make her wedding dress, going away outfit, and all the bridesmaids' dresses.

I have been buying for Emma, but it is mostly stuff that she can use now: kitchen tools as she learns how to cook, tea things and a punch bowl for entertaining her friends. She doesn't have any linens. I guess I better start shopping for a cedar chest.

elena maria vidal said...

My mother and I started gathering things while I was a teenager, but I have to say that the bridal shower helped to complete the trousseau. A bridal registry can be such a convenience.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I wouldn't call what I have now a trousseau, but I'm certainly collecting useful things for the future. It's mostly stuff for the kitchen, though. Linens are the furthest thing from my mind!

elena maria vidal said...

Sounds good! I never bought that many linens since my mom passed on hers to me.

Pat said...

The marital trousseau has always been something of an exciting time for women and their friends within the process of engagements that anticipate the excitement of marriage and the opportunity to collect items special and unique to a marital couple, inside or outside the kitchen.

Can't imagine that it has come into disfavor since all brides revel in the excitement and anticipation of being the center of his, and everyone's attention.

What an opportunity retailers are missing - for positive marketing!