Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Babies Wore In the Past

From author Amy Licence:
For the first year of their lives, babies were immobile, bound tightly in swaddling bands and lain in cots, partly for their own safety. Unable to flail around, crawl or walk, these strips of cloth or linen were little more than torn pieces of sheet, often in white or green and bore little resemblance to the stretchy baby grows and soft suits made from cotton or towelling....

Then must have been endless laundry, in the days before washing machines, tumble driers and liquid capsules. Medieval and Tudor maps of London show sheets and clothing  spread out on the ground in fields and over bushes to dry: someone usually needed to remain with them though, as clothes were valuable commodities in the days before they were bought ready to wear and could be the target for thieves.
White clothes were treated with lye, made by running water through the ashes of a wood fire; cherry wood, apple and pear were most common but seaweed was also burned and used. Urine provided a detergent, collected from chamber post, for pre-wash soaking. Soap was very popular, enough to attract comment from foreign visitors, surprised to see it used so frequently and to such effect. It was usually made from animal fat and fragranced with flower essences. (Read more.)


1 comment:

julygirl said...

I am old enough to remember the endless stream of diapers to wash and fold, as well as how my country relatives washed in a caldron of boiling water in the back yard. My mother washed in the bathtub and felt like a queen when she eventually got an electric washing machine. I think she appreciated the wringer even more than the washer because wringing out piles of laundry was almost disabling!