Thursday, February 07, 2013

Anne Gracie: What's In Your Closet?

Anne Gracie here, asking the cheeky question, what's in your closet? I'm not talking deep, dark secrets, but wondering if there are clothes you've kept long after you've worn them, perhaps because you wore them on a special occasion, and they have memories for you.

In my latest book, The Autumn Bride, Abby and her three impoverished "sisters" (in reality, one sister and two friends) have been taken under the wing of recovering invalid, Lady Beatrice Davenham, who has claimed them (quite untruthfully) as her nieces.

Having no money, the girls are making their own clothes, and that's not the worst of it.

“You mean you make your dresses from old clothes?” Lady Beatrice exclaimed.
“We can’t afford to buy material new,” Daisy said. “The fabric is the most expensive part of any dress. I can get half a dozen old dresses for the price of one length of new material, and depending on what they are, I might get as many as three or four new dresses out of them. Or a dress and a pelisse.”
“But you can’t wear other people’s old clothes!”
“Where do you think I got the material for that?” Daisy pointed to Lady Beatrice’s pink-and-green dressing gown and said proudly, “Two dresses I got down Petticoat Lane and some of me bits and pieces.”
My dressing gown? Made from rags cast off by strangers?” The old lady recoiled, casting a horrified glance down at herself, as if her favorite garment had suddenly turned into a pile of old rags, reeking and crawling with vermin.
Abby laughed at her expression. “Everything is perfectly clean.”
Rags? They’re not rags,” Daisy said, clearly offended by the slur on her shopping abilities. “I only buy the best, me. I’m very choosy!”
“Old clothes worn by complete strangers,” Lady Beatrice muttered crossly, smoothing her hand over her dressing gown. She was obviously torn
“No choice, me lady,” Daisy said. “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
Lady Beatrice drew herself up in her bed. “I,” she said in the voice of outrage, “am not a beggar!” She narrowed her eyes at Daisy. “And neither are you, m’gel. Abby, ring the bell for Featherby.

So she sends for a trunk of her old dresses. As she tells the girls, the trunk contains her youth, and it becomes the occasion for reminiscence.
“This is beautiful,” Daisy said, shaking out a dress in apple green silk trimmed with white gauze and knots of ribbon.
“Oh, yes, that one.” Lady Beatrice gazed at the dress fondly. “I wore that one at a ball given by the Duchess of Salisbury. Ah, what a night that was. I danced until dawn. . . .”
“Who did you dance with?” Jane asked.
“Everyone,” she said with satisfaction. “I was no beauty, but I was never a wallflower. I remember . . . Oh, you don’t want to listen to an old lady boring on.”
“Yes, we do,” said Abby, “and it’s not the slightest bit boring.”
Jane joined in. “Yes, please go on. Our mama used to tell us stories about her come-out, and I loved them.”
“Well, if you insist . . .” The girls gathered around. “It became quite warm in the ballroom, and one young man enticed me onto the terrace to cool down. Oh, it was all perfectly respectable at first—there were plenty of others doing the same.” She sighed. “But this man had rather a naughty reputation, and we danced on the terrace, and soon we found ourselves alone. . . .” She gave them a mischievous look. “Without my realizing it, he’d danced me off the terrace and down the garden path—in more ways than one.” She sighed. “My first kiss. My mother scolded me roundly for disappearing, of course, but oh, it was worth it.” She stroked the green dress. “That man kissed like a dream.”

Have you kept clothing from your past for sentimental reasons? Do you remember your first grown-up outing — your first proper date, or dance, or special event? Your first kiss? Do you remember what you wore? Tell us about it. I'll give a copy of The Autumn Bride to someone who leaves a comment.

***Annie's winner is Mary Hawkins!  Please email with your mailing information!***


girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I had a favorite dress in Junior High... I wouldn't let my mom get rid of it... I found it again as I was cleaning out her home after her death... It was a madras plaid... It was sooo ugly...
I also follow a couple of blogs that talk about clothing, etc from various periods in history.. and it is interest to learn how gowns were 'made over' from earlier ones... of course there was a lot more material and people saved things...

Anne said...

LOL girlygirl — it's funny how we lovvvve something and later cannot remember why. People had to do a lot more making over in the past. Even the recent past — I was the youngest of four kids and my mother used to makeover my older sisters' clothes for me. Not these days, though — clothing is cheaper and more disposable.

erin said...

Thanks for the fun post and congrats to Anne on the new release! I'm not a sentimental person really and I haven't kept a lot. My mom... and now me... hated clutter so we weren't allowed to to keep too much.

Connie said...

Like many others, I'm sure, I have kept my wedding dress. It resides in my son's home because he has a larger house than I do. I have had favorite dresses over the years but I have learned that I cannot hang onto something just for the sake of doing it. My husband and I have moved several times during our careers and I have had to take a deep breath and let go of many things. In the end, while I'm left with fond memories of items, it's rather nice to know these things have a better home somewhere.

Anne, I love your novels and am so very excited to read "The Autumn Bride." The plot sounds fantastic! I have done a lot of sewing during my life so I know that I will be even more entertained when I read it.

Congratulations on all of your successes and I want you to know that it was a very lucky day for me when I discovered your novels!! All the best!

Connie Fischer

Anne said...

Erin, you're lucky - my mum was a clutterbug and I battle with it, too. But the funny thing was, the things I loved, she never kept — it was always the awful stuff. LOL

Anne said...

Connie, thanks so much for those kinds words. I'm so pleased that you enjoy my books. It's great that you've kept your wedding dress. Even if it never gets used again, it's great for kids and grandkids to look at. Thanks for dropping past.

traveler said...

The Autumn Bride sounds wonderful and special. Your post is delightful. It reminds me of so much when I was younger. I am now becoming very nostalgic but I did not keep any of my clothing or dresses. We used to dress up and every dance and date was a big decision. Thanks for this lovely post. Wishing you happiness and success.

cheryl c said...

I have saved my wedding dress, my mother's wedding dress, and the mother-of-the-groom dress that I wore in November. I really should take that last one to a consignment shop! I won't even mention all those clothes that are still in my closet because I might fit into them again someday!!!

The excerpts I have read from The Autumn Bride have totally hooked me!

petite said...

Whenever we went out as a family we used to dress for the occasion. What a change now. Unfortunately no one bothers anymore and it is so extreme. I used to babysit and the couples always wore beautiful dresses, jewelry, suits and coats. A different world and time. When I did go out I was fussy but did not overdo it. I think that many peruse the consignment shops and find real treasures now that others dispose of. Best wishes and The Autumn Bride is memorable.

Anne said...

Thank you, traveler, I hope you enjoy it. I 'm the youngest of my siblings by ten years and as a little girl I so remember the excitement when my two older sisters were getting ready for a special dance or a ball or something like that, and my mother would be involved, too. But by the time I reached that age, we were all very casual, and dressed down, rather than up.
Thanks for dropping by to chat.

Anne said...

Thanks, Cheryl — I hope you enjoy the book.

"I won't even mention all those clothes that are still in my closet because I might fit into them again someday!!!"

LOL Haven't you heard that closets shrink clothes -- the longer you leave them in there, the smaller they get.

Anne said...

Thanks, Petite. A friend of mine is helping her mother clear out a lot of stuff and she came across a huge pile of clothes from the 60's — all in pristine condition. She took them off to an antique clothes shop and sold them for a good sum. Her mother was most indignant — not at her selling the clothes, but at the label "antique." LOL

Kaelee said...

Well I have my mini skirt wedding dress, which I will never be able to fit into again, in my closet. I got married in 1968 and have gained a bit of weight since then. At my parent's former house, which my brother inherited, I have my two bridesmaid dresses and my graduation dress. I also have numerous other outfits which really should be culled from the closet. It's a "one day I'll get around to it" project. I also have a very expensive woolen winter coat which I wish I could wear as it was the warmest coat ever. If I ever lose about 50 pounds that coat is going to the cleaners and I will start wearing it again. Talk about incentive to lose weight.

Anne said...

Yep, those closets really do shrink clothes. LOL. Sounds like you have a lovely collection of clothes, Kaelee. I have a few "incentive to lose weight" clothes, too. Too beautiful to give away.
Thanks for dropping by.

Jeanne M said...

Hi Annie!

I didn't keep clothes from the past decade for sentimental reasons but because my husband has a bad habit of pushing the boxes to the back of the attic to give us more room in our small closets when there is a change of season!

After gaining weight after ging through two surguries within one year I had finally struggled and gotten the weight off so I decided to get out some "old boxes" to try to find some clothes to fit my new "old" size which was much smaller.

At first I thought "WOW" I've lost more than I thought when I had gone out shopping - until I got out those "old" clothes! Here I was fitting into a Size 6 again after losing 45 pounds! I was so excited! Until I tried on those "old clothes"!

Guess what - they changed the sizing! When I tried on an VERY OLD pair of black pants in a size 12 THEY WERE TOO SMALL!

That's right the old size 12 is now a Size 4! Remember that the next time you see those models on the runway who THINK they wear a small size!

Lisa W said...

Other than my wedding dress I've never kept any clothes for special reasons. My Mom on the other hand is a different story, she has kept a lot of clothes. The one item she has kept that is my favourite is her grade school uniform kilt. I use to wear it quite often and both of my girls have worn it also. Who knows, maybe one day their girls will wear it too. :-)
I loved the excerpt, especially Lady Beatrice's reaction to finding out that her dressing gown was made from used clothes. I know a few people who would react the same way. My girls and I love thrift stores and when we want to do a sewing project we always head to one first to see if there is anything we could use for material.

Barbara E. said...

I have kept clothing from my past, but finally had to clean out my closet because I didn't think I'd ever wear that size again. Now I've finally been able to lose most of the weight I had put on, but haven't gotten rid of the larger sized clothes, which I'm definitely not holding onto for sentimental reasons. :D I just have a hard time letting go of things that are practically new, I keep hoping I'll find someone who needs some nice dresses in that size. I remember my first kiss, etc. but don't remember the clothing I wore. That's all lost in the haze of ancient history.

Julie said...

I'm not much of a clothes hound, nor am I into fashion, so I don't have much in the way of clothes. I tend to buy items that I can wear no matter what is in vogue, which makes for a lot of usage per item...and it works out pretty nicely. I've never been married, so the closest thing I have to that experience would be my prom dress--which is still hanging in my closet! It was a really fun night. :D

Mary Preston said...

I remember the first 'grown up' party I was invited too. It felt grown up at least. I wore jeans - shock horror. Before then all parties required party frocks with lace & ribbons & bows. I had a blast. I was 12 years old.

Jo's Daughter said...

I don't keep clothes for sentimental reasons. My house is small and I need all the wardrobe space I can get. But if I have clothes made from cotton that I no longer wear, I cut them up and turn them into quilts or shopping bags.

I have done the same with my grandmothers clothes after she passed away. It's not a very beautiful quilt to look at, at first glance. The fabric doesn't go together too well, but it's my fav. Because I can still see her wearing those blouses and skirts in my mind :)

Mary Hawkins said...

Can't resist sharing as this is so current for me. Just before Christmas our five year old granddaughter flashed her beautiful smile at me and said, "Grandma, will you show me your wedding dress?" We had just celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary and any grandmother would be thrilled at that kind of interest.

However, it wasn't until last Friday when she was able to visit the last day of school holidays that I opened the vacuum sealed container and my dress was oohed and aahed over again - perhaps mostly by myself. Hard to believe my waist was once that small. Hard to remember just how heavy the dress was with lead weights in the hem and that large, long train once called a "cathedral" one. The three tiered long veil that swept over the train still had the untarnished head piece circlet of pearls and diamentines attached. I had not seen the dress for at least fifteen years when it was last used in an old wedding dress parade - and not worn by me! After reading the extract from your novel, Anne, I'm so glad all these years we have never needed to use the yards of crystal satin (yes, they were yards back then!) to make other dreses with. It is the symbol of all these wonderful years married to my own very special hero.

Will be looking forward to reading another of your great books, Anne.

Lory Lee said...

Only two or three, I kept those clothes bought by Mom or my best friend on special occasions. It's hard to part ways with them since I have plenty of good memories while wearing them. But I also gave away some my clothes to those people who became victims of calamities ( we really experience it more often that not.) And also, I have a bunch of nieces that can wear them when they grow up or even now ( my Mom is a fantastic dressmaker she just use her sewing prowess and viola! a new outfit is made!) :)

Anne said...

Jeanne, I didn't know they did that. Nth American sizes are different to Australian ones, as I discovered when I went clothes shopping in NY. How sneaky.

And well done you for losing that 45 pounds! That's a great achievement. And I think you deserve new clothes all the way. :)

Anne said...

Lisa, how cut that your mom kept her school uniform. I went to a school reunion a few months back and we were all really impressed when one of the women wore her old school uniform. I have no idea what mum did with mine. Not that I could have fitted into it now.

Thanks — I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt. I have a friend who makes new clothes out of old — you can't get the gorgeous old fabrics she uses any other way.

Anne said...

Cute, not cut.

Anne said...

Barbara, I've lost a bit of weight too, and I whipped those too big clothes off to the charity shop quick smart. Somebody will love them, but it won't be me. It's like a gift to a stranger. :)

I suspect very few people remember what they were wearing for their first kiss— the kiss would override everything in their memory.

Anne said...

Julie, I'm not all that fashionable either i like clothes that aren't too fashionable because if i like something I'll want to wear it more than one season. Longer. I assume people won't remember what I wear, but I'm sure there are some who whisper to their friends, "OMG she's STILL wearing that old thing." LOL

My older sister confiscated my prom dress after I'd worn it, and that was the last I saw of it. She pinched quite a few of my dresses.

Anne said...

LOL Mary. And I bet it wasn't long before everyone wore jeans to parties.

Anne said...

Jo'sDaughter, that's a wonderful thing to do with old clothes. My mother used to make patchwork quilts, too, and when she died, I found a whole pile of little hexagons, so many of which I recognized. I still have them, intending one day to put them together, because it's a real quilt of memories. You might have inspired me to start. Thank you.

Anne said...

Mary, what a lovely story. Your dress sounds really spectacular, too with that wonderful train, and that head-dress with with those crystals and pearls etc. I didn't know they used lead weights in the hem, though thinking about it, it makes sense. Wouldn't want the dress blowing up in a strong breeze.

I'm sure your little granddaughter loved it. And congratulations on your 48th anniversary.

Anne said...

Lory, it's great that you gave away some of your favorite clothes to people caught up in disasters. And nieces — yes, they'll have fun with them, I'm sure.

You are so lucky to have a mom who sews. My friend from schooldays had a mother like that — she used to pick a photo out of a magazine and give it to her mom and a week later she'd be wearing it.

Pat Cochran said...

I have the wedding dress and veil I made
for our ceremony 52 years ago. I have
several dresses from special occasions
over the years: the dress I wore when we
met, the dress I wore to the Prom, a va-
riety of party dresses, my favorite
"little black dress," and the dress I
wore to DD1's wedding. As you can tell,
I'm a "saver"!!

joye said...

I always lived in an apartment or a small house so did not save clothes. No room to put them. Growing up and when I first went into business, I sewed all of my dresses. I had 2 sons so never made their clothes but I sewed many a prom or dance gown for their friends.

Anne said...

Pat, these all sound lovely. And you know, where would historical research be if people hadn't saved their favorite clothes for posterity? I'm all for it.

Anne said...

Joye, what a lovely person you are, to sew clothes for your kids' friends. Sewing is an art going out of fashion, I fear, but it's the perfect way to make your own designer original clothing.

Laurie G said...

Let's see my first big event was a trip to the Milwaukee Zoo with my mom & dad. I vividly remember wearing a bright red toggle coat. I loved seeing Samson the gorilla even though he was huge.

I still have a lot of my clothes from HS & college. My daughter wore a lot of them when she went through HS & college. Yes the trends came back.

My first dance was Freshman year homecoming. I wore a forest green sweater top and skirt. The date was unremarkable as was the outfit.

I do have my wedding dress. No my daughter chose her own when she married.

Anne said...

Laurie, I love that the trends come back. I used to pinch my mother's old clothes — she was horrified, "You can't wear that old thing!" But when my niece wanted to borrow them fifteen years later, she was tickled pink. LOL

Thanks for dropping by.

Quilt Lady said...

I don't remember most of that stuff but I do remember my first kiss form the boy I thought I was in love with at the age of 13. It was wonderful. Best day ever! Funny how certain things just stay with you.

Anne said...

QuiltLady I doubt whether anyone remembers what they were wearing when they got their first kiss, unless it was at a special occasion. Thanks for dropping past.

Di said...

I have only kept my own clothing in case I may wear it again, but I have kept some of my Mom's & Dad's (like from the Navy in WW II) things for sentimental reasons. And I have a few of my grandparents things - my grandmother's black fancy blouse & my grandfather's night shirt.

Anne said...

Di, these sound like lovely things to save. Thanks for sharing.

Eli Yanti said...

I don't kept any clothing except mine but ofcourse if i still can use them :)