Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2002 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

Fashion oddities of the past

Having served much of my teaching time while wearing spike heels and
standing on concrete floors all day, I really have no right to
criticize fashion. However, the shoes this year must have been designed
to make money for podiatrists. Stiletto heels and a couple of straps,
along with a $150 price tag, just make me shake my head--like the old
timer that I am.

The present generation doesn't have a corner on crazy fashions. Our
ancestors had some strange fashions, also. In fact, fashions down
through the ages haven't made much sense.

I recently read about some of the fashions of the Renaissance period.
Probably the codpiece worn by males is one of the better known fashions
of that period. It was a time of much cross-dressing by women. (They
had considerably more freedom if they were believed to be males.)
Here are some customs about which I'd never read. From the years 1300 to
1400, it became fashionable for women to dye their hair--so even then
they suspected blondes have more fun. Eggshells, alum, orange peel,
goat dung and sulfur were thought to have peroxide powers.

We've read about the bustle (the padded behind) which was fashionable in
the late 1800s. But during the 1400s, women padded their stomachs. The
faux pregnancy fashion was all the rage. Artists often painted women
with big bellies.

By the 1600s, the goiter look was the "in thing." Marie de Medici, wife
of King Henry IV, had a great growth under her well-fed chin, so many
women tried to copy her. Rubens painted Marie with her big goiter, and
the painting may be seen today in the Louvre.

Thankfully, fashions in medicine have changed rather drastically from
that era. Along about that time there was an illicit business of
purchasing stillborn babies from midwives. Everyone knew that rubbing
the fat of a stillborn babe on a leper's face would heal the sufferer's
complexion. A sure cure for the plague was a compound made up of the
blood from a badger which had been made drunk. This concoction was made
more palatable by simmering with some spices.

Forget about diet colas and Lite Beer. In the 1600s, when Princess Anna
of Austria married King Louis XIII, she brought a new drink to the
French court. Everybody laughed when she lifted a cup of some dirty
brown substance to her lips. But Anna persisted. This is how hot
chocolate was introduced in France. It eventually became quite
popular--after the people learned to add sugar. The drink was considered
to be an aphrodisiac. Was this the beginning of the chocolate craze
which has lasted through the centuries?

The Genealogy Library is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through
Saturdays. Dress comfortably when you come to visit us, and we'll try
to help you climb your family tree!

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The Coordinator for the White County, Illinois ILGenWeb page is Cindy Birk Conley

Copyright © 2002 by Cindy Birk Conley, all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information.