Sunday, June 26, 2005

Encounter with the Past: A True Experience

My daughter and I were walking in Olde Towne one day, an old fashioned town in Florence, Oregon, intending to visit one of our favorite shops called "By the Bay." I had just touched the handle of the door of this shop in order to enter, when I happened to glance down the sidewalk. I thought I saw three ladies, dressed in clothing of the 1800's, walking away. "Let's follow them and find out where they went," suggested my daughter. When we looked again, they were nowhere in site, so we walked down the sidewalk looking in every shop window. At last we spotted them in an antique store.

We entered the store and noticed their wonderful hats, gloves, and dresses. The ladies appeared to be well over 60, and each one of them were very stately, modest and proper. Their garments were of the finest quality fabrics, and their hats were made to coordinate. They wore boots of the Victorian style. One lady wore a dark green outfit, and another wore one in a dark burgundy. The third lady wore a blouse of black and white stripes and a black skirt.

I summoned up my courage to speak to them. "Hello, " I said. "We noticed you awhile ago walking on the street and we looked in every shop until we found you. You are dressed so elegantly and I love the fabrics and the workmanship. Do you belong to a special society?"

"Well, actually, we come from the past, each year," the oldest one replied. "We visit the museams and the antique shops in the area, just to make sure everything in this century is being portrayed honestly and accurately. We check the historical markers and buildings and other things of our era. We are on a schedule, and soon we'll be visiting the oldest church building in the area, that has records kept from the early 1800's." No matter how I tried to get them to tell me where they lived, they kept up with their wonderful act and pretense of being from the past, and they were enjoying it enormously.

"We will return to the past at the end of the week, and then we'll come again next year," they said.

"We'd love to join you, " I told them. They seemed complimented by this and told us, "There are so many awful things said about the 1800's and yet, the people of that era were responsible for these very streets that you are walking on, being laid out the way they are, and many of these buildings and parks we enjoy every day."

"Don't pay any attention to the rumours they spread about us. There are some very good things about the 1800's. Many of the things you use in this century, such as the car, the sewing machine, electricity, plumbing, and the airplane, were actually being invented by the people of that era," replied the "green" lady, smiling. "Also, the families were so strong. That, itself is testimony enough of the values of that era."

These women were so refined, that my daughter and I both felt that we were imposing on them by even speaking as though we were familiar--they were somehow royal and queenly in their demeanor. It seemed rude to continue questioning and detaining them, so we excused ourselves, thanked them, and politely left.

What a refreshing change it was for us, after what we had seen the tourists wearing on the street in the summer weather. These were older women and they looked dignified and respectable. They weren't showing bare, flabby upper arms, dimpled thighs or knobbly knees, varicose veins in their legs, or protruding stomachs.

Their clothing kept them nicely covered, and their figures neatly packed in the swaths of fabric in the skirts, without tell-tale lumps our outlines of underthings. The colors and styles, and especially their hats, drew one's eyes to their sweet faces. The images of those women stayed with us quite awhile.

While these women walked around town, many people stopped and stared at them. If young girls today want to truly "turn heads," they should dress in the clothing styles of the 1800's. Wear a hat, some lacy gloves, a Gibson-girl blouse, a walking skirt and lace up boots, and see what happens.

Women's clothing of that style poses no danger to the wearer nor to the person who views it. I remember reading once, in a history book about the clothing of that era. Both the men and the women dressed in such a way as not to offend anyone. They thought that it was rude to expose too much of their flesh to others, and that it may lead someone's mind in a direction less than noble. Surely, it is time for us to pay attention to the reasons behind the customs of the past. You can't argue with success.

1 comment:

LadyLydiaSpeaks said...

They were part of the annual historical society tour of that town. Each year, people dress as Victorians and promenade through town, visiting the old shops and telling the history of the town to anyone who will listen.

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