By: Victoria Brady
Whenever I hear anyone use words like always, never, the first, the only, etc. etc. etc. I immediately find myself questioning the person’s credentials and knowledge base. There are exceptions to every rule as the following photos will show, and no one can with any certainty prove an illustration or an item is THE first ever to hit these shores. It may simply be the first the speaker/writer was aware of. Can any among us claim we know everything about everything? New sources become available every day and if you use those words someone will eventually prove you wrong.
As a writer I’ve encountered these situations more times than I can count. In writing about the introduction of Emden geese I found articles claiming a gentleman was the first to import them into the U.S. from Germany. I easily found someone who was the subject of a newspaper article with several people attesting that they knew he was raising them some 10 years earlier. I don’t have a crystal ball or a time machine so I can go back and interview these people myself, but the safe bet is Never say Never.
I’ve read articles that claim no one EVER made clothing out of toile fabric, yet I did find one. Does that one instance mean we can all make a toile dress? No, because I do not know the circumstances of how the dress came to be. Was it a spoof? Was it for a masquerade ball? Did a salesman or manufacturer use it to sell more toile? We don’t know, but I wouldn’t let one example prompt me to use this fabric for clothing, yet Never say Never.
There used to be a hard and fast notion that women NEVER wore stays or jumps without a gown or jacket over them, however, in studying paintings actually painted during the 18th century one can easily find documentation that this is also a myth. Never say Never.
I’ve heard that women always wore neckerchiefs, also known as a fichu, or in modern terminology a modesty piece to fill in the neckline on gowns or jackets. Women usually did wear such an accessory, but again, Never say Never. A cursory search of paintings and sketches actually done during the 18th century yields women not wearing a neckerchief yet are working in a well-to-do home where modesty would have been demanded or outside in a work situation where they performed respectable work.
I leave you, gentle reader, with the idea speaking in absolutes is a dangerous endeavor. These are but a few examples.