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“Thoughts by a Country Woman” by Clara Mack

Women’s Styles

By Clara Mack




Women wearing bustles.

According to the women’s magazines that contraption known as the bustle is bustling into the fashion picture. Here and there the designers and illustrators are giving us a glimpse of a subtle wad of ribbon folded into thick loops and tacked onto that portion of the female known as just below the waistline, rear. For all we know it may point to those stiff wire and crinoline trappings like grandmother wore.

My impressions of the fair sex adorned with bustles are limited to a few 1840 movie reproductions, a dozen woodcuts in old copies of Godey’s magazines, and an occasional modern girl dressed for a home talent play in an ancient taffeta wedding gown. Nevertheless, I’m scared of this approach to another bustle era, for if everybody stars wearing bustles, I, a weak-willed, copy-catting female, can do nothing less. Think how silly I’d feel strutting around with a flat caboose if all my girl friends were wearing well-rounded cabooses.

It isn’t merely the looks of a bustle that disturbs me. Of course I’ll look like the back end of a hack. The inconvenience has me worried, too. For instance, consider a trip across the west lot. At about ten o’clock in the forenoon on a sweltering day I’m likely to be tramping through the oat stubble, carrying a pint bottle of milk and a slab of apple pie to the head man when he’s working on the Klondike section. It is quite a step. By the time I have reached the high knoll I’m ready to sit and rest, so without regard to clothing, I flop down to the ground on one hip and one elbow while I wait for the hungry head man to eat his lunch.

If I were wearing a bustle on a jaunt to the west knoll how would I amnipulate it? Unless I stayed on my two feet the bustle would certainly become flattened on that one hip, and make me look like a milkpail with a bad dent. Besides, the additional hip-padding would naturally make a person mind the hot weather more than ever. In winter the padding might possibly be an asset on the ski trail, but I don’t ski.

It seems as if a bustle would interfere with the quiet relaxation of reading. During the noon hour it is my custom to look briefly at the healines of our daily paper and my favorite spot for this is on the davenport, supported by three pillows under my head. If we’re wearing a bustle I couldn’t enjoy such informality, or if I did the bustle would soon flatten.

Consider a bustle in connection with our modern automobile. Maybe grandmother, sitting in the shallow, firm buggy seat, her back ramrodded with dignity, was able to keep her bustle plump and proper. But how will we moderns manage to plop into the deep seat of a car and at the same time keep our bustles from resembling a pin-pricked ballon? Can you imagine any garment looking worse than an off-center bustle or one that is below the proper pitch?

Furthermore, a bustle would hinder a person engaged in weeding a vegetable garden, or dancing a fast foxtrot in a crowded room, or gathering eggs from the haymow, or sitting in bleacher seats at the ball park, or mountain climbing, or lying on one’s back watching the clouds. Even so, Dame Fashion is a Hercules. If Paris, London, New York and Hollywood females start wearing bustles the gals in Springwater will follow suit.

Editor’s Note: Clara Mack wrote a column for the Wayland Register between 1935 and 1950. She published her articles in a book called “Thoughts by a Country Woman” in 1950. In 1938 she won second prize in a national contest for the selection of the best country newspaper correspondent for the year.