It was ivory, with frills. Not quite exquisite lace – nylon had just come in. Daddy wore it in 1946; I wore it in 1968 and my sister in 1969.
Bundled to the back of the hotpress to make space for brushed nylon nighties and flannelette candy-stripe sheets, it was not quite an heirloom, but too good for a doll’s frock. One day your children will wear it, Mummy said.
It lived on in my hotpress, with Egyptian cotton sheets and Ikea duvet covers. Not quite forgotten, but an occasional silky reminder that my life was single and childfree and that someday I would have to do something with it.
I moved house. I am getting married but I am quite old. If there are ever step-grandchildren, they will want their own christening robes. I hang it off the edge of the guest room bookcase, and if it looks a little odd, like a headless ghost baby, I am not quite ready to admit that.
2. Lace Petticoat
Gran gave it to me when I was eighteen. It is about seventy years old. The cotton is still white and crisp, the pleats and tucks and lace immaculate but for a little wear and tear. I wear it as a skirt. I pose around college feeling exquisite and romantic.
It too has languished in the hotpress, hiding among pillowcases. I wash, iron and starch it. I note the extra wear on the frothy lace from my catching the hem in my DM boots. And the little gingham ties I made to hang it up with. It is over a hundred years old. I hang it with my ordinary clothes in my new wardrobe. Maybe I will wear it sometime.
3. Gran’s Hair Ribbons
Or Aunt Annie’s. Or Sadie, their big sister who died at sixteen. They are ivory, but perhaps they were white when they were slipped into the family bible over a hundred years ago. I imagine I have seen them in the sepia photos of the three sisters in the 1910s, but they seem smaller and less exuberant than those.
Perhaps they were indeed Sadie’s, pressed carefully in the bible as a memento. There is nobody to tell me and they are a shock to find, so silky and delicate and patient.
I launder them very carefully. I am going to sew them to the stole I have crocheted for my October wedding day. Something old.