Saturday, December 03, 2005

The 'Twice Turned' Gown

Had a bit of email discussion regarding Dickens' description of Mrs Cratchit's dress as 'twice turned'. My grandmother (1905-1986) talked about turning her dresses when she was young, but she meant that when the front got dirty she put the dress on backwards so it looked clean again. That's not what Mrs Cratchit did! What 'turning' the dress referred to was the frugal practice of reversing the fabric so that shiny, beginning to wear down places or stains were turned to the inside. Of course, this meant that the dress was 1)carefully, completely unsewn 2) possibly sponged, but at least pressed out well, and 3)hand sewn completely back together with the reverse side of the fabric out. Talk about an extreme makeover! As Shannon Gifford mentioned in an email about this practice, it does imply that Victorian ladies had access to fabric of a much higher, sturdier quality than what we'd find at our local chain stores, for sure. It also implies that the fabric used was not a print, as it had to have looked roughly the same on both sides.

But it does explain why she stuck the ribbons all over her dress; probably to hide the spots that motivated her to turn the dress the FIRST time. With that in mind, I probably should've stuck a couple of ribbons on her elbows...that would've been one of the first places to wear out. I don't suppose anyone in the audience will think of that, though... ;)

Quite a foreign concept to our throw-away society, isn't it? Although my backwards-dress wearing grandmother, who used to repeat, "Use it up, wear it out. If it doesn't do, do without," would heartily approve.


  1. Replies
    1. Um, did you read the post? ;-) She took the dress apart, cleaned it, and then sewed it back together wrong-side out. Twice.

  2. Is there a wrong side out if it's done twice? ; )

  3. Well, the wrong side was the right side after it was the wrong side, but the right side was the wrong side when the wrong side was the right side, so...who knows? ;-)

  4. I’ve read that it means that the collar and hems were turned and re-hemmed to hide fraying and wear. Though I’d originally thought exactly what you describe.

  5. Of course now that commented I’m reading others who agree with my first assumption and your explanation!

  6. Thanks! I've always wanted to know what a 'turned' dress was, and it's surprisingly hard to find out. :)