Monday, November 26, 2007

Adventures in Thrift

Hadias, aka Country Girl at Heart
has been hostessing a book club on her blog. The women are reading a 1916 book called Adventures in Thrift, which is one of those many wonderful old homemaking books that can be found on the Internet. You can follow the link to the book from the side bar of Country Girl's blog, as well as see the book club's questions and comments.

I didn't find out about the book club until the other readers were well into it. But, the book is easy to read and can be skimmed quickly. So, I've been trying to catch up.

The book is written as if it were a novel, though it's supposedly an account of real happenings. A group of WWI era New York City housewives set out to stretch their incomes against what was then called, "The High Cost of Living".

There's even a dash of romance in the book. You see, one girl in the set has a particular interest in this subject. She is a spoiled daughter of wealth, who was engaged to marry a young lawyer. However, when the book begins, she has quarreled with him out of fear that she will not be able to manage on his modest starting salary. She is especially afraid of failure, since she knows his law firm will expect them to dress presentably and to entertain clients. Because her mother never had to stick to a budget, she has no clue how to do that, herself. Broken-hearted by their quarrel, the lawyer has returned to his home in the mid-west for a time. So, when the young lady hears that some of her married friends are embarking on this venture, she joins in out of a desire to fit herself for marriage to the young man. Her best friend, the main character of the book, encourages the romance along by diplomatically and secretly keeping the young man informed of his girl's growing appreciation for how to manage money. Knowing that she is willing to do this for him gives him hope to pursue her.

The book is fun to read because the women face many of the same issues with thrift that we do today, only within the context of 1916 prices. One thing I like is that the women try various things, some of which work and some of which don't. Their journey to thrift is not always smooth, and the women are not perfect. They learn by checking out this idea and that one, holding on to the successful ventures and forgetting about the ones that aren't suitable. That should give the rest of us encouragement as we exercise economy within our homes. It's a journey!

I'd like to know more about the history of the time in which the book was written. Apparently, there were many cooperative experiments that were going on in the country at the time. The women investigate several of these experiments. They also learn about an early twentieth century organization called the "Housewives' League". Maybe, some of you have studied this time period and will have some thoughts about the historical context.

While the cooperative experiments are interesting, what I'm getting most out of the book are tips that I can practice in my own home, right now. Here's something that struck me: Whenever you buy a ready-made garment, look it over carefully. Rip out seams that don't look right and re-sew them by hand or machine, or simply reinforce the seams. Add details, if you like. Make sure the buttons are on well. Do just a little tailoring if the garment needs it in order to fit you well.

In our 2007 economy, many women find that it's more cost-and time-efficient to buy off the rack, rather than to sew their own clothing from scratch. Some garments are better made than others. But, even better label garments often have room for little improvements. Whether an item is from Wal-Mart, the thrift shop, or from a designer boutique, the garment will look better longer if you take a little time to inspect it and make necessary improvements before wearing. Of course, you may want to do more for a more expensive item than you would for a one-season T-shirt. Still, even a little bit of time can go a long way towards making a garment wear better.



Meredith said...

How did I miss this!

I've read through the online text, albeit a while ago. I think it's really inspiring that a group of modern day housewives is, in a way, mirroring the original story.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Meredith,

I suppose we are mirroring the original story, aren't we?