Staircase Wit

Maybe you’ve heard of “l’esprit d’escalier” or “staircase wit.” I hadn’t until recently, even though I’ve suffered from it all my life. It describes that maddening moment when you come up with the perfect, brilliant reply – after it’s too late to be useful. Well, finding the perfect image just a little too late can happen in blogging, too!

It’s been a year since I wrote the last post about sewing aprons. I’d wanted an example to study and to illustrate the post, but in decades of searching and collecting I’d never come across one. Wouldn’t you know, it was only two weeks later that I actually found a real surviving one! It’s obviously not an early nineteenth century apron like I’d really love to find, and I can’t be positive it was used for sewing, but it fits the all the descriptions to a T.

A closer look at the button, the featherstitching, the direction of the hems on the sides, and the “seamed” band.

It’s a charming white dimity with pink featherstitching and a waistband that buttons. Late 1800s, early 1900s perhaps? It looks like it could have been made in school, rather than at home. I say that because the stitches seem to be textbook-style hand sewing: precise (if not dainty) hemming, seaming, setting-in, and buttons, combined in a class-projecty sort of way. And a couple of tiny ink spots near the bottom!

Seeing an example close up did answer the hemming question for me: did they fold the side hems face up or face down before turning up the bottom for the pockets? Or did they do a little snip on the edge so that each hem could be folded to the back, the way I did for the doll’s apron? Answer: face up. For this one, anyway. The nice deep pockets are then seamed together so that the folded hems are inside.

I hope the maker was happy with her little apron. I suspect she treasured it since it’s survived all these years. Maybe it proved useful for holding her sewing things while she was climbing stairs – and she had the wit to appreciate it!

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