In the UK well-wishers purchased smoothing mangles for mourning widows who could then earn pennies by pressing laundry.
by, Becky j Miller
Watching as the pile of clean but wrinkled clothes tossed on the back of the couch steadily increases, stretched thin time resources snuffing out any hope of attacking the problem, one begins to wonder, what’s so bad about clothing wrinkles?
Desiring to unleash a verbal tongue lashing on whoever decided wrinkled clothes equaled a fashion faux pas, I began researching the topic. Guess what?? Much to my chagrin, the evildoers are sadly anonymous.
An article on Old and Interesting explains that while it is unknown exactly when humanity began pressing cloth smooth, the Chinese are credited with being the first to use hot metal for ironing. They used pans filled with hot coals to press over stretched cloth. In Northern Europe, stones, glass and wood were used. Western Blacksmiths began to forge smoothing irons in the late middle ages.
So, now we know a little bit of how the practice began, but that still does not answer the question of “why”??? Wrinkles occur naturally in some fibers, so why do we fight nature? And why were Viking women found buried with glass linen smoothers? That had to be a man’s idea! I mean really, what woman wants to be buried with her iron??? Certainly not this one; just say no to ironing in the after life!!
As ironing techniques evolved, tools of the trade were given torturous names like, “mangle boards, battledores, beatels, or battels.” Seriously folks, the naming conventions alone are akin to doom, despair and agony. In the UK well-wishers purchased smoothing mangles for mourning widows who could then earn pennies by pressing laundry. How incredibly thoughtful!! My husband dies so you buy me an iron????
Oh it gets so much better from here. Want to know how an iron was tested to see if it was hot enough? By spitting on it! If the iron sizzled, it was ready to press cloth; fresh spittle and all. According to Charles Dickens, women with more genteel breeding would, “hold the iron alarmingly close to the cheek to test the temperature.” So I’ve got to either spit or burn myself??
Ironing is one of those tasks that pretty much everyone despises. Growing up I remember wondering what happened to favorite outfits that were worn once or twice, put in the laundry then disappeared forever. As I got older, I learned that some clothing ended up in the ironing pile, or “the place clothes go to die pile.”
Married to a military man, it is my opinion that my mother ironed uniforms out of obligation. As my father’s Air Force career was the source of our family’s livelihood, who could blame her? Following in her footsteps, I learned quickly the double creases inadvertently placed in my husband’s dress blues, disqualified me from ever having to iron his uniforms. See, there are brains behind the beauty.
Enter the baby boy. Moms, we all know there is just something about that last child that causes us to lose all rationale. I washed and air-dried clothes to keep from ironing, but sometime around the late junior high years, our youngest son decided wrinkles, even slight, were not cool. Of course, I couldn’t just iron his clothes and not everyone else’s!! Suddenly I found myself ironing for five people on a weekly basis.
These days, manufacturers have caught onto the fact that while people desire wrinkle free clothes, many simply do not have the time to invest in pursuit of this elusive goal.
A few weeks ago I purchased my first bottle of wrinkle-free spray, designed to reduce wrinkles and eliminate the need to iron. Does it work? Well, yes and no. While it’s no substitute for a hot iron, it does eliminate some wrinkles and produce a more wearable garment.
So ladies, here is my two cents: much like women of the 60’s reportedly burned their bras, I propose we smash our irons and dismantle our ironing boards!! After all, what’s a few clothing wrinkles among friends??
Until Next Time,
Becky J Miller