Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Aunt Lizzie Belle - her dress and her story

A Treasure Chest, a Dress and a Bedstead

I remember having a party for my 10th birthday. We had moved to a new house earlier that year and of the friends I had invited - "some were silver" and "others gold." Sorry to say, I can't remember what the cake looked like, nor even what I received as gifts from those friends. My memory loss goes so far as to even forget what I received from my family that year. (well, it was almost 13 years ago) But one gift I remember very well. A gift that out shone all the other special memories of my birthday. It was a beautiful old trunk, dark blue, with a white stripe around the edges, and facsimile newsprint from years past lining the interior.
My Grandpa and Grandma Sauve gave it to me, saying that I could use it as a treasure chest to hold all my special things. So that is what I did, adding even more special things and memories a couple years later when Grandma passed away, and I was allowed to help clean out their house. I'm not really sure how I acquired each item, or how they ended up in that chest, except for the one obvious fact that they were all special things (to me at least), and things that held special memories about my grandparents, and about their past. About that same time, I became the recipient of a lovely wooden bedstead set. It is still in use today, and has the habit of creaking and groaning comfortably whenever you get on or off the bed. I vaguely remember a note, attatched to the bedpost, specifying that it was for me and that it used to belong to a great Aunt.

And then there was the dress- it is a mystery to me when I came into possession of that beautiful dress. It seems that I have always had it. Tucked away in the corner of my chest, to be taken out and lovingly handled and admired, and "oohhed and aawwed " over. I remember us girls wishing we could fit into it, sure that it must have been the dress of a little girl many years ago. Then Dad informed us one day that it was in fact the dress of a great Aunt of his. An Aunt whom he remembered as being very petite. Lizzie was her name, he said, and she was the sister of his Grandfather Habbershaw, his mother's father.

Lizzie Belle Habbershaw

(This is a picture of the five Habbershaw siblings.
Lizzie Belle is second from the right)

Lizzie Belle Habbershaw was born on September 8, 1889, and was the oldest of five children. She didn't marry 'til late in life and never had any children. Her husband's name was Henry Carlson and he worked on the railroad. They cared for her elderly mother Margaret until her mother's death in 1936. Eight years later, Henry also passed away.
After talking to our great Aunt Bev, (Grandma's sister) we found out that when Lizzie died, her three nieces, (Grandma, Aunt Helen, and Aunt Bev) went to her house and took a few special things of hers. That is how my Grandma came to be in possession of her bedstead and dress.

Theresa and the Dress

So now we knew who the dress belonged to. But it really was a shame that no one could fit into it. It is such a tiny delicate thing, with a 23 inch waist and a 40 inch neck to hem measurement. The thin white fabric is decorated with tiny tucks, and dainty lace insertions, and down the back, are 12 perfectly fashioned, handmade buttonholes, with their corresponding tiny buttons. All these things, along with the slightly gathered bodice, are tell-tale sign of when Lizzie Belle would have worn this dress. During the years of 1905-1910 these delicate white "tea gowns" were very much in style. She was probably in her mid-late teens when she wore this dress. It was possibly even worn for her graduation ceremony. There is no way we can know for sure, but one thing that isn't to hard to figure out, is that this dress is just about 100 years old!

Now this is where our good friend Theresa comes in!! She is what some people would call, "vertically challenged," but I say she is "fearfully and wonderfully made!" Anyway, one day when our sweet, petite friend was spending the afternoon with us, I had the brilliant idea to see if she could wear Lizzie Belle's dress!

She held her breath as I quickly buttoned up the back of the dress, and tied on a pretty pink ribbon. We were so excited!! Finally, after almost a century, some one was wearing Lizzie Belle's dress! I did up Theresa's hair in as best as I could figure would be an appropriate style for that time period, then turned her over to Grace for a photo session.

The dress fit Theresa almost perfectly! It was a little snug at the waist, but you have to remember that in the beginning of the 1900's, ladies were still using corsets to achieve a slimmer waist line. Also the hem came to just about mid calf on Theresa, so I am guessing Lizzie Belle was probably a couple inches shorter then her. The hem lines were starting to rise slowly by that time, but still not much above the ankle.

I have always loved "old" things, but I especially like studying the beautiful and feminine styles and dresses that women used to wear all the time. Lizzie Belle's tea dress is a remnant of an era when the majority of women believed that they were created different from men for a purpose, and they dressed to accentuate and modestly adorn the feminine figure God gave them. Sadly, today most women have lost the vision of pure, modest, and beautiful femininity, but recently God has been raising up more and more godly girls and ladies who are returning to these standards and seeking to glorify Him in their dress and actions. My prayer is that many more will see the beauty that God has given us women in accepting and delighting in our femininity, not trying to hide it.


"Why do we want to dress like men when we are fortunate enough to be woman? Why lose our femininity, which is one of our greatest charms? We get far more accomplished by being charming then we would by flaunting around in pants and smoking. I'm very fond of men. I think they are wonderful creatures. I love them dearly. But I don't want to look like one!"
~ Tasha Tudor ~


Amanda said...

What a beautiful dress! I have a dress and blouse of my Great-Grandmother's that we think she brought from Norway in 1910. I have the opposite problem--she was bigger and taller than I am. It's so fun to have a tangible piece of family history like that. Thanks for sharing the pictures!

Lovestoworship said...

Cool pictures. I got another blog running.

yer Li'l sis' said...

Hello, my dear and faithful friends!
A very nice job indeed on the write-up, here. I like the part about being "fearfully and wonderfully made", because it really is a blessing being small... er, petite.

Thank you, Faith, Grace, Charity, and Christianna, for a wonderful time spent at your home.

Always and forever,
Theresa M. Eddy
Philippians 1:3