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"Dream of a Devotee of Fashion": An essay for the Woman's Century Club Magazine by Emily Inez Denny (1899)

HistoryLink.org Essay 10385 : Printer-Friendly Format

Emily Inez Denny (1853-1918) wrote this tongue-in-cheek essay on the perils of women's clothing to be read to fellow members of the Woman's Century Club. A daughter of Seattle pioneers David (1832-1903) and Louisa Boren Denny (1827-1916), Emily Inez Denny (known as Inez) was an artist and writer. Her book Blazing The Way, published in 1909, recounted her family's Oregon Trail migration from Cherry Grove, Illinois, to Portland, Oregon, and the subsequent founding of Seattle. Denny was a longtime member of the Woman's Century Club, founded in 1891 to promote education, charitable activities, and socialization among its members. The Woman's Century Club Magazine was published annually in 1899 and 1900, and possibly in subsequent years. This article appeared in the Woman’s Century Club Magazine, 1899, found in the Woman's Century Club archives, Seattle. 

Dream of a Devotee of Fashion by Emily Inez Denny 

Returning to my home after a matinee during the holidays, weary even of pleasure, I removed my duck of a bonnet -- no -- I mean my chicken of a hat, which I will tell you is just too sweet for anything; pulled off carefully my lovely gloves which fit elegantly; loosened and removed my snug, not tight of course, corset and dear little shoes which are a trifle tight, being quite new; hung my new winter suit, with its boned-without-a-wrinkle-basque and sweeping skirt on a convenient chair; donned a loose wrapper and reclined on the sofa, with all my perfectly sweet things around me; but in spite of them I began to doze, and then was lost in slumber, and thus I dreamed. It seems that I had a sudden and violent attack of sanity, and during the same was possessed of a revolt against my darling hat, my “too lovely” corsets, gloves, skirts, shoes, &c., &c., everything! I became excited and addressed them as though they were living creatures instead of inanimate things, something on this wise as I remember; "O long, draggling, dirt-accumulating, microbe-carrying, slime-depositing, dust-distributing, back-breaking, limb-clogging abomination, yclept dress-skirt, get thee hence! or stay, here is a sharp and savage weapon, with one avenging thrust let me sever thee horizontally in twain. There! just neatly over the knee. That will be a vast and inexpressible relief.

As for thee, O miserable misery-maker, murder of mothers and offspring, thou torturer of human vitals, crusher of stomachs, lungs, livers, and other viscera, thou stealer of the roses of youth and the breath of age, O unutterably villainous corset, begone! a-vaunt! quit my sight and let the ruins of the past hide thee!

And ye machines of inquisition, creators of corns, calluses and bunions, ingrowing nails and wobbling gait, I will be your anguished victim no longer! I will go barefoot, or find a foot-covering that is wide, low and easy. 

Is it possible also that I have appeared on a public thoroughfare in that huge, heavy and ridiculous agglomeration of fuss, feathers and finery, metal, lace, velvet, dead birds, dots, spots, puffs, wrinkles, crinkles, folds, loops, bows, jet, pearl, brass, steel, green, yellow, lavender, scarlet, pink and purple and crimson, called a perfect love of a hat? Faugh! I will dump it into a scrap-basket, and wear a bicycle cap for a while. 

Petticoats, beruffled and laced, loads of dry-goods! the fewer of you the better!

Pinching gloves, bells and collars, go! I must, I will be free!

Gesticulating fiercely, I awoke. 

I have occasional lapses into this frame of mind during my waking hours, and may yet institute a much needed reform in clothes, which certainly have their excuse for being, first in their comfort, second in their suitability. 

And then -- ecstatic vision! I behold myself a glowing picture of health with rosy cheeks; not ruby-nosed, rough-skinned, pallid and pimpled: for with easy clothing I shall be more inclined to exercise, hence eat substantial food which will make good blood. My numerous trifling ailments, headache, short breath, fickle appetite, corns, cold hands and so forth, their name is legion, will disappear, and life will be far more enjoyable, and I shall be free instead of a slave to my clothes!

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Emily Inez Denny (1853-1918), Seattle, ca. 1890
Courtesy MOHAI (Neg. SHS13350)

Emily Inez Denny (1853-1918), Seattle, ca. 1884
Photo by M.S. McClaire Courtesy MOHAI (Neg. SHS2191)

Advertisement for Blazing The Way by Emily Inez Denny, November 14, 1909
Courtesy The Seattle Times

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