Friday, December 5, 2014


Advent Calendar

 The Christmas corsage was an artificial holiday adornment for a woman’s coat. Such corsages became popular after World War II when goods were readily available again and Americans felt joyous after years of trial.

Mother at hawthorn tree, 1959
I remember my mother making Christmas corsages in the ‘50s. I suppose she made about a dozen, probably early in December -- one for each of the ladies in the family and her special friends as well. She ordered her craft supplies from Leewards, a respected comprehensive craft catalog, now defunct. We had to depend on catalogs for craft supplies because they were not available in the local market.

Mother had a wonderful way with anything she crafted. With a twist of the wire and a little push and pull, the corsages sprang to life under her nimble fingers. I never asked her where she learned her ways with wire and ribbon, but I suspect she had natural ability and the refinement came with practice.

The corsage was built on a base of foil leaves with wire stems. From there, shiny ornaments and other decorative elements, also on wire stems, were added in, twisted together, and tied with a festive ribbon.

The corsage Mother made for me was a little smaller than those fashioned for adults and always contained a bit of whimsy, such as a pipe cleaner snowman or Santa. I was happy enough to wear my corsage, but I remember that I had my favorites among those made for the grown-ups, which I always thought were prettier than mine. (They WERE – they WERE prettier than mine!)

L.J. & Becky, Mother's eldest grandchildren
Wearing the corsage was a bit problematic for me. Pinned to the collar of my coat, it would scratch my face. Pinned to the shoulder, it was quickly scrunched by the collar. My corsage always folded in on itself and became a kind of foil blob. As I recall, Mother would quickly remake it for me from time to time – and the whole thing would happen all over again.

According to Susan Waggoner, author of Handcrafted Christmas, the whole Christmas corsage thing was over by the early ‘60s, and Mother quit making them about that time. I don’t know if she realized their popularity had waned (I never saw them as popular anyway) or if she just wanted to do something else. I didn’t question it -- AND I don’t remember missing it.

I surely wish I had just one picture of someone wearing one of Mother’s Christmas corsages. Alas! We just didn’t take such pictures in that day. And, it would have been unthinkable – a costly waste of film -- to take a picture of Mother working away at her crafts.

And I have just one more thing to say about retro crafts. It’s difficult to replicate them today, at least with the same look, because the supplies, if available, just aren’t the same. KW

Saturday, Dec. 5, 1896 -- on this date at Gilbert:
A.M. --a shower of snow and several light showers of rain. Warm. Worked barehanded.  Put poles on top of stable and one row of shakes. Ina went home this A.M.
~M. L. Dickson


Kathy said...

Harriet says the Christmas corsage was a must have for the Christmas season. That trend was followed by a Christmas pin worn on the coat where we previously wore the corsage.

Chris said...

I remember the pins, but not corsages. The pins were in style all through the sixties, I remember Mom buying me one I wore when I was in college. It had bells on it that actually could jingle.

Kathy said...

I had an angel that I wore on my coat. I don't remember that it was popular to do so, though.

I don't remember any other child wearing a corsage. I accepted the practice because Mother was making them.