That American Parcel - 9th Aug. 1947


That American Parcel: Text Version

9th August 1947


A few days ago I happened to be in a house where an American parcel had just arrived. Its coming had caused no small amount of commotion; and when the bean-a'-tighe, after surveying the mannequin parade of her daughters in best Broadway style for ten minutes or so, remarked: "When ever you are short of something to write about you can fall back on this for a column." I made a mental note of what she said, and all this that follows is the result. I should here remark that a critical appreciation of over-the-waves style is not my forte, nor is it my intention to usurp the functions of those who know all that is worth knowing about the business, and who put their knowledge at our disposal.


American fashions have always been known to set the feminine heart a-throb. Consequently the excitement in the house I write about was no surprise to anyone. The goodly-sized cardboard box that the perspiring postman had deposited on the table acted like a magnet, not so much for the sons of the house, it must be confessed, as for the daughters. They flocked round it, smiling from one to another in joyous anticipation. They hesitated to open it. It was so wonderful to contemplate the big square parcel that gave off the unmistakeable perfume of America. Looking at it they could let their imaginations work at will, seeing inside the brown paper, style the likes of which had never been seen in that part of the country before. Opening the parcel might mean disillusionment; and so they delayed as long as possible.


It had to be opened sometime; and, at last, trembling hands set to work, cutting the cords and undoing the wrapping. The box stood revealed. Then the cover was lifted off, and immediately there came a gasp of astonishment from those ranged round. Their great expectations had been fulfilled. Tenderly, almost reverently, they lifted out the frocks and blouses and skirts and what-nots. To select the correct size was now the prime consideration. This was not done by fitting on, or by means of an inch-tape. A different course was adopted. And so while the men folk looked on unmoved, the ladies began to check for size.


Each one held before her a cute Yankee model, the neck of which was partly tucked under her chin. In some cases he hem reached to the inchstep, but that could always be rectified with the aid of a pair of skilled hands, a scissors and needle and thread. Where the length was right the lucky lady, still holding the frock before her, and looking admiringly down its length, paraded proudly from fire to dresser, out in the hall and back again. It was a fairly slow process this, and hours were to elapse before the contents of the box were finally sorted out. What mashers they would all be on Sunday! Their only regret was that the journey to the Church was too short.


I suppose there is hardly a family in Ireland that hasn't some near or distant relative in America. And most of those families have received in their time at least one American parcel. Irish wear was good and serviceable and often beautiful, but the occasional splash of Yankee fashion added a necessary variety. I remember once hearing an old and learned man say, that everyone should visit the States if 'twere only to learn how to dress properly. Still, looking at Yanks one often wonders about their mode of dress. You can recognise them by it almost at any distance. It is as distinctive as their accent. Colour and cut seem uniform, and all the women's hats seem to be made of bunches of flowers. They appear to lack originality as individuals.


There has just flashed across my mind a story which I heard some years ago, and which may not be inappropriate here. Most of you know Lady Dufferin's lovely song:

"The Irish Emigrant":-

"I am sitting on the stile, Mary,

Where we sat side by side."

Well, many years ago, a gentleman from the Maigueside –- who shall be nameless -– and his wife, Mary, were returning home in their donkey's trap after a day's shopping in town. Mary had provided herself with a new rig out, and her husband had spent a considerable portion of the day in a certain tavern in the town. As they approached the boreen that led homewards Mary's husband noticed that he had been sitting on a band-box all the while. Wishing to break the news of the disaster as gently as possible he started to sing:

"I am sitting on the 'style' Mary." And talking of stiles (not styles), a visitor to this country has recently written a very interesting account of the stiles he has seen in different places. How many kinds of stile (Irish-strapa) can you remember?


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