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Friday, February 6, 2009

Silly Superstitions About Petticoats & Yellow

Who would ever think that superstition would center around something as simple as a woman’s petticoat? Well, certainly not me. Goes to show how much I know, and why it’s important to do research when writing novels.

It appears that in the Victorian era long-standing tradition has it that a girl whose petticoats show beneath her dress is loved more by her father than by her mother. In other research, it stated that if an unmarried lady who slept with one of her petticoats under the pillow would ensure that she would enjoy dreams about her future husband. In still another place, I found the following poem that was often recited by young ladies:

This Friday night while going to bed,
I put my petticoat under my head,
To dream of the living and not of the dead,
To dream of the man I am to wed.
The colour of his eyes, the colour of his hair,
The colour of the clothes he is to wear,
And the night the wedding is to be.

According to the Portuguese, meanwhile, a woman who fears she is threatened by the ‘evil eye’ can escape harm by wearing seven petticoats at once.

An old wives tale stated that if a bride wore a yellow petticoat under her gown, it meant she was ashamed of her fellow: “to wear a petticoat of yellow, she is ashamed of her fellow.”

Speaking of the color – yellow- it was considered one of the unluckiest of all colors. It was and perhaps still is generally associated with cowardice, sickness and death (though some people connect it with the life-giving sun). Yellow leaves that appear on peas or bean plants are supposed to presage a death in the household and even evil spirits are said to avoid the color. Even in today’s modern society, actors and actresses are sometimes reluctant to wear yellow.


Kathy Otten said...

How do you ever find this kind of info? I write historicals and am guilty of getting so sucked into research that I sometimes forget what I originally went looking for. My WIP has mention of a girl who wore a yellow dress so your post caught my attention. I never in all my research would have thought to research the color of her dress. Fortunatly, it works out (not that it would be a big deal to change)but because she is killed in the back story so the color works. Thanks for sharing.

Emma Lai said...

Funny how superstitious people are. So much tied up in a piece of cloth and a color. Personally, I like the color yellow because it does remind me of the sun. Great post!

Susan Macatee said...

How funny that an undergarment inspired poetry!
Great post!

Paty Jager said...

Interesting post, Loretta!

Mary Ricksen said...

First thank goodness that we don't have to worry about petticoats now. And my favorite color is lilac, so, whew!

Loretta said...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left comments. I love research and it leads me to some interesting information. But, to your question, Kathy, one of my favorite reference books is a dictionary of superstitions. Oh, and Mary, I like lilac, too. So, double-whew!!

Joyce Moore said...

Loretta: I LOVED the petticoat picture and enjoyed the blog. I'm fascinated by period clothing. Great blog!