Dowry thoughts

Trousseau: the clothes, linen, etc, collected by a bride for her marriage (source)
Dowry: the money, goods, or estate that a wife brings to her husband at marriage (source)

               To begin with a trite saying, you never know what you have until it is gone. That could be said for the young woman who suddenly finds herself grown up, married, perhaps with children, and on a tight budget. Everything that comes in seems to go to necessities, and while she rejoices that her family never goes without basic needs, she often wishes she had more wherewith to feather her home. The dowry or trousseau of a bride has undertaken various forms over the centuries; what is most common nowadays among American women and surely those of other countries is for a woman to enter marriage with items that she has collected and set aside over the years.

               As I hunted and gathered mismatched tea cup and saucer sets for my recent tea party, I thought about how few “nice” things I own. When I was younger, I had quite a bit of money come in through holiday spending money and odd jobs, yet I always felt obligated to spend it, sometimes splitting it 50/50 between a spending envelope and a saving envelope. Having always dreamed of marrying, tending my own little nest, and raising a family, I have been interested in acquiring things for my future home since I was small, but I had no idea what kinds of things to collect. What I did save mostly centered around cutesy home decor trinkets that I did not necessarily still love after I married and moved into my new home. Looking back, I think of several things that I wish I had collected, acquired, or made. Mind you, I was very crafty and loved fancy stitching and sewing crafts; from multiple latch hook pillows and rugs to innumerable cross stitch and embroidery pieces, with a few woven potholders thrown in, I crafted all sorts of objects that now adorn my parents’ and grandparents’ homes. Instead of spending so much time making “kid” or “little child” type of crafts, I wish I taken the time and acquired the knowledge to use my creative talents to make things for my future home, things that an adult would be proud to own and use. I could have purchased materials for and stitched or made linen tablecloths and napkins, lace curtains, monogrammed towels, lace doilies, rag rugs, and quality pot holders. I would have absolutely loved to have acquired a trunk of nightclothes, lingerie, etc. Additional items I would have liked to acquire would have been quality cookware, baskets, books and bookends, silver, crystal, china, and art, to name a few. All those estate sales and yard sales that bored me at the moment could have been treasure hunts, if I had possessed a bit more developed sense of style and appreciation for the classics. And I do believe an older child, and definitely a young woman, has the potential to do such things.

               I hope every young woman who is free to spend her money as she pleases will do the research to find items she might want to own and use someday. Remember, classics never go out of style. Too many newlywed brides I know go into marriage with nothing but leftover mismatched hodge podge stuff (or the mismatched hodge podge of brand new wedding gifts from a registry far too massive for all of their wedding guests, friends, and family members to purchase in its entirety). After the bills start rolling in, then women do not want to spend money on getting nice things. Unfortunately, so many of them bought fast food and sodas and cheap costume jewelry and nail polish and other personal things for years during their teens, disposable purchases they can never get back.

               If I could go back to the teenage me and give myself some advice, other than advising myself to get to know me better and develop a sense of style, I would suggest budgeting a portion of my income pre-marriage or pre-adulthood for items to be used “someday,” with the rest to be spent immediately. I would tell myself to choose wisely and only purchase, make, or keep items that I really love because I do not want to be stuck with something unusable someday. If I had bothered to find out, I would have probably found that my tastes were pretty well established by my teen years, especially if had been bold enough to discover my own style and preferences and not let myself be easily influenced by peer pressure (including that of my parents).

               Any thoughts from my readers on this topic?

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2 thoughts on “Dowry thoughts

  1. Makes sense. You know we always say hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, in the race to prove their equality to men in the workplace, women have forgotten, no neglected the art of establishing a comfortable, beautiful home. Even if our own mothers kept a beautiful home, we rebellious young ladies believed they wasted their time and effort on unnecessary frivolities. It is not until we grew up, got married, and had homes and perhaps children of our own did we realise that our home should be our havens and comforts from the tempestuous world outside our doors.

    But, your words are a wonderful advice to those young ladies who may have the wisdom to realize the truth in your words, or possibly the mothers who could start accumulating for their own daughters

    Personally, my daughter loves Downton Abbey and the Victorian era novels, so maybe she will be one of those who see the wisdom of hunting for beautiful things to keep in her own future home.

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    • I enjoyed reading all kinds of classic literature as a child, and have always appreciated exquisitely beautiful items. I think the main issue in my case was valuing quantity over quality and preferring instant gratification to the long-term benefits associated with self-discipline. Of course, such a preference is natural for children, but I believe that one can be trained to acquire longer, broader tastes in place of being instantly gratified. Some ways I wish to model this for my own children include: purchasing infrequently and only with careful thought; having highly discriminating taste so as to keep what I choose for a long time (as opposed to becoming caught up in the vicious cycle of constantly “de-junking” and then acquiring more junk), placing value on each item I own by caring for it and using it properly; avoid from owning or acquiring items just because (i.e. to add to a collection, because it was on sale, impulse purchase). I believe even poor people can own nice things if they had fewer of them.

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