Your Petticoats are Again Six Inches Deep in Mud!




John Lewis Krimmel, Woman Pressing and Folding Laundry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or vicinity, ca. 1819–1820. Watercolor over pencil. Dimensions not recorded. (Courtesy, Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.)

There are fewer tasks I enjoy less than laundry. That laundry ranks higher than dusting says little in its favor. First, there is the loading of the washer and adding a pod and fabric softener. Then wet clothing must be moved to the dryer, and, when dry, folded or hung; the latter is hopefully accomplished before the fabric cools to lessen wrinkles or at least not create more. The interruptions when I’m writing a fun scene feel too numerous. I’ve since decided that laundry has disrupted the lives of many through the centuries.

During the Regency era, laundry did not take an hour or two; it took two to three days to complete and was a task dreaded by all who took part, from the housekeeper to the lowest of scullery maids. All the female servants aided in the effort: collecting the water to boil for the laundry caldrons filled with lye soap that could burn the skin and rinsing and wringing the laundry in another pot. The chore disrupted the whole of the house. Delicates would be washed first, then the sturdier fabrics through to the linens for beds and towels for the bath. In more humble homes, while the women toiled away for hours with the laundry, hanging the items out to dry and hoping there was no rain? Meals often consisted of leftovers, though only those ladies from the more humble of modest income households aided in the task.

Article from Period Dramas Added to Netflix US: Winter 2019  pinned by Cathy Carbaugh

The question of how to clean a hem six inches deep in mud became how to avoid dirtying one’s hem. While I read in many novels of the era that there was excitement when the hero saw the turn of his heroine’s ankle, the truth is that hems were cut to the ankle to avoid dragging them through muddy roads and across a floor.

While lifts and pattens were fading in style, some of the lower classes used them. With little funds to replace clothing due to a little mud one is sure to encounter no matter where in England they reside, it was a cheaper solution.

Pride & Prejudice Collection by Maria Hermosura

Even at a ball, the cut of the dress was at the ankles or ladies held their hems up to avoid spoiling the gowns. To me, this makes the greatest sense in the world, anything to put off the laundry days for just a little longer. The real wonder is how the maid at an inn had the clothes of a lady, gentleman, or family refreshed overnight!

Sources for Your Petticoats are Again Six Inches Deep in Mud!:

Vic “Regency Fashion: Keeping Hems Clean” Jane Austen’s World April 12, 2014, Regency Fashion: Keeping Hems Clean | Jane Austen’s World (

Vic “Laundry, Georgian Style” Jane Austen’s World August 3, 2011, Regency laundry | Jane Austen’s World (

Vic “Every Day Chores of Laundry and Scullery Maids, and Washer Women” Jane Austen’s World July 24, 2007,

13 responses to “Your Petticoats are Again Six Inches Deep in Mud!”

  1. Glynis Avatar

    I’ve also wondered how clothes can be given to Inn staff at night and ready next morning?? I can only assume they are brushed and pressed and not actually laundered! When I was young my Mum had a boiler to wash the clothes and my job was to rub them on the washboard then put them through the mangle! I bought my first automatic washer just before I had my first baby. I managed to get a shop display one cheaper and it lasted me for years.

    1. Regina Jeffers Avatar

      Glynis, I think we were “sisters from different mothers.” We had many similar experiences growing up.

      1. kimbelle1 Avatar

        Regina, there are so many things to love about the Regency era, and many of your blogs through the years share them with us! This, however, must be in the top 5 reasons to appreciate the era we’re in 😉

    2. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Glynis, I replied in the wrong comment box, LOL, but I, too, spent hours trying to avoid having my fingers pinched in ‘the mangler’ and washboard scrubbing. There were always a hundred things I could name that I would rather be doing LOL~

  2. kimbelle1 Avatar

    I, too, have rubbed shirts and socks on the washboard and put it through the mangler, and one only gets their fingers pinched in the latter once before you realize it is not a mindless task! Like the modern dental practices, laundry is also one of those plusses under the modern column over Regency. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read the post~

  3. Barry S Richman Avatar

    Sorry … I got distracted by the ‘turn of my wife’s ankle …”

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Completely normal sight for the times, then and now! Understand it for sure as she is quite beautiful~

  4. Jennifer_Redlarczyk Avatar

    Fun post!

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Thank you! It was an interesting subject, and I had often seen the contradiction of a lady’s hem and wondered how such a confliction had occurred. Lots of fun to figure out. Thanks for taking a moment to read it~

  5. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    I don’t like laundry either! It rates up there with I’m sure it is much easier now I don’t know if I could work a wringer and a mangle sounds painful!

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      They were not fun at all! I, too, dislike dusting above all, but I will, at least for a time, will look at this task more favorably than I have in the past!

  6. Riana Everly Avatar

    As the owner of a new washing machine, I am very thankful for modern technology. But yes, I remember having a washboard when I was very young. I’m not sure we every used it, but I do recall trying one or two items on there, just to see.

    1. kimbelle1 Avatar

      Riana, lots and lots of up and down, up and down, reapply soap, up and down. It was a workout and why grandma’s whacks up side the head were always more painful than expected 😉

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