Etiquette & superstition: flannel

Flannel is one of those words that starts looking funny the more you look at it. Flannel. Shouldn’t flannel be a dessert? A soft dessert? I can’t find any evidence that there is such a flannel dessert. The word “flannel” is derived from the Welsh word “gwlanen,” which I guess is also funny looking, but that doesn’t sound like a very good dessert at all to me.

ETIQUETTE: Flannel used to be one of those confusing fabrics where it seemed like it would be appropriate for winter wear just like flannel sheets and nightgowns, but it was actually used more often for tennis outfits and white suits that men would wear to garden parties. Suddenly around the mid-20th century or so, however, flannel stopped being primarily identified as a sporty fabric for summer gadabouts and started aligning its character with the conformist businessman. Geoffrey Beene even named a men’s fragrance Grey Flannel.

Regardless of this current identity, flannel is an excellent fabric that keeps one warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and if you don’t take your fashion cues from the Urban Dictionary, you should consider wearing it in seasonal-appropriate colors and weight whenever you like. Think of the wondrous thing that is summer-weight wool.

SUPERSTITION: If you want to cure gout, smear the afflicted foot with treacle and wrap it in flannel. Hard breasts can be remedied by applying mashed turnips mixed with rose oil to the breasts and keeping the area warm with a flannel wrap. If you wish to attract love, put a lock of your hair, a heart-shaped piece of dried lemon peel, and a piece of dried ginseng root into a pink or red flannel bag. Dedicate the bag to your purpose and wear it from a gold chain around your neck.

Photo of Stinging Flannel Moth Caterpillar by Andreas Kay on Flickr

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