The rapid expansion of the cotton industry meant (= significò) that people no longer had to wear mainly woollen (= di lana) or linen (= di lino) clothes. In the 1840s Engels was convinced that this had led to a change for the worse (= al peggio). ‘The clothing of the working people of
is in very bad condition,’ he complained (= si lamentava). ‘Wool and linen have almost vanished from the wardrobe of both sexes and cotton has taken their place. Shirts are made of bleached (= sbiadita) or coloured cotton print (= stampata) goods and woollen petticoats (= sottovesti) are rarely to be seen on the wash line.’ Cotton clothes are not so warm as woollen ones, but Francis Place detected one of their advantages in the 1820s: ‘As it was necessary to wash cotton clothes, cleanliness followed almost as a matter of course (= di conseguenza). The extension of the cotton manufacture has done all but wonders (= aveva fatto pensare) in respect to the healthiness (= salute) of women.’ Cotton clothes were also cheaper, and so before the end of the nineteenth century all women wore knickers (= mutandoni) and usually changed them regularly. Some cotton dresses had gay patterns(= allegri modelli) too. From the 1850s people could also buy more and more ready-made clothes (= vestiti già fatti) , but for some time they were little improvement (= miglioramento) on home-made ones (= fatti in casa).
Shoes were the biggest problem in most families. Few people had more than one pair. If they were stout and heavy (= grossi e pesanti) , cleaned regularly and repaired about once a year, they might last (= durare) for up to three years. Children often went barefoot (= a piedi nudi). Many also wore boots (= stivali) […]
“The boots we had were all made of strong, stiff leather (= pelle dura) to last a long while (= per durare alungo) and to stand up to the stony road (= sostenere le strade in pietra). They got stiffer and heavier through being wet (= diventavano più rigidi e pesanti quando erano umidi) and dried quick overnight (= e si asciugavano durante la notte), standing on the hearth(= vicino al focolare), and they chafed our heels raw (= irritavano i calcagni). The boys had to have their boots hobnailed (= avevano gli stivali chiodati) to make them last longer, but it made them so heavy they could hardly get one foot afore the other (= riuscivano a malapena a mettere un piede dietro l’altro).”
Lancashire cotton towns some people wore wooden clogs (= zoccoli di legno), which were cheaper. Both sexes usually wore long woollen stockings (= lunghe calze di lana) , knitted (= fatta in casa) at home. Even as late as 1900 silk (= di seta) stockings cost 10/— a pair.
Fashions for the richer Victorian ladies remained as fanciful (= fantastica) as ever and at the end of the century people could still normally tell someone’s position in society by glancing at their clothes ( = si poteva arguire la posizione sociale solo guardando i vestiti).