The House Party in Camp
“ROUGHING it” in the fashionable world (on the Atlantic coast) is rather suggestive of the dairymaid playing of Marie Antoinette; the “rough” part being mostly “picturesque effect” with little taste of actual discomfort. Often, of course, the “roughing it” is real, especially west of the Mississippi (and sometimes in the East too); so real that it has no place in a book of etiquette at all. In the following picture of a fashionable “camping party” it should perhaps be added, that … most of the women really think they are “roughing it.”
At the same time there is nothing that a genuine dependent upon luxury resents more than to be told he is dependent. It is he who has but newly learned the comforts of living who protests his inability to endure discomfort.
The very same people therefore who went a short time before to Great Estates, women who arrived with their maids and luggage containing personal equipment of amazing perfection and unlimited quantity (to say nothing of jewels worth a king’s ransom), and men who usually travel with their own man-servants and every variety of raiment and paraphernalia, on being invited to “rough it” … are the very ones who most promptly and enthusiastically telegraph their delighted acceptance.
THE CLOTHES THEY TAKE
The men all rummage in attics and trunk-rooms for those disreputable looking articles of wearing apparel dear to all sportsmen; oil soaked boots, water soaked and sun bleached woolen, corduroy, leather or canvas garments and hats, each looking too shabby from their wives’ (or valet’s) point of view to be offered to a tramp.
Every evening is spent in cleaning guns, rummaging for unprepossessing treasures of shooting and fishing equipment. The women also give thought to their wardrobes—consisting chiefly in a process of elimination. Nothing perishable, nothing requiring a maid’s help to get into, or to take care of. Golf clothes are first choice, and any other old country clothes, skirts and sweaters, and lots of plain shirt waists to go under the sweaters. An old polo coat and a mackintosh is chosen by each. And for evenings something “comfortable” and “easy to put on” in the way of a house gown or ordinary summer “day dress.” One or two decide to take tea gowns in dark color and plainest variety.
All the women who sew or knit take something to “work on” in unoccupied moments, such as the hours of sitting silent in a canoe while husbands fish.
Finally the day arrives. Every one meets at the railroad station. They are all as smart looking as can be, there is no sign of “rough” clothes anywhere, though nothing in the least like a jewel case or parasol is to be seen. At the end of somewhere between eight and eighteen hours, they arrive at a shed which sits at the edge of the single track and is labelled Dustville Junction, and hurrying down the narrow platform is their host. Except that his face is clean shaven and his manners perfect, he might be taken for a tramp. Three far from smart looking teams—two buckboards and an express wagon—are standing near by …
People do not “dress” for dinner, that is, not in evening clothes. After coming in from walking or shooting or fishing, if it is warm they swim in the pool or have their guides bring them hot water for a bath. Women change into house gowns of some sort. Men put on flannel trousers, soft shirts, and flannel or serge sack coats.
In the evening, if it is a beautiful night, every one sits on steamer chairs wrapt in rugs around the big fire built out doors in front of a sort of penthouse or windbreak. Or if it is stormy, they sit in front of a fire, almost as big, in the living-room. Sometimes younger ones pop corn or roast chestnuts, or perhaps make taffy. Perhaps some one tells a story, or some one plays and everyone sings. Perhaps one who has “parlor tricks” amuses the others—but as a rule those who have been all day in the open are tired and drowsy and want nothing but to stretch out for a while in front of the big fire and then turn in.
The etiquette of this sort of a party is so apparently lacking that its inclusion perhaps seems out of place. But it is meant merely as a “picture” of a phase of fashionable life that is not much exploited, and to show that well-bred people never deteriorate in manner. Their behavior is precisely the same whether at Great Estates or in camp. A gentleman may be in his shirt sleeves actually, but he never gets into shirt sleeves mentally—he has no inclination to.
—from Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, by Emily Post, 1922.