A spicy magazine article, entitled “Skeletons in Closets,” enters complaint against the omnipresent shoe bag; protesting against ” wall pockets nailed inside closet doors, for holding boots and shoes,” saying, ” It is the worst possible plan yet devised for keeping them,” and inviting suggestions for something better in its place. An old housekeeper of over thirty years’ experience, with whom the shoe bag has been a sine qua non, proving not only a great convenience but a household necessity, cannot agree with the writer that “it is the worst possible plan yet devised for the purpose,” and has serious doubts that anything better can be designed to take its place.
A brief glance at former ways and means, with the “pros and cons” regarding the present, may aid in the solution of the vexed question whether “the former days were better than these. Would the too prevalent custom of some years since, within the memory of every old housekeeper, when much of the valuable time of the patient (or impatient) housekeeper was spent in rescuing the family shoes from storage under beds, sofas and chairs? behind stoves, or in obscure corners to consign them to the floor of the already burdened press, be preferable? In those days there seemed to be no place for shoes, and hence, while always in the way, they were never to be found when wanted.
Then some neat woman intent on a remedy devised the shoe box, perhaps covered with chintz, carpeting, silk patchwork or embroidery, to simulate an ottoman. This was a decided improvement, but like most other sublunary things was found to have its defects. The shoes were thrown in without order or arrangement, and it was often necessary to remove the entire contents to find a particular shoe. Then too often its contents, heterogeneous as they were apt to be, were left exposed to the gaze of the curious visitor or gossiping neighbor, because the thoughtless children or the busy man of the house, it may be, would always leave it open when it should be closed.
Then the barrel chair was invented with a movable seat, the space under it being utilized by pockets on the sides to hold the troublesome footgear. This, too, hid its inconveniences, to say the least. The seat, as in the case of the box, was liable to be left open, or, just when the shoes were wanted in the greatest hurry, was almost sure to be occupied, perhaps by a visitor or the mother with her lap full of work. The difficulty of cleaning the pockets also added to its inconvenience and led to its disuse.
Now came the shoe bag ; at first an ordinary square bag, gathered in at the bottom, with pockets around it for holding shoes, the inner receptacle being designed for stockings. This, too, was found unsuitable. There never seemed to be any good place to hang it. It was so bulky, it took room needed in presses for other things, and the string was always getting broken or twisted around so that the pair of shoes you wanted were on the side farthest from you, perhaps concealed by clothing hanging next to them; and it was far from being an ornament to any room.
For one of these shoe bags a special press was needed, and it was much easier to throw the worn shoes on the floor in desperation than to replace them in the ever-collapsed pockets — an exercise requiring both time and patience.
Then some good, careful housekeeper, blessings on her head, invented the shoe bag for the inside of the door hitherto unutilized. The evidence of its success is seen in its widespread use, in all classes of homes, in camp and on shipboard. Wherever order with economy of space is desirable it finds its place, meeting a long-felt want.
Its enemy says: “These shoe bags should be called dirt pockets.”That depends! They may be, but not necessarily. A dirty shoe or muddy rubber should never be placed in a shoe bag. The mud should always be dried and cleaned off before putting away.
No lady would think for a moment of putting her soiled handkerchiefs, table linen or underclothing in her bureau drawers with dainty laces and lingerie; as well put the kitchen ironware in the china closet. A shoe bag should always be made of washable material — chintz, cretonne, ticking, jean or denim — without ornamentation, saving perhaps a binding of braid to give strength and form; and should never be nailed to the door. Small brass rings should be sewed strongly on the upper edge between the pockets and at each corner, to suspend it from nails, or, better still, small brass hooks driven into the door at equal distances to those of the rings. For a bag of eight pockets, the most convenient size, five rings should be used corresponding to the four pockets in the upper row. The shoes being removed, the bag can be readily taken down, shaken, turned inside out if need be and replaced in a few moments, and when necessary it can be washed the same as a laundry bag. Why not?
The objection is also made that the bag is not big enough for the numerous shoes deemed essential to a lady’s use. Why not as well banish the convenient traveling bag because its capacity is not equal to that of a Saratoga trunk? A bag with eight pockets will easily contain two pairs of slippers and a pair of nice boots in its upper row, while the lower will be found amply sufficient for the pair of heavy boots, a pair of rubbers and a pair of sandals, which would suffice probably for the needs of the average woman.
If more room is required, have more bags hung on the same door if need be. An extra one hung above the lower would answer for “the delicate kid and satin shoes,” and the new pair brought from Paris which are “so beautiful and so tight.” Or an upper bag may be used for stockings; or, its lower pocket being devoted to stockings, a long, horizontal upper pocket makes an excellent place for gloves, relieving the much-abused upper drawer or glove box.
A similar bag also makes a splendid place for the patterns used so often by the busy wife and mother. The articles kept in these bags take up much less room, and are more easily found when wanted than when banished to crowded drawers, trunks, the depths of dark presses or high shelves. There is nothing equal to them for having “a place for every shoe, and every shoe in its place,” to say nothing of other things, and such is their utility, convenience and popularity, that, like Banquo’s ghost, “they will not down,” at least till something of greater merit is evolved from the ever-active brain of woman. What can it be?