The Bottom Drawer

The bottom drawer is traditionally the place that a young unmarried woman would put things to use when she was married. They would be mostly household things like towels and tablecloths. It was literally the bottom drawer in a chest of drawers. And it was probably in her bedroom.

And the bottom drawer because it is the least used drawer, which meant things put there would be least disturbed.

The bottom drawer is what people in the UK call it. In the US, they might know it as a hope chest or a glory box. In Australia they are familiar with both ways of describing it.

However it was described, it was important to a woman who dreamed of being married. It was a practical way of laying the foundations for her marriage. When she eventually married she would have things the home needed. So having a bottom drawer at all meant a woman was a thinker, a planner, someone who prepared well and could keep things together.

There was another dimension, too. The very act of making practical preparation for marriage gave symbolic meaning to marriage itself. In other words, why make preparations unless the thing you were preparing for was important?

What Goes In The Bottom Drawer

What goes in the bottom drawer are practical things that the couple would need when they set up home together. That could be anything from bedsheets, to towels, to tablecloths, to a little picture frame.

Young women who filled their bottom drawers with ornaments would be thought of as immature. Naturally, that meant that the person was not ready for marriage. The main requirement was to show maturity and practicality. Buying practical items for the future ahead of time showed that the woman had her feet on the ground.

But there had to be room for sentiment or else there would be no romance.

The World Has Changed

In the United Kingdom, marriage rates have dropped more than 50% since the early seventies. I am sure sociologists can come up with all kinds of reasons, from the decline in religious attendance to the rise of economic independence and other factors.

Here’s a possible reason, which is that it is simply the rise of individualism. People just aren’t as affiliated to myths and ideas as they once were. And it is not only what a person feels inside them. The environment tells them the same message. There simply isn’t the cultural pressure to marry because ‘it is the ‘thing to do’. Add to that gender fluidity that says that there is no longer the ‘obvious’ certainty of how a person identifies themselves.

So if a person nowadays takes marriage seriously, they don’t have society behind them. In some ways they are fighting a tide of opinion in the other direction. The idea of committing to one person for a lifetime seems almost quaint.

And what is a lifetime? There was a time when a lifetime was shorter, and the thought of spending it with one person didn’t mean all the years it can mean nowadays.

A Bottom Drawer For Men?

Today, is the bottom drawer exclusively for women? In these metrosexual days, why shouldn’t a man want to keep house and plan for married life with his chosen partner?

Might a man fill his own bottom drawer? What would go in it? Power tools? Screwdrivers? A dustpan and brush? Why could a woman not also put those in her bottom drawer? The 21st century doesn’t get any easier to understand for human beings carving their chosen path in life. That even assumes it is their own chosen path and not something picked up second hand from the environment a person happens to be in. Not everyone breaks the ties of where they happen to grow up, and find the environment that suits them, with people they aspire to be like.

A Chest Of Drawers

The bottom drawer illustrated with a Drawers Greeting Card features a chest of drawers with a small framed heart on it and text 'Happy Anniversary'

A chest of drawers is such an ‘obvious’ piece of furniture. It is effectively a stack of boxes with lids made from the box above. And then you just need runners to slide the drawers in and out and a lid for the top – and voila you have a chest of drawers.

And what went into that first chest of drawers? Was it used by the maker or was it made for someone else on commission? Was it used for storing clothes or something else?

And when did it get its name as a chest of drawers? Put a set of shelves above it and move it into the kitchen, and it is Welsh Dresser. In American English a chest of drawers is called a dresser.

Before chests of drawers there was the coffer, meaning a box with a lid. And the word coffer dates from the mid-13th century when it meant a box or a chest for keeping valuable items.

The word comes from the Old French word cofre, meaning a chest. That in turn came from the Latin word cophinus, meaning a basket. And that is related to the word that came through to English as coffin.

Whatever the kind of container, they all share the idea that valuable and meaningful things are put in containers.

A Heart In A Frame

The picture frame on the chest of drawers in our card is a link to romance and love. That frame may have been in the bottom drawer before the marriage.

To make the design, we drew directly by hand in Photoshop. We drew the top, sides, and drawers on different layers. Then we added a wood grain effect and pasted the design it into our greeting card template.

Click the illustration and it will take you right to the card. Or click this Drawers Anniversary Card link.

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