As shown in the image provided for us by Professor Scanlon, an iconic white dress is associated with Emily Dickinson. A dress, such as the one worn by the poet, is said to be considered an everyday garment to be worn around the home during her time period. According to the Emily Dickinson Museum’s Special Topics discussion of the white dress: “The dress, made of a cotton fabric with mother-of-pearl buttons, is a style known as a wrapper or a house dress, worn by women as everyday clothing for doing chores and other activities inside the house. It was not a particularly unusual or expensive dress for its time.”
As I continued to read, it seemed like the article was saying that there wasn’t really any significant reference that makes the poet’s white dress specifically unique to her. The article states: “Despite popular conceptions of Dickinson clad in her white dress, the poet herself never mentions wearing white, nor does she wear white in the few existing images of herself. ” Nevertheless, a myth began to arise that Dickinson only wore white. This myth may have begun with Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s description of seeing Dickinson in white and then was promoted by the townspeople. Eventually, “Dickinson was buried in white and enclosed in a white casket.”
So, why do most Dickinson lovers associate the poet with the white dress? Is it because it shows how reclusive she was in (supposedly) always wearing a dress to be worn around the house? Is it because they just greatly appreciate seeing an actual item worn by Dickinson? Does the white symbolize anything? Why do you think they chose to bury her in all that white?
Side note: My mind keeps telling me that Dickinson’s love for gardening doesn’t go well with the myth that she always wore white. That being said, I also read that bleaching was the common way to wash their clothes. So, who knows, maybe her whites were able to stay relatively clean.