When The Awakening
was published in 1899, men and women commonly wore gaiters (or spats
) over their shoes or boots to protect their lower legs and ankles from pebbles, dirt, thorns, and other similar stuff. Gaiters were made from leather, felt, canvas, and prunella. Prunella
is a strong and heavy woolen fabric with (yep!) a color similar to that of prunes.
In The Awakening, Edna searches for Mademoiselle Reisz — a woman who leads a solitary life without friends or family in a dingy, dirty apartment. Mademoiselle Reisz has learned to live with the bad that accompanies the good, enduring the physical and societal limitations of a single woman who insists on living on her own terms, free and independent:
When Edna knocked at Mademoiselle Reisz's front room door and entered, she discovered that person standing beside the window, engaged in mending or patching an old prunella gaiter. The little musician laughed all over when she saw Edna. Her laugh consisted of a contortion of the face and all the muscles of the body. She seemed strikingly homely, standing there in the afternoon light.