Wooly Relief

After World War II, modern manufacturing and technology changed how folks dressed in Fairbanks. Old fashioned wool underwear was replaced with a fancy new textile product called Millium which was much like the polar fleece products of today.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner — September 27, 1955


Get the longies out of mothballs, ladies. Winter is a’comin’ in. This may have been sound advice for the sturdy settlers of early day Fairbanks, but the heyday of the long-handled underwear has hit the skids.

While no accurate count has ever been attempted, even by the most intrepid Kinsey follower, to determine the number of women in the far north who stow away their summer dainties and slip into snuggies to prepare for the 50-below, the figure is believed to be reduced, (Figure referring to count, of course.)

Trying to find a pair of women’s long-handles in Fairbanks today is like looking for high-button shoes. “Those went out with spats,” a smiling clerk replies. “Have you tired Millium?” she will inquire sweetly.

Millium and faster, better transportation in Alaska have turned out to be arch enemies of the fast-fading long-john industry. Millium is billed conservatively as “doing for YOU what insulation does to your house.” Plainly, the stuff keeps you warm in the cold, cool in the sun.

There’s many an old-timer, however, who’s not so sure this new development is for the better. “You just don’t see leggin’s and gaiters anymore,” they say, with a trace of wistfulness. True- they’ve taken a back seat to legs and garters.

Transportation has driven flannel petticoats, woolen drawers and jersey camisoles right up into grandma’s attic, too. The modern Alaska miss depends on her scanties, skimpies and nylons to protect her form frostbite long enough to leap from a warm car into a steam-heated office or store.

Modern science, the manufacturing industry and women’s fashion shops happily accept the blame for bringing major changes to the cold weather dressing habits of Alaska women.

Gone are the days in Fairbanks when you peered through the ice fog to see if the shapeless form ahead were Mrs. Jones- or Mr. Jones. Mrs. Jones in 1955 is wrapped in Millium looking as svelte as she might in mid-summer.

No more does the hat check girl at the Fairbanks dance halls get a pair of long handles entrusted to her until time for them to be pulled on again under a sweeping formal skirt.

In short, the bottom has literally dropped out of the long-john business. It’s a sturdy pioneering soul who is still purchasing her undergarments with the determined attitude–”if they don’t itch, they just don’t keep you warm.”

Note: You don’t see the trade name textile called Millium today although similar fabrics are still being produced. Millium was a satin like fabric on one side with a flannel texture on the other side. This long and wooly history nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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