Filling a Hope Chest – A Basic List

How Many Drawers Should My Hope Chest Have?

What constitutes filling a traditional hope chest, or trousseau, has changed greatly over the years.  Emily Post gives an INSANELY DERANGED TROUSSEAU LIST (begging your pardon, Mrs. Post, for my brutal honesty) for wealthy brides in the early 1900s that made me laugh hysterically.  If you are looking for authentic historical accuracy, this article sheds some light on the specifics with “Emily Post’s Victorian Trousseau Ettiquette”, along with Miss Manners 1983 “Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.”

According to VintageConnection, “Bloomingdale’s 1880s mail-order catalogs offered “Bridal Sets” for women of modest means.  For $148.79, the bride-to-be could equip herself with a reception dress, walking dress, suit dress, three day dresses, a coat, a wrap, a riding habit, two house-dresses, two nightgowns, a shawl, three petticoats, two chemises, three pairs of drawers, four handkerchiefs, two corsets, two dozen pairs of plain stockings-as well as a tablecloth and a set of towels.”  See their full article about the bridal trousseau here.  Over time, the Victorian trousseau of the bride’s clothing made way for the hope chest of household items.

The shape, size, and construction of your hope chest is irrelevant to the matters of assemblage.  Contrary to historic Lane Furniture Co. advertising, it is NOT necessary to own an actual cedar-lined hope chest.  A cupboard, chest of drawers (of the wooden kind, missy), closet shelf, or even a pasteboard box will work just fine to HOLD YOUR BOOTY.  (Of the hope chest kind, missy!)

woman sitting on a hope chest


The Amish Outlet Store gives an overview of the function of the hope chest and similar types of storage chests in this article:

During your search for a hope chest, you might come across cedar and blanket chests. These chests are often closely related in terms of size, design and construction and can easily be used for the same purpose. After all, the idea of a hope chest is to fill it with hope and love, and you can easily do the same for a similarly sized cedar or blanket chest.

Funding is the definitive hope chest factor.  If you have no money, pilfer  from any available linen/blanket closet and talk to mum, grandma, or aunties.  Mama may offer your newborn navel cord stump, but hold out for the good stuff, like a crocheted afghan or fondue pot.  You probably know this anyway but my lawyer demands that I be specific in my communication:  Pilfer with clear and concise, perhaps even written, permission from the current owners of said closets or face possible legal action. 

I shall forthwith and without further ado present to you MY BASIC HOPE CHEST LIST for TWO, which comes to you with all of the wisdom and frugality I have been able to muster in fifty years of living.

Basic Bathroom Hope Chest List

  • 8-12 bath towels.  Because you never know when you will need the serious and immediate water containment ability that a half dozen yards of thirsty terry cloth provide.  I personally suggest having at least two of these white in color.
  • 8-12 hand towels, which could coordinate with the bath towels.  But they don’t have to.  It is entirely possible to be eclectic and still be dignified.  Or forgo hand towels entirely and dry your hands with bath towels.  Try it, it works.
  • 8-12 face/wash cloths, which again could coordinate with the bath towels.  Or make life simple and choose plain white, because these are one use and launder kinds of things, and spend more time in the hamper than anywhere else.
  • 2 bathmats.  FYI: A largish sized hand towel or folded bath towel makes an easy-to-maintain bathmat.  If you prefer separation, using white towels (see above bath towel list) for things such as bathmats makes it simple to know which is which. If you ever visit my house, don’t dry off with anything except a colored towel or risk contamination.

Basic Bedroom Hope Chest List

Planning for bedrooms can be a bit tough if you don’t know what size of bed you will have, especially since mattresses also come in different thicknesses.  Pillows are another potential size issue.  Supposing that you know this information now, and one accepts that the “For Two” referred to above are persons sharing the same bed, may I present to you the following suggestions:

  • 2 or possibly 3 sets of bedsheets.  I have survived the last six years with only two sets of sheets for my bed.  Incredibly happily, I might add, because folding fitted sheets is only for OCD perfectionists.  The rest of us wad them up in a ball.  Get nice ones, they last longer and you spend a whole bunch of time on them, especially if you are a newlywed.  …blush…
  • 2 or 3 sets of matching pillowcases for the sheet sets.
  • 2 or 3 sets of coordinating pillowcases, because beds often have extra pillows.  Not to be read as a bed containing more than two sleeping persons at any one time.  Except mine does, because TODDLERS have a habit of wanting to climb in bed with us in the middle of the night.  But I make them bring their own pillow and blankie to the party because toddlers drool.
  • Extra pillowcase sets as desired.  Pillowcases mate for life, thus they are always in pairs.  It’s true!  Pillowcases without mates live a lonely existence of SOLITARY CONFINEMENT in the linen closet.  Or worse, in the odd sock basket.
  • 1 mattress pad and also a zippered pillow cover for each pillow.  Because of drool, you know.
  • 1 medium weight woolen blanket of the appropriate size.
  • 1 pretty quilt or bedspread.  Or an ugly one, if that’s your preference.  The coverlet might be a changling, being pretty today and ugly ten years from now.  See this post about hideous 70s yarn-tied gingham baby quilts.
  • 1 coordinating lap blanket/afghan/throw.  Or white is always nice.

Basic Kitchen Hope Chest List

  • 8-12 dishcloths, for wiping counters and washing dishes.
  • 8-12 kitchen hand towels, for wiping hands.  Hand towels and kitchen towels are generally not used interchangeably, for obvious reasons.  If these reasons are not obvious to you, read this discussion board for enlightenment.
  • 8-12 kitchen dish towels, for drying dishes.
  • 2 sets of flat potholders with matching glove (6 altogether)
  • 1 apron
  • Additional towels as desired for the cuteness and seasonal factor.
  • Some people find life not worth living without table linens and napkins.  If you find these things a necessity, you should self medicate by putting together a set or two, with matching apron and potholders, of course.  See this post for some great ideas for items to put in a Quick Hope Chest.

The Minimalist Hope Chest List gives examples for filling a hope chest which are, of course, just a slice of the linen closet equation.  The scope of other items, which you might add to this most basic of lists, will be discussed in complete and dizzying detail in future posts, along with tutorials for adding handcrafted touches to your choices.

WHEREBY, Having grown up second of eight children in a one bathroom house, and having raised four children as a single working mother, the Basic Hope Chest List (hereafter referred to as BHCL) is compiled because LIFE IS POSSIBLE WITHOUT LUNCHEON CLOTHS.  The BHCL will likely be completely unsuitable for members of high society or those with delicate constitutions.  As the Creative Director for, I present the BHCL with a spirit of full disclosure, and also because it is possible to live in this world with MINIMUM OF STUFF and a non-materialistic lifestyle, as well as without FANCY GUEST TOWELS and/or HOLIDAY KITCHEN TOWELS, which things completely bamboozle the male species, and which they use anyway when you aren’t looking.  Which Behavior promotes disharmonious relationships, which lead to frustrations, accusations, angry exchanges, and possible withdrawal of affection, and is all about the warm fuzzy feelings of hope chest happiness.  The BHCL is presented only as a general guide and should not be construed to be medical or social advice for filling a hope chest.  Consult your physician before engaging in any strenuous knitting.

Until next time,

Yours Truly



  1. Kathleen says:

    Very nice list! You make me laugh. I know the expectations for those upper class Victorian brides were pretty outrageous. I’m glad I was not a mamma to one of those girls!

  2. Irene Weatherston says:

    White towel as a bath mat? Personally, I prefer a mottled grayish brown one so there is no confusion. But then, anything can become grayish brown (or something similar). Works for me.

    • Kiyoko Ball says:

      You could use whatever color appeals to you and for your decor. The idea is simply to use color as a code for which bath linens are used on the floor and which are generally for showering.

  3. Christina @ The Hope Chest says:

    What?! Life without luncheon cloths?? lol

    I agree. A hope chest should be practical for the way you live (or intend to live). If that doesn’t include embroidered tea towels (what are tea towels used for, anyway?) or crocheted doilies (which make total sense to me, personally), they don’t belong in your hope chest.

    • Kiyoko Ball says:

      Hi Christina! If you understand the allure of a lovely crocheted doilie you are indeed a wonderful kind of person!

      Making items for a hope chest used to be a way to practice the necessary skills of self-sufficient homemaking. Those skills don’t seem to be as necessary today. Still, I hope that there are some who want to keep these skills alive in some way, whether that is embroidered tea towels or perhaps a lovely pin cushion or patch pocket on an article of clothing.

      But I still keep eyeing luncheon cloths on Pinterest.

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