Saturday Snippets 18 May 2013: Milliners, Fan Drill, Dressing for the Photographer

Milly Finch. 1883-1884 by James McNeill Whistler

Milly Finch. 1883-1884 by James McNeill Whistler

Every Saturday you will find in “Saturday Snippets” items of interest, some of which may have been written to Mrs Daffodil’s “Facebook” page in the preceding week, but which were too short to form an entire post without the reader feeling unsatisfied.  Mrs Daffodil has an ample stock of The Horrors and will be glad to hear from her readers if items of a more grewsome character would gratify their tastes.


I know of no situation more agreeable than that of a fashionable Milliner. Everything around her is seducing:–the gauze and lawn take whatever shape her fancy directs. She arranges those flowers fashioned by art, whose vivid colors dare to rival the brilliant productions of nature. This handsome hat, this aigrette, this bouquet, acquire triple value from her plastic hand!

Beyond that glazed partition behold that assemblance of young beauties; they hold the needle and the scissors—how happily employed! Taste, or rather Fashion, directs their labor. The Graces preside over their dress; coquetry beams in their eyes;

Here on the right are the three Graces; this is the freshness of Hebe, the gait of Juno, and the beauty of Venus. There, on the left, is a sprightly brunette, a wood nymph, whose furtive glance inflamed the satyr. At the further end is a fair damsel with blue seducing eyes: it is the Queen of Cypress, who holds even the most rebellious hearts in subjection. In the morning the fashionable milliner resembles the artificial flowers around her; –at night she is the rose in all its lustre! Her worshippers increase as the star of day proceeds in its course; when Phebus has completed his career she enjoys her greatest triumph. She is the finest production of nature—the most desires.

Corinna holds the needle with grace; Victoria forms the bonnet with delicious taste; Agale plaits the gauze! What a charming occupation! Oh! That I were a milliner, or a milliner’s girl—happy young beauty, who in the closet of love preserves a heart as pure, as fresh, as the color of the flowers! What coquetry in her gait!—what a divine waist!—it is a young milliner who walks before me; she carries a light bandbox full of ribbons and roses—what grace!—what attractions!—all eyes following this charming object!—they cannot lose sight of her!

Amiable modesty! May you be ever the favorite virtue of the young milliner’s girl!  Paris paper Dutchess Observer [Poughkeepsie, NY] 13 August 1823: p. 4

 Pert miss (in bloomers): “You stare at me, sir, as though you expected to see me wearing horns!”

Innocent young man: “Yes, I thought you might be the gnu woman!” Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 2 October 1895: p. 4

 A novel public entertainment was given in St. Louis a few nights ago for the benefit of one of the churches of that city. It was a “fan-drill” given by twelve beautiful young ladies thoroughly trained to the work, the object being to illustrate the uses of the fan as an interpreter of the various emotions. Elkhart [IN] Daily Review 27 January 1881: p. 2  [If you missed it, a recent post discussed historic and extravagant fans of society ladies; Mrs Daffodil also offered some excellent advice on the use of fans as a weapon.]

A Curious Experiment. A late foreign paper contains the following: “The doctors specially devoted to the care of cholera patients at Alexandria, have tried a curious experiment, the object of which is to ascertain whether that disease is caused by a peculiar state of the outward air, as has been supposed. They sent up two balloons, one from a village as yet untainted by the epidemic, and the other from Alexandria. A quarter of fresh beef was suspended to each balloon, which was allowed to float for a certain time in the air. On making these balloons descend, the meat which had floated over Alexandria was completely putrefied, whereas that which had been suspended over the healthy village was perfectly fresh. The quarters of beef had been cut off the same animal. Cape Ann Advertiser [Gloucester, MA] 1 September 1865: p. 2  

Four spinsters at O’Fallon, Mo., couldn’t agree on a color for painting their house, so each had her favorite color on a portion of the building, drawing lots for the portion. The result is an artistic phenomenon. Boston [MA] Journal 25 May 1891: p. 2 

The Laces of Germany are not important. A History of Hand-made Lace, Mrs. F. Nevill Jackson, 1904, p. 51 

At a village a short distance from Dover, the child of a poor woman was lying at the point of death, when a gentle tap was heard at the door. The visitor turned out to be the sexton’s wife, who asked whether it was likely the child would be long dying, as her husband wanted to go out, but would delay his departure if it was thought death would shortly take place! Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] March 1864

How to Dress for the Photographer

It is a good rule to follow never to wear a new dress to the photographer’s. Not only do you show awkwardness that comes from wearing something with which you are not entirely familiar, but it is a well-known fact that new clothes are stiffer and hang in less graceful folds than do clothes that have been worn. The old frock has taken on the curves and lines of your body. It seems to have absorbed something of your personality.

  And, of course, the old frock, if it is becoming, may be worn for a photograph when you might not select it for a party. If it is a little faded, or even shows signs of wear, this will not show in the photograph.

  You may have noticed that certain pictures taken some time ago are almost grotesque now, while others of the same date are still satisfactory portraits. If you stop to observe you will see that the pictures that are still pleasing show no freaks or extremes of fashion. Collars and collar lines seem to be the details that most quickly lookout of date; hence the wisdom in always having your picture taken with a low neck line if possible.     

Hats, too, date a picture. The picture you had taken without a hat you will like to display for a longer time than the picture that shows its date by the hat you wore.

  Jewelry does not add to the effect of a picture and often detracts much. Baltimore [MD] American 9 October 1921: p. 5

If you are drawn to stories of Madwomen in the Attic as sketched by Miss Bronte or the grotesque tales of the German fantasists, you may enjoy this story of The Bird-Woman Horror.

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