Bug-Woven Veils a Menace to Nerves and Eyesight: 1911

spider veil


The Woman Who Wears a Bug-Woven Veil is a Sight to Make Strong Men Quail and Children Scream.

Frances L. Garside. Occasionally a man reaches the end of his days who had devoted his life from childhood to such frivolous purposes and trifling vanities that the only creditable thing that may be said of him when the end comes is that at least he was never tattooed. It is the only folly that escapes him, and this one folly less gives him little post-mortem luster for the reason that the tattoo man is rarely met.

Had he stood behind a counter in a men’s clothing store and handed out a bright assortment of tattoo designs with ties and gloves; had he lain in wait in public baths ready to tattoo a man’s breast with a picture of his sweetheart while he waits, not so many men could claim even this one distinction.

For this reason, perhaps, men should have more charity for the woman who puts on a veil that gives her face a fashionable tattoo design. The building clerk who sells veils is met a dozen times a week, and the woman, being tempted so often, falls. The beguiling clerk points out that the spider design is the latest fashion, or that madame would look well with a crocodile across her nose, and madame, buys, puts on the veil, and walks the streets, a sight to make strong men quail and children scream.

Oculists have protested that veils with big polka dots and blotches, with insects obstructing the vision, are a menace to the eyesight, and the people who are compelled to sit opposite this fashionable form of refined tattoo in street cars protest that such deformities have injurious effect on their eyes and nerves and sense of harmony, but the woman who has a veil with a pattern of caterpillars puts it on, taking pride in her appearance, and has no thought of what her grief and suffering would be if the Lord had marked her face that way.

She puts on her veil in such a fashion that her eyes are hidden by the head and tail of a snake, with its body bridging her nose; of it may be that she didn’t like the snake design, and when she opens her mouth to laugh the horrified observer notices a big spider across her teeth. Sometimes there is a string of bees flying out of one ear across her face and into the other ear, giving her head the appearance of a bee hive, and often she looks as if the tattoo man had done butterflies in black ink all over her countenance.

It will come to pass some day that some near-sighted man will give a woman a heavy slap on the cheek, and his defense will be that he saw a venomous spider there, and when the wise statisticians have reached this deformity of fashion, which has so far escaped them, they will discover that a certain percentage of delirium tremens is cause by men whose nervous systems are wrecked by seeing bugs and fish worms and alligators crawling across their wives’ faces.

If there were any attractiveness in the style of a bug-woven veil, there would be some excuse for a woman wearing it, for it is a pleasing trait in every woman to want to look her best, but it is a style that is hideous, deforming and injurious.

The woman who wears such a veil cannot sniff with scorn at the man who is tattooed. He, at least, doesn’t wear this token of a weak intellect on his face.

Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 29 November 1911: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The insect kingdom has always been a rich source of fashion inspiration. We have previously met with beetle-wing and luminous-insect dress ornamentation and giant spiders who spin silk for dresses here. Master jewellers such as Tiffany and Lalique used glass or enamelled dragonflies and beetles to gorgeous effect.

Although some women of the 1800s had tattoos, by the time of this article, tattooing had virtually fallen out of fashion for all but seafarers and military men.

One wonders why this arbiter elegantiarum fulminated only against veils with insect motifs? As she says, for years occulists had been cautioning the public about the dangers to the eyes of veils with dots or other large-scale patterns. One wonders if there is not an echo of this fashion caution from 1881 in this cri de coeur?

Matchmakers should be careful not to wear the latest imported  Paris gowns, on the flounces and waistcoats of which are embroidered spiders and their webs. The design is too suggestive. National Republication [Washington DC] 4 November 1881: p. 4


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


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