“Motto” Dresses: 1924


The “motto” dress is the latest fancy of the Parisienne. It is an outcome of and an improvement upon the fad of working blouses and jumpers with the wearer’s monogram or cypher. A “motto” gown has a charming little aphorism, or even a slang phrase, fancifully worked in the form of embroidery on the pocket, the neck scarf or the girdle or panels. Sometimes the motto takes the form of a play upon the wearer’s name, but no matter what its origin, it must be either “short and smart,” or “short and sweet,” to achieve distinction and success. Sports dresses, in particular, adorned in this way are very popular, while tea gowns and boudoir wraps often support sentimental or intimate phrases. These latter are so skilfully intertwined in the embroidery that often only those that are shown the words have any hint that they exist.

Rather on the lines of sermons in stones are the new hats worked with a motto in crystal beads. Taken usually from the heraldic motto of the wearer, they are in Latin, and written quite clearly across the front of the small black cloches. The same motto is often repeated on the sunshade by people on the Riviera. New Zealand Herald, 29 March 1924: p. 6

Such whimseys had previously been popular in the 1880s and ’90s.

The latest whim of the gilded youth is his autograph embroidered, full length, upon his suspenders. Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 February 1889: p. 10

In bridal lingerie, the motto night-gown is the latest craze. The motto is embroidered, perhaps around the bottom of the skirt, on the cuffs, or on a shield-shaped piece in front, with a border of flowers. Among favorite quotations are: “Come thoughts as sweet as incense crushed from flowers;” “Good-night, sweet, good-night;” “Forget the world and all its cares;” “He giveth His beloved sleep;” “Sweet dreams,” etc. Godey’s Lady’s Book September 1890

A Philadelphia paper states that a belle who is shortly to be married in New York has hit on something original. She has had her dainty silken petticoat embroidered in delicately coloured silks, with verses from her favourite poets and writers. The lines are put just above the hem, so that if in crossing a muddy road the wearer were to raise her skirts an atom higher than usual a passer-by might judge at once by the embroidery on her petticoat if she were a lady of deep reading or only a lover of frivolous verse. Otago [NZ] Witness 30 January 1890, Page 41

Lady supporters of Truman-Barkley or Dewey-Warren may purchase lingerie embroidered with their favorites’ names. Register-Republic [Rockford, IL] 22 October 1948: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The best Mrs Daffodil could do is the Jacobite garter pictured at the head of this post; the 18th-century equivalent of the Truman-Dewey political contest lingerie, one imagines. She is desolate that she has not been able to find true examples of these chatty, ephemeral garments and asks her kind readers to contribute, should they know of a poetic petticoat in their local costume collection. Mrs Daffodil supposes that motto-dresses and the heraldic hats with their insufferable Latin pretensions were the precursors of the witty “I’m With Stupid” singlets often seen in the States. Even “short and sweet” is a slippery slope.

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.




5 thoughts on ““Motto” Dresses: 1924

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      Many thanks for this delightfully naughty example! Surveying museum collections, it does seem as though garters embroidered with sayings or mottos had the highest survival rate. Mrs Daffodil probably does not want to inquire too closely into why that might be.
      Best wishes,
      Mrs Daffodil.


  1. Pingback: Mrs Daffodil Reviews Her Readers’ Favourite Posts of 2015 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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