Book Fairy Fancy Dress Costumes: 1899

At the Children's Masquerade, c. 1905

At the Children’s Masquerade, c. 1905

BOOK FAIRIES AS MASQUES

A LONDON FANCY BALL USED SOME OF ANDERSEN’S CREATIONS

Descriptions That Offer a Mine of Helpful Suggestions to Ambitious American Hostesses—Other Hints.

The fashion of fancy dress balls has taken a strong hold this fall, and it offers vast scope for the ingenuity of hostesses and guests. Nothing is more attractive than to give a literary flavor to such an entertainment, and there is a mine of helpful suggestions in the following descriptions of costumes modeled after the book fairies of Hans Christian Andersen, which were worn at a London bal masque not long ago.

One of the costumes was “The Sunbeam.” It was a dress of azure satin, the skirt having a copper colored sun setting in the midst of gray clouds painted on it. Sun rays of gold gauze, stiffened with gold wire, edged the bodice and clouds of gray tulle fell gracefully from the shoulders.

“The Little Mermaid,” who tended the “Sea Garden,” so gracefully pictured by Andersen, looked much like what earth dwellers would expect her to be. Her dress was of pale sea green, covered with silvery gauze and embroidered with a large sun, in pearls, green sequins and shells. The top of the bodice and the edge of the skirt were edged with sea weeds of various colors, and ropes of pearls and fringes of crystal fell over the bodice. The mermaid’s tail, when peeped from beneath a long, silvery, white gauze veil, was embroidered with large sequins, the end being cut out and stiffened with whalebone to keep it straight. The tail might be painted instead of embroidered, if the wearer preferred that method of decoration. The mermaid’s veil was dotted with pearls and scraps of seaweed, and her flowing hair, covered by a lily wreath of pearls, completed the delightful illusion.

The “Marsh King’s Daughter” wore a cloak of cloth of silver, embroidered with storks and rushes and lined with thin marsh brown silk. The dress was of pale green, with Egyptian border embroidered in green, terra cotta and gold. A cap in the shape of a frog’s head and shoulders completed the costume.

A dress of ice green satin was worn by “The Snow Queen,” the sleeves and the top of the bodice being puffed so as to represent blocks of ice and covered with frost powder. A diamond star was worn in the powdered and frosted hair. The whole dress was veiled with frosted tulle, and a long fringe of crystal hung from the bodice and sleeves.

The “Elderflower Maiden,” looked charming in a simple dress of green liberty silk and white elder blossoms. As a background for the trails of elder flowers and leaves that entwined the wearer’s hair there was a corselet of green velvet, a bodice of pale green gauze and a handsome sash of green ribbon.

Of course, “The Tempest,” or “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” or Spenser’s “Fairie Queene,” or Tennyson’s “Princess,” or Longfellow’s “Evangeline” might be used to good advantage to furnish a list of characters for grown people. As for a children’s ball, “Mother Goose” might be made immensely amusing, or “Alice in Wonderland” might be relied upon for a lot of costumes after the style of the Andersen efforts. The possibilities of the literary fancy dress ball are almost without limit.

New York Herald-Tribune 31 October 1899: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil regrets that this article was not illustrated. The book-fairies sound delightfully sumptuous. You will find previous articles on dressing (or undressing) like a mermaid and on hints on fancy-dress for ladies and for gentlemen.  Do check the “fancy dress” section for some amusing photo-gravures. Mrs Daffodil is certain that she saw the “Marsh King’s Daughter” frog-cap, moulded in rubber, for sale in the Archie McPhee catalogue.

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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