She Bet That Her Jewels Weighed More Than Her Clothes
The Deauville Wager Inspired Pretty Gladys Core to Make—and Win—A Similar Bet in Chicago.
Mlle. Gabrielle, the famous French beauty, bet that her jewels weighed more than her clothes—and won.
Not the clothes she wears when she prances in the Follies, but the regulation evening costume prescribed for this Winter by the ultra-exclusive modistes of the Rue de la Paix.
The story of the wager has just reached America, and at least one on the spot tourist says he’ll willingly back a similar bet in this country, the subject to be any woman modishly attired for the evening.
“I was amazed at the result,” he states. “I knew modern ball gowns were considered ‘scanty,’ but I didn’t realize how feather-weight they are till I saw the proof in ounces and pounds.”
Gabrielle made and won her bet at Deauville, the whizzy gambling resort on the coast of France which is annually the scene of so many bizarre episodes and picturesque adventures.
The Follies favorite wafted down from Paris for a holiday, taking with her a stack of new frillies to dazzle the eyes of the millionaires in the Casino and along the beach.
Among these were a dozen evening gowns patterned after the pre-Winter styles which manikins had been showing at the Longchamps races, together with zephyr lingerie and cobweb stockings recently introduced in the more advanced Paris shops.
When Gabrielle strolled into the Casino her first evening at Deauville, she got more attention than the Shah of Persia or the Maharajah of Karputhala. This was 40 percent directed at her beauty and 60 percent directed at what she wore.
Her costume, say American tourists who were there, was not immodest as present-day fashions go. There was no back to the gown except two silver strands rippling across her shoulders, and it clung closely to the figure beneath two filmy panels on either side. But most 1922 evening gowns also lack backs and also cling.
What struck the spectators was the very gauzy effect of everything Mlle. Gabrielle had on. The gown was like so much bright mist. The few inches of stocking flashing beneath the hem seemed to have been spun on her ankles by silkworms. The fairies might have dressed her, so fragile she seemed.
By way of contrast, there were her jewels. Her dark hair was crowned by a sparkling diamond tiara. Around her neck was a triple rope of pearls. The left arm, from wrist to elbow, was sheathed in bracelets. They glittered with the myriad colors of a prism in the sunshine.
Mlle. Gabrielle had come to make them stare, and stare she made them for at last a minute. Which is quite a slash of time to grab from busy Deauville for one’s own when the gambling rooms are running full blast. Mlle. Gabrielle made them stare—and before many hours she made them whoop and yell.
The Follies beauty had a bad night at the tables. In her own group of smart super-Bohemians she is known as a lucky gambler. But Fortune sat aside from her that evening and she is said to have pitched several thousand francs into the Casino coffers.
According to the version to reach America Gabrielle placed her last stake on the wheel—and lost—at the moment of the Casino was invaded by a squad of zealous workers in the cause of the starving children of Austria.
Croupiers halted their rakes, wheels were stopped, card players turned in their chairs, and the money-grinding mill of Deauville slowed down for three minutes to listen to a tale of want and suffering.
A Russian countess mounted a table top and began to describe what she had witnessed in a provincial Austrian town, where children crawled in the gutters, picking up garbage with feeble fingers for mouths that had tasted no food for weeks but black bread and pale soup.
“I do not come to you in the name of any country, but in the name of little children!” she cried to them in exquisite French and held out her arms.
The King of Spain started the ball rolling by pitching a shower of bank notes at her feet. As paper money and coins rained in from all directions the workers began to thread through the crowd, stopping at every table to shake their pasteboard “banks” under the noses of men and women.
And everybody gave—some with a smile and a cheer, others with a yawn and hands that obviously itched to get back at the gaming—everybody gave except Mlle. Gabrielle.
Mlle. Gabrielle had nothing to give. So she told the Russian countess.
“You see, Cherie!” Her shoulders shrugged and her white arms spread with an expressive gesture. “I am sorry. I have played my last franc. My hand-bag is at the hotel.”
“Anything will do, dearie!” said the American actress who had swooped down on Gabrielle’s group.
“But I have nothing—nothing but my clothes and my jewels!”
“Give her your jewels, then, Gabrielle!” suggested a boulevardier
“No—give her your clothes!” cried another.
The group laughed. The American actress rattled her “bank.” Gabrielle withered the last speaker with a glance.
“I insist!” he cried irrepressibly. “Ladies and gentlemen, which shall Gabrielle give—clothes or jewels? Let us take a vote! The jewels may be worth more, but the clothes weigh more.”—
“In your hat!” shouted another wag, or words to that effect. “I’ll bet her bracelets weigh more than all she has on!”
The crowd cheered. The American actress rattled her “bank” again. Suddenly Gabrielle held up her hand. Her eyes sparkled.
“I will give!” she cried dramatically. “It is for the children! One of the gentleman says my clothes weigh more than my jewels. The other denies it. Which is right? Will you wager, monsieurs? And will you give your winnings to the cause?”
“Sixty thousand francs on the bracelets!” cried wag number two.
“Done—on the clothes!” retorted wag number one.
That particular part of the Casino became a hubbub. Here was a sensation after Deauville’s own heart. While half the crowd made a dash for one door, crying “Scales! Scales!” the other half swept through another door into an anteroom.
Here scales were brought and placed on a console in the centre of the room. A huge Japanese screen was placed in one corner. Judges were selected, two piles of sixty thousand francs each were heaped beside the scales.
The bet was that Mlle. Gabrielle’s jewels weighed more than her clothes. Each of the betters agreed, in case he won, to donate his sixty thousand francs ($5,000) to Gabrielle, who in turn would donate them to the cause of Austrian relief. Everything Gabrielle had on when the wager was made, from tiara to slippers, was to be considered.
Before Gabrielle retired behind the screen she made a little speech, in which she declared she submitted to the test only because her heart went out to the starving children. Then she disappeared.—and over the top of the screen zipped first a crimson garter and then a ruby ring.
They were followed by the diamond tiara and half a dozen bracelets, a silver slipper and one sleazy stocking.
“Bravo!” shrieked half the spectators, as one side of the scales dipped heavily under the tiara.
“Bravo! Shrieked the other half, as the opposite side of the scale sagged beneath the weight of the slipper.
It was nip and tuck between clothes and jewels until the last of Gabrielle’s seventeen bracelets and the last of her gauzy garments reposed on the scales. Then the decision was announced as follows:
Slippers . . . . . 5 ounces.
Dress . . . . . . . 2 ¼ “
Combination. . 1 “
Garters . . . . . . . . ½ “
Stockings . . . . . . ¾ “
Chemise . . . . . . . ¼ “
Total . . . . . . . . . . 9 ¾ ounces.
Diamond tiara 4 ounces.
Pearl necklace 2 “
Rings 1 ¾ “
Bracelets 3 ½ “
Earrings 1 “
Bar pin ¼ “
Total 12 ½ ounces
By two and three-quarter ounces the man who bet Mlle. Gabrielle’s jewels were heavier than her clothes won. Gracefully he handed her the 60,000 francs after she emerged from behind the screen, radiant and slightly dishevelled, but completely clothed once more. And gracefully she handed over the 60,000 to the relief of the starving children of Austria.
Since the story of Mlle. Gabrielle’s bet seeped through America a Chicago girl, Miss Gladys Core, has made and won the same wager.
The cob-web “Gabrielle gown” say the fashion editors, can be pulled through a dinner ring or crammed into a vanity case.
The Morning Tulsa [OK] Daily World 1 October 1922: p. 28
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is shocked, shocked to her core! But only because many of the surviving fashions of 1922 are of a rather more lavish cut, involving crinoline and panniers, such as this Lanvin robe de style, which looks as though it might outweigh any number of bracelets and tiaras. However there were also models of a more slender silhouette as described and obviously an young lady on holiday would prefer to travel unencumbered by large amounts of luggage. One hopes that one of the gallant gamblers saw to it that she did not starve or want for pocket money during the rest of her stay.
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.