Coquettes Command a Premium: 1890

two's company three's a crowd, charles dana gibson suito 1906

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd, Charles Dana Gibson, 1906

COQUETRY VERSUS BEAUTY.

The Susceptibility of Mankind to Simplicity and Frivolity.

 Coquettes Seem to Command a Premiums While Brainy Women Are at a Discount—The Masculine Mind Tired of Pedantic Lectures.

A born coquette is more dangerous than a beauty, asserts a writer in the New York World. She inherits a better legacy than wealth, for while money gives life its cushion beauty gives it color and coquetry makes it sparkle. The coquette will go on with her conquests while there is a man left in the world with a heart in his bosom. There is a woman in New York who keeps a big boarding-school for the education of coquettes, and instead of walking on rose leaves she treads on golden eagles. Seats at her performances are secured two years in advance, and to make the application you pay a handsome deposit. There are no graded courses of study, no exhaustive examinations, no tedious memory lessons and no incessant, eternal and intolerable smashing of piano-keys. Aspirants for degrees can go to the Harvard annex. Would-be grenadiers are directed to Holyoke and Columbia, and blue stockings are advised to enter local high schools and universities for intellectual force. Here coquetry is fostered and no secret made about it, either. Square shoulders are rounded into De Milo grace: flat soles are raised by judicious foot coverings; high foreheads sheltered by kiss curls; harsh voices lowered a whole tone; angular elbows turned in; stiff joints loosened and every symptom of a strong mind rigidly suppressed. The pupil is sweetened, softened and curved. She is carefully instructed to know nothing and to do nothing that will rob a grace or mar a smile.

And does she pay?

Doesn’t she.

Drop her in the village lane or quiet promenade of her native city and see if she is not gobbled up by the most promising young lawyer or most prominent bachelor in the town.

This is a serious, angular old world. Men are sick and tired of shrewdness, logic, argument and brains. They want to be amused, distracted, diverted. Good sense is tedious after the market closes, and the woman who talks profit and loss, supply and demand, premium and discount in evening dress, in the moonlight or at a dinner party, is a nightmare in petticoats, to be eluded at the first turn in the lane. Change is rest, and, while we hate giggling, we love gabble. There is where the coquetry of woman wins.

I remember riding in an elevated train beside a grizzly man of fifty and a breezy, chatty girl enveloped in fluttering ribbons, dreamy lace and the scent of wild olives, who was pouring society chat into her companion’s ear. When a lull came in her recital do you think he sighed restfully? Not a bit of it.” His only remark was: “Tell me some more.”

Coquetry is to the wine of life what the sparkle is to champagne, and there are women who can no more help being coquettish than that delicious draught can help bubbling.

A pretty lot of nonsense, too, brothers preach against rice powder, curl papers, lip rouge and sweet scent. It is a matter of comment that these dear protected sisters receive more than a liberal allowance of home, while the veriest Dolly Varden in the set has her fill of the play, the dance and the tennis court.

The coquette is helped over dangerous crossings, her packages are picked up and brushed when she drops them. The first place at a bank window and the first consideration in the shops are hers. The coquette gets the loveliest flowers, the most delicious candies, the newest books and the latest prints in the market. The coquettes receive the idolatry of men. Their hearts, their hands, their names, and finally their worldly goods.

She need not make a show-case of herself nor play the flower garden to the captivating. A girl can be absolutely irresistible in a fifteen-cent cambric. Innocence, youth, beauty, sentiment are associated with a girl in a white dress. Plenty of men shrink from brocade and passementerie as fabrics beyond their income, but the white cambric, the white mull, the white anything is a raiment that blots out arithmetical calculation.

The coquette may be as wise as Maria Mitchell, Susan B. Anthony or Abigail Dodge, but she will never let a man find it out. She knows too well how they hate things didactic. And so she smiles sweetly, talks gayly and lives to please. Here’s luck to the little coquette. Long may she wave and never waver.

Kansas City [MO] Times 29 June 1890: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Men are sick and tired of shrewdness, logic, argument and brains.”

>ahem<

Might Mrs Daffodil venture to suggest that the gentlemen are simply jealous?

Especially since they are the logical, shrewd sex who can be taken in by what appears to be a fifteen-cent cambric, but is, in reality, a costly garment from some couturière specialising in the coquette trade. Those cambric-besotted gentlemen will face some hard arithmetical calculations once the trap is sprung and they have bestowed their hearts, hands, names, and worldly goods on the Girl who Lives to Please.

 

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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