A Delicate Purchase for a Young Man: 1881

A SAD-EYED YOUNG MAN,

And the Delicate Purchase He Had to Make.

From the Toronto News.

“Did you ever go shopping for women?” inquired a sad-eyed young man. “No? Well, I did once, and I have had enough of it. You see, my landlady takes a motherly interest in me, and talks to me just as she would to her own son. You may think this very flattering to me, but I assure you it has its disadvantages. The other morning my landlady told me she lost one of her garters coming home from the concert the evening before, and asked me to get her a pair on my way down town. I thoughtlessly consented. As I came down the street I thought I would go into White’s. Having entered, I tried to get my bearings by the lithographs on the walls, picturing all sorts of feminine harness in active service. As the lithographs began to grow more interesting, I concluded that I was in about the latitude of garters, and halted at a counter presided over by a young woman with a mischievous eye. That’s where I got into trouble. I felt my face getting red, but I firmly asked for a pair of garters, expecting her to hand them out forthwith. ‘What kind, please?’ said she, in the most insinuating manner.

“‘Oh, something pretty good,’ I replied, painfully conscious that my ears were blazing red.

“But what style do you want?” she rejoined, evidently gloating over my misery. Then it flashed upon me that there might be a hundred styles, and how was I to know what kind my landlady wore? My first impulse was to escape, but the door was too far away, and besides, my errand seemed to have been telegraphed to every one of those girls, all of whom were eyeing me. One of them had suddenly discovered that the counter needed dusting, and there she was, right where she could hear everything I said. I asked what styles were generally called for, and the young lady began describing them with a minuteness that had only increased my embarrassment. There was the circular kind, she said, and the suspender garter attached to a waist belt and another kind that fastened to the side of a corset, and then took down a lithograph showing the manner of wearing that kind of harness. I was in a worse fix than ever, and I mentally swore I’d do no more errands for a woman. Here she was, explaining all this toggery and belaying tackle, and expecting me to know what kind of standing rigging my landlady was fitted out with. 1 looked at her in an appealing way, but she wouldn’t help me out and then an inspiration of genius came to me. “What kind would you be most likely to lose off in the street?” I asked in my most innocent tone. That girl with the duster must have thought of something funny just then, for she began laughing immoderately, and when I went out with a pair of circular elastics in my pocket I felt that every girl in the store was making fun of me, but I didn’t dare to look around. The next time I go shopping for a woman I will do it by telephone.”

The Des Moines [IA] Register 8 March 1881: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One wonders just how motherly the landlady’s interest really was?  The theme of the young man shopping for a lady, only to be plunged into a morass of embarrassing underthings, was a perennially humorous one. We have seen how a verdant youth bought what he thought was a night-dress for the Beloved; also how an inexperienced young man sent a widow’s cap to his best girl, who was not best for long. And do not get Mrs Daffodil started on the theme of beardless adolescents buying silk-stockings

The ease with which these essential articles were lost formed the basis for many an historic moment and tale, such as the founding of the Order of the Garter and the tragic story of “The Lost Garter.

 

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 anecdote

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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