Ballooning the Coming Sport: 1909

Ballooning to Supersede Motoring as Pastime

Wealthy French Women Giving Parties and Wearing Elaborate Costumes.

In its story of how woman has come to the front and in Paris, at least, has made aviation a social pastime, Vogue says:

“As might be expected, woman has brought to ballooning, as to every other human endeavor shared by her, a softening and beautifying touch. At a recent fete given by the ‘Stella’ at the park of the Aero Club of France, flowers were made the keynote of the entertainment. Members of the club in six parties made ascensions in balloons of equal number, and all of these balloons were named for flowers and each was decorated with the living blossoms that corresponded. Thus Mme. Surcouf sailed away in Les Bluets, and her globular vessel was decked with corn flowers. Mme. Defosses-Dalloz, a vice president of the ‘Stella,’ and Mme. Omer-Decugis, also of the club, were borne aloft in Les Roses and the car of their air chariot was smothered under La France roses. Mme. Abulfeda and Mme. Dumas, other members, occupied Les Paquerettes, and accordingly employed Easter lilies for its floral embellishment. The Comte de Castillon de Saint-Victor acted as pilot of the balloon occupied by another ‘Stella’ enthusiast, Mme. Monnot, and on her car Les Pivoines she had lavished a wealth of peonies. And so it went, every car in the fete had its bank of flowers, and as the balloons rose over the beautiful park showers of blossoms descended to the feet of the spectators.

***

“And not only this, but the aeronautes of the ‘Stella’ have set the fashion in their ascensions en spherique of wearing dainty and becoming apparel. It had once been the case that a woman in preparing for a balloon trip discarded all her pretty garments and donned heavy boots, corduroy skirts or knickers, thick woolen or flannel sacques and velveteen or leather jackets. Not so with the ‘Stellas,’ as they have already been dubbed in the French capital. A trip in the clouds means less to them than a trip in a motor car, so far as change of raiment is concerned. A long veil, which may be used to tie on the hat and to keep confined rebellious locks which are disturbed by the upper currents of air, and a heavy coat that will keep one warm when passing through a cloudbank of mist or when in the higher and colder levels–and any afternoon toilette is transformed into your modern sky sailor’s equipment.

***

“There can be little doubt that with the wealthier French women ballooning is the fad of the hour. As a sport it has replaced motoring, which once, held such complete sway over Parisian society and which is now considered slow and passé. A glance at any smart Parisian journal will reveal the prevalence and the popularity of balloon riding, for the papers are filled with accounts of the dally ascensions made by this, that and the other group of  pleasure seekers, while the advertising pages display notices of where balloons may be bought or hired, tell of what parks offer facilities for ascensions, and even print the schedules of rates at which skilled pilots may be hired by the hour.

“Week-end balloon parties are just as common as are week-end  house parties in this country. The hostess need not ask her guests if they fly; it is taken for granted that they do, and that they will take a part in the fete as a matter of course. And as a matter of course, they do. With the large, double-envelope balloons, which are used for these social air trips, danger is reduced to a minimum, ballooning being far safer, for instance, than motoring or boating. Women frequently make these short flights alone, and two or three women will make up a balloon party which scorns the services of a masculine pilot.”

Buffalo [NY] Courier 1 September 1909: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, “Aviation Day” in the States. The United States press was all agog over the fair balloonists of France and, naturally, wished American ladies to come to the fore in this fashionable sport.

A great deal has been said and written about the formation of a woman’s aeronaut club in this country, but as yet no effort has been made to form such a club. Fame awaits the man or woman who shall make the first move in this direction. Necessarily, the founder of such an organization must be a person of wealth and leisure and an enthusiast on the subject of aviation.

And yet what the French women have accomplished in this respect can surely be done by American women and done with éclat. It is plainly evident that ballooning is the coming sport of the well-to-do.

Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 9 September 1909: p. 5

 

However, it was clear that the Parisian’s afternoon toilettes with the casual addition of a veil did not suit the practical English or American spirit. A fashion letter from the manager of the firm of Burberry gives some helpful suggestions for the would-be Queens of the Air:

LONDON FASHIONS.

By May Dawson

London, May 4. The exceptionally fine weather experience of late has induced balloonists to venture forth at an earlier date than usual, and the season for this new sport bids fair to be an exceptionally good one.

Only a few years ago a balloon trip was regarded as foolhardy. Now it is looked upon as an amusing hobby. Since Mrs. [Hugh] Iltid Nicholl first ventured up on “The City of York” balloon, many ladies having followed her example.

It is obvious, however, that the picture hat and long skirt of Mayfair are hardly suitable for aerial flight, and the West End tailors are turning their attention to the serious question of meeting the dress demands of the lady balloonist.

“The most practical dress for a lady balloonist,” said the manager of Messrs. Burberry, in an interview, “should be made of gabardine, slimber [Burberry’s proprietary weather-proof cloth] or, for the coldest weather, loden, which is a particularly thick yet light woven cloth worn by the Alpine guides.

“The fashionable color is a green with a slight ruddy brown tinge. The coat is worn short and lined with fleece or silk, with two breast pockets, two cross pockets, and two hand-rests for the purpose of keeping the hands warm.

“The skirt is an adjustable one, which means that it can be drawn up by invisible cords, which by forming a pleat half way down, enables the wearer to get out or in the car with great facility, while it can be let down while traveling to keep the feet warm.

“Over the coat comes a ‘slip-on’ waterproof lined with either fleece, silk, fur or wool. A tailor-made shirt of opal crepe should be worn beneath, with a broad belt of the same material as the coat or skirt.

“We are introducing a special ballooning cap made of a fine opal crepe in the very palest shade of green, which is not damaged by the rain. It is in the jelly-bag shape, the end being fastened down on the right side by a quill. An opal silk veil, which is woven in colored silks should also be worn with the costume, shading from the green of the ballooning cap, to the ruddy shade in the coat and skirt. Canadian mittens are made of the same material as the coat and skirt.

“To make the costume complete the lady balloonist should wear dark brown boots, or if she wishes, should have the leather dyed in exactly the same color as the coat and skirt.”

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 5 May 1907: p. 20

The earliest American lady balloonist  was Mary Myers, known professionally as “Carlotta, the Lady Aeronaut.” One may be reasonably confident that she did not dress like the young lady on the cigarette card at the head of this post.

 

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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