Category Archives: Fads

Hints on Tiaras: 1907

It was not long ago that a woman went to a metropolis from her country home to spend a night in a hotel. She brought her jewel box with her and a clever hotel thief away with her tiara. To this day she has never got the jewels back and there are persons heartless enough to say that a woman who could not spend a night in town without her tiara deserved to lose it. They do not understand the importance that this form of jewellery has assumed. In explaining why she had come to town for twenty-four hours with such a valuable ornament, the victim of the thief called on English precedent and quoted a duchess, who said she would as soon go about now without her tiara as without her toothbrushes.

The ring of tiaras in the so-called golden horseshoe of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York bears witness to the importance that this form of headdress bears to wealth and social distinction. The outward and visible sign of a certain material condition is the tiara. In England the duchesses have had them for years, and the wealthy intruders, whether they come from Australia or South Africa, immediately concern themselves the style of their tiaras.  In the large cities the show girl or the actress who has acquired fame wants first of all a tiara.

The crown of diamonds and pearls that rests on the brow of Miss Gilman will  undoubtedly make its appearance in rivalry with other tiaras once an impending social event takes place. This tiara was by the most famous jeweller of the Avenue de l’Opera, and is classical in the purity of its outlines. It follows exactly the form of a princess’ crown and the younger women of the royal family in Germany, Russia, and England top their charms with such an adornment once they have reached an age in which the tiara is permissible.

These crowns are not for the young women of the sort of society that understands their purpose. It is the dowager who has the first call. Young girls not yet married are allowed to enjoy the tiara only in a discreet form shown. A thin band of gold and jewels–preferably not diamonds–with the mitigation of an aigrette–is the most ambitious form that any young woman with an idea as to the fitness of things would aspire to.

 

The English crown worn by Ellis Jeffreys is the fashion most popular now in London when the wearer is not going to an impressive social function. These tiaras are made with not more than three points which are sometimes in the form of stars. Mrs. Titus of New York, has a diamond tiara composed wholly of five stars. The center star, which sits over the forehead, is the largest, and the four others decline gradually in size until the two at each end are not more than two inches in diameter. The central star, however, measures three inches from point to point. These are the tiaras which are appropriate, according to the modes imported from London for dinners, for a box in the theatre, and, above all, for rather young matrons on all occasions.

 

Dowagers who have passed beyond a certain age would never be content with such a slight jewelled decoration in the hair, for when they wear a crown it is imperative that it have a certain weight and value. A well-known matron wears on state occasions a wonderful tiara of diamonds and pear-shaped pearls. The diamonds are arranged in two circles of large stones with a grilling of smaller gems forming a connecting network between them. Twelve large pear-shaped pearls rise from the top band of diamonds.

Queen Marguerita of Italy in pearls and tiara.jpg

The same treatment of the pearls is seen in the tiara of Mme. Boninsegna, which is heavier in appearance and characterises of the exotic taste of the Southern craftsmen. This tiara, which was made in Rome after one worn occasionally by the Dowager Queen Margherita, shows the Italian love of sumptuousness and impressiveness at the cost of grace and lightness. Such a headdress would, of course, be impossible except on a most formal occasion. The woman who appeared at dinner with such a structure on the top of her head would embarrass the waiters as well as the guests. The pictures of the court beauties of Italy, show many of them attired with just such massive and magnificent tiaras. It is said that Elena the present Queen, has made the most emphatic protest possible against this ornate fashion by always assuming on festal occasions a very narrow coronet, which is in form very much like that worn by Miss Jeffreys.

It seems to be an unwritten rule that tiaras should be of diamonds, although there is no stone so trying to women not in the first blush of youth. A massive crown of flashing brilliants on any woman’s head will absorb all the brightness from her own eyes, making them look dull and old in contrast. It is for that reason that Sarah Bernhardt long ago gave up diamonds for other stones.

 

Women who wear tiaras in this country do it of course with no idea of their political significance, while in Europe it is necessary in private life to avoid  the pointed crown, which indicates rank, whether it be the five points of the countess or the nine points of a princess. Such precautions are not necessary in this country, and women take any share which they can afford, or which is becoming to them. It was this freedom in selection that led a foreigner to express his astonishment at a large ball given recently in New York.

“How does it happen,” he asked, surprised at the number of nine-pointed coronets, “that there are only princesses here in the United States?”

The semi-precious stones that have recently come to be used so generally are popular for headdresses now, and a tiara of them may be bought for less than $500, whereas a diamond tiara may cost from $100,000 to three times as much. These stones afford very attractive combinations of color. Thus the coral tiara made of the pink stones which is worn by a society woman with prematurely gray hair is more appropriate than anything else she could possibly put on.

turquoise tiara

Turquoise and diamond tiara, which may also be worn as a necklace, c. 1890 http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-late-victorian-turquoise-and-diamond-tiara-5575584-details.aspx

In the same way, tiaras of turquoise and topaz are very becoming to women who are very blond or very brunette. These semi-precious stones are usually set in very light designs, with no effort to give the look of solidity usually sought in the diamond tiaras of the finest kind.

Another new style popular this season for the first time is the enamel tiara, made in imitation of flowers and leaves. They are for the most part low and compact, having the appearance of flowers entwined so as to make a wreath for the hair. They are usually much smaller than the size of the real flower or leaf, and are sometimes finished with diamonds and other stones. The ornamentation of the stones is slight, however, as the prevailing intent of the design is to imitate nature. These enamel tiaras sometimes reach $200 in price.

The Washington [DC] Post 20 January 1907: p. 71

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is “International Tiara Day,” a time to celebrate the charms of the tiara in all of its many incarnations.

Khedive of Egypt tiara Danish Royal collection Cartier 1904

Khedive of Egypt tiara by Cartier, 1904. From the Danish Royal collection. http://orderofsplendor.blogspot.com/2017/06/tiara-thursday-khedive-of-egypt-tiara.html

A New York millionaire’s wife is wearing a diamond tiara about which she tells an amusing anecdote. Last summer the wife was abroad, and her husband told her she could buy a tiara if the price was not exorbitant. The woman selected a beauty in Paris, and cabled a description: “Tiara with pearl tip. Price. 85,000 francs.” The husband replied: “No. Price too high.”

But the woman misread the objecting cable message.

She thought her husband’s stocks were on the advance, and that he signified his generosity by cabling “No price too high.” Instead of buying the tiara for 85,000 francs she selected a handsomer set of gems for 125,000 francs, or $25,000.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 23 May 1904

May all of Mrs Daffodil’s readers celebrate International Tiara Day in so felicitous a fashion!

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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The Pet Photographer: 1908

Bulldogs portraits The New Book of the Dog 1911

FROM BABIES TO PETS

A Western Young Woman Who Switched Specialties.

PICTURES OF CATS AND DOGS

Devoted Her Time and Talents to Babies in the West, but Found None to Photograph in New York—Then She Discovered that Pets Belonged in Flat Houses and Acted Accordingly.

From the New York Sun.

“Private photographer, specialty, dogs and cats,” is the reading on the professional card of a prosperous young business woman who makes her home in a well-kept apartment house on Riverside Drive. Having read and duly pondered the statement a reporter asked the young woman to talk about her specialty.

To begin with, I used to make a specialty of children–little babies. There are so many more children in the West than here in New York! You know, I’m from the West,” the young woman went on.  “When I first came to New York I almost starved to death the first six months. It took me just that long to catch on.

“You see, I brought the idea of making a specialty of children with me to a place where there are no children. That is, none that people care about having photographed.

“It worried me to death at first. I couldn’t make out what was wrong. Then I began to realize that instead of wealthy and well-to-do people having children, as in the West, they all had either cats or dogs.  I had a set of new cards printed and set out.

Photographs in Great Demand

“I didn’t have a bit of trouble. It was all plain sailing. Everybody wanted her cat or her dog photographed, just as in the West everybody had wanted her babies’ pictures taken.

“In less than three months after I made this discovery I had every minute of my time engaged weeks ahead, and moved from the boarding house where I had found it difficult to make both ends meet with ‘specialty, children’ to a charming apartment of my own, with money to put in the bank.

“Cats are much more easily photographed than dogs for the simple reason that they are not so restless, have fewer eccentricities, or less individuality. I have known cats intimately all my life and have only found two varieties, so far as dispositions are concerned, the amiable cat and the spiteful cat.

“As for the intellectual cat and the stupid cat, they exist only in the fond imagination of their owners, so far as have been able to see.  Every cat that I am called on to photograph, to listen to its owner, is a marvel of intelligence. When I come to make their acquaintance, it is the same old thing, either spit or purr.

“Photographing a cat of the purr variety is the simplest thing imaginable. A few gentle strokes and it will remain in any position you place it; hold a bright colored object or a bit of food over its head and it will become animated at once; put an electric mouse or bird on floor and it will crouch and make ready for a spring.  If my subject is of the spitfire variety I follow the rule of contraries.

The Indifference of Cats

“Of all the cats that I have known I don’t believe six of them care for persons, only for places. In spite of this all too evident indifference, the owners of cats are as a rule attached to them. One cat whose photograph I have made every month since I have been in the business is the most indifferent little piece of flesh and blood that I have ever seen, yet its mistress, a wealthy unmarried woman, is as devoted to it as she or any other woman could be to a child.

“Blood? No, indeed, this little cat hasn’t even the slightest claims to blood. She was a regular little guttersnipe when I was first called in to take her picture.

“The lady had picked her up in the street only two days before. The little thing had been hungry and as the lady stepped from her carriage she whined and looked up in her face. I believe she even rubbed against her skirt.

“This was taken as a great evidence of intelligence, as the lady was especially fond of cats. Being without a pet just at that time the kitten was brought into the house and fed. She found her way into the parlor and there she has been ever since.

“At the present time she sleeps in a white enameled crib beside the bed of her mistress and has four carriages and a maid especially engaged to wheel her in Central Park. As for cushions and cloaks they are almost without number, and all of the finest and daintiest material.

“The owner of this cat considers it the greatest compliment that she can pay a person is to give him a set of photographs of this little white and black pussy. She is an attractive looking little animal, because she is clean, healthy, and well fed, but as for intelligence–well she is just the common purring variety of cat, and that is all there is to her.

Gives Her Cat Jewels

“There is another woman who calls on me quite frequently to photograph her pet and who elects to give her cat jewels. She is married and requires her husband to duplicate every present of jewelry intended for herself for her cat.

“This particular cat is one of the near intelligent cats that I have met. She really appears to be proud of her bracelets and necklaces. She not only seems to take pains to lie in such a position as to show her ornaments to the best advantage, but will often annoy a visitor until particular attention has been taken of them.

“Yet I have seen that cat take as much pride in a bright ribbon bow, strutting before the mirror to admire herself and scratching my skirt until I expressed my approval, so I cannot believe what the cat’s mistress affirms, that the cat knows an imitation stone from a real one.  If a person told me that a dog could tell the difference between real and imitation, I might be tempted to believe it, but a cat–I haven’t imagination enough for that.

“To get a good photograph of an intelligent dog one has first to know a little of the dog. A dog often has as much individuality as a human being.

“I have known owners and dogs as thoroughly mismatched as some parents and children, and yet there would be a certain attachment between them. Neither would understand the other and the result would be a sort of general irritation on the part of the dog.

Cases of Cross Dogs.

“Whenever the owner of a dog reports that it is an irritable animal I get the owner out of sight when taking the dogs photograph. I have never seen a case in which a healthy dog was cross or generally irritable that the surroundings were not to blame.

“Some dogs because of their training prefer indoors, and I have taken many very good photographs of dogs in the house, but, as a rule, I prefer to take my dogs out of doors. The dog’s individuality shows to much greater advantage as a rule out of doors.

“Of course, for dog photography one must depend almost entirely on snapshots. Dogs are too restless, and, like children, their expressions come in flashes.

“Another point about dogs is that, as a rule, they prefer to be taken with children, even where they are not accustomed to children. Whenever I have a dog particularly hard to take I take him to where there are children, get the kiddies interested in having their own pictures taken and in a little while the dog is in the humor and I get him at his best.

“Of course I find a good many freaks among the owners of my dogs but nothing like the same proportion as among those who have pet cats One of the greatest extravagances that have come to my knowledge was that of a well-to-do physician.

“He is middle aged and unmarried, but to all appearances a sensible enough person; yet when his dog died he not only went into mourning but sent cards announcing his dog’s death to all his friends. He didn’t allow the blinds of his house to be opened for weeks and I understood that he had the body of his pet shipped to his home in the Southwest for burial.

Illustrated Calendar Gifts

“Yes, the dog was a blooded animal but by no means remarkable. This man’s favorite token of his esteem to his friends was a calendar of his own making illustrated with photographs of his dog. The dog was a hideous old beast so one can easily imagine the fate of the majority of his calendars.

“Of course it is common enough for women to have their dogs dressed to correspond with their own gowns. Really when women have as much money and as little to think about as the average New York woman, I can’t see much harm in it. They might devote their time and thought to better things, that is very true, but on the other hand they might do worse.

“After one comes to understand the apartment house atmosphere it is readily understood why so many persons prefer dogs to children. Kiddies are nice and I think there are few men and women who wouldn’t prefer them if they could have homes, real homes, but not in an apartment house.

“The New York apartment house is the paradise of the pet dog, and they give me a comfortable living. I should advise any photographer wishing to make a specialty of dogs or cats to start business in a city where apartment houses abound. In the average apartment house one can count on finding at least six dogs whose owners are glad to pay for their photographs if not every month at least several times a year.”

The Washington [DC] Post 8 March 1908: p. 2

Next we hear from another photographer, who has a mixed human-pet clientele:

The artist was a heavy-eyed man; his hair was unkempt, his scarf was disarranged, and his coat-sleeves were turned up. He looked weary.

“I have just been attempting to fix a baby’s attention,” he said, in an explanatory tone, “by throwing handsprings behind the camera. When I showed the negative to the mother she made the inevitable observation that the face lacked expression. Can you put expression on the surface of a lump of damp putty?”

“Is it easier to photograph dogs than babies?”

“Oh, a thousand times. You can fix a dog’s attention and hold it for a time without difficulty. Then, dogs faces are more or less expressive. None of them has the look of stupidity that the average baby wears except the pug. Pug dogs, by the way, are the easiest to take. All you have to do is to put them in front of the camera and they go to sleep at once. The most difficult dog I ever struggled with was an Italian greyhound. It was a delicate and extremely sensitive little creature, and endowed with almost human intelligence. It couldn’t keep its shadowy legs still half a second to save its life. We worked half a day, and succeeded at length in making a picture that was half satisfactory.”

“Do you photograph many dogs?”

“About 200 a year. Though work is done by a few specialists. The big photographers won’t bother with dogs.” New York Sun.

The Daily Globe [St. Paul MN] 3 January 1884: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One rather fears for the continuation of the species when “damp putty” is the best one can say of an infant whom popular sentiment requires to be uniformly adorable. Still, Mrs Daffodil admits—she served as a nursery maid in the early years of her career—it is a fair description of many youthful scions of even the noblest houses and expresses the unpleasant stickiness which so often accompanies childhood.

As for the ladies who dote on their pets, Mrs Daffodil suggests that, had they known the term, they would have undoubtedly been delighted to describe their animal companions as “fur-babies.”

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.

La Fête du Muguet: 1912

faberge lily of the valley

A spray of lily of the valley in pearl, nephrite and diamonds, c. 1900, by Faberge. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21517/lot/93/

[In Paris] the palm of popularity must be given to the lily of the valley—the muguet des bois.

What the forget-me-not is to the German Gretchen, the muguet des bois (the wild lily of the valley) is to the Paris grisette, and thus it has been for untold generations. The first of May is known as the Fête du Muguet, and on that day, not only is it traditional for children to make presents of bunches of wild lilies of the valley to their elder brothers and sisters—the flower seems to be dedicated to youth—but in the streets surrounding the opera-house, where all the big dressmakers are, you will see at luncheon-hour troops of the young girl apprentices wearing bunches of muguet in their simple bodices. The muguet brings luck, and it appeals more than any other flower to the humble little Parisienne’s sense of poetry, this delicate spike with its double row of little milk-white bells, its broad tapering leaf, and its peculiarly evocative scent. No doubt she feels that in a sense it reflects herself. Is not her life just such another ringing of the changes on a chime of little silver bells, whose flash and tinkle last for the brief space of a spring season? She has the same native wildness, and simple unconscious elegance. To start forth on a bright Sunday morning for one of the woods near Paris, and pick muguet, is her ideal of a holiday excursion.

“En cherchant du muguet,
Du muguet dans la clairière;
En cherchant du muguet,
Du muguet d-a-ans l-a-a f-ô-r-e-t!”

[In search of the lily of the valley,

the lily in the clearing,

in search of the lily of the valley,

the lily of the valley in the forest!]

she sings, and on her way back she pets her lilies of the valley as if they were human beings: “Oh, the beautiful muguet, how sweetly it smells!” Elaborate are her plans for disposing of it. One large bouquet will remain in her room for at least a week, reminding her every moment of the delightful day she has spent. A few sprays will be given to the concierge, or janitor, whose good graces are to be cultivated; while the remainder will go to grand maman, who will not fail to be tearfully reminded thereby of her own sylvan excursions in search of muguet in those far-off days when there were hardly any railways, and it was half a day’s journey to the woods at Meudon.

According to the herbalists, the petals of the lily of the valley contain a toxic substance, which, like digitalis, has a directly stimulating effect upon the heart. Perhaps this may account, by some subtle process of sentimental telepathy or suggestion, for the charm which the muguet so potently exercises over the heart of those essentially Parisian little beings, all made up of nerves, gaiety, and emotions, the midinette of the dress-making atelier, and the grisette of the Latin Quarter. The street-cry, “Fleurissez-vous, mesdames: voila le muguet!” (Beflower yourselves, ladies: behold the lily of the valley!), followed by, “Du muguet! Achetez du muguet! Du bon muguet parfume!” (Lilies of the valley! Buy the lilies of the valley! Fine scented lilies of the valley!), is one of the oldest in Paris. The muguet harvest is as much a godsend to the pariahs of the Paris pavement as is the hop-picking in Kent to the submerged tenth of the London East End. The May morning has hardly dawned before a procession of ragged, footsore tramps comes streaming into the city from the neighbouring woods, loaded with muguet. On May Day waggon-loads of muguet arrive by train. The flowers are picked when they are still in the earliest bud, for the little Parisian lady likes to see them open out under her own eyes, and so have the illusion that their lives are linked with hers. In some of the great forests round Paris it is forbidden to pick the muguet on pain of a fine; for the pheasants are laying at this season, and to steal the eggs on the pretence of looking for lilies of the valley is a common trick with the villagers.

 Sensations of Paris, Rowland Strong, 1912: pp. 233-236

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is May Day and instead of the cliches about May Queens and the famously bad weather of the holiday, Mrs Daffodil thought she would post instead about the French holiday of La Fête du Muguet, the feast of the lily of the valley. This is said to have had its origins with the Valois King Charles IX when he was presented with a bunch of lilies in 1561 as a porte-bonheur. Charmed, he began giving the ladies of the court lilies on 1 May.  Mrs Daffodil suggests that lilies of the valley brought  the King himself scant luck: his reign was marred by the French Wars of Religion and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

 

In the language of flowers, lilies of the valley mean love, luck, and the return of happiness. They are a favourite of Royal brides: Queen Victoria, Grace Kelly and Catherine Middleton all carried bouquets of lily of the valley.

Despite its name, the lily of the valley is actually a member of the Asparagaceae family. However, you would not dare to enjoy the flower, blanched, with hollandaise sauce. Lilies of the valley are extraordinarily toxic if ingested. This fact may explain the curious Devonshire superstition that it is unlucky to plant a bed of lilies of the valley; the person doing so is likely to die within the next twelve months.

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers a very happy and clement May Day.

 

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.

 

Hints for Earth Day Economies: 1859-1903

Although Monday was, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed,  “Earth Day,” a time to take stock of how we use the resources of the planet, there is never a bad day to reflect on consumption and its consequences. There has been a societal move against “fast fashion” and a resurgence of “Make Do and Mend.”  Mrs Daffodil will, therefore, “recycle” several posts on the subject of domestic economy in dress, on the clever makers-over of tired garments, and the second-hand clothing trade.

One would go far before one would discover a more ingenious clan than these Southern Ohio ladies and their cunning tricks of skillful fingers.

Although this lady, who traded in second-hand silks and this gentleman, who prospered in left-over laundry, are an inspiration to all of us.

Some clever gentlemen took a leaf from the ladies’ domestic economy books and learned to update and repair their wardrobes.

A fascinating tour of a 19th-century “recycling” firm and an examination of the “rag trade.”

The second-hand trade was a boon to actresses, and the buying, selling, and hiring of costly gowns worn by the Four Hundred, was a practice well-known to the upper echelons of Society.

The second-hand clothing trade extended even unto royalty, as we see in this peep at Queen Victoria’s stockings.

One of Mrs Daffodil’s heroines is this resourceful lady, who set herself up as a “Dress Doctor,” long before Hollywood costumer Edith Head co-opted that title.

Of course, selling one’s evening dresses involve some unwitting “recycling,” as this lady found to her dismay:

Not long ago (write “X and Z” in the Globe) a lady in dealing with the proprietress of a second-hand clothing business, sold to her several evening dresses, which were perfectly fresh and good, but which she could not wear again, as her friends knew them too well. They had probably been worn three times each. The second-hand wardrobe lady remarked, by the way, that all her purchases were for the colonies. Seems odd, does it not? But to return. A few days after the gowns were sold their original owner missed a very pretty old-fashioned diamond clasp, and, inquiring of her maid, discovered to her tribulation that it was in one of the evening dresses she had sold. “Sewn firm on the left shoulder, my lady,” quoth the maid. She proceeded diplomatically to work, sent the maid to the shop, and, in consequence of her operations there, became again the possessor of her discarded gown at exactly seven times the price she had sold it for. The diamond clasp was still in it, its safety being due to proximity to a mass of crystal trimming which formed an epaulette, the clasp having been added with a view to making the whole mass look “good.”

Otago Witness 9 February 1893: p. 42

 

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.

The True Cost of China-painting: 1887

hand painted cornflower plate

Limoges plate, hand-painted with cornflowers.

RATHER EXPENSIVE

A Fair Young Decorator’s Husband Deals in Facts and Figures.

“What do you think of it?”

A young housekeeper was exhibiting to an investigator a handsomely decorated plate which leaned against a neat easel on the mantel of her pretty drawing-room.

“Beautiful.”

“Guess where it came from?”‘

“France, perhaps.”

“No. I bought the plate down town and decorated it myself.”

“An excellent idea! You can now have as handsome a dinner set as there is in New York at a mere trifling cost.”

“That shows what you know about it,” interposed the husband of the fair artist, with just a trace of sadness in his tones.

“I don’t see why you say so, John,” retorted the latter.

“Let’s figure the cost. I probably have kept a closer watch upon that department of the business than you have done.”

“Well, begin.”

“In the first place, the plate itself cost you $3?”

“I know,” returned the artist, with an air of triumph; “but you can’t cut a decorated plate like that for less than $5.”

“That may be so,” continued the husband cruelly. “Next you bought about an ounce of liquid gold, which cost $3.75. You used about half that amount.”

“Not all on that plate, John. You know I spoiled about as much as I used.”

“I know you did, my dear, and you ruined about $3 worth of carpet with the stuff; but I didn’t intend to reckon that in this table. Then you bought a book of instruction which cost $2.50 more. And you took six lessons on the design you painted, at $1 a lesson. If you paint any more plates, you will have to take more lessons. Isn’t that so?”

“Yes, but I will only need one or two on each plate from this time on.”

“I haven’t mentioned the paints and brushes you bought They cost $10 more, but will probably answer for some time to come in your future work. I’ve not finished yet. It cost $1 to have the plate fired. Now, let’s see what the cost is:

Plate………. …$3.00

Gold……………$1.87

Carpet spoiled…$3.00

Lessons………..$6.00

Book…………..$2.50

Paints…………$10.00

Firing…………..$1.00

TOTAL             $27.37

“That is just shameful, John. You know my next work won’t cost me nearly so much.”

“We’ll see about that,” continued her husband. “Your plate will cost $3; gold (barring accidents) say $1, lessons $2. paint, say $1, and firing $1. That makes $8. Pretty high price to pay for a $5 plate, eh? This doesn’t include the expense of a headache, backache and loss of temper which a painting always produces in you. Neither does it take in the amount of vexation your illness always causes me. No, my friend,” added the husband, in conclusion, as he turned to the investigator, “I find it cheaper to buy my china. I am afraid a whole dinner set would leave me nothing to buy food to dine on.”

Monongahela [PA] Valley Republican 3 November 1887: p. 1

hand painted fairy plate

Meissen plate probably hand-painted by an amateur china-painter from a published design. https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/43805829_a-small-meissen-circular-plate-pale-yellow-border-the

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: China painting was touted as a genteel hobby, eminently suitable for ladies’ delicate hands and aesthetic sensibilities, although its proponents elided over the costs. Importers of fine china were also less than sanguine about the craze and had their methods for dealing with enthusiasts.

The China-Painting Craze.

“You say the price of this beautiful hand-painted dinner set is $175?”

“Yes, madam.”

“And the price of this plain set of the same ware if $171, only $4 difference/”

“Yes, madam.”

“Then, how can that be real hand-painting? Surely it must cost more than $4 to decorate a set like that. The figures are exquisite.”

Both dinner sets were of Limoges ware. They were displayed in a Broadway crockery house. The decorated set had delicate figures traced on each of the hundred or more pieces.

“I assure you, madam, that it is genuine hand-painting,” he replied. “The slight difference in price does not arise from the cheapness of the painting. It comes from the highness of the tariff.

“Well, I thought so,” said the lady. “I’ve done some painting on china, and I know such beautiful work as that could never be had for $4 a set.”

“Just as I thought, too,” said the dealer, when the lady had gone. “She is one of them.”

“One of what?”

“The women with the china-decorating craze. I told a little fib about the tariff, or rather, stretched the meaning. It is our tariff on customers, and not the customers tariff, that makes the small difference in price. We charge within a trifling amount of as much for plain Limoges and other high-grade chinas as we do for the richly-decorated sets, simply to keep the plain sets out of the reach of persons (principally women, by the way) who otherwise would buy them and make their own hand-painted decorations. Few persons can tell real art-work from dabs on china, any more than they can on canvas. If we gave the china-decorating cranks a chance we’d soon have the market flooded with real Limoges ware, hand-painted by home talent. By making the plain sets almost as expensive as the imported hand-painted sets, we shut out these amateurs. This course is pursued by the trade generally.”

The Jewell County Review [Mankato KS] 1 December 1887: p. 7

 

 

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.

Lenten Costumes: 1876-1890

lent is over2

Lent is Over and the Curate is a thing of the past.

Beginning in the 1870s, a penitential garb was adopted by some fashionable ladies:

Exclusive New York modistes are already displaying some very ecclesiastical looking toilets, designed for special wear during the Lenten season. Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 February 1889: p. 10

The fashion seems to have arisen out of mourning garb and costumes were designed and sold by mourning retailers like Jay’s:

BLACK LENTEN COSTUMES, at Two Guineas each. Messrs. JAY, having had numerous applications from their patronesses for some kind of black dress suitable to the season of Lent, have produced special LENTEN COSTUMES, which, with a sufficient quantity for a bodice unmade, they are selling at £2 2s. each, and which have already obtained the most extensive approval. Jay’s. The Times [London] 13 March 1876: p. 18

There were always critics of modish fashions for widows and of the adoption of those fashions by those not in mourning:

The most successful of the season’s belles in society are widows scarcely out of their weeds. Mourning costumes were never more carefully or coquettishly made. They are not so simple, generally, as a strict regard for propriety might dictate… Widows’ caps have become the jauntiest imaginable, if desired, and in short, mourning is no longer necessarily very somber. To show how much in favor black has grown, it is only necessary to tell that

LENTEN COSTUMES

Will be quite commonly worn this year. They are already being made, and those who don them intend to stick to the quasi-mourning during the whole forty days preceding Easter. This Lenten dress will be black alpaca, serge or cashmere, and cut close in the throat, around which will be a clerical linen collar in black or white linen. The make-up of the garment will be severely simple. A missal, bound in black and edged with silver, will be suspended by a silver chain from a black belt, fastened with a plain, square silver clasp. The bonnet of black will be of the close-sided or white muslin, simply trimmed, will be worn around the neck blow the collar, fastened down with a silver pin representing a Lenten lily; and for the six weeks the hair will be uncrimped, unwaved, unbanged, parted in the middle and laid back behind the ears. In acute cases the underclothes and nightclothes will be embroidered in black, and the stockings will be on the inky hue. Thus attired a good many women might take a further step into religious somberness by getting into a nunnery , and nobody would say them nay, for they will be unfit for the gaze of man. On the other hand, such attire will be rather becoming to rosy and youthful women, and may lead to that other religious rite called marriage. Upward rollings of the eyes and mild pensiveness of countenances will go along with these modifications of sackcloth and ashes. I don’t say that the girls who do these things are humbugs. I will go no further than to express the opinion that not one in ten knows the real meaning of Lent, or would go around the corner to find out…. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 12 February 1882: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Many are the fashion notations, satirical observations, jokes, and sarcastic imprecations muttered under the breath about the Merry Widow. Mrs Daffodil has previously noted anecdotes about the wearing of mourning merely because it was so becoming, so it is no great surprise to find this fashionable austerity adopted as a faux-religious observance during the season of Lent when so many social amusements were forbidden. One expects that the Easter toilettes were that much more brilliant, as a gourmand relishes his meals the more after a course of taking the waters.

THE LENTEN COSTUME What the Fashionable Woman is Coquetting With Now.

New York, Feb. 27. In this season of sackcloth and ashes when the pleasures and vanities are supposed to be laid aside for more sober diversions, woman, seeing that her hands are tied regarding the elegant and showy wardrobe of the ball-room, coquets with her Lenten costume. In this make-up she resembles more closely the fashion plate in a woman’s journal than anything else.

Apparently she regards this as a sort of penance for looking so much prettier before, and it requires so little sacrifice on her part to pose as such a doll, but more likely it is her inherent coquetry which makes her adopt this sedate costume to prove to her admirers that all is not vanity, but a very chic woman can array herself in anything and look well, knowing the great secret of suitability. The less devout, but as clever a devotee is aware that the sober tint without relief of bright color is not becoming to her and here her own judgment is exercised. St Louis [MO] Republic 1 March 1890: p. 16

The austerity of the “Lenten Costume” was good in principle, but became something of a joke.

[Joke 1] “Dolly’s wearing a new Lenten costume.”

“Why do you call it Lenten?”

“She seems to have sacrificed about half of it.” The Hutchinson [KS] News 28 March 1921: p. 3

[Joke 2]

Mrs. Tiptop: Do you know, my dear, that fashion now requires that ladies must wear Lenten costumes?

Mr. Tiptop: Lenten costumes! Are they expensive?

“I am sorry to say they are—fearfully so. It’s some new sort of cloth, but I will have to have one, dear, at once.”

“Humph! Seems to me I’ll be the one that will do the repenting.” The Topeka [KS] Daily Capital 13 May 1887: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil was amused by Lenten shopping restrictions as voiced by a “dear old churchwoman.”

“During the early days of Lent,” said a dear old churchwoman to your correspondent yesterday, “I never shop for anything but black and white goods.” Dear old precisian, she had spent the better part of the morning in deciding the merits of two pieces of silver and black brocade either of which was handsome enough to divert her thoughts from her sins during the morning lesson by the bare memory of it, but she fancied herself very virtuous indeed because she had stopped at the color line—as not a few fancy it for the good of their souls to go to Lenten service in a black gown; and a silver mounted prayer book, swung by silver chains, is simply a patent of humility. Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 12 March 1881: p. 10

This post was originally published by Mrs Daffodil in 2015.

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.

 

A Crazy Quilt Tragedy: 1911

Domestic Tragedy.

“Lobelia!” The voice of Mr. M’Swat was high-pitched and imperative, yet had a note of vague alarm in it.

“What is it, Billiger?”

“I can’t find my neckties.”

“Your neckties? They’re scattered all over the bureau.”

“I don’t mean the ties I wear every day. I mean the others.”

“What others?”

“The—the ones I’ve worn from time to time, you know, and put away, as good as new.”

“How should I know anything about them?”

“Do you mean to tell me, Lobelia, you don’t know anything about a a—box of neckties I have kept for years in this second drawer?”

“What a fuss you are making over a box of old rags! What do you want of it, anyway?”

“I want to put a few of these in it. You don’t know what you’re talking about, madam, when you call them a lot of old rags, either. I want to know where they are.”

“Well, you needn’t go to rummaging through any more of those drawers. You won’t find them there. I can tell you that.”

The wrath of Mr. M’Swat assumed a lurid, ghastly character.

“I think I have certain inalienable rights in this house, Lobelia Grubb M’Swat,” he said. “And among these is the right to keep my neckties in my own drawer, in my own dressing case, in my own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and the statutes in such case made and”—

“You needn’t tell the neighbours about it. Before I’d make all that racket about a lot of old, worn-out neckties–”

“Who told you they were old and worn out? Didn’t you hear me say distinctly they were”—

“Now, you know, Billiger M’Swat, you haven’t worn one of those old ties for years and years. What’s the use”—

‘Then you do know something about them! I thought sol Why did you try to deceive me? Why did you tell me”—

“That’s right! Accuse your wife of lying!”

“Didn’t you tell me you knew nothing about them?”

“No, sir! I said nothing of the kind!”

“Lobelia! Wife of my bosom! Look me in the eye. Where are those neckties?”

“Wh-what do you want of them?” asked Mrs., M’Swat, rather feebly.

“I simply want to know what has become of them.”

She put her handkerchief to her eye. ”

“I–I th-think it’s just mean”—

“What’s mean?”

“Here I’ve slaved away day after day, making something nice”—

“Lobelia, where are those neckties?”

“Billiger, I have made them up into the loveliest crazy quilt”—

“A crazy quilt!” he yelled. “Thunder and Ben Franklin! Woman do you know what you have done!”

“lt was nothing but a lot of old”–

Mr. M’Swat became tragic.

“Mrs. M’Swat,” he exclaimed, in a deep bass voice. “I have been making a collection of artistic neckties for ten years. Some of them cost me over a dollar. None of them less than 50 cents. You have ruined a unique, unequalled, original 75dol. collection of ties”—

“Oh, Billiger, why didn’t you tell me?”

“To make a 4dol. crazy quilt! Why didn’t you tell me?”

Husbands and wives, why will ye hide things from each other?— Chicago Tribune.

North Otago [NZ] Times 8 April 1911: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The craze for “crazy patchwork” was a long-standing one and one perhaps responsible for more marital unhappiness than any number of Vamps. Mrs Daffodil has written of the patch-work “mania” and the terrible lengths ladies would go to for “samples” to make their quilts and of their depredations on the households’ wardrobe. It was a dark time…

Truth in Jest

The girl with soft grey eyes and rippling brown hair that walked all over your poor fluttering heart at the charity ball, has just finished a crazy quilt containing 1,064 piece sof neckties and hat linings, put together with 21,390 stitches. And her poor old father fastens on his suspenders with a long nail, a piece of twine, a sharp stick, and one regularly ordained button.

Southland Times 26 January 1886: p. 4

This squib suggests that the craze even changed fashions in men’s neckties:

The crazy quilt rage goes on in as intense a fashion as that of roller skating, and Lent has not subdued but rather emphasized the rush for “pieces” of the most gaudy hues. Men growl that their neckties are not safe, the dry goods houses are getting niggardly about samples, and gradually masculinity is arraying itself against another woman’s right. Have you noticed the tendency toward sobriety in color in men’s neckties? It is a growing one and only the result of a plot between men and brothers against women and sisters. And I don’t wonder at it. Neither will you, when you lose a brilliant-hued scarf for days and have almost forgotten it, when it suddenly appears to you in the form of a center piece in a crazy quilt. I have gone necktieless, suffered and cursed, and am therefore a rabid adherent of the new movement in neckties, even if it, in the end, leads us to black and sober solid colors. There are more ways of crossing a river beside jumping it. Therefore a change of style in mankind’s wear that will cripple the crazy quilt mania will be in the nature of an elevation of the dynamiter with his own mechanical can.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 25 March 1885: p. 4

 

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.