Category Archives: Fads

The Social Pressures on the Belle of To-day: 1890

A Private View at the Royal Academy William Powell Frith 1881

A Private View at the Royal Academy, William Powell Frith, 1881


What It Means to meet Fashion’s Requirements.


Time Was When to Look Pretty Was All That Was Necessary,

But in 1890 a Good Deal more Has to Be Done.

Brains Are Necessary.

To be a fashionable young woman in. the year of grace one thousand eight hundred and ninety is a complex and intricate thing. Time was when to look pretty was about all that was expected of a maiden just emerging from her teens, but that alone in New York society to day is not sufficient. The “four hundred” have an inexorable if unwritten code that the young belle must be thoroughly cognizant of before she is eligible to the hall-mark of fashionable guarantee.

The tyrant of her world really penetrates her bedroom and presides over

her toilet, directing the process from the moment she opens her dewy eyes beneath the lace-trimmed canopies of her brass or satinwood bedstead, until she leaves the chamber, rosy from the perfumed bath, glowing after the vigorous massage, and radiant in the freshest of morning robes. And from then until the hour, any time after midnight, that she sinks again into slumber to dream of her triumphs, there has stood at her elbow a little monitor more potent than conscience itself, which has ceaselessly pointed out the way in which she must walk.

Fashion is sensible just now in a great many things–so sensible, indeed, that one almost forgives her the great many other things in which she is a foolish and an unreasonable arbiter. For instance, it is the fashion at present to be neat–wholly and exquisitely neat–with a neatness that begins at the skin and extends to the last accessory of the costume. No frayed hems, no boots destitute of buttons, no torn gloves, no ragged edges, no mussy furbelows, are permitted. The dress must display the care of a maid, even if that useful personage does not exist in the home establishment. In all this neatness, however, the line of demarkation from primness is exact and well defined. Hair that is frequently washed and carefully brushed maybe loosely put up with charming grace, while no amount of plaiting and pinning back will give a tidy appearance to the locks that are grimy with dust or dull from lack of brisk brushing. In her care of herself personally the modern belle can give many points to her predecessor of fifty years ago.

It is also quite a la mode at the present time to be healthy. The pale, delicate creatures who were supposed to be ultra-refined and extremely elegant three or four decades ago, would find themselves met with an exasperating pity or a half-concealed contempt should they parade their fragile selves along the fashionable line to-day. Bright eyes, a fresh complexion, and cheeks that have the hue of health, whether it be a ruddy tinge or a clear pallor, are good form for this age, however little they may have been admired by Sir Charles Grandison, or affected by Lady Pamela.

But the girl of fashion must be more than neat and healthy. There is a stylish way, or the reverse, for her to accomplish every movement, however simple. The way she sits or stands, how she walks, enters and leaves a carriage, carries a parasol or muff, gathers a wrap about the shoulders, adjusts the lorgnette or opera glass—all these require to be done fashionably, which, it must be confessed, is not always properly. Everybody can recall, if he must, the atrocities of the “Grecian bend,” and New Yorkers saw enough to be disgusted with the “Alexandra limp,” the stylish walk of a much more recent date. To-day the swell girls are treading upper Fifth Avenue, “as far as the flagging goes,” with an erect, supple carriage and springing gait, that betokens a knowledge of and practice in pedestrian exercise, for all of which we have the athletic fad to be grateful to.

Accent and intonation are two prominent factors in the curriculum of the four hundred. There are really two voices in use in fashionable society to-day, either of which is considered quite proper. One swell girl speaks rapidly and without much inflection, and while her voice is not loud there is a penetrating timbre to it which makes it very distinct and easily heard. It is a pleasant voice when it is not too manifestly an artificial one. Some girls overdo the matter and acquire a nasal tone that is objectionable. The other equally swell girl has, or thinks she has, the English drawl. She pitches her tones in a considerably lower key than her fashionable sister, and it would seem that in crossing the water this production imbibed the wave motion of the sea, for it undulates gently but regularly as its Anglo-American possessor lets it glide sinuously from her pretty lips. It is a detestable affectation unworthy an American girl. Let him admire it who will.

But, having the pose, the gait, and the voice of Murray Hill, the art of acquisition must still be carried on. American girls have lovely hands, small, soft, and beautifully shaped; but the fashionable girl takes great care not to care too well for hers. “It is vulgar,” she says, “to have them too much manicured. Care for your nails punctiliously, of course, but avoid,” she continues oracularly, “the dazzling polish and brilliant pink of the manicure’s assistant.” And then we know it must be avoided. The aim of the really fashionable New York belle is to keep free from the “madding crowd.”

“Oh, we don’t do that; it’s so common,” she says, and she no longer counts her ball-bouquets by the dozens, because it savors too much of stage trophies, and she takes out, with something of a sigh, her little bunch of flowers from her street costume, because everybody wanted to wear it, and because straightway it got beyond her refined and dainty class; it became a huge corsage that could be seen a block away. A great many fashions are put down as practised by the metropolitan daughter of the four hundred which she would almost faint with horror to be accused of. Her fad, particularly on the street, is simplicity. She has run the gamut of display and ostentation. She has found, too, that the effect if not the substance of these can be imitated, and she takes refuge in the other extreme. It is the girl who thinks she is stylish who puts forty bangles on one wrist, sticks an amber or gilt dagger, ten inches long, through her hair, draws a white veil with black dots just over her pretty nose, and, hugging a tightly strapped silk umbrella, with an aggressive handle, to her breast, starts out to shop. The really swell girl, by the way, does not “shop.” She drives out with mamma to order things—always before 2 o’clock.

In her speech the fashionable young lady has her vocabulary as she has her code. Latterly she has permitted herself the use of a good many English expressions. She says “fancy” always for “suppose,” and she never says “guess”; she says “chemist” for “druggist,” ”’stop attome,” for “stay at home,” and she “tubs” oftener than she “takes a morning bath.” “Function” with her means any sort of social gathering, and a very gay ball becomes a “rout.” “Smart” expresses a considerable degree of excellence, which she applies equally to a wedding or a bonnet; “an awfully fetching frock or gown ” is very English for an especially pretty dress. She likes the word “clever,” too; when she sees a fine painting she says: “That’s a clever bit of canvas.” She thinks Marshall Wilder is an “awfully clever fellow,” and if you ask her does she bowl she replies modestly: “Yes, but I’m not at all clever with the balls.” Some phrases she leans rather heavily upon, notably “such a blow,” when a rain postpones a visit or a friend dies, and “such a pleasure” alike to hear Patti and spend a tiresome evening at the house of some acquaintance.

She has, too, an index expurgatorius which she is very careful to respect. There are no more “stores” for her, they have become “shops”; “servants” also have ceased to exist as such, they are “men servants” and “maids,” although she permits herself to designate as laundress, housemaid, or butler; “gentlemen” she avoids; “a man I know,” she says, referring to a male acquaintance; or “there were lots of delightful men out last night,” she confides to some sister belle who missed the opera; “all right” she never says, making “very well” do much better service, nor does she add “party” to dinner, speaking of such an entertainment. Her home no longer has a “parlor,” pure and simple, but a “blue room,” a “red room,” a “Japanese room,” or possibly an “east parlor.”

Getting beyond the manner to the matter of the fashionable girl’s discourse one finds it has practically no limitations on the surface—at least so said one of them not long ago to the writer.

“Why,” remarked this young woman, “we have to know everything, only we don’t have to know it all at once nor for very long at a time. If we did we could not stand up under the accumulation. We take our knowledge in periods. For instance, I have been out four years, and during that time I have learned to play the banjo, mandolin, and zither, as every one of these accomplishments had its brief run, all in addition to what I knew of harp, guitar, and piano at my debut. “To the French and Italian with masters before I finished, I have acquired a smattering of German, Volapuk, and Russian successively; I bowl, ride, and fence equally poorly, but I do every one a little—I had to, you know. What I do well is to swim and to play tennis. One season I belonged to a Shakespeare class, the next I had mornings with Shelley, and for two Lents I was a member of a Browning club. This winter we are contemplating Ibsen, and some of us have to stand on tip toe to do it. “One has to know music, too, from ‘ Die Walkure’ to ‘Pinafore,’ and to discuss art with the confidence of the Quartier Latin. I have been through several art sieges, the Morgan and Stewart collections, the Verestchagin display, and the Barye exhibit, and for every one I have faithfully crammed. Ceramics, tapestries, heraldry—these are merely a hint of the subjects one may be called upon at any moment to discuss intelligently, and I really will not go to a flower show now, for orchids are a sealed book to me. The different imported entertainments are another tax upon one’s knowledge. Just when you know a kirmess from a May dance you are asked to participate in a Venetian fashing, and when you have read up to go to see a Greek play somebody lectures on Buddhist ceremonials for a fashionable charity, and you have to show there. It is really very fatiguing sometimes to keep up with the procession.” All of which tends to fully confirm the original proposition that to be a fashionable young woman in the year of grace eighteen hundred and ninety is a complex and intricate thing.

Mrs. Philip H. Welch.

The Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 2 February 1890: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is most intriguing how the set of arduous requirements for fashionable young women have changed only slightly in their details. Even to-day, young women are assured that they can “have it all,” but only if they get up at 4 a.m. to ride an exercise bicycle, impress their superiors at work by staying late or being always available via “text,” are au courant with the latest news, books, music, television and film, and research every detail of their household purchases for sustainability, cleanliness, and ethical behaviour of the manufacturer. It is, as the young lady suggests above, “very fatiguing.” The one consolation for to-day’s lady polymath is the availability of “Google” when one needs to read up on Greek plays or Buddhist ceremonials.

To be Relentlessly Information: The Quarter Latin was the Parisian “Latin Quarter,” home of authors and artists.

Volapük was, like Esperanto, a constructed language, created in 1879-80 by a Roman Catholic priest, Johann Martin Schleyer,  who revealed that God told him in a dream to create an international language.

Wassili Verestchagin / Vasily Vereshchagin was a Russian war artist who was, in the 1880s and 1890s, all the rage at home and abroad, when his work was not being banned by the military authorities for its disturbing realism. Antoine-Louis Barye was well-known as a sculptor of bronze animals.

A Kermess/Kirmess/kermis is an outdoor festival in a German or Dutch-speaking company. Fasching is the pre-lenten carnival in Venice.


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.

The Deadly Chewing Gum: 1885

chewing gum seller 1894

The Deadly Chewing Gum.

Some people are continually advocating the cause of total abstinence and waging  war upon the hard cider when it stirreth itself aright in the Venetian glass But they do not seem know there is a vice equally as bad as that, which stings like a centipede and bites like a dose of Jamaica ginger, holding in its grip some of the fairest young ladies of our broad republic, and as I said before I deem it my duty to expose to the world some of the ravages made in our best families by that grim monster who enters into the very heart of our domestic fabric under the name of “Chewing Gum.”

I once knew a black-haired girl with great, liquid, laughing, pleading eyes that looked like a big white daisy with a black spot in the centre, and breath like a clover-fed Polled-Angus heifer. She could have more fun than anybody at a church social or roller skating-rink carnival, and her merry laugh filled the house with more mirth, soulful song and silver-plated melody than any amateur opera company that ever stopped at the entrance to the Grand Canyon. All the boys were “dead gone” on her, and she was mashed on several herself. But in an unguarded moment she commenced nibbling at and chewing her mother’s beeswax. This did not long satisfy her. The cruel thralldom had begun. Whenever she felt depressed, all broke up, or statu quo, as the case might be, there a nothing that would remove her ennui and fill the dark, fathomless aching void in her system, which was situated under the south end of her red corset, but the conscience-deadening, soul-destroying debaser of girlhood—beeswax. From this she gradually sunk lower and lower; became more debased and reckless, till she finally could not shake off the chains that bound her, and there was hardly an hour that she was not under the baleful influence of spruce gum or taffy on a broom-straw.

If she could not get spruce-gum to assuage her mad thirst she would chew on the rubber top of a lead pencil or strings out of an old elastic suspender.

She gradually pined away until she wouldn’t average over twelve ounces to the pound. She could no longer sit on one foot and be happy.

Life to her was filled with mahogany-colored gloom, lit up with only wax Christmas tree candles, and seemed but a rickety rusty waste of stub-toed grief. At last she took an overdose of gum overshoes and tar-roofing one day and her soul glided off for the land where hot-house plants never freeze.

If this little sketch will help any young girl in the community to shun chewing gum like she would the soft dude of the cultured East, and induce her to lead a better and nobler life in the future, it will have accomplished a mission for which the writer is truly thankful in advance.

Salt Lake [UT] Evening Democrat 23 May 1885: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A powerful and cautionary testimonial!  Not for nothing did mothers everywhere caution their children not to swallow gum. It was a mere step from chewing gum to chewing tobacco and from thence to the craving of strong drink.


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.

The Memory Hoop Fad: 1890

memory hoop fad tarnished penny discovered


How the Young Ladies of Washington Amuse Themselves.

The Craze for Fads—How “Memory Hoops” Are Made and Manipulated

Special Correspondence of the Evening Express.

Washington, March 8, 1890.

Every girl in Washington is hunting for a fad. She has no particular idea as to what sort of a fad she wants so long as it is a fad and its possession enables her to say to her three or four dozen intimate friends: “Oh I’ve just got the loveliest fad you ever heard of.” And then she goes on to tell how she got the idea “from something Jack said.” Now there are a lot of pretty girls in Washington and as they all want fads the demand greatly exceeds the supply and as a consequence the girl without any ingenuity of her own soon finds herself where the little boat was—a long way behind—in the fashionable stream.

Well the Washington girl with not much to do has invented and taken up with the vigor of idle enthusiasm a substitute for the old fashioned “memory buttons” and calls the new departure “memory hoops.” I do not wish to be understood as casting any unkind reflection upon the disposed bustle, for the new fad is not that kind of a hoop. The following description was given me by an enthusiastic votary of the “memory hoops:”

“You see you take a hoop. Any kind of a hoop. Some of the girls have old barrel hoops and some of them have the hoops made out of the loveliest kinds of wood. Why, I know one girl who has a hoop made of gentlemen’s walking sticks which she first begged from the possessors and then had steamed and bent into circular form, connecting them with silver bands. Oh yes; you asked where the memory parts comes in. Well it’s just this way: You take the hoop and hang it up anywhere in the parlor or in your own room. Some of the girls hang them so that when standing before their dressing tables the hoops are just over their heads. Well, of course there is nothing in just the hoops about memory. You see, after you get a hoop you ask all your girl friends for a piece of ribbon. Mind, it must be a piece that has been worn, else the charm will not work. Well, of course the girls will exchange ribbons with you and this is supposed to give you enough to start on by winding them around the hoop so as to cover it, each piece being worked with the name and date of the giver. Now, when you have your hoop covered, your work is just begun. The ribbons the girls give you of course don’t count for much, but they start the thing. Then you are to get from all the men you know one of the old-fashioned copper 2-cent pieces, polished on each side so that it just looks like a piece of plain copper and on one side must be engraved the initials of the giver with the date, and on the other side a line of poetry. These must all be paid for by the young lady receiving them at the rate of 10 cents each to defray their cost, but so that you may have given silver for copper and you know you couldn’t well give less than ten cents in silver. Then these copper pieces are to be tied all around the hoop with ribbon matching the dress worn by the young lady when receiving the piece of copper. I think this is where the best part of the memory comes in, for a girl never forgets her dresses. Now, when you have filled your hoop, you hang it up and whenever any one of the copper pieces grows black it means that the giver is in trouble or sickness and the girl must write to him at once. See the idea now? Oh, it’s just splendid, even if it doesn’t always work about the sickness and all that. When the hoops are filled with the little copper pieces dangling from different colored ribbon, it makes a very pretty ornament, indeed, for either the parlor or your own room.”

Then the memory hoop girl went off to get some coppers.

One can imagine the extent to which this fad is going by the fact that I was told at Brentano’s place here that all the men who came in there with girls asked for two cent copper pieces in their change, and at one of the swell candy stores change proprietor actually took the trouble to send to New York for the coppers, and having obtained a lot of them let the fact become known and materially increased his trade thereby.

Los Angeles [CA] Evening Express 15 March 1890: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Young ladies seem to be forever badgering their beaux—if not for ice-cream or visits to the soda-parlour—then for their walking sticks, their hats, those hats’ ribbon bands, or their ties to cut up for crazy-quilts. This is merely one more instance of this magpie behaviour.  The “memory button” fad was an ambitious scheme to collect buttons, preferably all unique in style, from the greatest number of friends. As a novel from 1918, remembering the 1860s, relates:

[J]ust as your scholarly attainments were gauged by the size of your geography and slate, so was your social prestige measured by the length and beauty of your “string.”

The Loyalty of Elizabeth Bess, E.C. Scott, 1918: p. 143

This solicitation of coppers and their associated ribbons suggests those trees found in the British Isles, tied with rags or with coins hammered into them for luck. It is a curiously superstitious artifact to find in hard-headed Washington D.C.

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.

Book Bindings to Match Costumes: 1907

Book Bindings to Match Costumes

If prayer-books are bound to match costumes, why not other books? Here is a hint for the publishers. Your next big book—your next “Coniston” [the best-selling novel in the United States for 1906] or “Helena Richie,” or what not—why not try an experiment, and bind the first edition in several different colors, so that the “society woman” can have her fill of harmony? The word came to us from Newport recently, in the morning paper—always absolutely reliable—that on a Sunday certain “fashionable” women, names given in full, appeared at church, each carrying a prayer-book to match her costume. One was of lavender leather, corresponding with hat, dress and parasol; others were pink, or white, or black covered with heavy crape—to go with a mourning costume. Now, it is natural to assume that each woman possessed more than the one prayer-book that appeared on that particular Sunday. Otherwise, Miss So-and-So would have to wear that pink frock every time she went to church, if she had only the pink prayer-book. She must have needed to buy books of several different colors to match as many costumes—red, white and blue, not only; but black, yellow, green; purple perhaps—who knows?

Plainly, that must be profitable both to publisher and book-seller—to sell the same young woman ten or a dozen prayer-books instead of one.

Don’t you see, book-publisher? On the same principle, when you bring out that great novel, “The Fly-away and the Come-down,” she will require at least a half-dozen copies of it in different colors to harmonize with various gowns in hammock and yacht, on piazza and lawn, in drawing-room and beside the holiday fireplace.

Unless, of course, these “fashionable” society-leaders should have a secret agreement to pass around their prayer books and novels. If the young Woman can borrow a pink prayer-book to match her pink frock this Sunday, a white one for next Sunday, a green one for the Sunday after, and so on, she might not care to buy prayer-books in a bunch—or novels. either. Unthinkable. however; the generosity and large-mindedness of these leaders is against it—the same broadmindedness that appeared in arraying the prayer-book in pink and lavender. We all revere and love the humble prayer book, whatever our denominational affiliations: how much more when arrayed in gorgeous robes at the demand of great minds! ‘

With people of this progressive kind to deal with the book—publishers should feel warranted in undertaking almost any sort of a color venture. It’s yours; take the hint for whatever it is worth.

Carlos T. Chester

Book News: An Illustrated Magazine of Literature and Books, 1907: p. 100

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has seen coloured bindings taken a step further, in illustrations of books arranged according to colour rather than content, something of which she strongly disapproves on the grounds that it gives trouble to colour-blind guests in search of something to read.

The prayer-book fad referred to above is referenced in this squib:

A Clever Woman

A lady of fine artistic taste has discovered that at church parade her prayer book, by its incongruous color, entirely ruined the effect of a carefully conceived costume. It struck a discord in an otherwise perfectly harmonious dress. This has been remedied by having a cover to her prayer book which shall be perfectly in accord with the leading tone of her garments. The prayer book cover will henceforth receive as attentive consideration as the bonnet, the gloves, and the sunshade, and no jarring note of color will be introduced by means of a volume bound in blue velvet or in scarlet morocco. London Graphic.

Goshen [IN] Democrat August 24, 1892: p. 6

There is, Mrs Daffodil is assured, a secret Cabal that meets to decide what colours will be the fashionable hues of the season; these colours then pervade dress, household goods, linens, and furnishings. While Mrs Daffodil notes that covers for the electronic book-readers are available in various colours and patterns, there seems to be no concerted effort to co-ordinate the covers with the wardrobe. With all of the wizardry available on “mobile phones” or “tablets,” Mrs Daffodil is surprised that there is not a “chameleon app” to customize the devices’ outward appearance automatically.

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.


Food Faddists and Their Hats: 1897

lobster and foi gras hat

Headgear Fads in Paris.

Lobster and Cauliflower Hats and Pheasant Bonnets.

Within the inner circle of the fashionables there is a little set known as the faddists, says a Paris correspondent. It numbers not more than two score of men and women, but it has originated more queer things of the kind that interest the smart world than all the rest of European society together.

It first earned the title by its devotion to the pleasures of the table, and the fundamental requisite for membership is that the newcomer must be an epicure of the first water. Long ago the faddists discovered that the summum bonum of life is a harmonious dinner, and they act in stern accord with their principles. Each course must harmonize with its neighbors, and if any member gave a dinner to the others which was marred by the smallest discord, that member’s day as a faddist would be over. What is more, the foods must come from the localities where their flavors are the richest and the wines must be natives of certain soils famous for the product.

Perfection in these matters was reached long ago, but the struggle for more harmony continued, and last week one young matron eclipsed all of her fellow-faddists in a manner which makes her, for the time being at least, the premier faddist of them all.

It occurred to her to give a dinner at which the feminine guests should flaunt the philosophy of their peculiar coterie in their hats. In other words, each woman to whom an invitation was extended was asked to wear a headdress representing her favorite dish.

There were ten women, and each wore a hat as different from her neighbor’s as day is from night. Moreover, each guest had confided to the hostess in advance the peculiarity of her headgear, the result being that aa the dinner progressed there appeared on the table counterparts of the bonnets and hats. It is needless to say that the feast was adjudged flawless, the realized dream of the gourmet.

Five of the most astonishing of the headdresses are pictured here. The Paris milliner who first conceived them contrived to make them becoming as well as eccentric. It has been conceded that the most striking headdress of the group was that patterned to represent a lobster. The headdress was the exact counterpart of a lobster, and seemed to be engaged fastening its claws in its victim’s hair. It was difficult to believe that it was not dangerous.

cauliflower fish and pheasant hats

The pheasant headdress represented another young woman s favorite dish. The color scheme of this was unusually striking, as the purple, green and gold of the pheasant’s plumage was represented in lavish profusion. The hat itself was of green, though little was visible except the gorgeously colored bird.

A fish headdress was less conspicuous as to color, but more striking in idea and form. The silvery scaled fish was not inartistic, and, indeed, harmonised charmingly with the silver-gray costume of the wearer. But a fish’s head is not a particularly graceful climax of a headdress and in this case the head was so little idealized as to be almost too suggestive of submarine depths.

Almost the only vegetable represents ed ln this strange group of headdress was the cauliflower. Imitation of a cauliflower doesn’t allow much scope for the imagination, but in this case the milliner succeeded in making a very pretty and chic little hat. Its delicate green and white made it, perhaps, the daintiest of the entire group. It was made of soft silk, finely crinkled.

By no means the least extraordinary was the pate de foie gras cap. The young woman who wore it had so persistently expressed her overweening preference for this delicacy that there was nothing to do but fashion her a headdress that should be the counterpart of a good-sized jar of the pate. This was promptly done, and the addition of a little visor in front made it not unbecoming, while the projecting heads of three geese helped to identify it.

The woman whose chief pleasure in life lies in the consumption of the oyster, wore a very cleverly constructed counterpart of the luscious bivalve, but it was not as dainty as the cauliflower hat or as striking as the lobster headdress.

Another guest, who has a superior fondness for terrapin, evidently had a troublesome time of it in adapting it to ornamental purposes, but the milliner conquered the difficulty by creating a saucer-like hat, edged with blades of green silk in representation of foliage, and in the center reposed a miniature turtle, very neatly made out of dull colored silks. The other three guests, being fond of birds, experienced no difficulty in fashioning their headdress to the tune of their palates.

Not the least interesting matter in connection with the dinner is the fact that the ten hats cost in the aggregate 3000 francs. In each instance the milliner worked from live models and exercised minute care in using materials of a color true to life.

Now it is said that at the next dinner of the faddists the ladies will be requested to appear in gowns corresponding with the hats, and if this proves true, a fortune awaits the modiste who can contrive a becoming evening costume which at the same time will show off the wearer to advantage, yet be fashioned on the lines of a lobster, a cauliflower or a pheasant.

The Times-Picayune [New Orleans LA] 19 September 1897: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is reminded irresistably of the whimsical hats created, a half a century later, by the designer Bes-Ben

She has a ready suggestion for the accompanying frock:

Although possibly this lobster fancy-dress costume would be more a la mode.

lobster and seabird fancy dress

Lobster and Seabird fancy-dress, Le Moniteur de la Mode, 1883 Bibliothèque du MAD

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.

How to Decorate Your Piano: 1900

red flowered chinese export shawl c 1900

Applied Embroidery.

Ever since it has been wisely recognized that the right position for a cottage piano is not to be pushed back against the wall, but to stand well out into the room, the question of how to turn its somewhat uncompromising expanse of back to decorative account has been one for careful consideration. Sometimes the solution is productive of extremely pleasing results, sometimes very much the reverse. Flimsy “dust trap” draperies and unaccountable devices in Japanese fans are, happily, for the most part obsolete expedients nowadays, and it has come to be pretty generally acknowledged that the back of a piano is a feature in the decoration of a room to be treated seriously. When it serves the purpose of a screen, breaking up the formal arrangement of the chairs and sofas and creating a pleasant little alcove or fireside corner, no method is more satisfactory than to cover it, screenwise, with an effective panel of embroidery. The needlework should harmonize in character with the pretty, flowered and beribboned chintzes which now lend their charm to many a drawing room or boudoir.

When a piano is constantly left open, it is a capital plan to protect the keys by covering them with a narrow strip of silk. This gives an opportunity for charming needlework decoration after the manner indicated in the group of sketches. Suppose the keyboard cover to be of white or pale tinted satin, the branches of almond blossom should be in fine ribbon work and the scroll, with its motto, “Music, When Soft Voices Die, Vibrates In the Memory,” outlined in gold or silver thread. There should be a lining of thinly quilted silk, pink or green, which may be delicately perfumed with violets, lemon verbena or any other favorite sachet powder.

The Jersey City [NJ] News 8 September 1900: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One can perhaps justify the draping of the grand piano in an elaborately embroidered shawl, if only to prevent the inevitable sprawling chanteuses from scratching the varnish. However, Mrs Daffodil draws the line at the notion of upholstering the back of the piano, no matter how seriously one wishes to treat the instrument. Such embroideries are impossible to dust and even more impossible to wash, not to mention their muffling effect on the instrument itself. “Music, when soft voices die–full stop.” about sums it up. She also points out that the obvious: if the instrument is actually being used, there is no need to protect the keys with superfluous fancy-work.

Something new in needlework is a piano key covering, designed to lay over the keys when closed and on the rack when open. It is an excuse for embroidery, as it is made of light cloth, upon which is worked some pattern emblematic of music. It cannot be said to fill a long-felt want, but is as useful and as much needed as the embroidered bell pull or the decorated shirtbox which long suffering masculines are now asked to accept on gift days.

The Jersey City [NJ] News 3 February 1893: p. 3


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.

Not Like Grandma’s Pantalettes: 1914

pantalettes dress


In the June Woman’s Home Companion Grace Margaret Gould, fashion editor of that periodical, writes an article entitled “Skirts Flare Out–Behold the Pantalette?” in which she comments on the pantalette of today and yesterday and other new French fashion frivolities. Following is an extract:

“Yes. Grandmamma did weave pantalettes and now Granddaughter has her modern critical eye upon them.

“Premet of Paris, who has so quickly forged ahead into fashionable favor, says, ‘Pantalettes are not only to be worn but shown.’

“But let me tell you that the new French pantalettes in this uppest-to-date are as far removed from the pantalettes of the remote and romantic days of long ago as champagne from cambric tea.

“Grandmamma certainly in her giddiest days would never have recognized these filmy, etherealized creations.

“Hers were of the prudent and substantial sort, fulfilling to the letter the now lost mission of clothes to be a covering, and they were only to be exposed on the most scheduled of clothes-lines.

“To describe the pantalettes that Premet shows–those which belong to the glaring Now–is to tell quite a different story.

“The Paris dress openings in their display of spring and summer gowns showed many novelties, but Premet’s costumes brought forth the most gasps and ‘Ohs!’ Such filmy, frilly perky pantalettes, and peeping out with no suggestion of timidity from actual hoop skirts!

“Then there were other pantalettes, direct descendants of the modern tango garter, created just for the dance. In fact, the return of the pantalette to Paris is not so much the revival of an old quaint fashion as it is a dress outcome of the dance craze. From the tango garter it is only a light and airy step to the tango pantalette and the next step after–and this is a stride–is the mannish trouser to be worn with the tailored suit.

“And right here let me say that the new tailored skirt, slit at the sides, and worn with trousers of the same fabric, is a strong swing toward decency.

Lead [SD] Daily Call 14 May 1914: p. 6

pantalettes 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The “decency” of the pantalette when dancing is a constant theme in the fashion papers. This description refers to the figure above:

These little pantalettes are so quaintly pretty in their daintiness that they do not in any way shock our sensibilities. They are greatly to be recommended to be worn when dancing, for the wearer can move with greater ease than if hampered with a clinging skirt that falls to the ankles. In Fig. 1 I am showing here an entirely different silhouette from the frilled model with which pantalettes are usually associated. The gown is In rose taffeta. The fullness of the silk on the skirt is quaintly drawn In with a garland of pink roses. From beneath the taffeta falls a superposed flounce of exquisite lace, a gray net foundation woven with silver threads, under the lace and falling a few inches below, Is an underskirt of rose colored chiffon then come the little pantalettes; these are made of the finest of cream lace, encircled around the ankles with a wreath of tiny pink rosebuds.

The Ogden [UT] Standard 21 April 1914: p. 8

A new term arose to describe the fashionable and frilly garments:

lace pantalettes

The Day Book [Chicago IL] 8 July 1915: p. 18

The “Garter-Petticoats”

I have been amused to see that in some of the London newspapers they are giving the polite name of “garter-petticoats” to the new lace pantalettes which have recently been introduced into the world of fashion in Paris. “Garter-petticoat” sounds quite simple and correct, much less eccentric than the garment it describes. This is a very quaint fashion but it is one which has already become popular in smart circles. The new lace pantalettes are a modified edition of the voluminous trousers made of flimsy material worn by Turkish women. Some months ago this curious fashion first appeared, but then it was almost exclusively applied to evening costumes. Now, however, the long pantalettes made of fine lace and chiffon are worn in conjunction with visiting dresses and even in some extreme cases, with tailored suits.

These strange garments are banded in at the ankles and it is considered chic to have them distinctly visible under the hem of a tight skirt. Since I have already done a good deal of fault finding in this article I must now content myself by saying that personally I do not consider these long lace pantalettes suitable for street wear. It has been said that they are intended to give the effect of a lace petticoat and they are arranged as trousers merely to do away with unnecessary material under a tight skirt. As a comment on this explanation I ask to be allowed to use a single, rather rude, word:  “Bosh!”

In the full length sketch which I am sending to The Post this week I have indicated rather successful chiffon pantalettes which were made to match the costume with which they were worn. The model which I have sketched [seen at the head of the post] shows one of the new flounced skirts, the flounces being shaped and graduated in width. The color scheme exploited in this dress was very satisfactory.

The materials were supple taffeta and printed gauze The taffeta was in a rich shade of navy blue and the gauze In a subtle tone of petunia with dark blue roses scattered over its surface The silk corsage was particularly well arranged.  Cut on generous lines it fell in graceful folds over the bust and bloused over the waist band which was composed of navy blue mirror velvet This band was fastened in front with a beautiful enamel ornament which had been specially made for this costume.  This ornament repeated all the tones of blue and petunia shown in this dress.

The Washington [DC] Post 10 May 1914: p. 6

One would gather from the previous article that the London fashion world found the word “pantalettes” too jarring to the sensibilities of fashion reactionaries, not to mention the host of Bishops, who denounced bloomers, bicycles, and the tango from the pulpit, and that, in response, some anonymous Fleet-street copy-writer coined the appellation “garter-petticoat,” which, to be perfectly frank, is scarcely better. However, Mrs Daffodil must refute this monstrous calumny against British anti-pantalettegists: the term is first found in the United States press in 1901, in connection with narrower skirts, and then again, linked with hobble skirts, in 1910.

Under the very narrow gown, banded in at the ankles, the ordinary petticoat slips up and becomes bunched awkwardly about the limbs, interfering with the already restricted walk and making an ugly bulge in the scant skirt. The dressmakers have put their wits to work on the petticoat question for these new extremely narrow skirts, and have at last evolved the garter-petticoat—that is, double petticoat, for there are two long, narrow “petticoats” which—one might as well be truthful—are really shapeless trouser legs of silk or satin each attached to a ribbon-trimmed garter. The two garters are connected by a six-inch length of ribbon, so the feet may never be placed far enough apart to reveal the bifurcation of this new narrow “petticoat.”

Buffalo [NY] Evening News 4 November 1910: p. 16

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.