Category Archives: Fads

The Eye-Miniature Fad: 1905-1916

Eye miniature with tear, anonymous, c. 1790-1820 Usually the tear is a feature of later revival pieces http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1067812/eye-miniature-unknown/

Of all the odd fads that have reached New York via London, the latest captures the palm. What do you think miladi is presenting her true love with nowadays? A miniature of her beautiful eyes—eye, rather, for only one eye is pictured. The fad is just now raging in London, and a few smart New York women, just over from a season in the world’s metropolis, brought the fad with them. The Duchess of Manchester is one of them….

Now that the fad has hit Gotham inside of a year—the way fashions travel—it should be raging in San Francisco. Of course the photographers will take it up, and eye photos as well as miniatures will be possible. The frames, jeweled or merely of gold or silver, will be another item. If every man cannot write a sonnet to his mistress’ eyebrow, he can at least present her with a photo of his best orb….

Eyebrows are not necessarily a part of the eye miniature, but eyelids and lashes are. Half-closed lids are significant of indulgence and are a great “give-away” in an eye picture. Dark circles under the eyes are by the Parisian demi-mondaines considered a beauty and they cultivate them to make themselves of an effréné [frantic] appearance, but the bud of 20 or less would not like to see her eye miniature with one of these borders.

The white of the eye should be pure and pearly, which in the fashionable devotee of the cigarette it never is. “Pink eyes” and “red eyes” would be tabu to the eye miniaturist. The eye that gives way to grief is never lovely…. The San Francisco [CA] Call 9 April 1905: p. 6

Many distinguished ladies had their eyes “done.”

In the eye miniatures of today the eye is painted life size and the color of the iris, the shade and curl of the eye-lashes, the form of the lid and the shape of the brown, are all indicated. Queen Alexandra, the Princess Henry of Pless, her sister; the Duchess of Westminster and the Countess of Warwick are among the women who have given orders for eye pictures, it is said. The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 14 March 1905: p. 7

Miniature artists found themselves back in fashion:

[The miniature artist] Mr Williams has “an eye for an eye,” so to speak, in a special and most interesting way. That is in his successful introduction, or revival, of the poetic art of painting miniatures of eyes-eyes alone, as if shining out of the sky or the imagination-to be set and worn as jewels on cuff-links, brooches, scarf-pins, in watch-cases, and the like.

Tie-pin with lady’s weeping eye, c. 1900-10, painted during the eye-miniature revival https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/2/collection/43600/tiepin-with-a-miniature-of-a-ladys-eye

It is in line with the pretty conceit of Count Robert de Montesquieu, who gave a series of ‘‘conferences” in New York one season, and in his discourse on “Jewels” led up triumphantly to the demonstration that the most varied, wondrous, and beautiful of all gems or jewels are-eyes.

A famous eye-picture, perhaps the earliest, was that of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the morganatic wife of King George IV, who sat for it to the great Cosway himself, and had the tiny miniature set in a gold bracelet, which the king wore upon his wrist.

The eyes of Mrs. George Gould and those of her daughter Marjorie, painted from life by Alyn Williams, are worn by Mr. Gould on cuff-links. The same artist has done a marvelously expressive miniature of the prom-lidded, yet keen and kindly eye of the late King Edward. This was what probably gave a new start to the fashionable fad.

A truly royal pair of cuff-links. The one at the left has a painted eye of Queen Mary (top) and of King George; the other one shows an eye of Queen Alexandra (top) and of King Edward VII

At a recent miniature-show in London, many paintings of eyes were shown, including some dating back more than a century, to the time of Cosway. One of the most interesting curios in the collection was an exquisite bracelet containing seven diamond-set miniatures depicting the eyes of the seven children, of a Scotch laird. There was also the melting dark eye of the lovely Lady Blessington.

We have no specific record of the prices commanded by the early English miniaturists. Those of their present day successors are decidedly “fancy,” and Alyn Williams undoubtedly heads the list. His uniform price for painting a pair of eyes is two hundred dollars.

Cosmopolitan, Volume 53, 1912: pp. 667-8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As the commentary on an eye miniature from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection says:

Eye miniatures came into fashion at the end of the 18th century. They seem to have originated in France, and were a curious but brief anomaly in painting in miniature. They represented an extremely intense manifestation of an already emotionally charged art, apparently an attempt to capture ‘the window of the soul’, the supposed reflection of a person’s most intimate thoughts and feelings. Often, as here, the result was a compelling piece of jewellery. But sometimes the result was merely anatomical and unpleasing, or uncanny and disturbing.

Mrs Daffodil concurs that the result is often disturbing. One fancies that the lover’s eye miniature might be a sort of witchery, the all-seeing eye watching the Beloved’s every movement… Not a pleasant thought.

The fad continued through the War and even into the 1930s.

An eye miniature by Emily Drayton Taylor after 18th-century miniaturist Edward Greene Malbone, c. 1930 http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/2904?sortBy=Relevance&ft=eye+miniature&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=11

Since the present war began [miniature artist] Ernest Lloyd has been sojourning in Southern California and has introduced the eye miniature among society folk there. It is the claim of the artists that they paint the eyes because they reveal more than any part of the face. “It is a wonderful thing to know how to read one’s character through the window of one’s soul,” declared Mr. Lloyd.

The eyes of Napoleon and Josephine, herewith reproduced, are the work of Miss Minnie Taylor, a well-known artist in San Francisco. Miss Taylor is such a rare soul herself that she is always seeking to find the soul of those with whom she comes into contact; hence this painting of the eyes has had a special appeal for her. She copied the eyes of the great conqueror and his wife from the originals in the famous Wallace collection in London, the largest collection of miniatures in the world.

When the pictures were first introduced, they were then, as they are now, set in gold and jeweled frames and given to friends as little intimate and secret presents, meant to convey a sweet and delicate sentiment. When the fad shall have reached San Francisco, Miss Taylor’s service doubtless will be in great demand for she probably is the only artist in the city who has made a study of eye miniatures.

California’s Magazine, 1916: p. 184

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.

 

Mrs Daffodil on Flowers

A miniature flower painting by Jan Frans van Dael, mounted as a brooch. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=jewellery&oid=156467

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Queen Adelaide’s Flower-Acrostic Dress

The Wild-Flower Wedding

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

Funeral Flowers for Young Helen

Napoleon and the Gardener

A very recent post: The Black Rose

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with well-filled picnic hampers and unclouded blue skies.

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 New, Frank Guest Book: 1915

Visitors’ Book The Manor House. Studland 1908 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1255992

A NEW, FRANK GUEST BOOK

One Which Will Prove Helpful to the Hostess and Bring Comfort to Guests

At one of the big country houses a new sort of guest book has been installed and it bids likely to prove a tremendous success. At this place there is a guest house, an annex for the accommodation of guests, and in each of the sleeping rooms therein is a guest book, bound to match the furnishings of the room. One is covered with block printed English chintz, another has a cover of rose brocade, bound on with gilt braid and still another is in black and white printed linen. But the bindings are not the interesting part of the guest books.

At a week-end party a little while ago each guest was requested to make a new use of the guest book. After registering the guest was to make truthful comment on the guest house, and, in fact, the whole house—friendly criticism as well as praise.

Monday morning, before the party broke up, the hostess gathered the books before her on a table, and read out the comments to the guests, and the result was decidedly entertaining.

Here are some of the entries:

“The hot water in the bathroom assigned to me,” wrote the guest, “does not run well. I like the way the windows are shaded so that the early sun doesn’t waken one.”

Another wrote; “Why didn’t you say that my room was pink so that I could have brought pink lingerie and negligee? DO tell me next time what color my room will be. Your maid has a lovely way of wrapping a hot water bottle in blue Canton flannel at the bottom of the bed each night. It is delightful.”

“The south window in my room rattled in the wind, and never did I see anything more comfortable than that little reading stand and light by my bedside,” read another.

And this: “I think the futurist paper in your dining room is awful. I and my lovely new dinner gown swore at it horribly, and I really think neutral-toned walls are far better in the dining room. But your guest house is a dream, and really I’m not cross about that fascinating dining room paper.”

There were other entries, each written frankly. And they were not only interesting to the guests, they were of real help to the hostess. For one thing, she had little wooden pegs made, and placed a box of them in each room so that they could be wedged into rattling windows, and so save sleepless hours. After this she does intend to tell her guests—the women of them—the color of their rooms. A plumber took five minutes to fix the hot water—and but for that entry she might never have known of its slowness and her guests might always have been inconvenienced.

It is a clever idea, this new guest book, far more interesting than the old book that was merely a record of names and dates.

Tulsa [OK] World 24 February 1915: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has known a great many hostesses who kept private “guest books” about the idiosyncracies of her guests: their favourite foods, their preferred amusements, positions on important political questions, sensitive conversational topics, mistresses or lovers du jour—a hundred-and-one helpful and compromising details that a hostess needs to create a delightful country-house stay or a lucrative black-mail.

This hostess is to be commended for inventing, well in advance of Tripadvisor, the candid hotel review. Mrs Daffodil feels, however, that while wooden pegs are a useful stop-gap measure, the truly considerate hostess would look into having the windows replaced.

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.

 

Women Gamblers of New York: 1884

An Avid, Masked Lady Gambler

Women Gamblers

How They Pursue The Exciting Game in New York City

A cable dispatch, says a New York correspondent, recently referred to the high play at the various clubs in London and Paris, and incidentally mentioned the fact that a Russian nobleman lost at one sitting £80,000. In an issue of a Western paper some weeks ago the propriety of the country was startled by a detailed description of a gambling-house engineered and patronized by females. Since then the existence of such institutions in various other cities has been made known. The most prominent and noteworthy of them all, however, has been overlooked.

It is located in a cozy, quiet-looking old mansion of the stately and monumental New York type, and within two blocks of the Brevoort House. To all outward appearances the place is only one of the many residences of aristocratic elegance which line the street. All the windows are heavily curtained, and a face is seldom seen there. Even at night it is rarely lighted in the front. So quietly and unobtrusively has the business of the establishment been carried on that, although it has been in existence for months, its real character has never been suspected. The proprietress of the house was originally the friend of the proprietor of one of the most famous gambling-houses in this city. She quarreled with and left him. Finding herself cast on her own resources and owner of a valuable collection of jewels, she determined to profit by her experience. She hired a furnished house—the same in which she now carries on her trade—and, after instructing two or three of her intimate acquaintances in the mystery of dealing and manipulating cards, began work with their assistance. The place was extensively advertised as a “ladies’ club-house,” and soon became quite popular, the more so as no men were admitted. Roulet and faro, as well as occasional games of rouge-et-noir, were at first dealt, but the gaming soon resolved itself into faro alone. Heavy playing has taken place in this house. One lady is known to have carried off over $5,000 as the result of a day’s lucky play. Another female won upon three days in succession $4,800. The bank was so low at one time that the proprietor contemplating closing, and would have done so but for the appearance of a creole gamestress fresh from New Orleans, who lost over $8,000 in money and jewels at a sitting, and so replenished the nearly empty coffers. For the past few months the “bank” is said to have enjoyed an almost unexampled run of luck, scarcely ever losing.

For obvious reasons the games are all confined to daylight. In order to obtain admission it is necessary to have either a card from the proprietress or an introduction from a frequenter. Regular habitués have latch-keys which admit them into the passage between the outer and inner doors, both of which are always kept closed. The inner door is guarded by a pretty young girl whose orders are to admit no stranger or unprovided with the proper credentials. The post-office box of the proprietress is daily filled with applications.

No gentleman, it is said, has been admitted except into the basement, where groceries, wines, etc., are delivered. The servants, of whom there are several, are all females, as are also all the dealers, casekeepers, and attaches. The house originally belonged to a well-known millionaire, a former agent for one of the great transatlantic steamship lines, from whom its present owner rented it. Since then she has purchased the building outright. It is furnished in the most luxurious style throughout, nothing that taste could suggest or money procure being absent.

The gambling is carried on in a back drawing-room on the second floor. In the first drawing-room an elegant lunch is always laid, with the most delicate and costly wines. The upper floors are devoted to the use of the attaches of the establishment, who all reside on the premises. The proprietress is a woman verging on middle age, of a commanding figure, and very handsome. She dresses in black, is famous among all her acquaintances for her love of pearls, which are the only jewels that she is known to wear, and of which she is reported to have the most magnificent collection in the country.

One complete set in particular belonged to the Empress Eugenie, and the gems which once queened it in the drawing-room of an Empress now preside over the fortunes of a game of faro. One of the dealers is also a famous character. She is comparatively a young woman, who some years ago enjoyed the favor of no less a person than “Jim” Fisk Jr., in whose Grand Opera-House she began life as a ballet-girl. In her circles she is known as “Diamond Jennie,” on account of her weakness for those precious minerals. The rest of the executive corps are a more or less equivocally famous and attractive, and are said to be as skillful and cool in all the traits and tricks of their trade as a veteran gambler.

The housekeeping is on the most extravagant scale, and is chiefly served by two prominent Fulton Market dealers and a wine merchant who supplies the principal clubs. All of these dealers affirm that the consumption of the finer quality of their wares far exceeds that of many of the clubs where male New York finds such luxurious comfort.

There are several other institutions for a like purpose scattered about this city and Brooklyn,, but they are on a far inferior scale, and their use is restricted positively to elected members. In these places only round games of cards are played; even at that limited rate, however, much money is lost and won. After the incalculable wrong wrought, the place of which we especially treat is indubitably the worst. Women are proverbially infatuated gamblers, and once embarked on the sea of chance, with their fates totally at the mercy of the fickle goddess Fortune, or worse, with the chance of the game dependent on the honesty or dishonesty of an unscrupulous dealer, the result may easily be imagined.

In conversation with the sporting man upon whom the proprietress of this novel temple of chance once depended for a living the following particulars were learned.

“I heard nearly a year ago,” said he, “that ‘Belle was running a game somewhere in the city, but where it was exactly I never could find out. I often met women who had been there, but they would never give the place away. It was too good a thing, you see, for them to risk its being shut up. When ‘Belle’ and I were on good terms she used to take great interest in faro and all sorts of games. She would come down to my Broadway place and watch the game for hours. She made me buy her a faro lay-out and teach her how to deal. Then little Barney, one of my dealers, who is dead—and a smart little chap he was—had to show her all the points. He taught her how to stack cards and how to finger the turn. I’ve seen them at it many a time, and laughed at what I thought was a silly freak.”

The general opinion is that “Belle” is backed in her venture by ladies of high social position and influence. Some even did not hesitate to accuse two well-known leaders of society by name.

“I tell you,” said one. “There’s more than one lady in society here that’s mixed up in such affairs. I know of two myself who are actually bankers of faro-banks run by their husbands, who of themselves never had money enough of their own to start a 50-cent limit on avenue A. One of these women to my knowledge deals faro to her friends in her own house. The other is the shrewdest poker-player in the city. She’d bluff even old Schenk himself. [Possibly Austrian murderer Hugo Schenk] Oh! There’s another thing,” he added, “and that is that there is a deuced sight more faro played in private houses than there is in public games. Whenever you find a lodging or boarding house full of young clerks you will find one faro layout at least, and some shrewd fellow to work it.

Chicago [IL] Tribune 5 April 1884: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil does not gamble;  she has a wholesome horror of leaving anything to chance. She also observes that someone must be paying for the lavish décor and the delicate foods and wines, which rather spoils any pleasure in watching the wheel spin or the dice fall. Then, too, Mrs Daffodil has seen ladies over-extend themselves at the gaming tables, with dire consequences:

In Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth and Twenty-third streets, there are often parties of ladies from which the opposite sex are sternly excluded, where the fair gamesters play until daylight for large stakes; and it not infrequently happens that when their purses are depleted they put up their bracelets, necklaces and watches as wagers. Some of the feminine gamesters lose heavily, and the desperate shifts—no allusion to wardrobes—to which they are put to conceal their losses and replace them, must be fearfully demoralizing. A young woman, the daughter of one of our most opulent citizens, was pointed out to me in the Park, as a notorious gambler, by one of her own sex, who informed me she had parted with nearly $100,000 since she went to Saratoga, in July, and made her doting papa believe she had expended the sum in dress and charity. The young woman in question is very pretty, not more than twenty and no one regarding her pale, spirituelle face, her soft blue eyes, and gentle and reserved manner, would imagine she had fallen a victim to one of the most dangerous of vices. N.Y. Correspondence Cincinnati Gazette. Dayton [OH] Daily Empire 13 October 1865: p. 1

Amateur Lady Gamblers.

The ladies of Arensburg, Germany, are passionate card-players. Since they are not allowed to play at local clubs, they make up games at their friends’ houses and gamble all day through. As soon as the cash funds run short, they take to various articles, mostly toilet belongings. Thus, one lost to another her corset, one lost a bonnet, a third some lace and perfumes, and they go even as far as losing their prayer books. The San Angelo [TX] Press 18 June 1902: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil suggests that the ladies of Ahrensburg may have invented that popular American entertainment known as “strip poker.”

For a previous post on a very unusual wager over a young actress’s clothing, see Her Jewels Weighed More Than Her Clothes.

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.

 

How to Celebrate May-Day: 1863, 1912, 1928

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

The May Queen, W.E. Tucker, 1843

Mrs Daffodil asserts that the proper English May-Day consists of floral displays, dancing rustics, various contests of strength, agility, and alcohol consumption, a good deal of fumbling about in the shrubbery, and, of course, the crowning of the May Queen. (Mrs Daffodil prefers to ignore the co-opting of the holiday by the International Labour Movement.)

Our American cousins , too, took up the flowery garlands of the celebration, adding little touches of their own to the festival. One fears they did not fully appreciate the pagan undertones of characters like “Jack-in-the-Green” or “Robin Hood.”  However, perhaps subliminally, they acknowledged the propriety of using the imagery of a Spring Fertility Festival for a bridal shower. “Perky” May-Pole, indeed….

The Indians call the month of May the “Time of the Flower-Moon.” Just as April is filled with rain showers, May is the month for bride-showers, following the order of the flower-moon preceding the honeymoon for the June bride.

A luncheon shower is a pleasing way of entertaining the bride-to-be. The table can be decorated effectively with a pink and green May pole for a centerpiece, its flower streamers in corresponding colors draped down to different places on the table. At the end of each, folded in pink paper blossoms, are little notes, preferably in verse, directing the bride-to-be to different part of the house (on the mantel, behind the phonograph, and so on), each a hiding place for a dainty gift for the bride—flowered lingerie, smart china, or any gift that carries out the flower motif.

Miniature May poles made of striped candy sticks and ribbons, with the guest’s name written on a flat card to which the stick is fastened, will serve as place cards, and you may have pretty little “May baskets” filled with candy at each cover.

If you are serving your guests at small tables, there may be different centerpieces for each table. “Jack-in-the-green,” a clown, dressed in pink and green, and hidden in a bouquet of flowers, is charmingly reminiscent of old England. The “Lady of the May,” a child’s doll, decorated with flowers, signifies a popular old custom you might work into your scheme of decorating, or, if you are using a long table, you may have the May pole in the exact center. “Jack-in-the-green” at one end and the “Lady of the May” at the other.

Games apropos to the occasion may feature the Robin Hood idea—Robin Hood, you know, always figured prominently in the celebration of the first of May. Tiny bows and arrows and a flower-decorated target will furnish amusement—with a gay May basket, some tiny present hidden beneath its flowers, for a prize. And nothing would be more fun or more appropriate than to crown the bride-to-be “Queen of the May” during your party.

For your bridge game use score cards decorated with spring blossoms, and go to a little extra trouble with your pencil. Wrap it in pink and green strips of paper, hand colored ribbons from it, and stick it in a paper-covered spool for a base, so that it will stand up straight and perky like a May pole when not in use. Seattle [WA] Daily Times 24 April 1928: p. 19

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It really is rather extraordinary how long even bowdlerised and ill-understood versions of the May-Day Festivities survived. Even in the United States, May-Pole dances and parties were a staple of young ladies’ academies and, as we have seen, bridal showers. Rather earlier, there was advice on May-Day Tableaux for the young. Mrs Daffodil gives a single sample so as to not weary her readers.

TABLEAU  I— MAY

Let the furniture be removed from the stage, and the background draped with white, looped with garlands of flowers and leaves; the floor covered with white, and flowers scattered over it. One single figure represents May. A beautiful blonde should be selected. Let her wear pure white; the dress long, full, and floating; her hair should fall free, either in curls or waving ripples, and a wreath of delicate flowers rest on her head; flowers should appear to fall all about her; in her hair and on her dress (small pins, or a few stitches of thread will fasten them); her hands are raised, her eyes uplifted, as if she were just about to rise and soar away. The writer has seen a lovely child so dressed and standing, and the tableau was as beautiful as can be imagined. Godey’s Lady’s Book May 1863

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1910

Crowning the May Queen, c. 1905

Mrs Daffodil is not quite sure when the escalation of May-Day Pageants began, but in this account from 1912, the May Queen is accompanied, not only by the traditional English Robin-Hood and Hobby Horse, but a parade-of-all-nations including (inexplicably) Roman maidens and Japanese girls. Each of the national groups had its own suggested dance figure, song or May-Pole braiding pattern. If one was ambitious and had a stock of willing young ladies, one could reconstruct the entire tedious pageant by consulting this detailed book.

A SUCCESSFUL MAY-DAY PAGEANT.

At six o’clock in the evening, just about sundown, the processional pageant of all the players, two and two, carrying their ornamental accessories proceed in their march to the May-pole, heralded by the forester’s bugle horn. There are groups of various national dancers in the characteristic costume of their countries including the little milkmaids with cap, apron, and pail; the Scotch Highlanders with plaid cap and feather; the English shepherdesses with their crooks, looking like a band of veritable Bopeeps; the graceful Roman maidens, with their musical pipes and garlands; some Japanese girls with their parasols, waddling and tiptoeing. Rollicking and wild with glee come Robin Hood and his merry men, for the Morris dances, not forgetting the hobbyhorse with spirited “false trots, smooth ambles and Canterbury paces.” The inimitable jester with his pranks, and the little black-faced chimney-sweeps. The pageant procession approaching the May-pole, the centre of the scene, is led by the May Queen and her retinue, half of the attendants on each side of the queen, partners on opposite sides. Each attendant holds a garland of the canopy in her hands. The Festival Book: May-Day Pastime and The May-Pole Dances, Revels and Musical Games for the Playground, School and College, Jennette Emeline Carpenter Lincoln, 1912

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the Maddest Merriest Day Of All the Glad New Year.

See another May-Day post about a May-Queen controversy. And this, about the ideal vs. the actual May Day. And this parody of the all-too-easily-parodied Tennyson’s “The May Queen,” adapted for inclement weather.

 

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.

 

An Imposter at the Concord Ball: 1875

Colonial Revival costumes in a portrayal of George and Martha Washington’s wedding, 1912

A Western Deceiver.

Nora Perry writes of the centennial celebration at Lexington and Concord in a letter to the Chicago Tribune. Of the Concord ball she writes: And oh! What a pretty sight, as everybody unanimously voted. Such brocades, smelling of cedar and camphor-wood, as would now and then appear, plaited and puckered in the very stitches of the old-time—not a fold altered nor a ruffle changed. But there were not many of them. Those fair ones who rejoiced in these veritable old heirlooms walked about with their pretty chins aloft, lifted up above common modern clay by the sublime consciousness of a fine Mayflower ancestry, which these credentials would place beyond dispute.

But a woman’s wit will sometimes get the better of the stoutest credentials; and so a saucy, mischievous little damsel managed to array herself in a brand new gown, which she so plaited and puckered and betrimmed with coffee-dipped lace and scented with camphor-gum, in the very pink and pattern of the Continental dames, that all the little Mayflowers lowered their chins on her approach and whispered audibly, in her delighted hearing, “That is the real thing! Wonder who she is?”

And the little deceiver, with “a smile that was child-like and bland,” went on her way rejoicing, happy as all human nature must be at such a signal triumph. Boston is much too well-bred to ask outright questions of identity, so my fair one kept her secret with these fine Mayflowers; but after the ball she is perfectly willing to reveal her cunning guilt, and to let a faithful correspondent say that it was one of Chicago’s nearest neighbors who thus proved herself more than a match for Boston.

Daily Graphic [New York, NY] 7 May 1875: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On this, the anniversary of the fateful day that the American Revolution began: the commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, it seems appropriate to record the sartorial conflict between the camphor-scented blue-bloods of the East and the parvenu of the West in her coffee-dipped lace.

1876 saw a revival of “Colonial” American costume, from antique lace ruffles at ladies’ elbows to daintily embroidered shoes to sack-back gowns of flowered brocades. Mrs Daffodil regrets to say that some enthusiasts actually remade historic 18th-century garments into fancy-dress costumes or pageant attire for “Lady Washington teas.”

Eighteenth-century costumes were proudly displayed as an emblem of pedigree by Americans who otherwise scorned England’s class system as un-democratic.  An aged American lady of impeccable lineage was distressed to part with her historic quilted petticoat. And this improbably aged relic was described at a celebration of The Geauga County Historical Society, 30 September, 1875:

In the exhibit, first, I bring to your attention, the singular and costly specimens of work presented by Mrs. Polly Norton, of Troy, Ohio, in 1873, a widow lady, seventy-seven years of age, and an early settler in that township. Her husband was a farmer, and died some years ago. First, the waist of a dress; second, a portion of the skirt to another dress; third, a window curtain—all made of linen, the waist being striped with blue, the other two pieces white, all worked in flowers, made of woolen floss. In this floss may be found, at this date, twenty-three different shades of color, and upon the waist are forty-seven different kinds of buds and flowers. Upon the skirt, which is supposed to be about one width, there are one hundred and sixty kinds, and it is estimated that upon the whole skirt there must have been no less than eight hundred buds and flowers worked. Upon the curtain there are one hundred and thirteen kinds, no two of which are considered to be alike. The flax was carded, spun and wove for the fabric of these relics, and the wool was carded and spun for the floss, and it was colored into all the various shades, and then worked into the almost countless flowers upon the fabric. Then the dresses were made, and the curtains stitched and worked, all this having been done by one and the same person, the great-great-grandmother of Mrs. Polly Norton, thus running back, on the line of descent, four generations, or more than six generations of the average life of men. These garments, so skillfully made, must have cost more than twelve months of work to perfect them, including the full set of curtains. The dresses look like the completion of a “sensation” toilet upon the charming person of this great-great-grandmother, as she moved in society more that two hundred years ago, in the colony of Massachusetts. Indeed, they take us back to the threshold of the days of the Pilgrims, and it would almost seem that this dress had brushed against the sword at the side of Miles Standish, or touched the gallant arm of a Governor Carver or Bradford. It was made in the old Bay State, far back beyond the days of cotton mills and whizzing spindles. Pioneer and General History of Geauga County [Ohio] 1880: pp. 42-3

Mrs Daffodil fears that this little story perpetuates the myth of pioneer ladies who made clothing entirely from “scratch,” although, both before and during the Revolution, there was an active trade smuggling the English textiles, laces, and luxury goods the Colonies desired.

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 Senators Discuss French Garters: 1894

Peacock garters with enamelled buckles http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/16306/lot/164/

OUT OF SIGHT

It Is Permissible to Present a Lady with Garters During Lent

Senators Want to Stop This

Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. George Gould and Others Have Received Garters as Presents.

Perhaps the difficulty arising out of the unclothed condition of Augustus St. Gauden’s emblematic young man [on a World’s Fair medal] has caused the action of a committee of the United States senate with reference to garters—women’s garters—to pass entirely untouched. It is not generally known that the Lenten season, in accordance with the dictates of French fashion, is recognized among people of fashion and wealth as the appropriate time for making a present of a pair of garters to a lady. This assertion, which is strictly accurate, can only excite surprise because most persons are too poor to afford to present a high priced pair of garters to anyone, and hence the class which feels interest in the style in garters is necessarily a small one. Thus very few are aware that Mrs. Paran Stevens, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. William Waldorf Astor and Mrs. Potter Palmer have not only received presents of jeweled garters, but are admitted authorities on the subject.

But it was only recently that the garter question came up for consideration among members of the senate. It seems that the committee on post officers and post roads, of which Senator Cameron is chairman, had its attention called to an announcement which has been appearing in the journals of the country and is but a specimen of many similar cards which the Lenten season renders timely.

The announcement called upon the lovelorn youths of the land to present their inamoratas with a pair of garters embellished with several different mottoes of which the purchaser could have his choice.

It was desired that steps be taken to make such announcements unlawful, as opposed to public morals. The garter men had their representatives before the committee, which includes Senators Hill, Vilas, Irby, Mills, Hunton, Mitchell, of Oregon, McMillan, Wolcott, Dixon and Washburn. The garter men declared that their industry gave employment to hundreds of work-people and that the most noted society women and men in the country purchased garters ranging in price from one dollar to five hundred dollars.

“But these mottoes,” said the chairman, “are they not suggestive?”

The garter men’s representative declared the high society women of the country wore garters on which mottoes appeared and that they were in many cases on the garters which men of fashion presented to women of fashion.

“Heavens,” exclaimed Senator Irby, “I’d like to see any man present my women folk with the things.” And in the midst of a loud laugh the matter went over.

French sable garter “Le Fuit La Liberte” http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/garter-122129

However, there is no danger that the traffic will be interfered with. The New York jewelers are the ones who thrive most upon the present Lenten traffic in these objects, and they are the recognized authorities on etiquette connected with the subject. Anyone who enters the great marts of the precious stone trade may see stacks of high priced and bejeweled garters, all mottoes and gems exposed for sale at prices which denote that only the wealthy can invest in them.

As noted, Mrs. Paran Stevens and the princess of Wales are mainly responsible for the garter fad among their respective countrywomen. It is not deemed proper for a married woman to receive a present of a pair of garters from anyone but her husband or a near relative. Similarly, an engaged girl may with propriety receive such a present only from her fiancé. Thus Frederick Gebhard gave a pair of pearl and golden garters to the young lady to whom he was engaged. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor bought for his wife the celebrated rajah’s garters seen at the world’s fair for which, it is said, he paid five hundred dollars. Cornelius Vanderbilt presented to his wife only a week ago a pair of diamond garters. It may be noted that it is not good taste to have a motto on garters which are jeweled. But in the absence of a gem of any kind the motto is imperative.

Why the Lenten season should be the chosen time for making presents of garters has never been satisfactorily explained. It is true that among the French, through whom the craze has assumed its present proportions, no man ever presents a pair of garters to a woman except in Lent. At any other time such a gift would be deemed an insult. Nor is it permissible for a man to present his gift in person. The garter should invariably be sent by mail or express with a note in the package in which the objects must be described as “clasps.” It would be in bad taste, for instance, for a woman to receive a pair of garters from her fiancé in propria persona. The gift should be acknowledged by letter—never verbally.

It is unfortunate that this whole subject of presenting garters should be considered ludicrously. It is vulgar to treat any such subject humorously even in print. For instance, such women as Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Seward Webb, Mrs. Coleman Drayton, Mrs. George Gould, and others, as noted, have received such gifts with no more concealment than would be striven for in the case of the presentation of a ring or brooch. In any large city, and more particularly in New York, men of position and influence step up to the jewelry counter and ask to see the garters with the utmost composure. Mr. Barton Willing, the brother of Mrs. John Jacob Astor, gave an impetus to the trade when he returned from France shortly before his sister’s wedding, and in Philadelphia there was a veritable garter rage that winter.

High priced garters are bought by men only. The present Lenten season has witnessed an extraordinary revival of the garter fad, for the reason , it is supposed, that the gifts made at Christmas were necessarily curtailed in quantity owing to the hard times.

Many of the creations which attract so much attention in the window are from France, a country which has long reigned supreme in this fad. Hence the prevalence of French mottoes on them.

As to the probability that the senate committee will feel called upon, in accordance with the appeal of a Comstockian society, to put a stop to the alleged free and easy style of garter advertising literature, that is not likely. There are too many influential interests. But if they did it would crush an industry which is already beginning to attain proportions. For instance, there is an American garter clasp in the market which is admittedly superior to anything of the kind yet produced and which is manufactured in silver and gold for shipment to France in quantities.

Young men who make Lenten presents of a garterian nature should be careful to see that the clasp is what is technically termed padded. Otherwise there is likely to be a compression of one of the most sensitive portions of a girl’s leg. The jewelers usually have circulars which give diagrams on the subject of garters. Very few young men are aware, for instance, that a certain patent claps which is excellently adapted to the conformation of a slender girl’s limb would be most inappropriate for the contour of a stout young woman’s adipose tissue. It is necessary to get the advice of some experienced person beforehand, if one is not versed in this matter.

When a girl gets such a present she should be careful not to wear the articles just above the knee. That is, a jeweled garter should be adjusted at least two inches above the knee joint, as there is otherwise danger of a compression of the ganglionic nerve. The ungraceful gait of many otherwise well-poised girls is due to carelessness in this respect. It was Berry Wall’s boast before his marriage that he could tell whether a girl was wearing her garters properly or not by the way she walked.

Morning Star [Rockford IL] 16 February 1894: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: If the senators did not like motto garters, they certainly would have disapproved of the “snake garter” There is very little in this world that shocks Mrs Daffodil, but a group of senators debating about such intimacies as garters decorated with French mottoes strikes Mrs Daffodil as somehow indecorous. One pictures those gentlemen rushing off to their jewellers to acquire a pair of those salacious articles to send to some young person of their acquaintance.  Honi soit qui mal y pense, indeed….

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.