Category Archives: Fads

Making the Christmas Tree Fairy: 1907-1914

christmas angel doll

THE CHRISTMAS TREE ANGEL

A Christmas tree is not complete without a Christmas angel or a Christmas fairy poised at its tip. Though such dolls can be bought, of course, it is perfectly simple, once you know how, to make them yourself at home. Besides that it is very interesting work.

To make the Christmas angel get a small doll’s head with golden hair. Then make the body as follows: procure a smooth stick about ten inches long, small enough at the top to go easily into the neck of the doll’s head. An old paint brush handle would do.

Insert the stick in the opening of the doll’s head and secure it firmly with glue and padding of cotton batting. About an inch from the point where the stick goes into the head begin to wind some flat white hat wire, a fourth of an inch wide. Measure four and one-half inches of it for an arm, bend the wire back and bring it again to the stick, wind it around to make it firm, then proceed to make the other arm in the same way.

Now carry the wire down to a point five inches from the foot of the stick, and after winding the wire very firmly with cord make a leg five inches long, bringing the wire back to the body in the same way as in making the arms. Secure it well, then cut it off.

Tear cotton batting into strips about an inch wide. Do not cut it. Begin at the hands, lay the end of the strip of cotton at what will be the wrist, one inch from the end of the bent wire, bring it over the end and fasten it with thread wound round the wrist. Then wind the strips around the wire arms. (The leg of wire and the stick that forms the leg the doll is posed upon is done in the same way.) Lay a full roll of cotton on the body and wind it with the strips. If a better finish is desired the legs and arms can then be covered with pink or flesh-colored chiffon, but an entire white effect is lovely.

Dress the angel in long flowing drapery, with a white girdle about the waist and golden tissue wings. The materials used for the draperies should be soft—old lawn, cheesecloth, or chiffon are best, because they give soft, clinging effects.

Gold tinsel or beads for the front of the costume, and a little gold tissue band on the hair complete the Christmas angel. From the hands of the angel ropes of golden tinsel or popcorn can be suspended, or it can just be mounted as if the arms were stretched out and it were ready to fly. Fasten it to the tree by the wires that are at the waist line.

The two Christmas fairies at the bottom of the page are made in exactly the same way as the angel, except that the wire leg of each is bent and almost at right angles to the main stick. The wings and dress are, of course, different also.

A drawer-like petticoat is put on very short and full first. Over this you can put on any kind of little white dress made from odd bits of lace and trimming or chiffon and ribbon. Tulle is very fairylike to use. Each fairy should have a crown of gold or silver tinsel and any spangles that you like on the dress. The wings are made of fine lace wire covered with gauze, and are sewed firmly on the back of the doll. A piece of the flat wire is fastened to the waist line, and by this wire the doll is hung to the tree. Much trouble will be saved if this wire is there when the time comes to put the doll in place. The feet are wound with gold cord, or baby ribbon. Start at the foot and carry the cord up to the knee of the leg, winding it with care to have the spaces equal, then back to the foot, where a little bow can be tied. The dolls can be dressed in crepe paper, but the wings should be transparent and delicate. After the doll is dressed and the wings firmly sewed on, bend the arms and legs to give the required action to the body. Fairies always, like angels, have golden hair, so when you buy a doll’s head for a Christmas tree fairy, buy a blond head.

Woman’s Home Companion, Volume 40, 1913

make a christmas fairy doll

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One might argue that the persons in Ireland or Iceland who still see the Good People would dispute the notion that fairies “always” have golden hair. And one notes that the illustrations, from the original magazine, poor as they are, show brunettes.  Mrs Daffodil feels that the angel at the head of this post is just a wee bit too modish, too middle-row-of-the-beauty-chorus, if you will. And she looks as though she is wearing a hobble skirt—although that would scarcely hamper an angel.

Instructions from 1907 on making a doll fairy add a charming suggestion for a “hovering effect.”

                                                     CHRISTMAS TREE FAIRY.

                                                Pretty Ornament for the Top of the Tree.

A pretty ornament for the crowning branch of the Christmas tree is a doll fairy representing the Spirit of Yule. Crepe paper printed in a holly design is used to make her long robes, the girdle is made of silver tinsel, and a wreath of miniature artificial holly with a star made of silver paper in the center crowns her flowing hair.

Long, graceful wings are made of wired gauze edged with silver tinsel, and a slender wand, which is wired to the right hand, is made of a length of picture wire covered with silver paper and surmounted by a silver star. If desired a silver heart, made of paper, may be wired in the left hand to signify “peace and good will.”

To keep the fairy securely in place, the apex of the tree should be stiffened with wire and the limbs of the doll fastened to it, with the same material, the robes being drawn over it so as to conceal the fastenings.

If, however, a hovering effect is desired, a wire hoop covered with silver tinsel may be affixed to the top of the tree and the fairy suspended from it by an invisible wire passed around her waist. Silver bells may also be attached to the hoop, from the top of which should radiate festoons of silver tinsel, these being looped to the lower branches.

Bisbee [AZ] Daily Review 22 December 1907: p. 13

For how to use a Christmas fairy as a holiday table decoration, see this post.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical 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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Tommy Atkins is a Fatalist: 1918

Good Luck Charms used by Soldiers in the Great War. The Wellcome Collection.

Good Luck Charms used by Soldiers in the Great War. The Wellcome Collection.

TOMMY ATKINS IS A FATALIST

Many British Soldiers Carry Charms and Keep Mascots; Black Cats Favored.

Behind British Lines in France. The feeling of fatalism is strong among soldiers. Many hold the opinion that “if the bullet is not made for you you won’t be hit.” One soldier boasts that he knows he will come through the war all right, because during his latest battle, a large piece of shrapnel on which he found his own initial fell at his feet.

“It was made for me, all right,” he said, “but it missed the mark, so nothing else can kill me.”

Mascots and luck-bringers of various sorts are numerous in all the armies today. They are of great variety, although perhaps tiny rabbits and black cats made of “lucky” metal are encountered more frequently than anything else. Probably in most cases the lucky charm which a soldier carries is something sent him by his womenfolk in the homeland—a thimble, a ring, or a child’s trinket of some kind that has been passed down in the family as a luck-bringer.

Fear Number Three.

Among soldier’s superstitions, of which the British soldier has his full share, one of the most characteristic is connected with the number three.

“The third time is never the same,” is a proverb among the Irish troops. “The third anything is fatal,” is a common expression among the English country battalions. Soldiers have been known to refuse to take their third leave, feeling certain that it will be their last. A soldier’s third wound is said to be the one which must be most carefully attended to. A development of this same superstition prohibits the lighting of three cigarettes with one match.

Odd numbers, according to the British Tommy, are more likely to be unlucky than even ones, and thirteen is no worse than nine. Friday as an unlucky day has been dethroned, and there is no particular bad luck connected with any day of the week in Tommy’s estimation. Sunday, however, is preeminently a lucky day for battles.

White Heather is Lucky.

The lucky flower, by common consent, is white heather, and a piece properly tucked away inside the hatband is supposed to save the wearer from a fatal wound.

Some regiments regard certain decorations and medals as unlucky, not to the wearer, but to the regiment in general. One very well-known battalion objects strongly every time one of its number is awarded the Military Cross.

As regimental pets, black cats are regarded as the luckiest possession a detachment can have, and the arrival of a stray animal of this color at a gun-pit or dugout is an event of great importance. Everyone is bound to be lucky for some hours at least. To meet a black cat while marching up to the trenches puts every member of the company in the happiest humor. On the other hand, a black magpie flying across the line of march is a bad omen. To hear the cuckoo calling before breakfast is another bad omen.

Idaho Statesman [Boise ID] 20 February 1918: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Imperial War Museums shared five “lucky objects” from the Great War.

On the subject of regimental pets:

SOLDIERS’ MASCOTS.

Some regiments possess curions mascots. The Royal Fusiliers for the last hundred years have kept a goat as the regimental pet, and the mascot of one of the Lancer regiments is also a goat, which they acquired some years ago in South Africa. This animal went through the Matabele war with the regiment, and though several times under fire escaped without a scratch. The 17th Lancers—the “Death or Glory” boys used to possess a large black bear with white markings, but she became bad-tempered, and so was presented not long ago to the Dublin Zoo. Star 11 September 1919: p. 6

To-morrow is Armistice Day, the 99th anniversary of the end of the Great War, reminding us that many “Tommies,” despite their charms and mascots, were not lucky enough to return.

 

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 Fall of a Fall: 1865

CURIOUS EXPOSURE

The feminine appendages known as waterfalls are daily increasing in size and weight by the use of a variety of articles known as padding by many of the fair sex, who wish to obtain a “fall” of elegant proportions. The New York Sun tells of an occurrence which happened to a young woman in that city on Monday, which could induce females to be exceedingly careful in selecting suitable articles for the “filling” on their hairy appendages, which should also be properly attached to their head gear. Miss Essex, a well-dressed young woman, residing in Greenpoint, was standing at the corner of Thompson and Canal street, waiting for a car, when a man—a painter to all appearance—bearing a short ladder on his shoulder, rapidly turned the corner, and not judging the distance right, came near striking the lady on the head with an end of the ladder he was carrying. As luck would have it, or perhaps ill-luck, the ladder missed the woman’s head, but struck her “waterfall,” detached it from the back hair, and caused a general discharge of the contents which combined the following articles: Two curled hair puffs; one piece of mourning crape; two dark-colored pincushions, and one black worsted stocking. These article had previously been carefully covered up by the slender locks of the maiden. Amid many expression of regret the man commenced to pick up the padding, for the purpose of returning them to the wearer, who retreated in great confusion, without waiting for her dry goods. A little boy was sent after her with the late “fall,” but he lady refused to recognize them. The reporter gave the boy a dime for one of the pincushions, and intends to keep it as a specimen.

Western Reserve Chronicle [Warren OH] 20 September 1865: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is frankly shocked that the lady did not have the wit to keep her hair-combings in some convenient receptacle on her dressing-table so she could have a “rat” made to relieve her from the necessity of packing her water-fall with pin-cushions and stockings. If one is superstitious, one might say that her contretemps with the ladder was due entirely to the use of the mourning crape, which must be disposed of after the period of mourning lest something unfortunate befall.

For more on the perils of chignons and falls, see this post on “Dis-tress-ing News About Chignons.”   If one is in the mood for hair-piece humour, see this post about Chignon Satire.

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.

 

Bird-cages and Court Toadies: Some Triumphs of Fancy Dress: 1896

Depicting “The Scotch Mail” and “Covent Garden.”

Some Triumphs of Fancy Dress,

J. Malcom Fraser

With the exception of those held during the carnival at Nice, the balls which annually take place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, are the most brilliant pageants of their kind in the world. The fact that Europe’s greatest masters in the art of designing vie with each other in their endeavour to obtain the highest pitch of originality and perfection, is a guarantee of the inventive genius that is brought to bear upon those lighthearted gatherings. In short, it is there that the typical ingenuity of Bohemianism is shown to its greatest advantage.

It is interesting to note that a large quantity of the best costumes that are worn either at the Veglione or the Redoute at Nice are supplied by English makers, and worn by the British and American visitors. As an instance in case I will take that of Miss Loie Fuller, who electrified the popular French watering-place on the Mediterranean in her guise of “Mother Goose.” So struck were the Nicois with the quaintness of the headdress—which, by the way, consisted of a beautifully modelled goose, nestling upon a bunch of crimson velvet—that they immediately conceived the idea of reproducing the coveted design as a gigantic centre-piece for their procession. Now, this costume—as, indeed, are all those which are here described—was designed and carried out by Mr. Clarkson, of theatrical fame.

That our balls are not totally devoid of wit and humour may be seen by the hundreds of living jokes which are invariably prominent when popular feeling is directed towards some political act. I have no doubt that there will be at least one dress at the coming gathering entitled the ‘ Maskrugeraiders,” one half of which will represent the celebrated Dr. Jameson dressed in a roughrider’s costume, while the other half will be the same man in convict’s clothes.

Then, again, the costume on which is pinned a placard informing the public that “Tis years since last we met,” and consisting of a gentleman dressed both as a prisoner and a judge, is not without some humour.

The subject of the illustration on the right of the title is distinctly appropriate. In fact, it is named “Covent Garden.” The costume is a veritable walking allegory, and is so designed as to give the onlooker an idea of the various fruits and vegetables that are sold in the well-known market. It was at first suggested that real fruit should be used to decorate the dress, but a little thought showed the inadvisability of this.

The groundwork of the gown consisted of green and yellow silk, covered and draped with papier mache produce of the most expensive description. A large basket filled to overflowing with grapes and strawberries, surmounted by an enticing pine, was symbolised in the young lady’s hat, while the flora of London was represented by a panier of lilies and wild flowers. The green stockings and shoes harmonised with the general colour of the fruits. Although this magnificent dress cost the wearer £30, she was amply repaid for her trouble and expense by carrying off the first prize of a grand piano.

An extraordinary mixture is the costume, which is embodied in the title, called “The Scotch Mail.” This dress gives us an example of the happy-go-lucky—with great emphasis on the lucky —way in which the members of the “profession” are wont to dress themselves for the fray.

About ten minutes to twelve on the night of one of the balls, a young actor rushed into Mr. Clarkson’s, saying that he particularly wished to be present at the Opera House that night, at the same time giving impossible hints as to how he should be dressed.

Nothing suited him, however, and he was about to retire in despair when he happened to catch sight of a bundle of mail-armour that had been returned from Osborne that afternoon. Donning this, he found to his surprise that it was a perfect fit, and when, in an off-hand manner, he picked up an old property postman’s hat, the idea suddenly occurred to the costumier to wrap a plaid and kilt round him with a card sewn on his dress saying that he was—the Scotch Mail.

No sooner thought of than done, and, as a sort of finishing touch, he was supplied with a worn-ou’ rag-bag and a sporran. Nobody was more surprised than himself when, after the ballot had been made, he found himself the happy possessor of the first Ralli car ever presented as a prize, valued at fifty guineas.

Worth but Worthless fancy dress

Some time ago a dress by Worth, costing eighty guineas, was offered for the best lady’s gown. With the habitual smartness of our English designers to seize every opportunity in the shape of a hint, a costume was soon forthcoming, entitled “Worth but Worthless.” This ingenious design was an exact counterpart of the original prize, but instead of being made of silk and cloth it was totally constructed of that crinkled paper which at the time was greatly in favour for the making of lampshades.

The conception of this idea led to some amusing difficulties on the evening of the ball. The gentleman for whom this dress was made was somewhat small and boyish in appearance, which fact lent itself to his better personification of a dame of high fashion. After some little struggle on the part of the attendants to make the wearer’s waist as small as possible, the dress was fitted on piecemeal, great care being exercised that no tear or rent should be made.

When all these difficulties had been overcome, the question resolved itself into how the would-be dancer could be safely taken to the hall. To be crushed into a hansom and there to sit down meant certain and irreparable destruction to the dress that had cost so much anxiety and forethought. There was only one thing to be done, and that was to throw a shawl lightly over the young man’s shoulders and allow him to walk to the hall, leaning on a friend’s arm, which he did.

That he arrived safely is shown by the fact that he obtained the first prize as recompense for the initial cost of two guineas for the making and designing of the dress and for the exceeding originality of the whole costume.

When at the commencement of last year a certain Earl was raised to the rank of Duke, the ill-favour with which his elevation was regarded was made known by the individual who took upon himself the dress of a “Court Toady.”

Clothed in a green material made of woven wool, with two incandescent lights in place of eyes, he resembled an enormous toad. As may be seen from original drawing, a the reproduction of the blue sash — the insignia of a duke — was passed over his right shoulder and partially covered the Royal Arms, which had been worked upon his back, while in his right hand he held a dispatch box and in his left a bulrush. On entering the ball – room the subtle sarcasm of the whole costume was at once perceived, and the judges thought fit to award a bicycle to the happy wearer.

 

To design a dress that is out of the common, to design one that can be worn with comfort, to combine drollery with beauty, and yet not charge an exorbitant price, is indeed a thing that is rarely done. Yet the example above will show that it has and can be accomplished.

Miss Marie Montrose certainly aided art in appearing beautiful when she wore the dress entitled “Skylights and Nightlights.” This costume was made entirely of blue satin, upon which were painted scenes of nocturnal revelry enacted by various members of the cat tribe in conjunction with mysterious night-birds. The new moon, which was slightly clouded, showed itself upon her bodice, while stars were shining in every position—possible and otherwise. A nightlight rested on her right shoulder, above which the sun seemed to be rising with great reluctance from a mass of loosened hair. A miniature lamp-post was held in the left hand, and was lighted with a small though brilliant electric light—thus completing the exceedingly striking costume that gained a silver coffee set. And yet I question whether the materials used in the construction of this dress cost more than a five-pound note.

Here is an illustration of how a really good idea may spring from an apparently trivial source. One day, during the hard winter of ’94, Mr. Clarkson was walking along the embankment looking at the frozen river. Noticing an indistinct object half buried in a floe of ice his curiosity was aroused, and upon closer inspection he was disgusted to find that the “object” proved to be nothing more than an empty whisky bottle. Picking it up, however, he carried it home with him.

Two days afterwards a decidedly humorous costume was ready for the ball. In point of fact it was the head-dress rather than the costume that was humorous. This consisted of a head impersonating Father Thames, on the crown of which was posed a large frog in the midst of weeds and rushes, holding in one of its fore-feet a reed.

The eyes of this gruesome reptile were illuminated by small lamps. When the wearer of the head-piece turned, the original whisky-bottle came into view, thus explaining the name of the costume, “The Spirit of the Thames.” An appropriate prize was award to this in the shape of a double-sculling boat.

The bird-cage is surely a quaint and ingenious costume, made of pale pink silk, the skirt of which was painted to resemble a cage in which parrots were perched in various positions. Round the upper part of the sleeves were two real cages, in which a couple of stuffed birds were placed; while another parrot, with wings outstretched, covered the front of the bodice. Upon the young lady’s head a live bullfinch was allowed to flutter in its golden house.

The All-Bet Fancy Dress

The raid that was made some time ago upon the Albert Club supplied costumiers with plenty of fresh ideas. One of the best— if not the best—was the one entitled “The All-bet,” which was typified by the individual whose front view was got up to represent a sporting man of the highest fashion, while judicious packages were hung here and there beneath a club notice-board, on which the device “Raid on the Albert Club” informed the uninitiated of the event which the costume was supposed to represent.

The ink-pot and pen on the left shoulder gave evidence of the judicial verdict in the same way as the Indian club showed the Albert’s athletic propensities. Expressive sentiments were scattered here and there, pinned loosely to the costume, such as ” Out on bail,” ” Police evidence,” ” Judge’s decision,” and “The All-bet.”

Very different is the subject of my next illustration. “Peace with Honour” is certainly an appropriate name for the still more appropriate dress that was worn at the Primrose Day ball. The head and shoulders of Lord Beaconsfield were painted upon a yellow skirt, which was tastefully trimmed with primroses. The hat consisted of one mass of the symbolic flowers, as also did the bodice. The primrose-trellised staff, which was grasped in the left hand, completed a costume that cost twenty-five pounds, and succeeded in carrying off a silver coffee set.

In passing, I may mention that the art of designing in England is by no means an unprofitable one; indeed, designers of theatrical and fancy costumes in this country are absolutely the best paid in the world. The sources from which they draw their ideas are practically inexhaustible, as it would certainly take some little time to drain the treasures of the British Museum—to say nothing of the great law cases and Parliamentary disputes that crop up from time to time. In short, nearly every subject lends itself to the cunning of the costumier.

Nor is this all. Sarah Bernhardt.who in herself is a host of ideas, often proves a regular gold mine to designers and perruquiers, though she is extremely hard to please, and will often require ten or a dozen different designs before she is satisfied. Once suited, however, she will think nothing of paying from eighty to one hundred guineas for the design alone.

 

The costume of a Watteau Shepherdess, that was worn by Mrs. Langtry, needs no explanation, for, although it was simple in the extreme, it was undoubtedly worth the first prize that was awarded it.

A noteworthy incident happened in connection with this dress, however. Mrs. Langtry went into the costumier’s some four or five hours before the ball, and, like the owner of the Scotch Mail, demanded a costume for the dance. A rose silk skirt was immediately obtained on which were sewn a number of golden flowers and leaves. The bodice was hastily put together, and, to successfully finish the effect, it was no difficult matter to obtain a straw hat and a walking stick.

There is interest, moreover, in the fact that the artist who designed the plate has sketched numerous asides for the special edification of the practical costumier. The one shown on the left hand bottom corner of the Watteau shepherdess is a hood that might have been made and worn as an alternative to the hat.

The latter is certainly the prettier of the two, and so Mrs. Langtry evidently thought, for she wore it on two out of the three occasions on which the dress was donned.

During the talk about international peace at the end of December, 1895, a peculiarly appropriate dress was worn by one of our most popular young actresses, called “United Europe.” The young lady’s hat consisted of black and white satin, trimmed with red, white, and yellow feathers, while the gown itself was of black satin embroidered with gold.

On an overskirt of various colours were worked the emblems of the different countries of the Continent. The red, yellow, and black puff sleeves were shaded by large revers of heavily embroidered satin; and, in order to heighten the effect of this most artistic costume, the British standard was borne in the left hand. The white Louis XVI. wig completed what was perhaps the prettiest fancy dress that has ever been worn since the first days of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Pearson’s Magazine, Vol. 2, 1896: p. 655

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: So many ephemeral, topical references that Mrs Daffodil scarcely knows where to start!  “Maskrugeraiders” refers to the disastrous Jameson’s raid in South Africa and Sir Leander Starr Jameson’s subsequent arrest. Mr Clarkson is William Clarkson, noted theatrical costumer, wig-maker, and rogue, of whom we shall hear more of in the days ahead. The Albert Club, a well-known betting centre in London was raided in 1894 by the police for offences under the Betting Act. 109 persons were arrested.

Primrose Day is the anniversary of the death of British statesman and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, whose favourite flower was the primrose. “Peace with Honour,” was what Beaconsfield secured when war with Russia seemed a certainty in 1877. The phrase was later repeated by the Kaiser and we all know how well that ended.  Mrs Langtry was, of course, the Jersey Lily, actress and close personal friend of the Prince of Wales. Mrs Daffodil has not yet found out the identity of the “court toady.”

It is always amusing to hear about those busy and important people who rush into Mr Clarkson’s at the eleventh hour and expect not only accommodation, but custom work, when all that are left are Pierrot costumes. “Self-absorbed” is the kindest phrase that comes to mind.

For further, fancy-dress inspiration, Mrs Daffodil recommends a perusal of her “Fancy Dress” category, where readers may read of such unusual costumes as “the mutilated sportsman,” “the knitting bag,” and the “Princess Royal’s wedding fan.”

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.

 

Hallowe’en Supper Frocks: 1894

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

PRETTY FANCIFUL GOWNS SUITABLE FOR THE FESTIVAL

The Picturesque Frocks a Brunette, Chatain and Blonde Will Wear to a Hallowmass Party.

Halloween, perhaps, more than any other fete, supplies possibilities for picturesque and effective gowns, and the end-of-the-century girl is not the one to let them slip by.

A very fashionable wardrobe now owns, along with other dainty evening toilets, a Halloween supper frock, which may be made in any mode, but which, to be just the thing, should suggest, in some way, night itself. Tints vague and intangible, hinting of darkness or the white cool moon, are preferred over glaring dark colors.

As to ornament, there may be some curious jeweled night fly fastened somewhere, perhaps spangled in the hair; and if flowers are used, they too, must propitiate the powers of night in wanes and thick perfume.

The dread witches, who on All Halloween have the threads of fate in their keeping, are said to be difficult ladies to please, but somehow one hopes they will smile on the wearers of the three charming gowns here shown, and provide them suitable husbands. The originals of these dainty costumes, which were suggested by three famous French pictures, were all made by a nimble-fingered New York girl for a Halloween supper. They are to be worn by herself and two sisters, three distinct types; and along with their exceeding effectiveness, they have the merit of having involved comparatively little expense, being all fashioned from materials at hand, some lengths of a marvelous Chinese drapery, a few yards of thick liberty satin bought in better days, and a thin, scant, old tambour muslin slip, relic of a long dead great-mamma and tea cup times.

FOR A BRUNETTE

The first dress shown was for the dark, handsome elder sister of the little Cinderella dressmaker—the type that goes with stiffness and stateliness and rustling textures. It was of the liberty satin in a dim luminous tint, too blue for gray and too gray for blue, and that will show off the wearer’s rich skin to perfection. The girdle drapery of graduating ribbon lengths and bows was of a faint dead sea rose color. This subtle and delightful tint, together with black, repeats itself in the simple but decorative embroidery at the bottom of the wide skirt. The tiny chemise gamp is of white muslin, and the short balloon sleeves are stiffened with tarlatan. To be worn with the dress, as well as the next one, both of which were entirely uncrinolined, were petticoats of hair cloth, with tucks of large round organ pipe plaits, to hold the skirt out in the present approved fashion.

FOR CHATAIN [Brown Hair] COLORING.

The second gown, though perhaps not quite so enchanting as the first, was more suggestive of the witcheries of Halloween. It was of the Chinese silk drapery, in the copper red, and with a fantastic patterning of black bats. The girdle and low neck decoration are of black velvet, and square jet buckles fasten the latter down at intervals.

The very daintiest feature of this paniered gown, however, which in style recalls somewhat little beflowered Dolly Varden, is the undersleeves, made to show off a rounded young arm and drive envy to the soul of womankind. For every woman who is a real woman has a weakness for lace, and these adorable undersleeves were made of the charming old net lace embroidery in back stitch of the long ago.

It came, like the tambour muslin, from grandmamma’s garret, where, when Halloween is over, it is to be hoped, it will be carefully put back.

A GOWN FOR A BLONDE.

The third and last dress, a tiny hint of the Directoire period, is the tambour muslin slip itself, sinfully modernized. Once white, it is now evenly mellowed to a soft caressing yellow, which is further accented by a puffing of pure white chiffon about the neck and skirt bottom. The sleeves are of a rich heavy brocade in black and white, and the belt and crescent ornaments are of silver.

This costume is to be worn to the supper by the little dressmaker herself, and its scant picture lines are sure to become her slim, shortwaisted young figure.

And may the ghost of sweet dead grandmamma not come back to reproach her for desecration.

Nina Fitch.

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 28 October 1894: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Desecration, indeed….  One frequently sees examples of ancient garments re-made into fancy dress or some “amusing” pastiche; a practice which makes Mrs Daffodil’s blood alternately boil and run cold (something that takes rather a bit of doing, given her line of work.) We can only fervently hope that the antique lace and tambour muslin were, indeed, “put back” or, if not, that Grandmamma haunted the offender mercilessly.

While questioning the appalling statement that only “real women” have a “weakness” for lace, Mrs Daffodil will also adjudge the addition of antique lace to an otherwise standard Bat Queen or Empress of the Night fancy-dress costume to be utterly unnecessary.

“Night” was a popular figure in fancy dress. We see an interpretation of that character at the head of this post. An illustration and description of another version follows. Whimsical though the idea is in principal, in real life, wearing a stuffed owl must be a trifle cumbersome:

By way of preparation for it we present for our readers’ inspection a costume representing Night.

It is satin, in two shades of purple. The lighter used for lower skirt has beaded surface. The plain falls over in a plaited back and draped front; wide panel ornamented with stars, butterflies [moths?] and a very demure owl; smoke-colored vail, dotted with stars, covers the crown of hat, held by a crescent and owl; this draping over the right arm and breast, is thrown over the left shoulder and arm. Willkes-Barre [PA] Evening News 6 January 1886: 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 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.

 

Snake-skins in Fashion: 1882-1912

BEAUTY IN SNAKE-SKINS.

LATEST VAGARY OF FASHION.

This autumn will bring the snake-skin dress into fashion. Mr. Gerrett, the originator of this development, informed a newspaper representative recently that its advantages are more manifold than would appear at the first glance.

“Marvels can be achieved by the python’s skin, in the hands of a clever designer,” he said, “for this skin never pulls or gives. It is both waterproof and pliable, and it can, by skilful manipulation of its wonderful scale marking, bring into prominence a pretty point or hide a defect.

“By using the python’s skin for footwear a foot can be made smaller, or it can be given breadth or tapered to a point.

“Then why should not an entire figure be modelled on these lines–breadth here, a slim line there, attention called to a pretty waist, or angular hips transformed into beautifully rounded ones by the magic aid of the python’s skin?

“Not only will women benefit by this idea, but the python’s skin should make men’s golf shoes impervious to weather, furnish lapels and, cuffs to motor-coats, and make elaborate waistcoats which will not wrinkle and which will disguise rotundity.

“I have already many orders for python shoes and many exquisite shoes, this autumn will be made in grey lizard, but for absolute smartness nothing will approach the gorgeous skin of the python.”

New Zealand Herald, 6 August 1910: p. 2

Yes, python embraces every curve….

COATS FROM SNAKESKINS

For once fashion has taken a direction which promises to be of general benefit to humanity. Women, or at least such as have access to the longest purses, shortly are to use snakeskin for garments for quite everyday wear, says a London dispatch to the Chicago Inter Ocean. One can scarcely imagine a more poetic revenge by the daughters of Eve on their old enemy, the serpent tempter.

Whether the new robes will prove as artistic as is expected remains to be seen. They will certainly lend themselves in skilful hands to the emphasizing of whatever graces there may be in the person of the wearer, and if the fashion thins out the number of these dangerous reptiles all over the world humanity will owe a debt of gratitude to the inventor of new modes.

We may yet come to see python skin sold by the yard over the dry goods counters, for the python is a big reptile, occasionally reaching, when full grown, thirty feet in length and a foot or more in diameter. Thus, apparently, a single skin might supply enough stuff to make an ordinary gown along modern lines. What the cost will be one cannot yet say. It will obviously be high, for serpents of the largest size are not to be met with every day.

The market price of skins, in view of the coming demand, already has gone up to a very high figure, and in Borneo, Sumatra and all over the Malay archipelago native hunters are scouring the wilderness, tempted by the offers of dealers in Paris and Vienna, and killing and capturing every big snake they meet with.

Properly prepared snake skin is both soft and durable. The anaconda is already “bespoke” for the latest thing in motor coats, and thus used makes an attractive novelty. Made up in the delicate shades of cream color and brown, and lined with satin to match, the material forms most attractive garments, which are especially desirable by reason of their lightness. They weigh almost nothing at all, and, it is reported, “never wear out.”

Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ] 13 August 1912: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil regrets that these beautiful snakes were hunted almost to extinction in the name of fashion. She feels that the world needs more giant pythons and anacondas to keep mankind on its toes.

Light and durable and attractive though snake-skin garments might be, there were certain drawbacks:

Recently snakes and lizards have been furnishing some share of the material for what are considered the most elegant styles of pocket-books, portmonnaies, gentlemen’s match-safes, card-cases, side bags with girdles, and fashionable trifles of all kinds. Yet it is by rather slow degrees that the boa-constrictor elegance has been winding itself into favour with us; in some of the European cities it is reported as having become much more the rage. Here in the manufacturing shop, however, may be seen the snake skin untanned, just as brought from South America, and resembling what one sees in the British Museum. Its markings are very beautiful, with the gold-touched stripe through the centre and the irregularly conjoined diamond and triangle shapes at either side. It is this natural design which is so much prized for objects like the side-bag or the pocket-book. Yet the material may have, perhaps, the fault of not wearing quite satisfactorily. The edges of the scales are apt to get rubbed up the wrong way so as to cause very soon a seedy appearance of the article. For the prevention of this roughening tendency gums are introduced, however, with more or less success in the process of preparing the skin for manufacture. The Citizen-Examiner 19 April 1882: p. 2

Snakes, of course, do not sling handbags carelessly about, nor do they sit on their coats in taxi-cabs or motor-cars. They glide through whatever jungle they inhabit, smoothing their scales the correct way and  ensuring that they do not end up looking like a parrot dragged through a hedge backwards. One expects that it is altogether too much to ask of the heedless young woman in a python dress who fancies herself a serpentine temptress to be mindful of the grain of her scales.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that the only specimen she was able to find of early snake-skin garb is the shoe at the head of the post. There was, however, a rage for the reptilian in the 1930s-40s and again in the New Age of the 1970s and in the opulent ’90s. Mrs Daffodil shares some of those fashions on her facebook page.

Mrs Daffodil has also discussed the fad for lizard fashions and for snake garters.

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.

 

 

 

 

Capers of Some Clothing Cranks, As Told by a Talkative Tailor: 1881

A TALKATIVE TAILOR

Strange Revelations of the Sartorial Trade.

CAPERS OF SOME CLOTHING CRANKS.

The Painful Self-Denial Which makes Kearny Street Fashionable

Traits of the Tough.

“I should say that a tailor’s life in San Francisco is a hard one,” said a well-known and popular knight of the shears to a Chronicle reporter the other day.

The communicative craftsman was standing in his doorway, whence he could see in all directions gorgeous signs such as “Pickle, the Tailor,” “Sowfine, the Solid Tailor,” “Rosenheim, the Ready Tailor,” “Bosenheim, the Boss Tailor,” etc.

“You see,” said the loquacious but rather disconsolate Sartorian, “what competition there is in our business. The town seems to be populated with tailors, and you will observe that none of them show any of the mawkish delicacy about parading their profession that prevailed when a tailor was supposed to be but a small fractional part of a human being. Instead of regarding themselves as the ninth part of a man, they act as if they considered themselves equal to any twenty-nine ordinary storekeepers. Look at their electric lights and the portraits of themselves that they stick on the walls. It’s a good thing for the originals that most people here can read, or their portraits would make them think that the police had begun to use the dead-walls of the town for the Rogues’ Gallery.

“But the competition among the tailors themselves is not the worst thing in the trade,” said the disgusted knight of the shears. “It’s the cranks who patronize us that shorten a man’s life, and make him lenient toward all murders.

THE EXPERT FIEND.

“Here’s one of them just coming,” whispered the tailor, as a shabby genteel young man with the weird history of cheap lodging written on his lank jaw, sauntered into the store and addressed himself to one of the salesmen.

“That’s what we call the expert fiend,” said the tailor, nodding his head towards the visitor. “Watch how he paws the cloths. He is an assistant bookkeeper in a toothbrush factory at $17 a month, and never wore a fine suit of clothes in his life; but he knows more about cloth than my best salesman, who has spent a lifetime in the business. When he is getting measured he will give the cutter a fill about wanting the suit in a hurry for a reception on Nob Hill, but a dressmaker’s soiree on Natoma street is about his fit. Just hear him talk about what he used to do in the East and the distance this one-horse town is behind New York. He can’t get anything here like in the East. Just watch how the salesman will get to his collar,” said the tailor, as he gleefully jingled several half-dollars in his pocket and proudly eyed his assistant. The latter, after showing the expert enough cloth to dress the whole police force, Captain Kentzel [a famously stout police officer] included, whipped out a piece with a great display of animation.

“Ah! Here you are, sir,” said he, with a triumphant flourish of the goods; “something nobby and durable. The only piece left. Sold the rest of it to the French visitors. Genuine imported goods, and the very latest pattern. Let you have a suit for $45, as it’s the last piece in the house.”

The effect of the salesman’s sudden earnestness was a prompt sale. As the captured expert was led away to the recesses, where the cutter lay in wait for him with his remorseless shears, the proprietor chuckled audibly.

“That piece of goods just sold,” said he, “is about the worst in the house. It went on the vaudoo counter months ago, and I was thinking of sending it to the Orphan Asylum as a Christmas gift. We always keep such goods for the expert fiend, and, at the right moment, yank it out and nail him. It takes a man of some experience to know just when to show the expert the piece of cloth he wants to get rid of, but the competent salesman never slips up.

THE DRY GOODS MEN’S WATCHES.

“No, sir. The expert fiend is our Injun. We scalp him just as we do his first cousin, the dry goods fiend, who thinks because he handles a few domestic lines of goods that he knows all about the trade. His ignorance wouldn’t make so much difference if he was willing to pay like anyone else, but he wants to get the best in the house for little or nothing and a discount, because he is in the trade. He generally winds up by leaving his watch as security and sauntering around for a month or two with a door-key or a chronometer. I have a dozen dry goods men’s watches in my safe now and more on the way. If you say anything in your paper about this business, please state that the dry goods man wants more and pays less and pays it more unwillingly than any man in town, except the lawyer. No, sir; we have no use for dry goods men as customers.”

“You don’t do much a credit business,” said the reporter, “or your collection of watches would not be so large.”

“I do none. Mine is a second-class business. The tailors of this town are of three orders. The first class is supported by Nob Hill and does a credit trade exclusively. The second class is supported by a business section of the town and does a cash business. The third class is kept up by Tar Flat and does a cash business. It is the style for the young bloods about town to boast how they hang up their tailor, but you can bet even money every time on the tailor not getting left. Of course there are dead beats who get away with almost any one, but whenever a fellow begins to lay around the store and drop in of a morning to ask after his health, the tailor gets into his shell.

THE INSTALLMENT PLAN.

“I will give you the true business how these lords in disguise that you see every afternoon on Kearny street get their good cloths. Getting a new suit is no sudden idea with them. When one of these aristocratic young men wants a suit he comes in and states his case plainly. He is perhaps working in a barber-shop at $7 a week, or more likely doing nothing, and of course his word is very bad. He has no credit at all, in fact. He picks out the cloth for his suit, and pay what he can as a deposit. If the tailor was to go and make the suit, the fellow would never take it unless he got a reduction of about 50 per cent, but the tailor, unless he is very green in the business, insists on a remittance every week until about two-thirds of the price of the suit is paid in dimes and quarters, when he cuts the suit and proceeds to make it. It generally takes about four months to make one of these suits, and when there are only about $5 or $10 due on it the finishing touches are given. About a week before the suit is ready the owner assumes a hauteur that freezes his companions, and announces that he is going to invest in a new suit. He extorts the last installment from some confiding female friend, and next week blooms out in all the glory of the loudest suit in the market and breaks the boys all up. Nobody except the tailor ever knows how much the young man denied himself and how many petty larcenies he had to commit before he could amaze the street with his style. He never does get much style though, for the tailor regards him as his legitimate prey, and shoves on him all the old flash patterns that the expert fiend won’t buy. He gets very nearly as badly treated as the sample fiend, who is a full brother to the expert fiend.

THE SMART SAMPLER.

“The sample fiend, having made up his mind to get a new suit, resolves to get the best of the whole trade, and goes down to the wholesale house and gets a sample of the goods he wants. Then he starts out among the retail stores. He is not the man to be fooled. Oh, no! He strolls in and looks at the goods, prices them all, and when he thinks you are quite unprepared, he shoves the sample under your nose and inquires how much can you make a suit the same as that for. We get to such a customer as that at once. The salesman takes the sample and pretends to look at it thoughtfully for some moments, and then says:

“’Now this is very find goods—very fine. In any other store in town, they would charge you $50 for a suit of that; but as we have a big line of the goods, brought from the East, we can afford to make it for $45.’

“This generally fetches the sample fiend as he pays his money and goes off chuckling to himself over his smartness. Instead of getting ahead of us five dollars, though, he loses three times that much. The prices of suits are graded on the work put into them, and we can make more out of a $45 suit than a $50 we cut from the same piece. When the sample fiend goes out, the salesman quietly marks opposite the price of the suit on the books, ‘undersold $5,’ and the trimmer plans the work accordingly. Fifty cents is saved on the vest. The coat is given to some poor workman, and the pantaloons are cheaply trimmed; so the smart sampler gets his suits so badly strung together that the first breeze that strikes it blows all the buttons off. The sample fiend is generally old enough to know better than to try and beat a San Francisco tailor.

THE FEMALE INVADER.

“He is as much behind the age as the man who brings his wife with him to select a suit. The average tailor would as soon see the Devil coming into his store as a woman, and I never heard of but one salesman who got even with the sex. One day a man and his wife came in and pulled around all the cloth in the store before the woman found anything to please her. When the man stepped up to be measured the salesman whispered to him so that he could be heard all over the store;

“’This is a very embarrassing position for me, sir.’

“’Why so?’ asked the much-married customer.

“’Because,’ said the malicious salesman, ‘I don’t know which of you I’ve to measure for the pants.’

The loquacious tailor paused to exchange greetings with a motherly-looking lady who passed out of the store with a pale-faced young man, possessing all the characteristics of the embryo “tough.’

“There,” said the tailor, “is a specimen of a customer we often have. That young man is the son of respectable parents, and his mother has a fond hope that some day he may go to the Legislature or own the biggest coal yard in the Tenth ward. The salesman has his work cut out for him to please the pair. The mother would like to dress the lad in broadcloth, like a divinity student, but nothing but the toughest of tough suits will suit him. Twenty-five-inch spring-bottom pants is the height of his ambition, and he has to get them or the suit will never be paid for. If we were to follow the old woman’s instructions the lad would steal off to some hoodlum store, and get rigged out in the highest style of Tar Flat—skin-tight pants, double-breasted, low-cut vest and sack coat with gold-shot buttons and three-inch braid. The salesman has to make the old lady believe that the boy will be dressed for a funeral, but the lad has to be convinced that he will be the envy of Tar Flat in his new suit. Of course it is business for us to respect his wishes, and when he gets into his new clothes every policeman in town will shadow him.”

THE HOODLUM TRADE.

“Have the second-class stores much of the hoodlum trade?” asked the reporter.

“No, the hoodlum trade is almost confined to the hoodoo stores, where the salesman is a big tough, dressed in the height of the hoodlum fashion. The salesman spends his evenings in the social headquarters of Tar Flat drumming up trade for his establishment. When a suit is finished the news is sent all over Tar Flat and the natives assemble as soon as possible at the tailor store. No hoodlum ever does anything so reckless as to fit on a new suit without the moral assistance of at least six companions. If the new garments have the proper depth of braid and the regulation “spring” the owner is allowed to accept them, and all hands adjourn to the nearest beer saloon, where the tailor does the honors. The hoodlum tailor periodically gives a prize dance, at which the tough salesman acts as floor manager and the cappers of the establishment as the reception committee. The hoodlum tailor finds it hard work to keep his customers, for everything depends on how he stands with the leaders of the gang. Any insult to a prominent tough, such as the reduction of the spring of his pants or the depth of the braid of his coat, is likely to cost the tailor his entire trade. In former years the hoodlum trade was done by one shop, but latterly, owing to the rivalry between Tar Flat and North Beach and the Mission, the trade is divided. It keeps constantly shifting. The true tough never estimates the cost of a suit in dollars. His basis of valuation is a five-cent glass of beer, and when he figures on a garment he judges of the amount of pleasure it will cost him. I once had a customer of that kind who came in and selected a $45 suit and would have paid a deposit if one of his crowd had not figured up how many five-cent beers it would cost him. When the astonished tough was informed that the suit would deprive him of 900 glasses of beer, besides what the barkeeper might stand, he was paralyzed, and went off reflecting sadly on the vanity of dress.”

A POINTER.

There is one thing to be said in favor of the tough, and that is that he knows what he wants and is willing to pay for it. In this respect he differs greatly from the doctors and the lawyers, who can discount even the dry good man in shuffling away from their bills. In the long run, though, the tailor gets ahead of them.”

It would seem to me,” said the reporter, “that the tailor gets ahead of most people.”

“Not always,” said the confiding knight of the shears. “The tailor has his honest instincts like any one else, and I can give you this pointer: When an unassuming citizen comes into tailor store and says ‘I want a suit and am willing to pay so much for it,’ he generally gets the worth of his money, as things go. He always proves a great deal better than the smartie who comes in for the express purpose of showing us how little we know about our business, and how much he can teach us.”

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 18 December 1881: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is always a pleasure to hear from a trade “insider,” who can do the dialect. This “confiding knight of the shears,” in an interview richly laden with the vernacular, opens a window into a hitherto mysterious world.

For example, most of Mrs Daffodil’s readers will have an idea of what a hoodlum is. An 1897 dictionary of slang adds the interesting information that

In San Francisco hoodlums, are a class of young fools, corresponding in some degree to the English ‘Arries. The hoodlums, walk the streets arm in arm, upsetting everything in their passage “just for the sake of a lark.”

Spring-bottom pants are wide-bottomed trousers cut on the pattern seen in the tailor’s diagram above. One young man recollected: “I remember one spell in Silverton that we were having our trousers cut with so much spring on the bottom that only the end of our toes were exposed.”

There are subtleties of class-linked location—Nob Hill, Kearny Street, and Natoma Street—implied by context, but now mostly lost to all but the most assiduous historians. Tar Flat, on the other hand, was, as it sounds, a refuge for the “tough.”

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.