Category Archives: Fashion Accessories

Encore: Cross-Word Clothes: 1925

cross-word-dress-and-hat

 

Once the Cross-Word Puzzle was something you worked out in the newspaper. Now it is something Dame Fashion works out in women’s clothes!

When Arthur Wynne of Mountain Lakes, N.J., a modest and retiring newspaper man, invented the brain-teasing vertical and horizontal combination, he planned to amuse his children and their playmates. But it wasn’t long before everybody in the Jersey town was lugging a dictionary and a copy of Wynne’s latest acrostic. Then the fad was taken up by New York and points West.

However, it was when the new season brought out the latest things in feminine toggery that everybody discovered Fashion has become an addict to the little black and white squares. Sometimes she goes so far as to letter them, working out clever words and phrases down the fronts of gowns or stockings!

One such gown was brought into America by a debutante who had been visiting Paris—proving that the French capital is solving ‘em, too!

Then there was the cross-word frock that electrified Palm Beach the other day, with the little white blocks all waiting for somebody’s pencil and a few key letters scattered here and there.

There is the cross-word coat, a dashing sports garment of soft wool with the checks somewhat larger than they appear in the silks of dresses.

cross-word-buckles

The slipper with the cross-word buckle is one of the least bizarre innovations of the fad. But the puzzle stockings, guaranteed to make women look shorter and men look longer, offer plenty of opportunity for mental exercise.

cross-word-hat

The cross-word hat now rules the millinery world. And the smartest thing of the moment for masquerades is a cross-word costume. San Francisco [CA] Chronicle March 1925: p. 1

As for the novelties in shoes, the “cross-word” pump is probably the outstanding footwear of the season. It is shown in checked satin with a cross-word block pattern in black and white, and while no words are designed to fit into the squares, no doubt some bright mind will think of some.

Cross-Word Frock

So if a maiden is seen with her eyes modestly cast down, don’t conclude that she is shy; she’s probably trying to think of a word of four letters to fit in the space across the vamp of her cross-word pump.

Indeed it’s going to be a disturbing season for the cross-word fans for if no cross-word pumps are in sight, there’s almost sure to be a cross-word silk frock, and think of all the words to be fitted into a dress pattern, even a short as the present ones!

These cross-word prints come in three color combinations, most attractive in themselves, but the opportunities they offer for mental exercise was dazzling. Think of a quiet afternoon spent with a girl so arrayed; a modern Omar [Khayyam] might indeed write:

“A cross-word frock, a loaf of bread, and thou, oh, wilderness were paradise enow.” Tampa [FL] Tribune 3 March 1925: p. 18

On the other hand, some were less than sanguine about the fashionable fad:

cross-word-frock cross-word-frock2

CROSS-WORD PUZZLES

POPULAR CRAZE GRIPS ENGLAND.

LONDON, January 10. The first cross-word frock appeared on Bond street yesterday, indicating Britain’s final surrender to the cross-word puzzle craze. The familiar black-and-white squares, arranged in fantastic groupings, adorned the frock, the ends of the scarf, the front of the small felt hat, and the sides of the new fashionable envelope-shaped handbag. Cross-word “jumpers” are also appearing daily. Otago [NZ] Daily Times 16 January 1925: p. 8

cross-word-stockings

Cross-Word Stockings American Fad in Paris

Paris, Jan. 2. The “cross-word puzzle” stocking is the latest novelty among Paris hosiery makers.

When the first really cold days of Winter came, silk stockings of gossamer texture were gradually discarded and many women adopted fine hand-made Angora wool stockings.

This is the material of which the “cross-word puzzle” stockings are made. A shopkeeper got the idea from a puzzle design which he saw two American women working over while waiting to be served. A few days later he displayed in his windows a stocking of checker-board design with the squares in black and white, about the same size and distributed haphazard in the manner which has become familiar to lovers of cross-word puzzles.

The novelty has found good customers among American women, but French women call it hideous. The cross-word fad itself has not reached France as yet. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 2 January 1925: p. 2

cross-word-sweater

The girls themselves are using the verticals and horizontals to enhance their charm. The squares in picturesque arrangement now appear as borders on scarfs, trimming on hats, sweaters, dresses, not only in black and white, but in every shade of the spectrum.

There is now cross-word jewelry, rings, bracelets and brooches; cross-word stockings, with a key-letter at the top of the first column, and cross-word lingerie, of black and white chiffon. And fashionable hostesses are likewise serving cross-word muffins at their tea tables—cakes made of brown bread and white! San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 26 April 1925: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is “Dictionary Day,” so Mrs Daffodil felt that a reprise of this wordy fashion fad would not come amiss. The cross-word craze raged across the States in the 1920s creating a generation of feverish enthusiasts. Librarians complained that “legitimate users” of dictionaries were being thrust aside by puzzle-fiends, while newspapers such as The New York Times (now known for its difficult cross-words) sniffed at the fad and predicted its demise within months.

Mrs Daffodil was amused by the “cross-word stockings.” If worked in pencil, one is apt to poke holes in the gossamer fabric; if the solver is one of those insufferable persons who works cross-words in ink, there is hell to pay in the bath. The young lady wearing the “cross-word hat,” looks rather desperate, as if the chapeau was one of those mitres worn by heretics at the stake. One notes two damning words filling her puzzle squares: “hot,” as in le jazz hot and “nut,” which was the male equivalent of a “flapper.”

Originally, Mrs Daffodil sought in vain for extant examples of these ephemeral garments. One wonders if this tennis dress was an echo of the cross-work frock?

But, lo!

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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The Tell-Tale Sealing Wax: 1908

SEALING-WAX CLUE.

FOOTMAN-THIEF TRACKED.

A remarkable story of tell-tale sealing wax was told at Leeds Assizes in the case of George Percy Finn, aged eighteen, footman, indicted for the theft of a diamond tiara, value £1300, the property of Louisa Montagu, at High Melton, Yorkshire, between January 1 and 4. The prisoner pleaded guilty.

Counsel stated that the tiara was a wedding present to Mrs. Montagu. The prisoner had been in the service of Mr. and Mrs. Montagu for about three months, and was third footman. The tiara was kept in a safe in the pantry, and was in charge of the first footman, in whose custody was the key of the safe. At twelve o’clock on January 2 the tiara was in the safe, and was there seen, by the first footman, who, however, missed it at two o’clock the following day. He at once informed Mr. Montagu. Superintendent Hicks, of Doncaster, went to Melton Park, and interviewed the servants, including the prisoner. They all denied knowledge of the tiara.

On January 8 Mr. Montagu received an anonymous letter to the effect that a tiara had been taken from his house, but was quite safe and would be returned whole for £500. If the jewellery were wanted, Mr. Montagu was to put a “personal” advertisement in a paper. The postmark on the envelope was London.

The letter was sealed with magenta-coloured sealing wax, similar to a stick in Mrs. Montagu’s boudoir. Suspicion fell upon the prisoner, who had access to the boudoir. On January 11 a red stick of sealing wax was substituted for the magenta one, and on the 18th Superintendent Hicks wrote in answer to the advertisement, and sent it to the agony column of the paper specified. In the meantime, a detective had taken up his abode in Melton Park, and by him the prisoner was seen to pick up the newspaper in question and begin to read the agony column.

On January 15 a second anonymous letter came to Mr. Montagu to the same effect, only in stronger terms. This was sealed with vermilion sealing wax, and bore the postmark of Kentish Town. Superintendent Hicks went to the prisoner’s home in London. The prisoner’s mother handed him a letter from her son requesting her to post the letter sent to Melton Park. The superintendent immediately left again for Melton Park, and arrested the prisoner.

The stolen property was afterwards found hidden in a field.

Mr. Justice Sutton sentenced the prisoner to twelve months’ imprisonment with hard labour on the Borstal system, when he would have the opportunity of learning some trade and earning an honest livelihood.

Auckland [NZ] Star 2 May 1908: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The agony columns of the newspapers were full of cryptic advertisements, like this one–obviously written in cypher.

NY Herald 22 August 1879 agony column in cypher

And this one, which suggests that a deceived husband is no longer in the dark.

owl agony column NY Herald 4 October 1879

[Many thanks to Undine of Strange Company for these choice specimens.]

The agony columns of the Times were particularly renowned for their blend of comedy, heart-break, and mystery.

It is a matter of considerable surprise that the “intelligent foreigner ” has made so little, in his criticisms on English eccentricities, of that astonishing product of the present generation, the second column of the Times. To the thorough Englishman it is difficult to understand how other European nations contrive to get on without the help of that daily outlet for the anxieties of the bewildered and the bereaved. Here, taking up the Times of a day or two ago, are nearly a score of these petitions for information on all sorts of subjects. Some half-dozen invocations begin the list in which “Toots,” “Sea,” ” Claudine,” “Duffer,” and “K–ff” are piteously implored to communicate with the heart-broken advertisers, either directly, or through the medium of one of those strange secret agencies, whose existence and doings are so bewildering to steady-going families. Next comes an appeal to a lady, mentioned by name, to apply at an hotel in the classic district of the Minories on urgent private affairs. Then follows a list of all sorts of possessions, lost by their careless owners, from certificates of a great Indian railway down to bracelets, dogs, and bunches of keys, for which rewards varying in amount are specially promised, but most surprising in the way of promised reward is the price set upon “a young married lady” by her disconsolate husband or friends. For the lady herself, including her apparel, besides earrings and brooch, only the sum of  £2 is offered. The Pall Mall Gazette [London England] 5 December 1868: p. 5

It is a pity that young George got ideas above his station. Sealing wax, indeed!  Ideally, he would have enclosed the anonymous letter–written with his non-dominant hand–on the cheapest possible stationary, enclosed in an envelope filched from a hotel lounge, sealed with mucilage from the common glue pot, and smudged with his grubby fingermarks, although the latter might have proved his undoing. The Fingerprint Branch at New Scotland Yard was created in July 1901.  The Devil is in the details….

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.

Finery for the Forehead: 1920

forehead jewel coiffure 1920

The Solitary Jewel Once More Reigns in the Realms of Finery for the Forehead

Finery for the Forehead

The Picturesque Modern Revival of a Charming Style of Headdress Introduced by the Beauties of Ancient Rome and Greece.

By Jean Seivwright

“Beauty unadorned is adorned the most” is all wrong, according to today’s leaders of fashion. And, without more ado, they prove their contention by demonstrating the utter folly of this old-time saying.

With jingling bracelets they embellish their ankles. Gorgeous rings set their fingers a-sparkle; jeweled girdles scintillate about their waistlines, and most striking of all—enters the jeweled head-dress.

Now as Miss America has a variety of ancestors, she chooses her forehead finery with a nice discrimination. Her particular type of beauty must be enhanced. With wealth and art at her command she can have what she wants.

MOP coiffure 1920

The Encircling Coronet Is of Hammered Silver, While Over the Forehead Hang Mother-o’-Pearl Drops.

Is she a Viking’s daughter with golden tresses and wistful blue eyes? Then the soft lustre of mother of pearl will appeal to her. But if the fire of some Eastern Potentate still slumbers in her heavily-lidded eyes the ornate and barbaric will be her choice. Other beauties find inspiration for their adorning in the quaint head-dress of the peasant or the jeweled cap of a court favorite.

peasant headdress coiffure 1920

The Peasant Head-dress of Sheerest Cambric Takes on a New Guise When Interpreted in Silks and Jewels for the Beauty of Today

But all are agreed that the forehead must be ornamented. Many of these jeweled head-bands are of fabulous price. But the golden eagle is no longer a rare coin that languishes in solitude in the old stocking we have all heard about. Golden eagles fly in coveys these days and big dividends keep up the supply.

“Ha, ha!” laugh the lords of the twentieth century, and just as merrily their ladies echo their mirth, “What’s money for but to spend.” So they chase from one end of the country to the other seeking new ways of spending their money. Sumptuously caparisoned it’s many a day since they bid farewell to the “kirtle brown.” Shimmering satins, priceless laces and jewels from crown to toe add to the glitter of their passing.

Of course, like every other innovation, the adorning of the forehead is really a resurrected fashion. In the days of the law-giving Romans and the beauty-loving Greeks most wonderful finery was designed for fair women. Doubtless if we could trace the origin of this mode still further back we might discover that our delightful ancestress in the Garden of Eden originated this style. Who knows whether she favored a gay array of glistening apple seeds, or found delight in the sparkling pebbles that vied with the weeds in her garden?

pearl coiffure 1920

Pearls with All Their Lore of Tragedy and Romance Gleam in the Golden Coiffure and on the Snowy Forehead of a Famous New York Beauty.

History of course does not make any record of this. However, we do know that the Romans delighted in handsome head-dress. They kept hosts of slaves to arrange their hair. And that was no mean task. It was a regular function. There were puffs to be attached, unruly tresses to be smoothed and various artificial appendages to be arranged. Oh, yes, the office of chief lady’s maid was no sinecure in those days, for her lady’s hair must be so disposed that her jewels would show to the best advantage. And whisper it not, but even in those days the blonde was a power in the land. To have golden hair was an ambition for which one was even willing to dye!

ear-ring coiffure 1920

Today’s Mode of Coiffing May Give No Opportunity to Display Ear-rings, but Their Place Is Gladly Taken by Jeweled Chains Elaborated with Many a Novel Pendant to Simulate the Ear-ring.

Another delightful whim of fashion in the Roman Empire was to have three or four earrings dangling from each ear. However, when puffs became the vogue in Rome feminine ingenuity had to find another way to display her jewels, so the forehead was bejewelled. And wonderful results were achieved, one of the most picturesque being an embroidered net. But mark, the embroidery was not of silken threads but of jewels–glittering rubies and emeralds with clusters of pearls.

crespine coiffure 1920

The Crispine Whose Threads of Gold Are Enlivened with Sparkling Jewels

Along about the time that Philip the Bold was creating many a flutter in feminine hearts, the fair enchantresses forsook the modest net, albeit they sparkled with many a gem and adorned their heads with gorgeous creations of peacock feathers. This was an opportunity not to be overlooked, so the forehead came in for its share of attention.

As centuries rolled on women still believed that the decoration of the forehead was essential. The notorious horned head-dress brought down the denunciations of the Church on its wearers. But they went merrily on making them more grotesque and formidable looking. In those days, gentle reader, you will remember that there were no subway crushes. Also the everlasting rush was unknown. Women had time to think how to beautify themselves…

But in this land of the free you may choose your forehead finery irrespective of any restrictions, for the quest of beauty is the only motif that inspires the wearing of these gorgeously jewelled ornaments.

The Washington [DC] Times 16 May 1920: p. 32

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The illustrations suggest a veritable treasure-trove of costuming inspiration for the passionate heroines of authoresses such as Marie Corelli, Ouida, and Elinor Glyn. Despite their glamour, we cannot call these adornments completely frivolous:  forehead jewels are, of course, the perfect camouflage for the worry lines that inevitably accompany the tangled love-lives of Egyptian princesses and Balkan queens as plotted by lady novelists.

However, Mrs Daffodil cannot condone the pendants worn just above the nose, no matter how elegant or exotic. One fears an epidemic of crossed eyes.

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.

Things I Steal: 1926

THINGS I STEAL.

I expect you’ll open your eyes at this title, and think: “Is this a confession by a Baby Vamp?” (writes Isa Grieve). But there are lots of things I steal—not the sort of things I could ever be put into prison for, of course but very exciting things all the same —ideas!

There is a chic little hat shop in an arcade, for instance. Whenever I want a new hat, I go along there and feast my eyes upon the three or four guinea confections in the windows. There’s sure to be a new way of trimming a hat—something that makes it different from all other hats. Many a time I have gone away, and after much search (this part is really hard work), I have found a suitable shape for a few shillings, and made it look like one of those arcade confections.

Clothes are the same. The other day I noticed a girl wearing a particularly pretty woollen coat. She happened to be sitting opposite me in the tram, and gradually I realised that her coat was knitted at home. The original touches at the bottom and sleeves were achieved by wool fringe, and darning in Oriental colourings on a dark background. I stole that coat of hers. I went home and made one just like it. only the colourings are a little different, to match the colour scheme of my clothes.

Then a friend of mine possesses a really large pouffe covered with silk, which I much admired. She told me that she had merely filled two canvas bags with shredded rags, and then sewn them together, and covered the whole with really nice silk. The pouffe had cost less than eight shillings, and you could not hope to buy one like it anywhere for less than thirty shillings at least. Yes, I stole that idea, too.

But —just one word here —do be careful what you steal, in case you should bring anger, swift and remorseless, upon your own head. Don’t, for instance, copy your friends’ dresses, even if they are very original.

Still, there are heaps of ways in which you can profit by someone else’s brainwaves. and so make a little money go a very long way. We can’t all be original, but we can recognise originality when we see it. It is very silly to go through the world blindfolded, for all around us are to be found all sorts of interesting gadgets that actually keep our money in our pockets.

All my friends think I must spend far more upon my clothes than I do.

‘You are always so well dressed!” someone said to me the other day. That was a real compliment, although she did not know how greatly I prized it. But then—she does not know how much I really spend upon my clothes. You see, I’d rather spend brain, than money!

Otago [NZ] Daily Times 19 October 1926: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Earlier this week, Mrs Daffodil published a post on Fashion Pirates. One wonders where the author draws the line between actual theft of proprietary designs and “profiting from someone else’s brainwaves.” She is on very shaky moral ground when she blithely reproduces a stranger’s coat, yet warns against copying a friend’s dresses.

It was a widespread problem. Young ladies did not scruple to borrow one another’s clothes, then rush to their dress-maker to have them copied. See this post on “The Very Worst Thing,” for shocking examples of this depravity.

To be Relentlessly Informative, the term “Vamp,” comes from “vampire,” and, at this time, was common usage for an unscrupulous lady who appropriated other ladies’ husbands with the same, gay insouciance of the author.

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.

Fashion Pirates: 1913-1914

Poiret lampshade dress Lepape 1913

One of M. Poiret’s sensational creations. Fashion plate by Georges Lepape, 1913 http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1039443/laquelle-handcoloured-illustration-georges-lepape/

Tricks of Fashion Thieves

DESIGN PIRATES AND THE WAY THEY WORK

“”Any person caught sketching or securing photographs of fashion models will be taken Into custody and the pictures confiscated.”

Such is the stringent order issued by M. Lepine, the Prefect of Police in Paris, in response to the bitter complaints of prominent French dressmakers, who find their latest designs being surreptitiously copied. Indeed, this piracy of fashions has of late become such a scandal that dressmakers in England and Paris are combining in their efforts to check the practices of those dressmakers who trade in stolen brains.

To quote the words of one dressmaker: “Some of the imitators are so clever that they are able without notes to reproduce the model to the final sleeve-button. This is so well known that some of the leading firms in London and Paris never exhibit their more exclusive models in the window or the showrooms. Nevertheless, by various subterfuges new designs are sometimes stolen and placed on the market before they are even shown in the windows of the firm which created them. In such cases we can only come to the conclusion that by bribery or other means someone has managed to obtain a drawing of the design from an employe.”

Spies from Foreign Countries.

Talking of tricks of fashion pirates, my informant went on to describe how frequently young men and women are sent over from France and Germany, presumably to learn their business, whereas they really act as spies and regularly forward to their employers on the Continent any new designs they may be able to secure.

One of the cutest dodges was that of a woman who one day drove up to a certain modiste famous for her original creations and ordered a dress. This was duly delivered and paid for; after which the lady called again and made another purchase, at the same intimating that she wished to see some entirely new designs for evening dresses, as she was about to go abroad. Impressed with her manner and appearance, a number of unique designs were sent to her hotel. After looking at these, she promised to call next day when she had finally decided on the dress she liked. She did not put in an appearance, and this particular firm of dressmakers were chagrined to find shortly afterward that their unique designs were being copied in detail by certain Parisian dressmakers. It afterward transpired that the lady in question was a fashion thief, who had hit upon this cute dodge to obtain designs.

Busy in May and June.

So jealously do dressmakers guard their new models that only those people with the highest credentials are allowed in the showrooms and at the private views. “We are particularly non our guard,” said my informant, “against experts from America and Germany. Many of them have a habit of coming over here, or visiting a house in Paris, about May or June, and whatever costumes for the following Winter can be secured in advance they promptly acquire, forward them to their headquarters, have them copied more or less badly, and sell them as the latest London and Paris creations. A new designed acquired in this way was at once reproduced by an American house, with the result that when a lady went to a well-known dressmaker in Paris and was shown the fashion for the Winter she exclaimed: “’Oh, no; these are not new. I have seen these styles in New York much cheaper.’”

The same complaints are made by the best milliners, who have to be constantly on the qui vive against the unwelcome attentions of people who are always on the lookout for unique and novel designs. “Of course,” said one milliner to the writer. “one must show hats in order to sell them; and it is easy enough for a smartly dressed lady artiste to mix with other women around the shop windows or int eh showrooms, make a mental picture of the hat and a rough sketch in the neighboring tea shop and come back afterward to compare the sketch with the original. And it is thus, to our chagrin, that a hat we are often selling for three and four guineas is copied and sold at shops in the suburbs at something like half the price.”

Pirating Lace Designs.

Even more serious is the manner in which lace designs are pirated, for not only do shopkeepers suffer, but the manufacturers find themselves losing thousands of dollars every year through unscrupulous tricks. The president of the Lace Finishers’ Association at Nottingham, England, recently mentioned that English designs are systematically betrayed to foreign competitors. Inquiries showed that while many draughtsmen were above suspicion and could be relied on to keep designs secret, others cared not how much damage they did to English manufacturers. Foreign manufacturers were sparing neither effort nor expense to obtain possession of the Nottingham patterns as soon as they were produced. One draughtsman boasted that he had sold four copies of original designs entrusted to him to four different countries. So great has the scandal become that the question of an international agreement on the subject is being seriously considered.

The Buffalo [NY] Enquirer 1 May 1913: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On the eve of “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” Mrs Daffodil thought that a look at the scurvy tactics of fashion pirates might be of interest. The practice, of course, continues to-day in ever more bold, swashbuckling guises, leading to pirated films, the theft of embargoed novels, and clever, affordable copies of couture hand-bags. Mrs Daffodil does not condone the practice; merely notes that it is ubiquitous and that modern fashion pirates are more apt to be found by a Fashion Week cat-walk, than walking the plank.

M. Poiret was eager to see fashion pirates clapped in irons. With his usual flair for personal publicity, he railed against the plunderers of classic French fashion, while teasing of new and novel designs to come.

Paul Poiret, the fashionable dressmaker here, is on the warpath against fashionable pirates, declaring that unless something is done to stop the theft of styles there will be no great couturiers left In Paris.

“I have about succeeded,” he told the correspondent,” on forming a committee of the best known dressmakers in the city to study law how best to protect their interests. The committee is small purposely, only about seven houses being represented.

“Every new fashion a leading dressmaker evolves is seized upon so quickly that the originator is left wondering how it is done. The fashion is not only pirated, but the copies are often so badly executed that the public is disgusted. We shall oppose newspapers bringing out fashion supplements, and photographers from selling photographs taken at the races and at other places where styles are first seen. The fashion supplements aid the pirates materially since by their aid our latest exclusive creations are scattered throughout the world.

“There is now going on a campaign against the fashion as it is today. This is the result, not of our models, but of the quantities of bad imitations which I confess are really ridiculous. As I created the trouser-skirt it was lovely; as copied hideous. One designs a style today; in a fortnight it is copied everywhere and all left for me to do now is to create a new style.”

Santa Ana [CA] Register 23 July 1914: p. 4

 

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

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Snake Skin Neckties: 1894

snakeskin tie

SNAKE SKINS AS NECKTIES.

The Cuticle of a Thirty-Year-Old Now a Part of Correct Neckwear.

Just several shades removed from the chameleon fad is the idea of wearing snake skins for neckties, but the fashion is growing in Baltimore. It promises to become quite the proper caper to be seen in immaculate morning suit of the latest London cut, with the tanned cuticle of a three-foot reptile neatly tied around the snowy “choker” collar, whatever other style of linen neckwear happens to be the rage. The fad will never become generally violent, says the New York Recorder, for fine snake skins come high, and the crop may thin out so as to let the West Virginians, who make a business of catching the possessors of variegated outer coverings, create a corner in the market and coin a fortune. To be in the swim nowadays, and have the swagger thing in neckties, a Baltimore man must not only wear a snakeskin, but the cuticle of a “rattler” of about thirty years of age. The peculiar color of the rattler, when he has passed in his checks and gone to snake celestial spheres, is what makes the skin more valuable than when his fangs are still doing the poison business at the old stand.

The necktie must be that of a snake of age, standing and family, for a young scion of the house of rattler doesn’t seem to possess all the qualifications as to color and durability of hide the head of the house can lay claim to. Presumably it’s because a snake of three decades or so has been through about all the different kinds of dissipation known to the reptile world, and his physical hide is cognizant of no more compunction than his moral nature. Then an old rattler is generally larger than a young chap, and a tie about a yard in length is bound to bring more in the market than a whipper-snapper snake could show before he reaches his majority. No other kind of a snake indigenous to this section of the country would answer the purpose half as well as a rattler, because but few varieties attain his length and Falstaffian girth, except the copperhead and black snake, and their colors, while brilliant enough during life, are not of the right shade after the tanner has had his innings. A copperhead skin assumes too much of a dull brown to harmonize with odd ideas in neckwear, and the black fellow–well, his hide might answer for a seedy individual’s mourning tie, but nothing else. The rattler’s color, when all the fight has been taken out of him and his remains have been subjected to the process that prepares them for men’s furnishing use, is something on the very dull gold or ecru order. The black rings show distinctly and they lend the odd effects that have so captivated the swells. Then when a back and lining have been put on the skin the tie is ready for use, but they are worth an even three dollars any day, counting two dollars and a half for the skin, which is the average price of a rattler of thirty years’ standing, including all the trouble the catcher and tanner combined have had to take.

The Times and Democrat [Orangeburg SC] 19 September 1894: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While rattlesnakes were a staple villain of  Western moving pictures and newspaper articles about seething nests of the poisonous creatures, their menace only added a certain cachet for those devil-may-care Swells who ordered up the Crotalinae cravats. There were also well-known urban legends about persons poisoned by a rattlesnake’s fang embedded in a boot.  Mrs Daffodil imagines an underpaid snakeskin tanner leaving a fang or two in the lining…

The fashionable world never seems to tire of finding ways to torment living creatures. The chameleon fad mentioned at the beginning of the article had a brief vogue in the 1890s, and was sister to the fad for wearing live beetles.

The fad of wearing chameleons, which came from Florida, upon collar or scarf, has assumed quite large proportions among the set that is always seeking something new. It is not only confined to the male sex, for many ladies have adopted the fad and several of the fair sex have been seen wearing these little reptiles.

The Jewellers’ Circular and Horological Review, Vol. 27, 1898

The genuine snake-skin necktie seen at the head of this post dates from the 1970s. If one judges by the listings on auction sites, it appears that the fashionable snake-skin cravat is now an Italian silk print.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about Snake-skins in Fashion and The Lizard: Fashion’s Favorite Pet.

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.

 

Garters of Funereal Black: 1909

1910 french mourning catalog merry widow

A very merry widow from a 1910 catalogue of mourning goods.

A wife, pretty enough to warrant her desire for decorative garments, wasn’t appreciated by her grouchy husband. He was kicking hard at a batch of lingerie which she was trying to make him pay attention to. She appeared before him in a film of lace.

“What do you call that?” he growled; “it looks to me like a fishnet that has caught a mermaid.”

“I’ll swear solemnly that only one idea was in my mind when I had this sent home on approval,” she sobbed. “I said to myself, how proud it’ll make my husband to see me in it—in case of a fire.”

That plea won. The man bade her keep the garment. A pair of jeweled black garters were next to be offered for his scrutiny. Their price was $10.

‘I can see why those Rhinestone diamonds catch your eye,” he grunted, “But why, oh, tell me why, have jet-black garters on flesh-tint silk stockings?”

She took to weeping to get an idea. Her gasps and moans broke him all up, and he asked what she was crying about.

“If I must tell,” she slowly said, ‘twixt sobs, “I will, though I meant to keep the secret locked within my own breast. My dear brother, who died only a few weeks ago, was a stickler for all the conventional usages of mourning, while you disapprove strongly of wearing black in token of grief. Well, there I was in a dilemma. My dear brother would want me to put on black for him, but my dear alive husband would be offended by it. I hit on a way to honor bruddy’s memory without disregarding hubby’s desire. I wouldn’t change any of my garments to the hue of mourning, but, quite unknown to all save you, me and the spirit of my departed brother, I would wear these garters of funereal black. I was caught and rended between love and duty, and I fondly hoped I had solved a complex problem sentimentally. However, if you object, then—“

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 4 April 1909: p. 40

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One can only admire the lady’s talent for improvisation and her patience with that growling husband….

Calls for mourning reform from those who believed it to be unwholesome and over-costly echo down the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Mrs Daffodil suspects that the husband above objected principally to the cost, although his ghost would have been greatly offended if his wife did not put on full mourning after his passing. Here is an eloquent plea for the mourning band:

How long are we all to slavishly bow to this unwritten law of mourning, which forces us to adopt a custom inartistic and unsanitary, a blot upon the beauty of the world. a depression upon the nerves and spirits of the entire family, and very often a cruel tax upon the purse, for “mourning” and debt are only too often interchangeable terms. Why can we not break away from this tyrannical old law? There are women who, being widowed, abandon colors utterly and absolutely, just as some mourning mothers find a sorry comfort in wearing densest black as an outward expression of “that within which passeth show,” and their sincerity lends dignity and pathos to the mourning garb. But only think of the thousands who, for aunt or uncle, cousin (distant or near) or for relatives by marriage, resentfully don the purely conventional mourning, that they hate as a restraint and loathe as unbecoming;

Why may we not adopt in such cases the mourning band about the arm, securely stitched to the left sleeve of coat or jacket? It is too modest to mar either costume or suit, while it quietly and effectively announces our loss and expresses our respect.

The etiquette of mourning, like the man who drinks, or is addicted to drugs, demands a steady “tapering off”.” You should pass from crape to plain black–thence to black and white–thence to lavender and gray, and thus gently glide into blues, pinks, etc. But sometimes the deepest mourning is the briefest.

The Pittsburg [PA] Press 3 June 1906: p. 41

 

For more on the nuances and curiosities of Victorian mourning, Mrs Daffodil recommends The Victorian Book of the Dead, also available for Kindle.

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.