Category Archives: Fashion Accessories

$35,000 a Year to Dress a “Deb”: 1924

 

$35,000 a Year to Dress a “Deb”!

Dressmakers to the “400” Tell How the Modern Society Girl Wears Annually 30 Evening Gowns, 250 Pairs of Stockings, 25 Pairs of Shoes, 30 Hats, 2 Dozen Negligees, 1 Dozen Evening Wraps, and a $25,000 Coat!

When one of New York’s smartest dressmakers announced the other day that nobody could dress on less than $35,000 in a year, a lot of people clutched their pocketbook with one hand and held up the other hand in horror.

But not the debutante. Not, either, the debutante’s mother in the his year of grace 1924. Nor, indeed, the debutante’s father. They knew that the dressmaker’s estimate was conservative. “I only hope my daughter will cut her wardrobe expenses down to $35,000!” was the sincere groan of many a plutocratic parent.

Of course when the dressmaker said nobody could dress on less than $35,000 a year, she referred to anybody feminine who was “anybody” in New York City. Even in Manhattan there are girls who spend less than $500 a year for clothes. But they are not the girls who get their names into the society column.

To the innocent bystander, however, whose name never gets near the society column than the death notices, advertisements and “marriage licenses issued today,” that $35,000 remark was a smash between the eyes. “How,” said the innocent bystander, fingering his last $1 bill, “can any woman not only not get along on less than $35,000 for clothes and incidentals alone—but how, on clothes and incidentals alone, can she spend so much?”

The easiest answer is: “Easily.” But after all, that doesn’t tell the innocent bystander much about what it’s all for, so this innocent bystander galumphed up to the source of the hair-raising remark and asked how come, with specifications, explanations and itemized particulars.

Fay Lewisohn

Miss Fay Lewisohn

She’s a surprisingly young and girlish person, this Fay Lewisohn who made the statement which has ever since been causing squawk of dismay. Perhaps it is worth noting that the squawks come from people—like oneself, for example—who haven’t anything like $35,000 to spend on anything, let alone on clothes. Her establishment is in the most fashionable-dressmaker section of West Fifty-seventh street, which as the initiate know is at present the ultra fashionable district for the modistes whose clientele is truly exclusive.

“How can a woman spend $35,000 a year on dress?” is the question directed at the slim, attractive young woman who announces herself as proprietor of the place.

The slim, attractive young woman shrugged. “How can she help it?” is her answer.

“Well, but after all—”

The modiste smiled. “Oh, I’m talking about the woman of wealth and social position. Naturally, every one who comes to my shop for an occasional gown doesn’t spend that much on clothes; perhaps not in a lifetime. I myself don’t spend that much on clothes in a year.

“But perhaps you don’t realize that there are dozens of women in New York today to whom $35,000 as an annual outlay for dress, cosmetics and so on, is not an extravagance. I know one woman who has a yearly contract with a modiste for $50,000 worth of clothes. There are society women who easily spend that much. Just as there are people who spend $50 a month for a house and others who pay $15,000 a year for an apartment. The thing is relative, you know.”

The modiste, it seemed, got a fair profit and no more. “It is possible that by some lucky chance a woman might find a cheap dressmaker who would turn her out, as well as one whose prices were higher. That is an unlikely chance; but it might happen. However, what the society woman wants is a quiet, attractive place in which to inspect gowns. She wants to see those gowns displayed by refined, high-class models. Naturally, both these requisites mean high rent and good salaries.”

Your murmur about the overhead expense brought an emphatic nod.

“Moreover, the very materials in the clothes themselves are expensive even before the scissors and needle touch the goods. Brocades at, say, around $100 a yard, send the price of a gown up, rather.”

Rather!

“There is an East Indian, for example, who brings me marvelously embroidered silks straight from India. He drapes them around the models and they really need, oftentimes, very little cutting or sewing. But the materials themselves are almost museum pieces. Some are antiques. And, of course, they are very valuable.

“Another big item in sending up the price of a frock is the actual labor upon it. Labor I these days and in this city, especially skilled needlework, is high. On a first-class gown which has many yards of an intricately beaded pattern, each bead must be sewn on with care so that it won’t pull off. These patterns often are works of art and it requires almost artists to bead them. Do you know that the beading on one gown, when properly done, may take several weeks?”

These were matters worthy of consideration. But how many of these gowns would a sure-enough social leader need in the course of a year? And how much would such a gown cost?

It depended, naturally, on the taste of the patron and the amount of beading.

“A gown of this type, beautifully done, might run into many hundreds of dollars. It might be five hundred dollars, six hundred—the material itself would, of course, be a determining factor. I am speaking, by the way, of a gown on which the modiste would make a legitimate profit; not of a gown for which the modiste would charge every dollar she thought she could extort.

“A debutante may easily spend $35,000 a year for clothes and really get her money’s worth. Without being cheated by the modiste.”

You began to see how this was so.

“Now, for instance,” the modiste continued, “a girl who moves in what is known as high society needs about thirty evening gowns. She doesn’t plan to wear any costume more than two or three times; some of them only once. It is not too much to say that thirty evening gowns would cost her $9000.

“She would require 250 pairs of stockings. These would cost on a average, perhaps $9 a pair; an item of $2250 for hosiery alone. Of course, some stockings would cost much more than $9 a pair.”

As a matter of fact, a shop in the vicinity of Fifth avenue and Forty-second street has had on display within the year a pair of stockings priced at $500. Not $500 each, you understand; but $500 for the pair, or $250 each. They were perfectly simple black silk hose, with a large medallion of lace on the front.

The same shop had another pair of quite good-looking silk and lace stockings for $250.

But the modiste was going on with her itemized bill of wardrobe expenses. Shoes, she agreed, could cost anything you want to spend on them, but $2000 wasn’t too much for some women. A lady who wanted her feet to look really chic would require, at the least twenty-five pairs of shoes, and this was a low estimate.

Hats? Of course, you could get a good little hat for $35. Or you could get a stunning little thing for $100. Anyway, the lady would need at least thirty hats and she could easily spend from $1200 to $2100 before she got out of the millinery department.

By this time you begin to see that milady has run up quite a sizable bill. But the end is by no means yet. How about lingerie? How about lounging robes for the boudoir? How about the perfumes and powders, the creams and other cosmetics with which the boudoir dressing table is stacked?

Of course, a negligee is whatever you please. It is, so to speak, an elastic garment. It may be a cotton wrapper or a thing exquisite as sunshine on the sea. The negligee of the social leader is of this latter type. And you’d be surprised at how expensive it is to put the sunshine on the sea into figured silk and chiffon.

“A dozen negligees are not too many” –it is the voice of authority which speaks; “many women have many more than a dozen. They might easily cost a little more than $200 apiece, or $2500 for the dozen.

“As for lingerie—I have just finished a set of lingerie, for a bride, which is valued at $10,000. I have made other sets for $15,000; that is to say, a dozen of each garment. The set which I have just finished was of hand-made filet lace and Italian silk of special quality. The wedding gown, priced at $600, was intricately beaded with crystal. One could get a really lovely wedding gown, as a matter of fact for around $300. But, of course, this is without the veil. The veil may cost as much as one is willing to pay—

“It may be a few almost priceless yards of antique lace, made in some convent of the Middle Ages.

“The more usual lingerie, of finest linen or silks and exquisite laces, would cost about $3600 for two dozen sets.

 

“A dozen evening wraps would be part of the society woman’s wardrobe. It is difficult to put a price on them. They might cost several hundred dollars each, depending on what fur was used for the collars and other decorations.

“There are such things as fans, too, which vary tremendously in price. These would mount at least into the hundreds. Corsets, too, are expensive when well made and made to order. The materials are costly, also. Seventy dollars is the price of one corset which makes no pretense to embroidery or other ornamentation. The price is for the best quality of brocade and of silk elastic and for the model itself.

“You understand, further that a social leader could not possibly buy her furs within that $35,000 which I have allowed her for a wardrobe. Furs would have to be extra. For a handsome coat $15,000 is not an unusual price and $25,00 would more likely be the figure.

“This leaves what are known as incidentals. They include hairdressing and all that goes with this art; beauty treatments, with cosmetics, perfumes at—say–$30 an ounce—and things of the sort. Cigarettes, too, may be put with the incidentals. Many society women smoke the brands that come in fifteen or twenty cent packages, but you may, if you wish, have the sort that has a monogram, a special blend of tobacco and a little dab of cotton inside the cork tip to absorb the nicotine and keep it from touching the lips. Without the monogram these can be obtained for around eleven cents each.

“No, not each packet. Each cigarette.

“For incidentals we may safety estimate that a society woman spends $5000 yearly.”

The modiste drew a long breath. So did you.

“Well, you see,” she said.

You did, indeed.

New Britain [CT] Herald 7 October 1924: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil, who has previously shared information on the account-books of the very rich (The Cost of a Fine Lady, What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe, Where that $10,000 a Year Dress Allowance Goes, and The Cost of a Curtsey), wonders if these articles are a form of what she has heard called “humble-bragging,” or if they are meant to be inspiration for the ten-shillings-a-week shop-girl to set her sights on an elderly peer or millionaire?

Although she inexplicably omits essentials such as hand-bags, vanity cases, and jewels, Miss Lewisohn knew a thing or two about the sartorial needs of the society woman. She was the heiress to the Randolph Guggenheim millions. She was often in the news: Her engagement to one William Burton (of a Park Avenue address) was announced 23 February 1919; the engagement was reported as broken on 2 April, 1919, with her mother saying that the couple was “Too young to know their own hearts.” In 1921 she had to issue a statement denying that she was marrying a Russian prince; while in 1922, she announced the opening of her dressmaking establishment, in partnership with Mrs. Basil Soldatenkov, wife of the former Russian envoy under the Czar. She also married Jack Rothstone, brother of Broadway gambler Arnold Rothstein in 1928; divorcing him in 1934.

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

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

The Lost Garter: 1890

The ancient order of the garter was recalled to nineteenth century prominence here the other day by an incident that is being discussed very delightedly by the heavy social set. The actors in the drama are well known in Washington society. The lady is one of the prettiest girls in Washington and lives not a mile from the White House. Her father has drawn a great deal of money from the United States Treasury in his lifetime and is by no means unknown to fame.

It was at the Garfield Hospital ball. The gentleman was an army officer of more than ordinary rank. In appearance they are well matched. She is a dazzling blonde with a figure that can discount any one-armed Venus de Milo I ever saw. The names of the two have been coupled together not a little, but it is safe to predict that such remarks will cease from now on.

It happened this way They had just danced a quadrille and returned to their seats in a palm-decorated corner quite out of the way of the madding crowd. What he was saying when another man came to claim her for the next dance is immaterial, but when his following gaze lost the lovely form in the crowd, he glanced manlike at his boots and [in] a minute his eyes were riveted on a dainty light blue gold-clasped article that lay on the floor not a yard from where his fair partner of the  previous minute had been seated. As he recognized its character all the be-ruffled courtiers of the court of the English king seemed to troop before him and honi soit qui mal y pense trembled on his tongue as he thrust the pretty thing into an inner pocket.

Poor fellow he could not stand prosperity. During the rest of the  evening he was so idiotically happy that he failed to notice the disturbed and furtively searching glances that the pretty woman, cognizant of her loss, every now and then cast into odd corners where a loose article might have been brushed.

On the way home a confession of his newly-found treasure rose to his lips a dozen times, only to be postponed. When at last he stood in the hall of her house she looked so pretty that he could resist no longer. He held one of her gloves in his hand. It required no juggling skill to take his blue and gold treasure and slip it into the glove. It was better, he  thought, to give it to her than tell her. He didn’t know how much the  poor girl had gone through since he had picked up the dainty bauble. Just as he was beginning to tell her good-night he handed back her glove. In a moment the form that had been full of yielding grace grew rigid. One pretty hand clasped the glove so closely that it didn’t take all the keen intuition of the girl to understand that the long lost and much-needed article was within. No sooner had she realized that during all her suffering this man had possessed the article than her spirit rose in arms, sentiment vanished, and with the ejaculation, “Oh, you horrid brute,” she fled up the stairway, leaving him to his reflections and a large chunk of mortification.

The next time he called she sent word that she was “out,” and the young officer’s messmates don’t think it prudent to include garters in their conversations held before the hero of this tale.

The little married woman who told me of the incident explains the action of the young lady by saying that it was not mortification at the nature of the article that had been in the young a man’s possession that vexed the girl so much as it was fear lest she had lost one of the articles that had been especially purchased to match the dainty garments by which it was immediately surrounded, and that anyhow the heroine didn’t love the hero or she would have knighted him then and there with the precious article. But then women say odd things of one another and perhaps the poor girl was mortified after all.

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

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously over a story perhaps better suited to the pages of a French novel than a family newspaper.  With so little common sense, one has doubts about the fitness of the officer for that “more than ordinary rank.”  Surely the contretemps could have easily been avoided by posting the lost item back to its owner anonymously? We may also wonder how the young officer knew what the dainty article was, but then one knows what young officers are….

 

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

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

Fashion’s Goldsmith-A Visit to Lalique: 1900

FASHION’S GOLDSMITH.

He Creates Birds and Flowers of Precious Stones.

The most prized and splendid jewels that have found their way into the caskets of princesses and millionaires of late are from the studio of Rini [sic] Lalique, artist, inventor, and worker in gems, ivory, and the precious metals. Women of the “smart set” who had the good fortune to see the wonderful specimens of this man’s work given Miss Julia Grant by the Prince Cantaruzene at the time of their wedding enjoyed a new emotion as well as a revelation in the art of personal adornment. This Benvenuto Cellini of today is in no sense of the word a shopkeeper and the fashionable woman who takes her annual trip to Paris this year to find show cases filled with trinkets made to imitate his style, will at once observe what an immense influence his originality of method has had upon the trade. If she is determined to see the interior of Lalique’s studio and talk with a very interesting man, she must seek out someone who knows where he bides in the quiet side street, and go armed with an introduction to the grey house, which bears beside the entrance door a small brass plate inscribed Lalique-Joallier.

A French artisan in a long blouse seeks the master, while you look around the room. In the centre are two upright cases, like those seen in museums, and by the windows a few tables with glass tops, similar to those ladies affect for their drawing-room curios. There is no suspicion of the shopkeeper in anything here. This is an artist’s studio, and as Lalique’s work appeals only to the elect, his guests admire and choose their purchases after the manner of pictures. Here they can see his methods and understand why It Is that his work has been admitted to the Salon among the chef d’oeuvres of great painters and sculptors.

Soon a young man who looks very like Paul Bourget comes in with a pleasant greeting, and listens modestly to your enthusiastic admiration of the spray of fuchsias which nod like real flowers as your footsteps jar the floor and which look quite as fragile as the real flower.

Lalique began life as a painter, but his genius was for another branch of art, one much more rare than painting; therefore he soon deserted the brush for his present implements. He first did some designing for a great American firm but longing to execute his own bold and original ideas, and now with a host of followers (all Paris, in fact) crowding on his footsteps, he leads the goldsmiths of the world. Never before has a jeweler looked upon the metals and gems as nothing but colors for his palate, but to Lalique’s eyes gold, silver, precious stones, and enamels are but materials which bring to life the golden pictures of his fancy. He colors the metals, chips the stones, mixes the cheap gems with the expensive and makes therewith works of art. Enamels take on new hues under his skilled fingers, while ivory and bone lend their dull colors to heighten the effect of his creations.

horn and ivory orchid comb lalique 1903-4

He colors gold and carves the opal so marvelously, that a comb for a princess, made of dull grey horn, becomes a stunning frame for a graceful woman’s figure, which leans against the side holding a great bunch of drooping pampas In her hand. Woman, grass, and delicate foliage, in the background are all a miniature painting done in gold of many colors, opal, enamel, and ivory.

lalique opal ring2

The imagination of the poet shows In every piece of this man’s work, drawing the line thus between the genius and the many talented designers who can imitate and follow him successfully. Rough opal is the material greatly used by Lalique. The golden sunset, the soft shine of the moonlight, the fleecy clouds beside innumerable flowers and living objects are wonderfully pictured by the way in which this artist uses this material. Diamonds, pearls, emeralds, rubies, and turquoises are but parts of his design, and the way in which he employs amethyst as other jewelers use enamel is productive of amazing results.

lalique dragon brooch 1905

One sort of ornament which Lalique particularly likes, because its shape and position on the dress allows his fancy great play, is intended for the front of a belt, a low corsage, or a neckband. A wonderful dragon shining with color and belching forth clouds of opal, is a design for one of these. A second is a landscape showing through the tree trunks of many colored gold the opal of the sunset shining in a pool of diamonds, and still another is a spray of beautifully colored roses with their leaves growing inside a thread-like frame of gold as though they were growing outside the window. A few rings, queer brooches, a rope of seed pearls finished by a tassel of rubies, a pendant or two, all fanciful, poetic, unique, and enchanting, are all Lalique has to show his visitor. The court of Russia is constantly snatching up his finest pieces as they come from his hands, and in England the great families who are so proud of their jewels are constant visitors to his quiet apartments. He works very slowly, and except for his yearly exhibit at the Salon, can make no display, his works are nearly always sold before they are finished.

Washington [DC] Times 8 April 1900: p. 19

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While to-day the work of M. Lalique is highly prized and sells for fabulous sums whenever it comes to auction, the critics of the past were not so kind. For example, this author finds Lalique cloyingly pretty:

We confess to some hesitation in expressing frankly the impression produced on us by M. Lalique’s work, because in looking back on the history of modern art we find that whenever work has been condemned for its tendencies with the admission of its technical excellence, the verdict of a succeeding generation has always been in favour of the artist. It is, in short, dangerous to condemn on some high moral or abstract aesthetic grounds work of which the technical excellence is indisputable. And yet, if we are to be sincere, that is what we are inclined to do to M. Lalique’s jewellery. To us its prettiness is exasperating—its extraordinary effectiveness, its too obvious and assertive charm, cloying….Nor is his rendering of natural forms really impressive ; it lacks intimacy and intensity of feeling…And if the line is nowhere arrested, nowhere determined by architectural necessity, the colour schemes are equally vague and indeterminate…Where therefore, as here, a discord is out of the question, no very intense or moving harmony can occur, the colour never rises to beauty, it remains obdurately and annoyingly pretty.

The Athenaeum 27 May 1905: p. 664

Another found him lacking in style:

The chief thing lacking in M. Lalique’s’ jewellery, as in that of his imitators, is style. And it is for this reason that so many people, even those most devoted to that which is novel, refuse to regard his productions as other than vain and transitory things. Certain it is that the composition of some of M. Lalique’s work suggests haste—facile haste; this or that detail deserved closer study, demanded firmer drawing, stronger characterisation. Thus, while acknowledging fully our indebtedness to M. Lalique for having renovated and revived the art of jewel-working, one cannot but regret that he should too often have been content to make a direct copy of floral forms when a careful stylisation would have been far more effective. A natural flower is decorative of itself, and no jewel however precious can compare with it on a woman’s breast or in her hair.

The Studio, Vol. 23: p. 1901: pp. 27-30

Finally, this critic has a rather amusing, yet valid, reason for disliking Lalique:

At times even—most unjustly, I admit—one almost comes to hate the art of M. Lalique himself, so persistently is it badly imitated.

Modern Design in Jewellery and Fans, Charles Holme, 1902: p. 2

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

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

Violets the Fad This Winter: 1893

hand painted violet fan

VIOLETS THE FAD THIS WINTER.

They Will Appear in Every Sort of Shape That Fashion Can Suggest.

The violet is the flower of the coming winter.

All the new things of every sort are covered with violets. The new embroidery patterns are in violets. The new candleshades have paper violets stuck upon them. Even the candles are of a novel tint–purple.

The newest ribbons in the shops are violet, the color running through a surprising number of shades. The latest fancy soaps are wrapped in violet-colored paper. Note paper in pale violet is to be a fashionable fad, and my lady will scent her dainty mouchoir with violet perfume.

Some of the swellest Washington women are going to give violet teas during the coming season. On these occasions of modish festivity many gowns will be worn of white silk with violets brocaded upon them, the corsage bouquets being great bunches of the same flowers. One dress already designed will have a low cut bodice entirely surrounded by a deep wreath of violets. At tea tables violet ribbons will be stretched from the candles to the chandeliers above, forming a sort of May pole effect.

A Violet Room.

One Washington house already has a whole room done in pale violet–the wall paper, hangings, furniture coverings, everything. A pretty effect is produced by making violet the color-motive for a lady’s bedchamber. The counterpane and pillow shams may be of white muslin over violet, and the dressing table in the same materials, tied with great violet bows in several shades. If nothing else is done in recognition of this new fad, one should have at least one sofa pillow of violet.

Violet has even become the proper color for babies, replacing the old-fashioned blue and pink. The violet tea gown will be very much the thing. It Is noticed that all the newest and most dainty porcelains are ornamented with violets, either scattered about or in solid bunches. The latest designs in jewelry are in these flowers, and fancy pins and such trifles in violets will be popular as gifts for the approaching Christmas.

Of course, this rage for violets will add greatly to the price of those blossoms during the coming winter. Many women win mix imitation ones with the real for economy’s sake, and their bouquets will not be less beautiful for that reason. Violets are perhaps more successfully imitated than any other flowers.

A Clerk in the Business.

A young Washington lady employed in the Treasury Department is likely to find this a profitable season for a pleasant business which she devotes her leisure moments to conducting. She raises violets on a small farm of her own near Anacostia. The work is very easy. She has more than 30 glass sashes, under which the flowers bloom all winter long. In May each year she has some fresh ground plowed, and in it she plants all of her violets, taken from beneath the sashes for that purpose. Then she simply takes up the sashes, covers the newly planted violets with them, and the work Is done.

In October they begin to bloom, and continue all through the winter, so that the young lady can pick them every day and send them to market. All of her violet plants came from one little pot which she bought at the Center market five years ago. They are made to multiply by dividing the roots, so that a single plant taken up in the spring will supply a score or more. She sells her violets to florists in Washington or New York. Prices are higher in the metropolis, so that it pays to express them on. They never bring less than a cent apiece, and sometimes two cents.

There is always a market for violets, and there is never any difficulty in disposing of them. Any florist is glad to buy them, if they are good ones and in prime condition. They must be picked always in the afternoon, because otherwise they lose their perfume. To ship them, they must be placed in bunches in pasteboard boxes, with waxed paper folded loosely around them. They must not be touched with water, because to do so will take away their sweetness.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 11 November 1893: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously written about how to give a “violet luncheon.” Should her readers require the details of a “violet tea,” albeit of a more lavish variety than usually seen in suburban households, this article gives some helpful suggestions.

Extravagant Hospitality

The afternoon teas of the coming season will be more elaborate than ever before. One leader in society will give one in a few weeks which will eclipse anything of the kind ever seen. It is to be a violet tea. The table will be laid for twelve. The cloth used upon this occasion will be one of six which the hostess had made abroad by special order. They all are of a heavy white satin, each embroidered in different designs. The one to be used upon this occasion is embroidered in violets. They lie in clusters, all over the shining white surface and the work is so admirably done that one would think they had been plucked and dropped there. The tea service is of Royal Worcester, also made by special order, with a design of violets upon a rich cream ground. There are 188 pieces in this tea service, and the average cost is $30 for each, piece. The napkins are of satin, with a design of violets embroidered in one corner. The favors will be painted upon porcelain, and although all different each will be a design of violets.

Under the table will be a large Wilton rug of cream with violets scattered over it The valance dependent from the mantel will be of creamy plush, with a border of embroidered violets and a lining of violet satin. The portieres will be of heavy white felt with a border of violets. The lamps will all have violet shades, so that the light will be like an Indian summer haze.

Arkansas City [KS] Daily Traveler 9 January 1890: p. 2

 

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 Nation that Shops: 1906

 

Christmas Holiday Shopping Begins

THE NATION THAT SHOPS

By Mrs. John Van Vorst

Some distinguished Englishman, after visiting the United States, remarked that Americans “would be a great people if they didn’t shop so much.”

Shopping is, it must be admitted, the national American occupation.

The city of New York, built on a long and very narrow island, suggests the tube of a thermometer, and the population can well be likened to mercury: they fluctuate in a mass, now up, now down, moved by the impelling atmosphere of the shopping centres. Apart from the business men, who, on their way to and from their offices, crowd the subways and elevated roads in the morning and evening hours, there is a compact body composed chiefly of women and girls in the surface cars at given moments of the day. Towards 9 a.m. they are transported to the shopping district centred about Broadway and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, between Eighth and Fifty-ninth Streets. They shop assiduously until hunger calls them, reluctant, homeward; but, having lunched, they return for a further fray, which lasts until five or six o’clock in the afternoon.

Pouring into town from another direction, are the suburbanites, whose exile from the island-city compels them to take a ferry in order to reach the field of chosen activities. With tender consideration, the needs of these “out-of-town shoppers” have been met by the stores, which provide cheap lunch-rooms or restaurants situated in the upper regions of the lofty store buildings. Given such facility for eating, away from home, the serious bargain hunter can continue throughout the day, uninterrupted, her work.

Where do they all come from, you ask? Who are they, these women with nothing to do but shop?

America, it should always be remembered in judging it, came into existence definitely at about the same time with the so-called “labour-saving” machine. There is no country in the world, doubtless, where in all classes womanly pursuits have been so wholly abandoned, and the “ready-made” so generally substituted for the “home-made” in the household organism. A single instance is striking enough to give some idea, at least, of what the American woman doesn’t do.

Wishing to buy a gold thimble when in New York not long ago, I went to the most fashionable jeweller’s, and was somewhat surprised when the clerk drew from the depths of a drawer a tray with three thimbles on it.

“Are these all you have?” I asked.

He answered rather peremptorily: “We can make you a gold thimble to order. We don’t carry any assortment. There’s no sale for them nowadays.”

So here, to begin with, is one category of shopper: the woman who never sews, but who buys ready-made her own and her children’s clothes and underclothes. She chooses the cheapest confections, gets what wear she can out of them, and discards them when they begin to give way, arguing that it “doesn’t pay” to mend. This convenient logic, together with a very conscientious scanning of the advertised bargain lists, leads her to consider shopping in the light of an economy, a domestic necessity, and herself as a diligent housewife.

“But when she has children,” you very justly exclaim, “what does she do with them?”

If they are too young to go to school, she brings them with her into the overheated, dusty rooms of the crowded stores. When they are babies in arms, she trundles them in the perambulator to the threshold of the inward whirlpool, and there, in the company of other scions, she abandons them temporarily. At a popular shop I have seen a side vestibule crowded with little carriages. Now and then, as the wail of some one infant rose, heart-rending, above the others, an anxious and busy mother, having recognised from within the call of her young, rushed out, readjusted conditions for the immediate comfort of the baby concerned, and returned to the more alluring considerations of a bargain counter.

It is perhaps for such domestic reasons, perhaps for causes which affect more generally the evolution of retail shop keeping, that trade of every sort is concentrated more and more under the single roof of the so-called department store in America. As in London, so in New York, everything from the proverbial elephant to the ordinary toothpick may be bought at the stores….

Aside from the primary category of women who shop with the idea of domestic economy, there is another class who likewise no doubt exist only in the United States.

Talking not long ago with a rising young lawyer about the American habit of “living up to one’s income,” I was interested in what he told me, for it represents the situation of a large class of American business and professional men.

“They often reproach us Americans,” he said, “for our thriftlessness. They don’t realise how many expenses are forced involuntarily upon us. I, for example, was recently given charge of an important case with the condition specified that part of the large fee I received was to be immediately re-expended in making more of an outlay, generally. My offices were considered too modest for the counsel of a great financial company. I was obliged to move. I had also to rent a larger house in the country, to have more servants, and the rest. Materially, so to speak, I represent my clients, and if they keep on increasing in importance I shall be obliged to buy property and to own a motor car!”

All these enforced expenditures entail a multitude of minor extravagances which devolve upon the wife, who becomes, in consequence, an assiduous shopper. She shops, not because she has any especial needs, nor because she entertains, or has even any social life whatever, but because her husband is making money, which must be spent as a testimony to the world of his flourishing position. This category of shopper buys the finest linen for her vacant house, the most costly silver and china; she chooses diamonds which are to glitter unseen unless she wears them in the street—which, it has been observed, she very often does. She buys laces and furs, and what she has is “of the best, the very best.”

How does she educate her taste, we ask? For her taste is remarkably good, and bears even a high reputation among the Parisian dressmakers with whom she soon begins to deal.

She is imitative, she is adaptable, she seems to have no ingrained vulgarity, no radical commonness which, given the proper example to follow, she cannot shake off.

And where, in the matter of shopping, does she find this example?

In the newspapers, in the reports of what is being purchased from day to day by the élite circle who have devoted their lives to the cultivating of their tastes.

The owner of one of the largest stores in New York said to me: “In France they have periodical sales, which are advertised by the different shops a year in advance. Such a thing is impossible here. If you go any day to one of the big dress stores in Paris, you will see exactly the same pattern that you saw there ten years before: there is a whole class of people who, no matter what the passing fashion may be, dress about alike. Here”—he threw up his hands and laughed—“everybody wants to be dressed like the leaders of Society. If they see in the paper that one of them has worn some new thing at a ball, there are five thousand of them the next day who want that thing, and who are going to have it, whether they ran afford it or not.”

“So you give it to them? ”

“That’s our business—watching every caprice of the buying public. We can’t plan for any sales, we can only every now and then take advantage of a chance we may have to get cheap something the public is after. Then we can offer them a bargain.”

This lightning communication of the fashion news among shoppers extends to the smallest towns. One of the “queens” of society having appeared at the races last spring in a plum-coloured Paris gown, a ripple of “plum colour” ran over America, sounding in the ears of the manufacturers, ever on the alert. One of them said to me: “There’s nothing pretty in that plum colour, but our mills have had to put everything aside and run the looms on plum colour for five solid weeks.”

When it comes to these worldly “queens” who set the fashion, shopping in New York takes formidable proportions. We have here the estimate of the amount spent on dress per year by many a rich American woman. The items were given by the “fournisseurs” themselves.

shopping in New York annual expenditure.JPG

The number of women in New York who spend fifteen thousand dollars a year on clothes is estimated at two thousand! It is not surprising, is it, that the New York shops should have the air of existing for women only? There are a few men’s furnishers and tobacco dealers who have made a name for themselves, but one finds them in the basement entrance of mansions whose facades are gay with the hats and gowns and laces that form such a gigantic item in the New York woman’s daily expenses…

The fact that two thousand women, without arousing even passing comment, should each of them spend annually on her clothes so important a sum as fifteen thousand dollars, sufficiently proves how exorbitantly expensive every trifling luxury becomes when it has been produced in or imported to the United States.

The Empress Eugenie, deploring the faux luxe of to-day, and recalling, no doubt, certain reflections made, at an unhappy moment, upon her own extravagance, wrote recently in a letter: “During all the time I was Empress I had only three dresses which cost each as much as a thousand francs: one for my wedding, one for the christening of the Prince Imperial, one for the Exposition of 1858.”

This thousand francs, which clad an Empress in such gowns as will long be remembered, is the price paid by the ordinarily successful New York broker’s wife for her ordinary little toilettes. But, while it is difficult for her to obtain a walking frock for less than two hundred dollars, her poor sister of the tenement district finds American machine-made clothes cheaper even than they are in Europe. And so it goes through all the category of articles to be found in the New York stores: the very rich and the very poor find what they are looking for. Those who have “moderate incomes” are constantly embarrassed between wanting the nice things they can’t afford and having to buy the nasty productions they don’t want.

The result is just this: everything that is fashionable is hastily copied in cheap qualities. If you are looking in a New York shop for solid, sober dress-goods, for example, to offer to a family retainer, you will be given, unless you are very explicit, the flimsy, low-grade copy of some stuff you have just seen on the backs of the rich.

This system has its advantages: in the matter of boots and shoes the cheapest ready-made dealer provides his clients with foot-covering copied in form at least from the best models procurable. And his customer, whatever may be his rank in life, car conductor or country store clerk, wears good-looking boots of which he is very evidently proud!…

In all the large department stores, and in the first-class boutiques generally, the credit system is in vogue. Doubtless this is a whet to the reckless spirit of the assiduous shopper. We read of a certain lady belonging to this category, who died quite recently in Brooklyn, New York. It was found that her “mania for shopping” was such that, during four years’ time, she had had charged to her account at the stores two hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of things for which she had no use whatever! Her spacious home was filled with unopened parcels! One room, it was found, contained nothing, from floor to ceiling, but handkerchiefs. Shopping at this rate, it will be seen, becomes something in the nature of a passion, and perhaps it could not reach this degree of intensity without the facility for “charging.”

If the American shopkeeper be lenient, and very cunningly so, in trusting his customers, he is uncompromising about taking back things that have once been delivered. “No goods exchanged” is the warning which stands in glaring evidence at the threshold of the different departments. Exceptions, of course, are made for customers of long enduring reputation.

As for advertising, it suffices to scan a Sunday newspaper, or to lift one of the American magazines with its hundred and fifty pages of advertisements, to realise how keenly alive to shopping suggestion is the American woman. It is commonly understood, in fact, that the “wash day” in the middle-class American family has been changed from the traditional Monday to Tuesday, so that the housewives can take advantage of the “bargains” set forth in alluring type among the folios of the Sunday journals.

In a recent book on “Modern Advertising,” We learn that preparing the réclames for a large department store is almost as complicated an affair as compiling a daily paper. What the influence of these announcements is, is proved by a single resulting fact. For years there was a prejudice in America against doing anything—even shopping-on a Friday. So gradually, in order to attract shoppers on that ill-fated day, the storekeepers adopted the habit of proclaiming special Friday bargains and sales. Next to Monday there is no day now when the shops are so thronged as on Friday!…

The “strenuousness” of the shopper’s life is indicated by the presence in all large stores of an emergency hospital, a physician and a trained nurse to take care of the “women who faint” or collapse on their busy rounds…

The usual traditional empressé manner of clerks is debarred in American shops. Urging and coaxing, proposing, suggesting, are the salesman’s trump cards in France. They act only as an irritant with the Westerner, whose psychology, as we have seen, is somewhat peculiar. At one of the large New York stores frequent complaints were preferred, by the customers, regarding the “eagerness” of the clerks. “They only annoy us,” the fair shoppers explained, “by their politeness. We can choose for ourselves, I guess—that’s just what we go shopping for!”

The Pall Mall Magazine, Volume 37 1906: pp. 744-748

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The hurly-burly of the so-called “Black Friday” is celebrated in legend and song in the United States. Every year, it seems to Mrs Daffodil, there are more casualties in the “Run for the Large-Screen Television Sets;” the “Dash for the Very Latest Video Game,” or “The Race for the Last Must-Have Toy.”  It is always a matter of wonder that there are so few fatalities.

 

 

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 Fin-de-siècle Bow: 1896

It Flaunts From the Bonnet and Adorns the Lapdog.

THE NEW MARLBOROUGH KNOT.

The Bow and the Bloomer Not Harmonious—A Knot That Means Death to the Big Sleeve.

The bow is fashion’s fad. It has burst into bloom everywhere. It is omnipresent. The old, the young, the rich, the poor, every class and condition of femininity has yielded to its magnetic influence and it has become fashion’s crest for 1895. How long it will reign in the feminine heart remains to be seen. Time only can prove that. Gentle woman has cast her own fair form before its shrine and her lingerie, her hosiery, her garters, her shoes, her gowns, her millinery, her neckwear, her fans, flowers, bon bons, her muff, her parasol, every accessory within and every accessory without–everything seen and everything unseen–all, all are decorated with this recent fad of fashion and the power behind fashion’s throne dares not predict where it may end.

Gentle woman has had other fads. She embroidered her gowns with sunflowers and cat tails at one time and in her hand she carried sunflowers and cat tails; later she worshipped at the shrine of the rose, and still more recently she smiled with favor upon the violet. She bowed before Napoleon and Trilby, but her subjection has never in any instance—no, not in all instances put together—been as complete in its nature as in this reign of the bow.

She has gathered the bow from the bric-a-brac and from the piano legs and tied it about her own anatomy—her neck, her knees, her elbows, her waist; she has perched it upon her shoulders and upon her head, and she has encouraged it in every locality to flaunt and obtrude and intrude and protrude, and in all fabrics, and all hues and combinations of hues, solitary and in flocks. It has fluttered; or it has taken root and simply grown and blossomed, and we submit; we are even reconciled. It is absolute femininity; it is in contrast to the new woman and her bloomers. The bow is stationed at the dividing line of sentiment, and while the fin-de-siècle woman bombards our intelligence with her ideas about advancement there is another kind of woman who sews true, old-time feminine sentiment into bows, and with the latter the she bombards the camp of the enemy.

fin de siecle bows asserts itself in millinery

It is impossible to state whether the bow belongs to us on account of its credentials handed down from the period of the empire; whether its popularity is of Japanese origin, or whether it is simply the result of evolution and a final reaction from the English mode that has been in favor for several years. It is with millinery perhaps that the bow takes the greatest liberties. This winter my lady’s bonnet may be simply a bow, and be-spangled or not, just as she likes. It may be built on a wire foundation worn at the front of her head or at the back, and with an aigrette or a jeweled hat pin to stand sponsors for its claim to being a bonnet. It may dart out in front, or flare at the sides, windmill fashion; it may flare at the side of the hat like a great wing, or it may settle over the hat like a pair of wings. It may be as conspicuous as a weather vane or it may nestle back of a bird whose pinions are spread; it may flare at the back of the hat like a bat shaped bulletin, or it may spread its loops to the four points of the compass. It may be even tied in “a true lover’s knot under the chin.” The Priscilla-like maiden is not now much in evidence. The winter-of-’95 maiden is nothing if not smart in her get-up. One of the most striking features in the Vanderbilt trousseau was a Virot bonnet with nodding plumes and wide strings of French flowered ribbon tied under the chin in this same lover’s knot.

fin de siecle bows windmill2

The Marlborough bow, now worn at the back of the neck, is named in honor of this new American duchess. Every dark gown must be lighted up by the Marlborough bow and in most daring colors, too, is this startling neck adornment perpetrated. Deep crimson, magenta, rose pink, apple green, yellow, and all flowered, striped brocaded, and combined with every tint in silk, satin or velvet stripes. It is seen in whatever design in four-inch ribbon the manufacturer can produce. Nothing is too gorgeous for the season’s belle or debutante to utilize in the Marlborough collar and bow. She pins the broad ribbon to place in front, and then winds it about her throat and thoroughly effective is the result produced by the startling and assertive bow she ties at the back of her neck. About the folds of this bow cluster little curls of fluffy hair and the shades in the ribbon blend into her fair pink skin. Woe to her, indeed, when the colors do not harmonize with her complexion and repeat their prevailing tone in her eyes!

fin de siecle bows shoulder

The bow does not flock as much as it did. On last season’s gown it spread itself like a cluster of butterflies about the dress skirt. It now confines itself more to unexpected places, and it perches where you are not looking for it. At a bridesmaid’s dinner given last week in New York one of the most fetching toilettes was made of lavender crepon, and on one shoulder rose in perpendicular lines the loops and ends of an assertive bow made of watermelon-pink velvet. The fan carried by the same person wore also the same sort of a bow.

fin de siecle bows louis XIV sleeve

The Louis XIV. bow is absolutely the latest, and, by the way, it is this bow that is to liberate us from the thraldom of the huge sleeve. Already that feature in attire is beginning to lower its flag of supremacy. The sleeve begins to droop, its shirring is now falling down around the curve of the shoulder; later it will enjoy its final inflation in the huge puff at the elbow and last the bow on the elbow, as illustrated here, will supersede it. This will be some time hence, but it will come. Who could have predicted four years ago the sleeve as we now behold it?

The florist and the confectioner estimate the value of the bow to enhance the attractiveness of their goods. Even the modern modish funeral does not escape, and a large bunch of white chrysanthemums may be tied with six-inch white satin ribbon and hung on to the middle handle of the casket.

fin de siecle bows lingerie

However important are all these conspicuous bows, the true sentiment of the bow never penetrated deeply into the feminine-heart until fair woman applied it to the decoration of her underwear. Every week after she has trimmed her freshly laundered underwear she is as attractive as lace, dimity, dainty ribbon and the half-hidden curves in all their classic outline can make her.  While the bow adorns her underwear, it will stem the tide that tends toward bloomers. My lady ties her robe de nuit with ribbon bows at the neck and wrists and ties a blossom in with the loops. She sews loops of ribbon in among the flounces of her petticoats; she adorns her garters with huge sachet rosettes of ribbon. She runs a tiny ribbon about the neck of her chemise and she perks bows at the shoulders of that same garment. She loops up her nether garments in festoons with bows that duplicate those on the shoulders and she ties her petticoats and her corset covers to place in the same fascinating manner. ‘Tis safe to assert that while she chooses to wield the sceptre of a ribbon bow, as she does now, the world will continue to submit to feminine rule.

HARYOT HOLT CAHOON.

Star Tribune [Minneapolis MN] 24 November 1895: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Most interesting. Mrs Daffodil had no notion that bows would stem the riding tide of bloomerism.  Bloomers, whether on or off the wheel, have always been suspect to certain upright members of society.  In 1891, the Rt. Rev. Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, condemned women bicycle-riders, tactlessly stating that they resembled witches on broomsticks. He also objected to what he believed to be the indecorous posture of ladies on the wheel.

Speaking of Bishop Coxe’s objection to women on bicycles, the Boston Herald says: “The Bishop does not appear to understand that the bicycle is not equipped with a side saddle, and that riding astride is the only way to promulgate this interesting vehicle.” We ought not to be surprised, perhaps, if the Boston woman rides astride [or man-fashion as it was called]  a bicycle, but if so she is lonely among her sex in that accomplishment. The women’s bicycles we have seen are provided simply with a seat, and they are no more required to ride astride than sit astride on an ordinary chair. If the good Bishop thinks that women straddle a bicycle as men do theirs he should request some fair Buffalonian to explain to him the difference. Rochester HeraldThe Gogebic Advocate [Ironwood, MI] 11 July 1891: p. 2

What the Right Reverend Arthur Cleveland Coxe failed to understand is that there is no surer way to arouse public interest in the novel or indecorous than to denounce it from the pulpit. Bows and Bishops will never ban the bloomer or the bicycle.

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.

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.