Category Archives: Fashion

Noted Ladies of the Stage on Corsets: 1890

Adelina Patti endorses the Chicago Corset Company, c. 1880s https://www.rubylane.com/item/398016-4878/Chicago-Corset-Adelina-Patti-Advertising-Trade

A SYMPOSIUM ON CORSETS

The Theories and Practices of Some Noted Singers and Actresses.

[Chicago Tribune.]

A cablegram printed in the Tribune a few days ago said that Mrs. James Brown Potter had abandoned the corset.

A murmur was heard in certain quarters. What had Mme. Patti to say on the subject? A Tribune reporter found the diva in a room filled with the odor of roses. The reporter went at the subject without having been compelled to do so strategically.  Madame motioned Nicolini [her second husband] to a far corner in the room. Then she said in her own peculiar way:

“I think corsets are the correct thing. Some absolutely perfect figures may dispense with them, of course, but the average woman, and especially the stout ones, can not afford to eschew stays. I myself invariably wear them.” “And do you find them injurious?” “Not in the slightest. But, then, my stays are always extraordinarily loose. Interfere with singing? Why, people don’t sing with their stomachs, do they? It must be an oddly formed person who would. As long as one doesn’t wear stays about one’s throat there can be no interference. Now, I can not sing with as much as a ribbon confining my throat.”

Mme. Emma La Jennesse-Albani-Gye’s apartments at the Grand Pacific were as bright as a glowing fire when the reporter called. When “corsets” were mentioned a slight frown deepened in the clear gray eyes, but it passed as quickly as it came, and in her musical voice Mme. Albani gave her views.

“I believe in stays because I have always worn them. I shouldn’t like at all to go without and I’m sure the public wouldn’t like it. Imagine me, for I am a little stout, you know.”

“Plump, Madame, only plump.” “Ah! That is kind of you. Nevertheless you know I shouldn’t look well without a corset. I do not think I could keep up even. I believe the support to be essential absolutely.”

“And not detrimental?”

“Not unless so tight as to interfere with breathing, for breathing is singing. You have seen ‘The Huguenots,’ haven’t you? Yes, well, you remember we all have to wear long pointed bodices there—it was the style of the times—now how could we possibly do so without stays? I don’t know, do you?”

There was an all-pervading odor of roses and white hyacinths through Mme. Nordica’s apartments at the Richelieu. The songstress lay wearied and nervous beneath the eiderdown while her devoted sister tenderly bathed her throbbing brow. The dainty little lady mother sat amid the ruins of Madame’s floral offerings and chatted.

No, Lillian never wears corsets. That is, she never does now—not even for the street or salon. There was a time years ago when she wore them, but they were soon discarded. It was simply a matter of comfort with her. After a while she concluded to try them again. She had several pairs manufactured—little loves of stays, all in delicate satins

“How long did she wear them then?”

“Scarcely at all. One day she said to me: ‘Mamma dear, I am not as comfortable as I used to be; I shall return to the old ways.’ Since then she has never put a corset on.”

“Does she substitute a stiff waist?” “No; she simply wears a thin silk waist, without a suspicion of whalebone in the back and the merest hint of it at the front and sides. We make them all ourselves, so you may be sure they are simplicity personified.

“Cecil, dear, please put your head out of the window; we are having a costume talk and you really must not listen.”

Considering that a fierce rainstorm was raging without, Miss Rosina Vokes was making a cool request of her notably loving hubby.

Mr. Clay merely grinned quietly and sank back further into the recesses of the carriage, shutting his eyes as an indication that his ears were closed.

“My dear child, I couldn’t dream of not wearing corsets. I should not be able to dance or sing or anything. I should be tired to death in no time. Injurious! Fudge! Don’t you pin your faith to loose-seeming dresses. I know a lot of these Greek-draped actresses who lace tight-tight underneath the flowing draperies. Forgive me if I’m positive—that is my way—but I believe in corsets, pure and simple. I believe corsets are just as essential for a woman as suspenders are for a man, and one must wear them if one doesn’t want one’s things all slipping around and off. And then the support. Every decently formed woman needs support, of course. O! women who are excessively thin could go without stays, I fancy; but then they look all up and down, you know. When to put on corsets? As soon as the figure gives the merest hint of development. It is on the same principle as pinning a band tightly round a baby’s dear little body so that its precious back will not get broken. Every woman needs the support of corsets.”

Just then Mr. Clay opened the eye and directed an aside to his wife.

“Tight? Gracious, no. I should not want you to suppose I advocated such a thing for a moment. I honestly don’t believe in that. Don’t tell, though, but I used to be horribly vain. I once wore seventeens—just fancy! Seventeen corset—laced tight. I was off the stage then, and one day was at the Newmarket races. I was fancying myself, I assure you, when I heard an old English lord remark, apropos of me: ‘Good Gawd! She’ll come in half.’ It wasn’t pleasant, so now I wear my stays loose—quite.”

When Mary Anderson was here a Tribune reporter called on her in reference to this all-round question of corsets. Miss Anderson, in her artistic house gown, looked as innocent of stays as Perdita.

“Corsets?” with a cold, pale smile. “No, I don’t wear them. I see Mrs. Croly (Jennie June) has been telling tales out of school, so I may as well confess. I don’t wear stays.” “How did you come to discard them?” “It was after I went to England. My health was poor, and the doctor ordered out door exercise. I took off corsets then, and never put them on again. But then I have no superfluous flesh and am rather too slender. They did not interfere with my posing, but I feel better without them. It’s all ‘as you like it.’ I like it better without.”

“You wear a corset with conventional dress?”

“Never under any circumstances! And the ladies of my company do not wear them on the stage. Stage dressing is nearly always unconventional, except in society plays, the draperies being from the shoulder and armpit, and stays are manifestly out of place from artistic reasons alone.”

“Corsets? Of course I wear them. Who does not? Think of me as ‘Nadjy’ with nothing to tie those black spangles to. I’d drop to pieces,” said Miss Janson. [Miss Marie Jansen] “Then the Tribune might ask its readers to listen to the ‘Tale of Woe’ in earnest. Are they an inconvenience? Look!” She got behind a door in the parlor of the Grand Pacific hotel, and after a furtive glance down the corridor, daintily kicked the palm of her outstretched hand, executing a pirouette after it.

“I’m all right and my stays are as taut as a sail in high wind. Sometimes I have wondered what would happen if the strings should break. ‘Listen to the Tale of Woe,’” she hummed, casting her eyes meditatively on the chandelier.

“Pauline Hallo wears them, too, and all the chorus girls. Some of them would be sad figures if they didn’t. ‘Listen to the Tale of Woe.’ Of course, anyone who sings must wear them loose. I have one now, but look.” She took a deep breath which distended the region just above her fluttering heart that is nightly clasped in a jet black vise, and trilled airily “Listen to the Tale of Woe,” and had plenty of breath to spare after the effort.

Kansas City [MO] Times 19 January 1890: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Operatic ladies, were, of course, known for their famously opulent figures; some even said that slimming cost them their voice. It is rather fascinating that four out of the six ladies who weighed in, insisted on the benefits of corsets. Reform Dress did not make much headway among denizens of the stage.

Adelina Patti was, of course, the prima donna assoluta of nineteenth-century opera. She was one of the financially shrewdest theatrical ladies of her day and, as we see from the advertising card at the head of this post, she endorsed the California Corset Company.

Madame Nordica was the so-called “Yankee Diva,” Maine-born Lillian Nordica, another opera star, famous for her collection of husbands and jewels.

“Listen to the Tale of Woe” was the signature tune of the once wildly-popular opera Nadjy.

Mrs Daffodil has previously reported on gentlemen, including actors, who wear corsets as well as the controversy over tight-lacing, The Flapper and Her Corset, and “The Autobiography of a Corset,” as well as several other posts on this absorbing subject, which may be found by looking under the “corset” filing tab.

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.

 

My Lady’s Hammock: 1895

The Hammock, James Tissot. Source: Wikigallery

MY LADY’S HAMMOCK

It Is a Gorgeous Affair This Season And There are Fetching Gowns Which Go With It and Hosiery Like a Beautiful Italian Sunset

The girl who is spending the season at a fashionable hotel is forced to miss one of the most fascinating pleasures of summertime, namely, the hammock. At the really swell hotels now-a-days one rarely sees a hammock, for the reason, perhaps, that the hammock is a sure destroyer of lace, chiffon or the fashionable costumes that custom demands must be worn all day at the popular watering places.

It is only that fortunate young woman who is summering at some country farm house or big, roomy mountain hotel where there are plenty of trees about the shady piazza nooks that can enjoy the true comfort of the hammock. The watering place girl can only dream of the luxury and the piazza rocking chair is the nearest approach to the graceful swinging couch, canopied by green waving branches which her sister in the mountains spends the long morning hours in.

The tactful maiden studies her “type” before she makes up her mind to adopt the hammock as a permanent summer back ground. There are certain styles of girl that look as though made for a hammock. In it they are marvels of grace and prettiness, but the stout, comfortable, well fed young woman who may make a fetching picture on a bicycle is as much out of place in a hammock as it is possible to imagine. The slim waisted, “fluffy” girl is the kind that looks well in a hammock. She becomes a soft, limp mass of lace and ribbon, the moment she adjusts herself to its meshes, and if an inch or two of her stocking shows beneath the white lace of her skirt it doesn’t look at all shocking, but on the contrary, chic and appropriate. The Burne-Jones type of girl is therefore the special kind who makes her hammock the piece de resistance in the artillery with which she will wage successful warfare on the heart of the  Summer Man.

First, she selects her hammock. If she is a blond she gets one of cool looking white cording, or in blue and white stripes, with bamboo rods stretched across the head and foot. Then she selects the place where it is to hang, always a corner somewhere out of the general.

If she is of a romantic disposition she finds out some rippling resting place, where the tree branches bend across, and she will have her pretty resting place suspended right across the water, climbing into it each time at the rick of a wetting. Here she makes a veritable illustration of the verse: “Summer day; babbling brook/Girl in hammock reading book!”

The girl with dark eyes and brown hair selects a hammock of brilliant red Mexican grass, or some other Oriental looking weave. She piles it with silken cushions of the same rich hues; deep crimson and olive greens and here and there a Persian covering that stands out among the others, making an effect that delights the soul of any artist which may be in the vicinity until he begs for the privilege of sketching the hammock’s occupant.

The fair haired blue eyed girl has blue and white cushions and little pillows for her ears, covered with white dotted Swiss and trimmed with Val. Lace. I picked up one of these ridiculous little things the other day and learned for the first time that they existed. Just imagine a cushion about five inches square stuffed with cotton and a suspicion of violet sachet, made specially for to tuck under your ear among the larger pillows.

The heart shaped cushion is one of the novelties for my lady’s hammock this year. It is shaped exactly like the real article which is supposed to exist even in the bosom of summer’s merriest maiden and it is embroidered over with its owner’s favorite flower, and sometimes a motto or sentiment.

One of the prettiest that I have seen is covered with marguerites embroidered in their natural colors and through the blossoms runs the line in gold thread: “He loves me; he loves me not?”

Another with a border of the ox-eyed daisies says:

“I don’t care what the daisies say;

I know I’ll be married some fine day!”

This summer girl not only has the regulation tag upon her hammock with her name thereon, but she attaches it with a huge bow of ribbon matching her cushions in color. The ends of this hang so low that they sweep the grass beneath the float in every passing breeze.

Of course there are frocks specially for hammock wear, and stockings and shoes of attractive design to be worn when reposing in this luxurious swing.

At no time in the career of a summer girl are her feet more in evidence than when she is poised in her hammock or getting in or out of it.

This last operation is one which it takes considerable dexterity and grace to accomplish successfully, but after a while most of these clever young women manage to do it without turning an eyelash and with a not-too-reckless display of ankle. It looks wonderfully difficult to a mere man, but it all depends on a little quickness and a certain curves of the limbs in getting out, which keeps the skirts in place.

A man is apt to get all tangled up in a hammock, and he emerges from one as a rule looking as though he had been in a collision. But the hammock maiden has it all down to a science.

She fixes up her last summer’s dresses to wear in the hammock. Of course there must not be too many buttons upon any frock for this purpose, as they catch in the meshes and come off, as a usual thing. But plenty of lace and soft ribbons can be worn and a gown which could never be worn anywhere else, owing to its last season’s cut, makes a most effective costume for hammock wear.

A pretty little girl who affects the hammock pose to a considerable extent, confided to me the other day that she discarded stays in her hours of open air repose. She wore some mysterious sort of waist made with whale bone, but without steels.

“When I’ve been out tramping, or fishing, or driving, and get home tired out,” she told me, “I just run up to my room and have a sponge bath. Then I slip into one of these waists, which is ever so much cooler you know, put on my loosest and fluffiest hammock frock and get down here under the trees, and in a minute I’m enjoying as pleasant a nap as it is possible to imagine.”

This girl has a collection of pretty hosiery and shoes for her afternoon siesta. She has one pair of the daintiest French morocco “mules” or slippers without any upper part in the back, which she wears with red silk stockings. Then she has Japanese slippers in all colors and hose to match, some of them quite visit in design. One of the oddest conceits are her “rainbow” stockings.

Her pleasure in wearing them must be that of the small boy with his first cigar; “purely intellectual,” for they are strictly invisible, but I suppose there must be sort of conscious delight in the possession of such frivols as these. They are worn with a small, innocent-looking brown suede slipper which buttons over the instep with three large brown buttons. The stocking which shows over the ankle is brown, the same as the shoe, but as it reaches the calf of the leg it lightens by degrees to a golden yellow, turning with a sort of beautiful Italian sunset effect into palest violet, and then deepening into purple at the top. The garters worn with this are of black elastic, through which runs a violet ribbon. The side knot is of the same ribbon and the buckles are of engraved and oxidized silver, an owl on one symbolizing night, and a lark on the other for morning. These are the most fetching of all her hammock properties, and it seems a pity that they are so unobtrusively worn undiscovered, unless a hammock costume of bloomers be adopted.

The Herald [Los Angeles CA] 25 August 1895: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Pleasant as are the solitary delights of the hammock, dual occupancy is where the sparks really fly:

THE FATEFUL HAMMOCK

A Potent Factor in Midsummer Joys and Midwinter Repentance.

The hammock has much to answer for.

It has developed from nothing into a potent factor in midsummer social joys and sorrows.

A decade ago the hammock was sporadic. It is now universal. Certain tourists from this heretofore unhammocked land of the free, journeying into Mexico and in Cuba noted the meshed crescent with interest first and with admiration afterwards, insomuch that they brought one of the swaying couches with them.

The result has been remarkable. Americans have taken the hammock to their very hearts, and American ingenuity has devised machinery capable of turning out hammocks almost as fast as the finished article will turn out its occupant. A summer bereft of a hammock would be to the American lad and lass a dreary and unromantic period.

Given a good article of moonlight and a hammock big enough for two, and there is no combination which will more rapidly and thoroughly advance the cause of Cupid and bring about the lighting of Hymen’s torch.

Between the moon and the hammock there is a certain analogy. A young moon is very like a hammock, and when Luna appears in the west, her crescent apparently swung between two invisible trees and fastened with a pair of bright stars, the analogy is complete. One can readily fancy an angel swaying in the celestial hammock, which is said also to contain a man. And the idea is so apt to fix itself in the mind of the ardent mortal who gazes westward that his first impulse is to get a hammock, and an earthly angel of his own, and then to sway joyously to the rhythm of two hearts that beat as one.

As an aid to flirtation it is twin sister to a fan.

If a young couple ever trust themselves to the support of the same hammock at the same time, Cupid has his own way thereafter. The pair must of necessity be brought into such sweet proximity that every particle of formality and reserve is melted away. One may withdraw from his fair one on a bench, may hold aloof while seated on the same grassy bank, and may hitch his chair away, or closer, as his feelings dictate. But in the same hammock one can do none of these things. He can only submit to fate and propinquity and  be led delightfully to the momentous question.

The hammock…is fashioned much like a spider’s web. But who would not willingly be a fly when the web holds a charming maiden? And what man is there with soul so dead who is not glad that the hammock has come to stay.

The Macon [MS] Beacon 16 August 1890: 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.

 

Rubber Fashions at the Sea-side: 1914-1919

Rubber swimming ensemble, 1914

Each succeeding summer brings with it new styles in bathing caps, which as a rule follow as closely as possible the prevailing modes in millinery, but the array of styles and colorings available to the bathers of this particular season is even larger than usual, and includes bonnets, caps and hats in endless variety and in all the most desired shades, made of rubber, as well as of rubberized satin, etc., and adorned with berries, fruit, leaves, flowers and ribbon—all of rubber or rubberized to stand any amount of wetting in either salt or fresh water. Four especially attractive models are here illustrated.

Rubber bathing caps, 1914

Rubber bathing hats, 1914

The first is an all-rubber cap, which can be obtained in blue, cerise or emerald green, with the rubber rose at the side in contrasting color. The second model, with rosette trimming, is of the “Castle” type and comes in black and navy blue. The third model is a rubberized silk turban and is made in black, navy blue and purple, with the wired donkey ears of the same material as the cap. The last of the four is an all-rubber cap, decorated with velvety rubber flowers and obtainable in blue, cerise, coral, and purple.

But the manufacturers of rubber goods have not been content this season to supply a variety of new and pleasing models of bathing caps. They have extended their line of accessories for the bathing costume to include numerous other articles, several of which are also shown. The first of these cuts shows an all-rubber sailor collar, the edge of which is decorated with tiny rubber roses—something that is bound to add an air of up-to-dateness to any bathing suit. This cut also shows a pair of rubber buckles, a decoration that can be appropriately applied not only to the belt or girdle, but with perhaps even greater effectiveness to the bathing slippers, which have heretofore presented rather a bare appearance because of the lack of a buckle that would withstand the effects of frequent immersion in salt water. The next figure [at the head of this post] shows a bather to whose costume has been added a rubber sash or girdle, which close under a bunch of rubber flowers, the ends of the sash being in Roman stripes in colors to match the plaid cap. As will be noted, this bather is also equipped with a cape of rubber, an accessory which has become very popular this season for wear over the bathing suit. Wreaths of rubber roses are also obtainable for use in trimming the extremely popular beach hat—and they are very genuine appearing and highly decorative. In fact, the line of rubber accessories for the present season has reached a degree of elaborateness never before attained, and would seem to be complete. India Rubber World 1 July 1914: p 547

Very simple, but hygienic, are the lines of a bathing corset made of rubber sheeting. This material is not stiff but sheds water like a duck, and proved itself a comfort last season to many a plump mermaid who “did not feel comfortable without a corset.”… Oregonian [Portland, OR] 18 June 1916: p. 6

Neckwear, sashes, garters, flowers, beach balls of inflated rubber, and long fringe-edged scarfs, are also made of the rubber sheetings in gay colors and of gum rubber. A beach scarf of white rubber is a very handy thing to wrap oneself up in when coming in out of the sea. These scarfs are quite wide and long and have striking designs in contrasting rubber at the ends above a deep row of rubber fringe. Oregonian [Portland, OR] 18 June 1916: p. 6

Smart one-piece bathing suit of navy blue taffeta with rubber parasol and hat, 1919

Rubber Hats and Parasols

In many instances the new rubber bathing hats are fashioned with quite a wide brim and a crushed close-fitting crown, held with a rubber band, so that the hat is adjustable to any size head. One of the precautionary measures to be taken before putting one of these rubber hats on is the removing of every hairpin, as even one hairpin forgotten will often puncture the hat and render it useless. These wide-brimmed rubber hats are trimmed with rosettes and flowers of rubber, and when properly adjusted the effect is as modish and smart as though the hat were a typical sports hat or picture hat. These hats are developed in various gay colors or in soft shades of red, green or gold, and while they are rather expensive they are nevertheless in great demand.

The rubber parasols fashioned with four sections are very unusual in style and shape and are considered one of the exclusive novelties of the season. The great advantage of having the bathing suit parasol of rubber is that it is in no danger of being harmed when it is picked up by a bather who has just come out of the water and whose hands are still dripping with the salt brine. Everything worn by a bather or carried by a bather to the beach is not only apt to get wet, but almost sure to get wet before the day is over, so that the idea of the rubber parasol is a very practical one. American Cloak and Suit Review, Volume 17, 1919

 

An attractive example of the abbreviated type of bathing suit now worn by the smartest American women, 1919

Freakish and Startling Costumes Worn by Ladies at Beach.

The newest fashion for lady bathers is to wear artificial flowers made of India rubber. This certainly sounds a very extravagant fad, but seeing that these adornments are said to be wonderfully effective in beautifying the bathing costume and cap, there is every reason to expect this craze to be extremely popular all along the coasts. The art of making India rubber flowers has been brought to a state of perfection for this purpose, and instead of being merely clumsy sprays of colored rubber, as one might at first imagine, the buttonholes and wreaths thus manufactured are wonderfully artistic creations, varying from rich, massive peonies to dainty buttercups and lilies of the valley.

This novel fashion should prove a really pretty one, provided it is not carried too far and indulged in by the well-known type of “non-get-wet” bather, who may possibly welcome a bouquet of artificial flowers as an additional charm whilst “sun-bathing” in a pretty costume by the “briny.” Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 25 June 1914: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The rubber bathing costumes were not without their critics. They were banned from several beaches as indecently form-fitting. All-rubber suits also were clammy and easily torn. It was not until “Lastex”—rubber enveloped in other fibres—was introduced that their utility ultimately triumphed over wool swimming costumes. As Harper’s Bazaar wrote in 1934:

“There’s no wrinkle, no bag, no sag, even under the most ruthless sun! No other human device can even approximate that utter freedom, that perfection of fit, at rest or in motion, that airy but strictly legal sense of wearing nothing at all. There is no substitute for this elastic yarn, which imparts lasting elasticity to any fabric.” Harper’s Bazaar June 1934: p. 9

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.

 

Fashionable Shagreen: 1917-1923

It is, Mrs Daffodil has been reliably informed, something called “Shark Week.” Mrs Daffodil does not, as a rule, celebrate ocean-going predators, but it is an excellent excuse to discuss the fashionable uses for shagreen.

FASHIONABLE SHAGREEN.

WONDERFUL EFFECTS.

Four centuries ago shagreen—a handsome Chinese presentation of fish skin was the envy of all the young dandies about town, says an overseas fashion recorder. But shagreen was exclusive and expensive, cured and cut and shaped by hand, and it was only the dandy with a long purse who could afford to have this lovely decoration on his sword sheath or snuff-box. Once again Bond Street has revived shagreen. It has been displayed in the shop windows for some months, and just around the corner, off Old Bond Street, you will find the workers of the Chinese fish skin busy curing, “kneading,” and dyeing it to the perfection of its finished state.

Just as was the case 400 years ago, it is still exclusive and costly.

The process of manufacture is long and difficult. The skin does not lend itself to factory production, so that in shagreen articles you have one of the most beautiful of the hand-made productions.

Shagreen experts tell me that the skin is “practically everlasting,” and, what is more delightful, age intensifies its beauty. It looks lovely bound with silver in brush-and comb sets. There are complete outfits for the secretaire, and endless small things like scent sprays, cigarette and match cases, and a few book-bindings are shown. The colours are exquisite—soft blue, grey, rose and especially green. It was the green that was used in the early 17th century—for the art of making shagreen take subtle dyes was not then known—and some fortunate people have pieces of green among their family heirlooms. In the little “factory ” 1 was shown shagreen as it arrives from the Orient. Actually it is (he skin of a small rare shark, and the raw material is as stiff and hard as a board. The placoid scales of the shark give it a very rough surface. It looks as if tiny pebbles have been embedded in the skin. They feel like stone. In the old days the skin of horses and wild asses was treated to imitate shagreen and part of the process was to embed a certain seed in the skin while it was soft, and so artificially manufacture the knitter 1 surface. As a rule the real skin arrives in a creamy tint and often in a colour that requires no dye. Many hours of labour have to be spent filing down the hard scales and kneading the buckram like texture to the softness of kid When ready for mounting the hard nodules have been transformed to a pearl-like pattern and even after dyeing this creamy colour remains where the scales were, and on this particular shark every pore seems to be a scale. No two skins are alike. Frequently two skins put into a bath of green dye will take the colour in two totally different shades. This not only annoys the worker but adds to the price of the finished article. Shagreen is used effectively to line the bathroom walls in the Queen’s dolls’ house, where the ceiling is of snail shell and the bath of rose rock crystal.

New Zealand Herald 27 November 1926: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.

While sharkskin has long been in use as a luxe leather, it was not until the Great War’s leather shortages that its potential was once again explored.

Shortage of Leather

Demand for Military Purposes Leaves Little for Civilian Uses.

America’s entrance into the war has created a demand for fancy leathers.

For example, more leather has been cut up for wrist watch straps this year than ever before and the demand is increasing. Officers’ vests are being made from chamois skins. Leather is required for binding army manuals and reports and there is a big demand for leather for covering field glasses, cameras, surgical instruments, cases, etc. Steel helmets must be lined with leather. Leather is also needed for automobile and airplane equipment.

There is a great demand for leather for straps, revolver cases, harnesses and saddlery, not to mention money belts, pipe cases, trench cigarette cases and the like.

Pigskin for Leggings.

It is said that the demand for pigskin for leggings and other military equipment has practically exhausted the supply of this leather and cowhide is now being used by manufacturers of these articles.

No Walrus for Bags.

Little walrus will be seen in bags and cases this year as the Newfoundland catch of this animal was the smallest in many seasons and, due to the war conditions, no Norwegian skins came to this country this year. It is said that the high price of those skins which were obtained in Newfoundland practically prohibits their use.

Unless next year’s American catch is unusually large and some way is found for releasing Europe’s supply of these skins, genuine walrus leather will probably be conspicuously absent in bags in this country for the rest of the war.

Seeking a Substitute

Dealers and manufactures ware now concerned with the question of what is to take the place of walrus. Alligator skin, once so popular, is out of the question. Alligator skin went out of fashion when its growing scarcity made its price prohibitive.

In the years since his tanned hide furnished the most popular bags of the day, the alligator has not increased in numbers. The Florida supply is practically exhausted. It has been suggested, though, that the hunting of these reptiles in Mexico and South America might be profitably developed.

Finding a Use for Sharks.

Sharkskin is the newest and most likely addition to bag leathers. Like that of the walrus, the skin of the shark is about an inch thick when it is removed from the fish. It is soft and spongy before it is tanned, but becomes a tough, fibrous leather when cured.

A special process of tanning has been developed for shrinking fine, scaly, file-like surface of sharkskin until it assumes a grain similar to walrus. This process makes the skin practical for traveling bags.

Sharks are already being hunted by two companies formed for this purpose and a number of skins are being made up into bags. One manufacturer is said to have taken 2000 of these skins. If a dependable supply of skins can be obtained, sharkskin may become a factor in the leather trade. At present the uncertainty of the supply and the high prices which must be realized naturally restrict its sale. Dry Goods Economist, Vol. 71, 17 November 1917: p. 81

When we speak of “shagreen” and sharkskin, these, of course, refer to the actual skin of a shark rather than the louche shiny suiting fabric favoured by cads.The “special process” was the key to shark skin leather:

SHARKSKIN SHOES

Hides of Sea Fish Used in Lieu of Cow Leather.

Ft. Myers, Fla., April 4. Sister in devilfish dancing pumps. Dad in sharkskin shoes. Mother in stingaree slippers.

These things will soon come to pass. A plant at Sanibel, Fla., is making them now.

These fish, heretofore useless to man, are being caught and brought to the plant. Their skins are tanned. The tanning process was invented by Ehreinrich, president and promoter of the Ocean Leather Company.

Ehreinrich has become wealthy by selling the European and South American rights to his process.

Suit Cases and other leather goods will be made.  Salisbury [NC] Evening Post 4 April 1921: p. 6

To Mrs Daffodil’s chagrin, she has not been able to locate an image of early 20th-century shagreen shoes. These are from Persia, c. 1800

The steaming jungles and the rolling ocean alike are being ravished for materials for feminine footwear. Many a debutant today selects shoes of snake skin in which to scale the social scarps. In supply this new and crying need, many a python has wrapped its last.

However, the real hippopottomus’ hip, as one Broadway comedian expresses it is sharkskin. Shoes of this type are gray in tone and the supply of material, so far as New York is concerned is inexhaustible. Any hook for an attractive feminine bait will catch a dozen thick skinned gray sharks any day in any pool between the Waldorf and the Westchester road houses. The Bee [Danville VA] 12 December 1923: p. 3

“The real hippopottomus’ hip,” is the youthful slang used to express the notion that sharkskin shoes are the dernier cri. One suspects that “sharks” is the vernacular for “not quite a gentleman.”

SHARKSKIN IS SWAGGER SAYS THE EFFETE EAST

It’s Used Now to Trim Motor Coats, As Well as for Smart Accessories.

New York, Oct. 30. A football game at the polo grounds serves to emphasize the esteem in which shark skin is held at present. The rough and swagger and sporty looking leather is made into any number of articles such as purses, cigarette cases and hand bags. Sometimes the skin is used to cover the handle of an umbrella, and it formed the cuffs and collars of one remarkable motor coat seen at the polo grounds Saturday. Rockford [IL] Republic 30 October 1922: p. 4

A Shark Skin bag, 1922

Shark skin and white leather form one of the large, unusual bags carried by the Duchess Sforza, who favours rare design and dimensions. Vogue Vol. 59, 15 May 1922: p. 33

Silver-mounted shagreen clock, 1904 http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21325/lot/105/

In addition to its uses in fashion, shagreen was popular for furniture inlays, cases for scientific instruments and cutlery, and desk accessories such as stamp cases, calendar frames, and bell pushes. It is rather nubbly in texture and is usually dyed a soft, arsenical green colour. The parlourmaids will attest that the texture gives it a special propensity to collect dust.

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

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

 

How She Spent Her Summer Vacation: 1904

EARN VACATIONS

How Self-Supporting College Girls Manage.

ALL INDEPENDENT

NOT TOO PROUD FOR ANY HONEST EMPLOYMENT

Do Sewing and Fancy Work, Serve as Companions and Wait at Table.

Vacation to the average college girl suggests rosy visions. It means halcyon days at home, where she is really the guest of honor in her family circle. Little functions are given in her honor. The home dressmaker is busy planning her fall clothes; there are trips to the shore and visits to friends, and the college girl feels that life as a whole is certainly jolly.

But there exists another class of college girls, to whom the mellow summer days represent anything but leisure and luxury. These are the girls who make not hay, but money, while the sun shines. To the girl whose every want is provided by indulgent parents summer means absolute relaxation, but to the girl who is making her own way through college, with perhaps a small allowance from some rich relative, summer means merely a change of work. Like the adaptive American girl that she is, however, she finds that the change of work is really a recreation, and she has real pleasure in the increase of her funds.

Methods of earning money vary at different colleges, and are governed generally by the class of pupils how attend. For instance, at a woman’s college in New York state, notorious for the wealth of its alumni, several girls who are clever and dainty with their needles are earning their way by making exquisite lingerie and dress accessories for fellow-pupils with liberal allowances. One of the girls thus explained her work:

Work With Taste.

“We keep closely in touch with the newest designs in lingerie, neckwear, fichus, and so forth. Where our classmates run into New York on Saturday for matinees and concerts, we haunt the exclusive shops, not only for bargains in materials, but for the newest ideas. During the past year we have kept constantly on hand collar and cuff sets made in Russian cross-stitch, Hardanger and broiderie d’Anglaise. These we sell to the girls, not only for their own use, but to send home as gifts. It is really funny to hear a girl gasp: ‘Oh, mother’s birthday is next week! What shall I send her?’ And that is where we make a sale. Of course we must make our things a little more dainty than anything you could buy at a shop. They must not suggest machine work.

“Such work means that we must give up many of the little social pleasures and use our eyes constantly, but we wear glasses when doing the needle work. After all, sewing and studying do not wear on the eyes in just the same way.” Sometimes there comes to this college the daughter of a wealthy man who is not versed in modes and fashions, or does not know how to buy or wear the little articles of dress which mark the smart girl, and he is quite willing to pay for a course of training in the gentle art of dressing in good taste. In other words, she not only buys needle work from these college seamstresses, but adds a comfortable sum for the information.

A Smith College girl, who is to be married in the fall, has placed her entire order for trousseau lingerie with two undergraduates, who will execute the order during the summer at their own homes.

She Wanted Boarders.

The number of domestic occupations which girls seek as a means of making vacation money should convince the veriest pessimist that the higher education cannot down the distinctive feminine instinct. As an illustration, a Wellesley girl, who had been famous for the quality if not the quantity of her chafing dish at the spreads, announced that she had taken a summer camp in the Maine woods and wanted boarders. In a very short time she had more applications than accommodations. The shacks, which the girls will occupy with a chaperon, are primitive, and the life will be entirely in the open, but the fare will be wholesome and well served. The college girl will do all of her own cooking. She expects not only to pay for her own vacation, but to make a comfortable nest-egg for the next college term.

At one of the eastern colleges where a summer school is held, two pupils from the winter term have remained to do dormitory work. Ten girls from a New England college have gone to act as waitresses at an exclusive mountain resort. No other waitresses will be employed, and the girls have secured a few special privileges in the matter of rooms, bathing hours, &c., otherwise they will be treated exactly like the rest of the help in the house.

At Bryn Mawr there is a regular society for helping self-supporting girls to secure summer work. Notices are sent to the old alumni, asking for positions a secretaries, companions, tutors, governesses and the like. College girls are in demand as governesses or companions for young girls whose parents are traveling or occupied with social or business affairs. The girl who “stands in” with the faculty is sure to get a place during the summer.

Goes Clerking.

A student who shows herself particularly suited to clerical work is sometimes retained as secretary at the college during the vacation, or is given employment in the college library. College offices must be kept open during the summer, and it is then that the clerical work is really the heaviest. Innumerable letters must be answered, prospective patrons must be received and shown over the college grounds, and the great wheels of education must be oiled and put in working order of the fall term.

Summer tutoring is one of the most lucrative methods of raising money during the vacation. Girls how have failed in their examinations are more anxious to secure the services of a classmate who has passed triumphantly through the ordeal than to hire a professor who is perhaps to posted on the recent trial. The unsuccessful one, by giving a few hours each day to this work, may pass in a second examination, which is given before the fall term opens. Two girls, who are taking post-graduate work at a Pennsylvania college, have opened a boarding house in a pretty suburb near Philadelphia. One of them looks after the housekeeping and the other does the tutoring, and they have all the pupil-boarders they can accommodate.

A Bryn Mawr girl has taken a position for the entire summer with a wealthy family who owns a hunting lodge on the Canadian lakes. The family consists of a man, wife and two sons. The men folk are devoted to hunting and fishing, and the wife and mother is devoted them, though not to their sports. So she contents herself for the entire summer in a wild and lonesome camp, where it is practically impossible to entertain the average summer guest. The men folk go on long hunting and fishing expeditions with Indian guides, and the woman is left a week at a time with her servants. The Bryn Mawr girl has gone with her as a companion, and will be well treated as a friend rather than an employe. Her duties will consist of reading with her hostess, tramping with her through the woods, and making herself generally agreeable and companionable. For this she is paid not only her expenses, but a little salary. Her outfit of clothing is most simple, consisting of short skirts, leggings, big hats, etc., with none of the summer fripperies which look so dainty and come so high.

At one of the colleges where the girls go in heavily for athletics a couple of students will put in their vacation at the very practical work of making gymnasium and basketball suits in the club colors. The suits will be made to fit different types of college girls as these young dressmakers have learned to know them, and will be ready to turn over to customers after the second fit when the college opens.

The Evening Star [Washington DC] 2 July 1904: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While one certainly applauds these plucky young lady scholars, Mrs Daffodil cannot let pass unchallenged several absurd notions proposed by the journalist who wrote about their summer labours.

First, “The number of domestic occupations which girls seek as a means of making vacation money should convince the veriest pessimist that the higher education cannot down the distinctive feminine instinct.” The heading about “not too proud” suggests non-existent options for these self-supporting scholars; the author seems unaware that opportunities for ladies outside the “traditional” domestic occupations are exceedingly limited.

[Given the correct opportunities, Mrs Daffodil would have pursued a career outside of the domestic sphere, perhaps in medical research or procurement: “bodysnatching” as it is termed by the vulgar. Fortunately she has been able to turn that interest into a lucrative and useful side-occupation.]

Talk of broiderie d’Anglaise and chafing dishes reinforces the foolish notion that higher education will make a female mannish or deranged or dissatisfied with her “proper” station in life—a dissatisfaction, in Mrs Daffodil’s opinion—devoutly to be wished.

Second, “the change of work is really a recreation.” Well, really… Mrs Daffodil would like to see the author set to waiting tables at a summer resort and subjected to heat, fatigue, unpleasantries, and over-familiarity, if not outright insult and abuse from “gentlemen” on holiday. Then one would give much to hear his thoughts on how a “change is as good as a rest.”

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 Gentleman at the Beach: 1903

 

MEN’S BATHING SUITS.

Two-Piece Affair Now the One Universally Accepted.

From the Haberdasher.

The man who swims and the man who suns will be better taken care of in the matter of raiment this coming summer than they have ever been. It is not many years since the average bathing costume was as hideous as it was uncomfortable, and man never appeared to worse advantage than he did when dressed for the beach. The old style one-piece suits of baglike form with their unsightly row of buttons down the front and their very peculiar striped patterns have been finally retired in favor of garments that not only fit perfectly, but that are comfortable, and to most men at least, becoming. At the seaside resorts bathing and beach lounging are now accepted as the principal diversion and men and women have learned to appreciate costumes that while slightly and not vulgar possess those attributes which are essential to comfortable swimming. The two-piece suit is now universally accepted and the model is practically universal. The only points so far as difference is concerned lie in the sleeve lengths. The shirts are made with quarter sleeveless or sleeveless, the latter being the favorite style with the young men, and for that matter with all men who really swim. As the beach is located at some distance from the hotels and houses at the majority of seaside places, it has become customary for men to wear a gown over the bathing suit while walking from the house or hotel to the beach.

Heretofore the bath robe was considered good enough for this purpose, but this summer there has been put on the market a robe designed specially for beach wear. These robes are made of heavy mercerized Oxfords in neat striped or figured patterns in combinations of self and contrasting colors. The robes are quite long, reach to the ankles, and have a button at the neck. The collars are of the Eton form and moderately wide, and the sleeves are finished plain or with a raglan cuff. There is one pocket which is patched on on the left hip, and the girdle is made of the same material as the robe. The robes are cut full so that they can be wrapped about the figure, and being light in weight and of a smooth finish can be thrown on the sandy beach without injury. When a man has put on his bathing suit and sandals, he puts on his robe and then he may amble about the beach or walks to his heart’s content. When he emerges from his dip he spreads the beach robe out of the sand and sits or reposes on it. This keeps the sand off the body and admits of one’s drying clean, a process which is impossible if one dries off on the sand.

The improvements made in bathing suits have been as great in the matter of fit as of colors and combinations. There is a great deal of variety now, and the colors are all perfectly fast if good quality garments are bought. Navy blue continues to be the favorite color. Suits having this for a ground color are relieved by stripes on the sleeves, shirt and drawer ends of white, red or light blue. The sleeveless shirts have solid half-inch bands of color about the arm-hole. Broad striped shirts come in college colors and are generally worn with solid trunks.

One of the best-selling suits is of army gray, with relief stripes in red, white, blue or black. Another good suit shows fancy pattern stripes in one color, and others show the granite or mixed stripes in gray, red or blue.

The novelty of the season in bathing suits is the broad striped sleeveless shirt worn with the loose solid color trunks. The trunks have belt loops and through them is a white cotton belt with nickel snake buckle is passed. The shirt of this suit is tucked into the trunks. Another new idea is to have the monogram embroidered in colors on the left breast of the shirt.

Bathing sandals are made of white canvas, with canvas or leather soles, or they are made entirely of leather. The latter consists of a sole which is held on by straps after the manner of the old Roman sandals.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 May 1903: p. 25

Bathing shoes, c. 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  There was a good deal of resentment from ladies at the comparative sartorial freedom for gentlemen at the beach. Some ladies said that if they had to wear stockings, the men should also be compelled to conceal their nether limbs.

Aroused at strict toggery laws enforced by the beach authorities with regard to the fair sex Mrs. H.B. Harrison, of Washington, in a letter delivered to Chief Surgeon Charles Bossert, head of the “beach patrol,” today says:

“The way men are allowed to parade the beach makes them repulsive. The girls, after all, have curves and attractions not at all disgusting when they are permitted to come out on the beach without stockings. Why can’t you say something about the awful looking men who parade around in nothing but a little scrap of a bathing suit, which fails utterly to cover their unsightly bodies?

“And their limbs are simply awful, full of knobs, and besides most men are bowlegged. Could anything be more unsightly? The men, not the girls, should be compelled to wear stockings, and long stockings at that, also something to cover up their arms and chests. Nobody wants to see them, and they only clutter up good-looking scenery.” Atlantic City Special.

The Bambert [SC] Herald 21 August 1919: p. 6

Gent’s bathing costume, 1877

 

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 Cashmere Shawl: 1840

 

[From the London Journals.]

THE CASHMERE SHAWL

Everybody knows the vast importance which our Parisian belles formerly attached to the possession of a cashmere shawl; and although their value is considerably decreased since the Empress Josephine gave fifteen thousand francs for one, they are still objects of desire to all female hearts; I mean married ones, of course, for the cashmere is rarely worn by a demoiselle, at least until she begins to despair of ever being called Madame. Indeed, these shawls play a very important part in matrimonial arrangements; many a match has been brought about by the lady’s impatience to possess them, and many a ménage has been rendered unhappy by a husband’s obstinate refusal to buy one. I do not, however, recollect any adventure in which the cashmere has played so singular a part as the one I am about to narrate.

Monsieur de M. began some time ago, notwithstanding his large fortune and very handsome person, to be set down by his acquaintance as a decided old bachelor; this opinion might be thought too hastily formed, as he was only thirty-six, had not his mode of living given color to it—for it was well known that he did not spend half his income; and he would certainly have been set down as a miser, had not circumstances revealed that instead of hoarding his riches, he dispensed them in charity, but it was charity without ostentation. He mixed in the world, enjoyed its pleasures with moderation, was generally liked, and when at last determined upon committing matrimony, his proposal for Mademoiselle de V. was warmly received by her widowed mother, a perfect woman of the world, who had for some time had her eye upon him, and spread her net by a skillful exhibition of those qualities in herself and daughter, which, though they were very far from possessing, she knew he would look for in a wife. The bait took, to her great joy; for she almost began to despair of getting a match for Sophie, whose own fortune was too small to entitle her to a good one, and who being all of twenty-four, was fast verging on what we in France consider an old maidenism.

The young lady had played her part so well that, without it at all transgressing the rules of propriety, De M. had reason to believe his proposal would be perfectly agreeable to her before he made it to her mamma; his explicitness on one point was, however, far from pleasing to either lady; that was his intention of devoting the same amount as usual to charitable purposes, in which he had no doubt he should be assisted by his dear Sophie. A few timid words of acquiescence from the young ladies, and an eloquent harangue from mamma on the pleasure it must give her daughter to participate in his benevolent plants, settled the matter to De M.’s great delight.

The preliminaries of the marriage were arranged—De M.’s family jewels, which were really very handsome, were sent to be new mounted, and he requested his belle fiancée to make choice of a cashmere. No task could be more agreeable to the fair one, who showed that her taste was equally elegant and magnificent, for she selected a superb long shawl, bleu turquoise ground, and a border of matchless beauty. Nothing could be handsomer, but unfortunately, there was one objection that the bridegroom elect could not get over—it was double the price he intended to give.

Now here I find myself in a strait. I wish to please all my readers, and if I mention De M’s price, I have no doubt that some of the gentler sex will say, “Oh, now mean!” while several of those in unmentionables will call him an extravagant fellow. In order then to avoid drawing upon my hero the displeasure of any party, I shall avoid specifying the sum, and shall, merely, in justice to him, declare that the price he intended to give, would be considered by the generality of the people as a handsome one. He requested Sophie to make choice of another, and several were shown to her, but she had some decided objection to each; and in spite of the significant looks, and even hints of her mother, she shewed so much ill temper and ill nature, that she fairly frightened away all the little cupids that were dancing about the heart of her intended; in  short, the cashmere was not chosen that morning, and the evening brought not the devoted lover, but a letter, in which he made his adieu in a very decided manner.

We have no trials in France for breach of promise; but I think even in England the ladies would not, all the circumstances of the case considered, have got damages, unless indeed she was allowed to have a female jury. The matter passed off, and De M., perfectly recovered from his love fit, went on his usual quiet way for some time.

One morning he called on an old woman, to whom he had been a constant benefactor for some years, and as he mounted to her dwelling on the fourth story, a lady passed him on the stairs, plainly dressed, and with a black veil down. As he made way for her respectfully, he observed that her figure, though petite, was elegant, and her features, from the slight glimpse he had of them, agreeable. On entering Manette’s apartment, he found her in tears, and a handsome cashmere shawl lying on a chair.

“What is the matter, my poor Manette?” cried he, in a pitying tone. “What are you crying for?”

“Oh, it is nothing, Sir,” said the old woman, wiping her eyes; “there is nothing amiss, indeed.”

“But what are you in tears for?”

“Why I could not help crying while I was telling poor Jeannette’s story to that dear good lady, Madame de ___.”

My readers will easily believe that De M. insisted upon hearing Jeannette’s story, which we shall tell more briefly than Manette did. She was a friend of the old woman, recently left a widow with several small children, reduced by the death of her husband to the greatest distress, she was in danger of perishing for want, when an offer was made her, if she could raise six hundred francs, of going into a business that would support both her and her children creditably. “But,” continued Manette, “where could she raise six hundred francs? Bah! One might as well have asked her a million; and so I said to Madame de__ who found me crying just as Jeannette left me.”

“Don’t say that, Manette,” cried she, “we shall make up the money somehow. I have very little by me now, but I think you could sell this shawl for that, or at any rate for nearly as much, and I will make up the rest,” and before I could say a word, Monsieur, she had thrown off her beautiful shawl, and telling me to do the best I could with it, and to let her know as soon as it was sold, she hurried away just as you came.”

“What an excellent creature!”

“Excellent indeed! I don’t believe there is her equal in the world. Why, Monsieur, though she is young, aye and very pretty and lively too, she thinks of nothing but doing good. You would not believe how sparingly she lives, and how many things she denies herself, that she may have it in her power to assist the unfortunate.”

My readers will not be surprised that De M. bought the shawl, first swearing Manette to secrecy. His next step was to obtain an introduction to Madame de ___, who was still a young and really very petty widow. He declares that he had no other intention of doing so than to form a friendship with a woman of a congenial mind, but—“Friendship with woman is sister to love.”

And so it proved in this case, for within three months the well-assorted pair were united. When he purchased the shawl, it was with the intention of sending it back to her anonymously, but he delayed doing so for some time, lest through it his share of the affair might be discovered, and he lose the pleasure of her acquaintance. When he sent the usual marriage presents, there was no cashmere among them. Whatever the widow thought of the omission, she said nothing about it, but on the very evening before the ceremony was performed, he asked her to choose one, which she did; and this time he had no fault to find with his fiancée on the score of extravagance. The morning after marriage he said to her, as they were seated at breakfast.

“Were you not surprised, chere amie, that you did not sooner receive your cashmere?”

I thought you had forgotten it.”

“No, I delayed out of prudence, that you might not have an opportunity of selling it.”

At these words Amelie’s face became scarlet!

“Dearest! Best beloved!” cried the happy husband, unsealing a packet, and presenting the shawl—“receive again the offering you made to charity; an offering dear and sacred in my eyes, for it has led to a felicity which I despaired of finding—that of a wife whose heart was in perfect unison with my own.”

And so in truth it is, and will I hope remain, notwithstanding that the acquaintance—the female part of it, I mean—of Madame de M. thinks she pays a very bad compliment to her husband’s present; for while his rich cadeau de Noces is seldom seen on her shoulders, she is observed to be excessively fond of a cashmere that she was known to have some time before her second marriage, and which is very inferior to the one De M. presented her with.

The Gloucester [MA] Telegraph 25 December 1841: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The cashmere shawl, indeed, had the power to transform lives. Mrs Daffodil has written before about the plague carried in a cashmere, and how the Empress Josephine’s life was “saved by a shawl.” We have also seen delectable descriptions of the cadeau de Noces of an aristocratic French bride, in which she tells of her delight that her fiancé was thoughtful enough to give a red-ground cashmere to her dear mamma.

Monsieur de M. is to be congratulated on his good sense in making his adieu so decidedly. Mrs Daffodil shudders to think of what perils would have marked his married life: extravagance, recriminations, forged notes, money-lenders, and, perhaps, scandal, divorce, or even murder. One need only examine the ending chapters of Madame Bovary to see what the harvest might have been, had it not been for a cashmere shawl….

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.