Category Archives: Fashion

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.

Vegetable Fancy Dress: 1889

cabbage leaf costume fancy dress

A VEGETARIAN FROLIC

A little while ago it was my good fortune to attend a most peculiar fancy dress party. It was held at a big country house, and the distinguishing feature of the affair was that every person was compelled to either dress as a vegetable or in a costume decorated with one. Although at first thought this seems to give but little scope to either taste or imagination, some really pretty toilets were arranged, the foundations of which embraced almost everything, including partly worn silks, natty street dresses, and dainty lace and mull gowns.

One stately dame in a trained black silk and  powdered hair, wore an Elizabethan ruff, plumes for the hair, and carried an immense fan, all composed of the crisply curled leaves of the kale plant.

A little auburn-haired beauty transformed her directoire gown into a very good representation of carrots by removing all the buttons and substituting slices of the vegetable, while the entire front was decorated with pressed carrot leaves.

onion fancy dress croce

Soup vegetables made a very attractive costume. A white mull dress with sprigs of parsley used effectively over it, and a tiny basket of the smallest of the other vegetables to be obtained.

A black lace gown, a profusion of bangles cut from a large yellow turnip, hair ornament of the same, and a corsage bouquet cut from white and yellow turnips and embellished with their foliage, was the costume evolved in honor of that plebeian vegetable by a young lady, with the help of a younger brother with a talent for fancy carving.

white asparagus fancy drss croce

Red peppers were used with pretty effect upon another black lace gown, but great care had to be exercised in placing them so that neither the wearer nor those who came in contact with her should suffer from their fiery nature.

Most of the members of the sterner sex contented themselves with a vegetable boutonniere, but one ambitious youth covered himself with glory and his business suit with corn husks arranged layer upon layer. His appearance can be better imagined than described.

Many other pretty, dainty, or funny toilets were contributed using popped corn, slices of pumpkin, pale green lettuce leaves, etc., for decoration.

Pieces of chamois, strips of flannel and stout linen were used underneath some of the cut vegetables to protect the dress fabric form stains.

ONE WHO WAS THERE.

American Gardening: November, 1889: p. 409

vegetable ball

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A fête which gave new meaning to the phrase “salad dressing.”

One imagines that the fall evening was chill; hence, no one adopted the original vegetable costume:

Leader of Fashion: “Oh, yes, this is the new vegetable costume suggested, you know, by that vegetarian dinner. What do you think of it?”

Cynic “Hum—pretty idea, but old—very old.”

Leader of Fashion (horrified) “Old! Why the dressmaker told us these were the very first. Who can have worn a vegetarian dress before us?”

Cynic: “Eve!”

Aberdeen [Scotland] Weekly Journal and General Advertiser for the North of Scotland 25 October 1884: 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 Romance of Certain Old Clothes: 1868

blue ivory robe a la francaise5

THE ROMANCE OF CERTAIN OLD CLOTHES.

I.

Towards the middle of the eighteenth century there lived in the Province of Massachusetts a widowed gentlewoman, the mother of three children, by name Mrs. Veronica Wingrave. She had lost her husband early in life, and had devoted herself to the care of her progeny. These young persons grew up in a manner to reward her tenderness and to gratify her highest hopes. The first-born was a son, whom she had called Bernard, in remembrance of his father. The others were daughters—born at an interval of three years apart. Good looks were traditional in the family, and this youthful trio were not likely to allow the tradition to perish. The boy was of that fair and ruddy complexion and that athletic structure which in those days (as in these) were the sign of good English descent—a frank, affectionate young fellow, a deferential son, a patronising brother, a steadfast friend. Clever, however, he was not; the wit of the family had been apportioned chiefly to his sisters. The late Mr. William Wingrave had been a great reader of Shakespeare, at a time when this pursuit implied more freedom of thought than at the present day, and in a community where it required much courage to patronise the drama even in the closet; and he had wished to call attention to his admiration of the great poet by calling his daughters out of his favourite plays. Upon the elder he had bestowed the romantic name of Rosalind, and the younger he had called Perdita, in memory of a little girl born between them, who had lived but a few weeks.

When Bernard Wingrave came to his sixteenth year his mother put a brave face upon it and prepared to execute her husband’s last injunction. This had been a formal command that, at the proper age, his son should be sent out to England, to complete his education at the university of Oxford, where he himself had acquired his taste for elegant literature. It was Mrs. Wingrave’s belief that the lad’s equal was not to be found in the two hemispheres, but she had the old traditions of literal obedience. She swallowed her sobs, and made up her boy’s trunk and his simple provincial outfit, and sent him on his way across the seas. Bernard presented himself at his father’s college, and spent five years in England, without great honour, indeed, but with a vast deal of pleasure and no discredit. On leaving the university he made the journey to France. In his twenty-fourth year he took ship for home, prepared to find poor little New England (New England was very small in those days) a very dull, unfashionable residence. But there had been changes at home, as well as in Mr. Bernard’s opinions. He found his mother’s house quite habitable, and his sisters grown into two very charming young ladies, with all the accomplishments and graces of the young women of Britain, and a certain native-grown originality and wildness, which, if it was not an accomplishment, was certainly a grace the more. Bernard privately assured his mother that his sisters were fully a match for the most genteel young women in the old country; whereupon poor Mrs. Wingrave, you may be sure, bade them hold up their heads. Such was Bernard’s opinion, and such, in a tenfold higher degree, was the opinion of Mr. Arthur Lloyd. This gentleman was a collegemate of Mr. Bernard, a young man of reputable family, of a good person and a handsome inheritance ; which latter appurtenance he proposed to invest in trade in the flourishing colony. He and Bernard were sworn friends ; they had crossed the ocean together, and the young American had lost no time in presenting him at his mother’s house, where he had made quite as good an impression as that which he had received and of which I have just given a hint.

The two sisters were at this time in all the freshness of their youthful bloom; each wearing, of course, this natural brilliancy in the manner that became her best. They were equally dissimilar in appearance and character. Rosalind, the elder—now in her twenty-second year—was tall and white, with calm gray eyes and auburn tresses; a very faint likeness to the Rosalind of Shakespeare’s comedy, whom I imagine a brunette (if you will), but a slender, airy creature, full of the softest, quickest impulses. Miss Wingrave, with her slightly lymphatic fairness, her fine arms, her majestic height, her slow utterance, was not cut out for adventures. She would never have put on a man’s jacket and hose; and, indeed, being a very plump beauty, she may have had reasons apart from her natural dignity. Perdita, too, might very well have exchanged the sweet melancholy of her name against something more in consonance with her aspect and disposition. She had the cheek of a gipsy and the eye of an eager child, as well as the smallest waist and lightest foot in all the country of the Puritans. When you spoke to her she never made you wait, as her handsome sister was wont to do (while she looked at you with a cold fine eye), but gave you your choice of a dozen answers before you had uttered half your thought.

The young girls were very glad to see their brother once more; but they found themselves quite able to spare part of their attention for their brother’s friend. Among the young men their friends and neighbours, the belle jeunesse of the Colony, there were many excellent fellows, several devoted swains, and some two or three who enjoyed the reputation of universal charmers and conquerors. But the homebred arts and somewhat boisterous gallantry of these honest colonists were completely eclipsed by the good looks, the fine clothes, the punctilious courtesy, the perfect elegance, the immense information, of Mr. Arthur Lloyd. He was in reality no paragon ; he was a capable, honourable, civil youth, rich in pounds sterling, in his health and complacency and his little capital of uninvested affections. But he was a gentleman ; he had a handsome person ; he had studied and travelled ; he spoke French, he played the flute, and he read verses aloud with very great taste. There were a dozen reasons why Miss Wingrave and her sister should have thought their other male acquaintance made but a poor figure before such a perfect man of the world. Mr. Lloyd’s anecdotes told our little New England maidens a great deal more of the ways and means of people of fashion in European capitals than he had any idea of doing. It was delightful to sit by and hear him and Bernard talk about the fine people and fine things they had seen. They would all gather round the fire after tea, in the little wainscoted parlour, and the two young men would remind each other, across the rug, of this, that and the other adventure. Rosalind and Perdita would often have given their ears to know exactly what adventure it was, and where it happened, and who was there, and what the ladies had on; but in those days a well-bred young woman was not expected to break into the conversation of her elders, or to ask too many questions ; and the poor girls used therefore to sit fluttering behind the more languid—or more discreet—curiosity of their mother.

II.

That they were both very fine girls Arthur Lloyd was not slow to discover; but it took him some time to make up his mind whether he liked the big sister or the little sister best. He had a strong presentiment—an emotion of a nature entirely too cheerful to be called a foreboding—that he was destined to stand up before the parson with one of them; yet he was unable to arrive at a preference, and for such a consummation a preference was certainly necessary, for Lloyd had too much young blood in his veins to make a choice by lot and be cheated of the satisfaction of falling in love. He resolved to take things as they came —to let his heart speak. Meanwhile he was on a very pleasant footing. Mrs. Wingrave showed a dignified indifference to his “intentions,” equally remote from a carelessness of her daughter’s honour and from that sharp alacrity to make him come to the point, which, in his quality of young man of property, he had too often encountered in the worldly matrons of his native islands. As for Bernard, all that he asked was that his friend should treat his sisters as his own; and as for the poor girls themselves, however each may have secretly longed that their visitor should do or say something “marked,” they kept a very modest and contented demeanour.

Towards each other, however, they were somewhat more on the offensive. They were good friends enough, and accommodating bedfellows (they shared the same four-poster), betwixt whom it would take more than a day for the seeds of jealousy to sprout and bear fruit; but they felt that the seeds had been sown on the day that Mr. Lloyd came into the house. Each made up her mind that, if she should be slighted, she would bear her grief in silence, and that no one should be any the wiser; for if they had a great deal of ambition, they had also a large share of pride. But each prayed in secret, nevertheless, that upon her the selection, the distinction, might fall. They had need of a vast deal of patience, of self-control, of dissimulation. In those days a young girl of decent breeding could make no advances whatever, and barely respond, indeed, to those that were made. She was expected to sit still in her chair, with her eyes on the carpet, watching the spot where the mystic handkerchief should fall. Poor Arthur Lloyd was obliged to carry on his wooing in the little wainscoted parlour, before the eyes of Mrs. Wingrave, her son, and his prospective sister-in-law. But youth and love are so cunning that a hundred signs and tokens might travel to and fro, and not one of these three pairs of eyes detect them in their passage. The two maidens were almost always together, and had plenty of chances to betray themselves. That each knew she was being watched, however, made not a grain of difference in the little offices they mutually rendered, or in the various household tasks they performed in common. Neither flinched nor fluttered beneath the silent battery of her sister’s eyes. The only apparent change in their habits was that they had less to say to each other. It was impossible to talk about Mr. Lloyd, and it was ridiculous to talk about anything else. By tacit agreement they began to wear all their choice finery, and to devise such little implements of conquest, in the way of ribbons and top-knots and kerchiefs, as were sanctioned by indubitable modesty. They executed in the same inarticulate fashion a contract of fair play in this exciting game. “Is it better so?” Rosalind would ask, tying a bunch of ribbons on her bosom, and turning about from her glass to her sister. Perdita would look up gravely from her work and examine the decoration. “I think you had better give it another loop,” she would say, with great solemnity, looking hard at her sister with eyes that added, “upon my honour!” So they were for ever stitching and trimming their petticoats, and pressing out their muslins, and contriving washes and ointments and cosmetics, like the ladies in the household of the vicar of Wakefield. Some three or four months went by; it grew to be midwinter, and as yet Rosalind knew that if Perdita had nothing more to boast of than she, there was not much to be feared from her rivalry. But Perdita by this time—the charming Perdita—felt that her secret had grown to be tenfold more precious than her sister’s.

One afternoon Miss Wingrave sat alone—that was a rare accident—before her toilet-glass, combing out her long hair. It was getting too dark to see; she lit the two candles in their sockets, on the frame of her mirror, and then went to the window to draw her curtains. It was a gray December evening; the landscape was bare and bleak, and the sky heavy with snow-clouds. At the end of the large garden into which her window looked was a wall with a little postern door, opening into a lane. The door stood ajar, as she could vaguely see in the gathering darkness, and moved slowly to and fro, as if some one were swaying it from the lane without. It was doubtless a servantmaid who had been having a tryst with her sweetheart. But as she was about to drop her curtain Rosalind saw her sister step into the garden and hurry along the path which led to the house. She dropped the curtain, all save a little crevice for her eyes. As Perdita came up the path she seemed to be examining something in her hand, holding it close to her eyes. When she reached the house she stopped a moment, looked intently at the object, and pressed it to her lips.

Poor Rosalind slowly came back to her chair and sat down before her glass, where, if she had looked at it less abstractedly, she would have seen her handsome features sadly disfigured by jealousy. A moment afterwards the door opened behind her and her sister came into the room, out of breath, her cheeks aglow with the chilly air.

Perdita started. “Ah,” said she, “I thought you were with our mother.” The ladies were to go to a tea-party, and on such occasions it was the habit of one of the girls to help their mother to dress. Instead of coming in, Perdita lingered at the door.

“Come in, come in,” said Rosalind. “ We have more than an hour yet. I should like you very much to give a few strokes to my hair.” She knew that her sister wished to retreat, and that she could see in the glass all her movements in the room. “Nay, just help me with my hair,” she said, “and I will go to mamma.”

Perdita came reluctantly, and took the brush. She saw her sister’s eyes, in the glass, fastened hard upon her hands. She had not made three passes when Rosalind clapped her own right hand upon her sister’s left, and started out of her chair. “Whose ring is that?” she cried, passionately, drawing her towards the light.

On the young girl’s third finger glistened a little gold ring, adorned with a very small sapphire. Perdita felt that she need no longer keep her secret, yet that she must put a bold face on her avowal. “It’s mine,” she said proudly.

“Who gave it to you?” cried the other.

Perdita hesitated a moment. “Mr. Lloyd.”

“Mr. Lloyd is generous, all of a sudden.”

“Ah no,” cried Perdita, with spirit, “not all of a sudden! He offered it to me a month ago.”

“And you needed a month’s begging to take it?” said Rosalind, looking at the little trinket, which indeed was not especially elegant, although it was the best that the jeweller of the Province could furnish. “I wouldn’t have taken it in less than two.”

“It isn’t the ring,” Perdita answered, “it’s what it means!”

“It means that you are not a modest girl!” cried Rosalind. “Pray, does your mother know of your intrigue? does Bernard?”

“My mother has approved my ‘intrigue,’ as you call it. Mr. Lloyd has asked for my hand, and mamma has given it. Would you have had him apply to you, dearest sister?”

Rosalind gave her companion a long look, full of passionate envy and sorrow. Then she dropped her lashes on her pale cheeks and turned away. Perdita felt that it had not been a pretty scene; but it was her sister’s fault. However, the elder girl rapidly called back her pride, and turned herself about again. “You have my very best wishes,” she said, with a low curtsey. “I wish you every happiness, and a very long life.”

Perdita gave a bitter laugh. “Don’t speak in that tone!” she cried. “I would rather you should curse me outright. Come, Rosy,” she added, “he couldn’t marry both of us.”

“I wish you very great joy,” Rosalind repeated, mechanically, sitting down to her glass again, “and a very long life, and plenty of children.”

There was something in the sound of these words not at all to Perdita’s taste. “Will you give me a year to live at least?” she said. “In a year I can have one little boy—or one little girl at least. If you will give me your brush again I will do your hair.”

“Thank you,” said Rosalind. “ You had better go to mamma. It isn’t becoming that a young lady with a promised husband should wait on a girl with none.”

“Nay,” said Perdita, good-humouredly, “I have Arthur to wait upon me. You need my service more than I need yours.”

But her sister motioned her away, and she left the room. When she had gone poor Rosalind fell on her knees before her dressing-table, buried her head in her arms, and poured out a flood of tears and sobs. She felt very much the better for this effusion of sorrow. When her sister came back she insisted on helping her to dress—on her wearing her prettiest things. She forced upon her acceptance a bit of lace of her own, and declared that now that she was to be married she should do her best to appear worthy of her lover’s choice. She discharged these offices in stem silence; but, such as they were, they had to do duty as an apology and an atonement; she never made any other.

Now that Lloyd was received by the family as an accepted suitor nothing remained but to fix the wedding-day. It was appointed for the following April, and in the interval preparations were diligently made for the marriage. Lloyd, on his side, was busy with his commercial arrangements, and with establishing a correspondence with the great mercantile house to which he had attached himself in England. He was therefore not so frequent a visitor at Mrs. Wingrave’s as during the months of his diffidence and irresolution, and poor Rosalind had less to suffer than she had feared from the sight of the mutual endearments of the young lovers. Touching his future sister-in-law Lloyd had a perfectly clear conscience. There had not been a particle of love-making between them, and he had not the slightest suspicion that he had dealt her a terrible blow. He was quite at his ease; life promised so well, both domestically and financially. The great revolt of the Colonies was not yet in the air, and that his connubial felicity should take a tragic turn it was absurd, it was blasphemous, to apprehend. Meanwhile, at Mrs. Wingrave’s, there was a greater rustling of silks, a more rapid clicking of scissors and flying of needles, than ever. The good lady had determined that her daughter should carry from home the genteelest outfit that her money could buy or that the country could furnish. All the sage women in the Province were convened, and their united taste was brought to bear on Perdita’s wardrobe. Rosalind’s situation, at this moment, was assuredly not to be envied. The poor girl had an inordinate love of dress, and the very best taste in the world, as her sister perfectly well knew. Rosalind was tall, she was stately and sweeping, she was made to carry stiff brocade and masses of heavy lace, such as belong to the toilet of a rich man’s wife. But Rosalind sat aloof, with her beautiful arms folded and her head averted, while her mother and sister and the venerable women aforesaid worried and wondered over their materials, oppressed by the multitude of their resources. One day there came in a beautiful piece of white silk, brocaded with heavenly blue and silver, sent by the bridegroom himself—it not being thought amiss in those days that the husband-elect should contribute to the bride’s trousseau. Perdita could think of no form or fashion which would do sufficient honour to the splendour of the material.

“Blue’s your colour, sister, more than mine,” she said, with appealing eyes. “It’s a pity it’s not for you. You would know what to do with it.”

Rosalind got up from her place and looked at the great shining fabric, as it lay spread over the back of a chair. Then she took it up in her hands and felt it—lovingly, as Perdita could see—and turned about toward the mirror with it. She let it roll down to her feet, and flung the other end over her shoulder, gathering it in about her waist with her white arm, which was bare to the elbow. She threw back her head, and looked at her image, and a hanging tress of her auburn hair fell upon the gorgeous surface of the silk. It made a dazzling picture. The women standing about uttered a little “Look, look!” of admiration. “Yes, indeed,” said Rosalind, quietly, “blue is my colour.” But Perdita could see that her fancy had been stirred, and that she would now fall to work and solve all their silken riddles. And indeed she behaved very well, as Perdita, knowing her insatiable love of millinery, was quite ready to declare. Innumerable yards of lustrous silk and satin, of muslin, velvet and lace, passed through her cunning hands, without a jealous word coming from her lips. Thanks to her industry, when the wedding-day came Perdita was prepared to espouse more of the vanities of life than any fluttering young bride who had yet received the sacramental blessing of a New England divine.

It had been arranged that the young couple should go out and spend the first days of their wedded life at the country-house of an English gentleman—a man of rank and a very kind friend to Arthur Lloyd. He was a bachelor; he declared he should be delighted to give up the place to the influence of Hymen. After the ceremony at church—it had been performed by an English

clergyman—young Mrs. Lloyd hastened back to her mother’s house to change her nuptial robes for a riding-dress. Rosalind helped her to effect the change, in the little homely room in which they had spent their undivided younger years. Perdita then hurried off to bid farewell to her mother, leaving Rosalind to follow. The parting was short ; the horses were at the door, and Arthur was impatient to start. But Rosalind had not followed, and Perdita hastened back to her room, opening the door abruptly. Rosalind, as usual, was before the glass, but in a position which caused the other to stand still, amazed. She had dressed herself in Perdita’s cast-off wedding veil and wreath, and on her neck she had hung the full string of pearls which the young girl had received from her husband as a wedding-gift. These things had been hastily laid aside, to await their possessor’s disposal on her return from the country. Bedizened in this unnatural garb Rosalind stood before the mirror, plunging a long look into its depths and reading heaven knows what audacious visions. Perdita was horrified. It was a hideous image of their old rivalry come to life again. She made a step toward her sister, as if to pull off the veil and the flowers. But catching her eyes in the glass, she stopped.

“Farewell, sweetheart,” she said. “You might at least have waited till I had got out of the house!” And she hurried away from the room.

Mr. Lloyd had purchased in Boston a house which to the taste of those days appeared as elegant as it was commodious; and here he very soon established himself with his young wife. He was thus separated by a distance of twenty miles from the residence of his mother-in-law. Twenty miles, in that primitive era of roads and conveyances, were as serious a matter as a hundred at the present day, and Mrs. Wingrave saw but little of her daughter during the first twelvemonth of her marriage. She suffered in no small degree from Perdita’s absence; and her affliction was not diminished by the fact that Rosalind had fallen into terribly low spirits and was not to be roused or cheered but by change of air and company. The real cause of the young lady’s dejection the reader will not be slow to suspect. Mrs. Wingrave and her gossips, however, deemed her complaint a mere bodily ill, and doubted not that she would obtain relief from the remedy just mentioned. Her mother accordingly proposed, on her behalf, a visit to certain relatives on the paternal side, established in New York, who had long complained that they were able to see so little of their New England cousins. Rosalind was despatched to these good people, under a suitable escort, and remained with them for several months. In the interval her brother Bernard, who had begun the practice of the law, made up his mind to take a wife. Rosalind came home to the wedding, apparently cured of her heartache, with bright roses and lilies in her face and a proud smile on her lips. Arthur Lloyd came over from Boston to see his brother-in-law married, but without his wife, who was expecting very soon to present him with an heir. It was nearly a year since Rosalind had seen him. She was glad—she hardly knew why—that Perdita had stayed at home. Arthur looked happy, but he was more grave and important than before his marriage. She thought he looked “interesting,”—for although the word, in its modern sense, was not then invented, we may be sure that the idea was. The truth is, he was simply anxious about his wife and her coming ordeal. Nevertheless, he by no means failed to observe Rosalind’s beauty and splendour, and to note how she effaced the poor little bride. The allowance that Perdita had enjoyed for her dress had now been transferred to her sister, who turned it to wonderful account. On the morning after the wedding he had a lady’s saddle put on the horse of the servant who had come with him from town, and went out with the young girl for a ride. It was a keen, clear morning in January; the ground was bare and hard, and the horses in good condition—to say nothing of Rosalind, who was charming in her hat and plume, and her dark blue riding coat, trimmed with fur. They rode all the morning, they lost their way, and were obliged to stop for dinner at a farm-house. The early winter dusk had fallen when they got home. Mrs. Wingrave met them with a long face. A messenger had arrived at noon from Mrs. Lloyd; she was beginning to be ill, she desired her husband’s immediate return. The young man, at the thought that he had lost several hours, and that by hard riding he might already have been with his wife, uttered a passionate oath. He barely consented to stop for a mouthful of supper, but mounted the messenger’s horse and started off at a gallop.

He reached home at midnight. His wife had been delivered of a little girl. “Ah, why weren’t you with me?” she said, as he came to her bedside.

“I was out of the house when the man came. I was with Rosalind,” said Lloyd, innocently.

Mrs. Lloyd made a little moan, and turned away. But she continued to do very well, and for a week her improvement was uninterrupted. Finally, however, through some indiscretion in the way of diet or exposure, it was checked, and the poor lady grew rapidly worse. Lloyd was in despair. It very soon became evident that she was breathing her last. Mrs. Lloyd came to a sense of her approaching end, and declared that she was reconciled with death. On the third evening after the change took place she told her husband that she felt she should not get through the night. She dismissed her servants, and also requested her mother to withdraw—Mrs. Wingrave having arrived on the preceding day. She had had her infant placed on the bed beside her, and she lay on her side, with the child against her breast, holding her husband’s hands. The nightlamp was hidden behind the heavy curtains of the bed, but the room was illumined with a red glow from the immense fire of logs on the hearth.

“It seems strange not to be warmed into life by such a fire as that,” the young woman said, feebly trying to smile. “If I had but a little of it in my veins! But I have given all my fire to this little spark of mortality.” And she dropped her eyes on her child. Then raising them she looked at her husband with a long, penetrating gaze. The last feeling which lingered in her heart was one of suspicion. She had not recovered from the shock which Arthur had given her by telling her that in the hour of her agony he had been with Rosalind. She trusted her husband very nearly as well as she loved him; but now that she was called away for ever she felt a cold horror of her sister. She felt in her soul that Rosalind had never ceased to be jealous of her good fortune; and a year of happy security had not effaced the young girl’s image, dressed in her wedding-garments, and smiling with simulated triumph. Now that Arthur was to be alone, what might not Rosalind attempt? She was beautiful, she was engaging; what arts might she not use, what impression might she not make upon the young man’s saddened heart? Mrs. Lloyd looked at her husband in silence. It seemed hard, after all, to doubt of his constancy. His fine eyes were filled with tears; his face was convulsed with weeping; the clasp of his hands was warm and passionate. How noble he looked, how tender, how faithful and. devoted! “Nay,” thought Perdita, “he’s not for such a one as Rosalind. He’ll never forget me. Nor does Rosalind truly care for him; she cares only for vanities and finery and jewels.” And she lowered her eyes on her white hands, which her husband’s liberality had covered with rings, and on the lace ruffles which trimmed the edge of her night-dress. “She covets my rings and my laces more than she covets my husband.”

At this moment the thought of her sister’s rapacity seemed to cast a dark shadow between her and the helpless figure of her little girl. “Arthur,” she said, “you must take off my rings. I shall not be buried in them. One of these days my daughter shall wear them—my rings and my laces and silks. I had them all brought out and shown me to-day. It’s a great wardrobe—there’s not such another in the Province; I can say it without vanity, now that I have done with it. It will be a great inheritance for my daughter when she grows into a young woman. There are things there that a man never buys twice, and if they are lost you will never again see the like. So you will watch them well. Some dozen things I have left to Rosalind; I have named them to my mother. I have given her that blue and silver; it was meant for her; I wore it only once, I looked ill in it. But the rest are to be sacredly kept for this little innocent. It’s such a providence that she should be my colour; she can wear my gowns; she has her mother’s eyes. You know the same fashions come back every twenty years. She can wear my gowns as they are. They will lie there quietly waiting till she grows into them— wrapped in camphor and rose-leaves, and keeping their colours in the sweet-scented darkness. She shall have black hair, she shall wear my carnation satin. Do you promise me, Arthur?”

“Promise you what, dearest?”

“Promise me to keep your poor little wife’s old gowns.”

“Are you afraid I shall sell them?”

“No, but that they may get scattered. My mother will have them properly wrapped up, and you shall lay them away under a double-lock. Do you know the great chest in the attic, with the iron bands? There is no end to what it will hold. You can put them all there. My mother and the housekeeper will do it, and give you the key. And you will keep the key in your secretary, and never give it to any one but your child. Do you promise me?”

“Ah, yes, I promise you,” said Lloyd, puzzled at the intensity with which his wife appeared to cling to this idea.

“Will you swear ?” repeated Perdita.

“Yes, I swear.”

“Well—I trust you—I trust you,” said the poor lady, looking into his eyes with eyes in which, if he had suspected her vague apprehensions, he might have read an appeal quite as much as an assurance.

Lloyd bore his bereavement rationally and manfully. A month after his wife’s death, in the course of business, circumstances arose which offered him an opportunity of going to England. He took advantage of it, to change the current of his thoughts. He was absent nearly a year, during which his little girl was tenderly nursed and guarded by her grandmother. On his return he had his house again thrown open, and announced his intention of keeping the same state as during his wife’s lifetime. It very soon came to be predicted that he would marry again, and there were at least a dozen young women of whom one may say that it was by no fault of theirs that, for six months after his return, the prediction did not come true. During this interval he still left his little daughter in Mrs. Wingrave’s hands, the latter assuring him that a change of residence at so tender an age would be full of danger for her health. Finally, however, he declared that his heart longed for his daughter’s presence and that she must be brought up to town. He sent his coach and his housekeeper to fetch her home. Mrs. Wingrave was in terror lest something should befall her on the road; and, in accordance with this feeling, Rosalind offered to accompany her. She could return the next day. So she went up to town with her little niece, and Mr. Lloyd met her on the threshold of his house, overcome with her kindness and with paternal joy. Instead of returning the next day Rosalind stayed out the week; and when at last she reappeared, she had only come for her clothes. Arthur would not hear of her coming home, nor would the baby. That little person cried and choked if Rosalind left her; and at the sight of her grief Arthur lost his wits, and swore that she was going to die. In fine, nothing would suit them but that the aunt should remain until the little niece had grown used to strange faces.

It took two months to bring this consummation about; for it was not until this period had elapsed that Rosalind took leave of her brother-in-law. Mrs. Wingrave had shaken her head over her daughter’s absence; she had declared that it was not becoming, that it was the talk of the whole country. She had reconciled herself to it only because, during the girl’s visit, the household enjoyed an unwonted term of peace. Bernard Wingrave had brought his wife home to live, between whom and her sister-in-law there was as little love as you please. Rosalind was perhaps no angel; but in the daily practice of life she was a sufficiently good-natured girl, and if she quarrelled with Mrs. Bernard, it was not without provocation. Quarrel, however, she did, to the great annoyance not only of her antagonist, but of the two spectators of these constant altercations. Her stay in the household of her brother-in-law, therefore, would have been delightful, if only because it removed her from contact with the object of her antipathy at home. It was doubly —it was ten times—delightful, in that it kept her near the object of her early passion. Mrs. Lloyd’s sharp suspicions had fallen very far short of the truth. Rosalind’s sentiment had been a passion at first, and a passion it remained—a passion of whose radiant heat, tempered to the delicate state of his feelings, Mr. Lloyd very soon felt the influence. Lloyd, as I have hinted, was not a modern Petrarch; it was not in his nature to practise an ideal constancy. He had not been many days in the house with his sister-in-law before he began to assure himself that she was, in the language of that day, a devilish fine woman. Whether Rosalind really practised those insidious arts that her sister had been tempted to impute to her it is needless to inquire. It is enough to say that she found means to appear to the very best advantage. She used to seat herself every morning before the big fireplace in the dining room, at work upon a piece of tapestry, with her little niece disporting herself on the carpet at her feet, or on the train of her dress, and playing with her woollen balls. Lloyd would have been a very stupid fellow if he had remained insensible to the rich suggestions of this charming picture. He was exceedingly fond of his little girl, and was never weary of taking her in his arms and tossing her up and down, and making her crow with delight. Very often, however, he would venture upon greater liberties than the young lady was yet prepared to allow, and then she would suddenly vociferate her displeasure. Rosalind, at this, would drop her tapestry, and put out her handsome hands with the serious smile of the young girl whose virgin fancy has revealed to her all a mother’s healing arts. Lloyd would give up the child, their eyes would meet, their hands would touch, and Rosalind would extinguish the little girl’s sobs upon the snowy folds of the kerchief that crossed her bosom. Her dignity was perfect, and nothing could be more discreet than the manner in which she accepted her brother-in-law’s hospitality. It may almost be said, perhaps, that there was something harsh in her reserve. Lloyd had a provoking feeling that she was in the house and yet was unapproachable. Half-an-hour after supper, at the very outset of the long winter evenings, she would light her candle, make the young man a most respectful curtsey, and march off to bed. If these were arts, Rosalind was a great artist. But their effect was so gentle, so gradual, they were calculated to work upon the young widower’s fancy with a crescendo so finely shaded, that, as the reader has seen, several weeks elapsed before Rosalind began to feel sure that her returns would cover her outlay. When this became morally certain she packed up her trunk and returned to her mother’s house. For three days she waited ; on the fourth Mr. Lloyd made his appearance—a respectful but pressing suitor. Rosalind heard him to the end, with great humility, and accepted him with infinite modesty. It is hard to imagine that Mrs. Lloyd would have forgiven her husband; but if anything might have disarmed her resentment it would have been the ceremonious continence of this interview. Rosalind imposed upon her lover but a short probation. They were married, as was becoming, with great privacy—almost with secrecy—in the hope perhaps, as was waggishly remarked at the time, that the late Mrs. Lloyd wouldn’t hear of it.

The marriage was to all appearance a happy one, and each party obtained what each had desired—Lloyd “a devilish fine woman,” and Rosalind—but Rosalind’s desires, as the reader will have observed, had remained a good deal of a mystery. There were, indeed, two blots upon their felicity, but time would perhaps efface them. During the first three years of her marriage Mrs. Lloyd failed to become a mother, and her husband on his side suffered heavy losses of money. This latter circumstance compelled a material retrenchment in his expenditure, and Rosalind was perforce less of a fine lady than her sister had been. She contrived, however, to carry it like a woman of considerable fashion. She had long since ascertained that her sister’s copious wardrobe had been sequestrated for the benefit of her daughter, and that it lay languishing in thankless gloom in the dusty attic. It was a revolting thought that these exquisite fabrics should await the good pleasure of a little girl who sat in a high chair and ate bread-and-milk with a wooden spoon. Rosalind had the good taste, however, to say nothing about the matter until several months had expired. Then, at last, she timidly broached it to her husband. Was it not a pity that so much finery should be lost?—for lost it would be, what with colours fading, and moths eating it up, and the change of fashions. But Lloyd gave her so abrupt and peremptory a refusal, that she saw, for the present, her attempt was vain. Six months went by, however, and brought with them new needs and new visions. Rosalind’s thoughts hovered lovingly about her sister’s relics. She went up and looked at the chest in which they lay imprisoned. There was a sullen defiance in its three great padlocks and its iron bands which only quickened her cupidity. There was something exasperating in its incorruptible immobility. It was like a grim and grizzled old household servant, who locks his jaws over a family secret. And then there was a look of capacity in its vast extent, and a sound as of dense fulness, when Rosalind knocked its side with the toe of her little shoe, which caused her to flush with baffled longing. “It’s absurd,” she cried; “it’s improper, it’s wicked”; and she forthwith resolved upon another attack upon her husband. On the following day, after dinner, when he had had his wine, she boldly began it. But he cut her short with great sternness.

“Once for all, Rosalind,” said he, “it’s out of the question. I shall be gravely displeased if you return to the matter.”

“Very good,” said Rosalind. “I am glad to learn the esteem in which I am held. Gracious heaven,” she cried, “I am a very happy woman! It’s an agreeable thing to feel one’s self sacrificed to a caprice!” And her eyes filled with tears of anger and disappointment.

Lloyd had ‘a good-natured man’s horror of a woman’s sobs, and he attempted—I may say he condescended—to explain. “It’s not a caprice, dear, it’s a promise,” he said—-“an oath.”

“An oath? It’s a pretty matter for oaths! and to whom, pray?”

“To Perdita,” said the young man, raising his eyes for an instant, but immediately dropping them.

“Perdita—ah, Perdita!” and Rosalind’s tears broke forth. Her bosom heaved with stormy sobs —sobs which were the long-deferred sequel of the violent fit of weeping in which she had indulged herself on the night when she discovered her sister’s betrothal. She had hoped, in her better moments, that she had done with her jealousy; but her temper, on that occasion, had taken an ineffaceable fold. “And pray, what right had Perdita to dispose of my future?” she cried. “What right had she to bind you to meanness and cruelty? Ah, I occupy a dignified place, and I make a very fine figure! I am welcome to what Perdita has left! And what has she left? I never knew till now how little! Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

This was very poor logic, but it was very good as a “scene.” Lloyd put his arm around his wife’s waist and tried to kiss her, but she shook him off with magnificent scorn. Poor fellow! he had coveted a “devilish fine woman,” and he had got one. Her scorn was intolerable. He walked away with his ears tingling—irresolute, distracted. Before him was his secretary, and in it the sacred key which with his own hand he had turned in the triple lock. He marched up and opened it, and took the key from a secret drawer, wrapped in a little packet which he had sealed with his own honest bit of blazonry. Je garde, said the motto—“I keep.” But he was ashamed to put it back. He flung it upon the table beside his wife.

“Put it back!” she cried. “I want it not. I hate it!”

“I wash my hands of it,” cried her husband. “God forgive me!”

Mrs. Lloyd gave an indignant shrug of her shoulders, and swept out of the room, while the young man retreated by another door. Ten minutes later Mrs. Lloyd returned, and found the room occupied by her little step-daughter and the nursery-maid. The key was not on the table. She glanced at the child. Her little niece was perched on a chair, with the packet in her hands. She had broken the seal with her own small fingers. Mrs. Lloyd hastily took possession of the key.

At the habitual supper-hour Arthur Lloyd came back from his counting-room. It was the month of June, and supper was served by daylight. The meal was placed on the table, but Mrs. Lloyd failed to make her appearance. The servant whom his master sent to call her came back with the assurance that her room was empty, and that the women informed him that she had not been seen since dinner. They had, in truth, observed her to have been in tears, and, supposing her to be shut up in her chamber, had not disturbed her. Her husband called her name in various parts of the house, but without response. At last it occurred to him that he might find her by taking the way to the attic. The thought gave him a strange feeling of discomfort, and he bade his servants remain behind, wishing no witness in his quest. He reached the foot of the staircase leading to the topmost flat, and stood with his hand on the banisters, pronouncing his wife’s name. His voice trembled. He called again louder and more firmly. The only sound which disturbed the absolute silence was a faint echo of his own tones, repeating his question under the great eaves. He nevertheless felt irresistibly moved to ascend the staircase. It opened upon a wide hall, lined with wooden closets, and terminating in a window which looked westward, and admitted the last rays of the sun. Before the window stood the great chest. Before the chest, on her knees, the young man saw with amazement and horror the figure of his wife. In an instant he crossed the interval between them, bereft of utterance. The lid of the chest stood open, exposing, amid their perfumed napkins, its treasure of stuffs and jewels. Rosalind had fallen backward from a kneeling posture, with one hand supporting her on the floor and the other pressed to her heart. On her limbs was the stiffness of death, and on her face, in the fading light of the sun, the terror of something more than death. Her lips were parted in entreaty, in dismay, in agony; and on her blanched brow and cheeks there glowed the marks of ten hideous wounds from two vengeful ghostly hands

1868.

Stories Revived, Henry James, 1885: pp. 311-340

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A long ghost story, but a memorable one, and with the always agreeable additional frisson of fashion.

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a ghost who ordered a hat, a haunted coat, the ghost with one shoe, and the haunted garden party dress.

You will also find fashionable horrors in the short story “Crape,” found in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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.

Gowns and Omens–Dressmakers’ Superstitions: 1911

hemming a skirt 1895 seamstress

GOWNS AND OMENS.

Odd Superstitions That Darken Dressmaker’s Shop.

“Women who wear fine dresses are as superstitious as the girls who make them,” said a dressmaker. “If the little accidents that happen in the workroom were not mercifully concealed from the owners of rich gowns they would be sick with apprehension half the time. I had one customer who refused to accept a very expensive dress because a girl who assisted with the fitting dropped a pair of scissors, which fell point down and stuck in the floor. That meant an order for mourning within six months. [It might also mean dismissal or death for the person who dropped the scissors.] The customer hoped that by refusing the hoodoo dress she could avert the calamity, but the precaution was useless. In less than three months her father was dead.

“Girls are especially particular in their work on wedding dresses, for if a tiny drop of blood from a pricked finger should fall on the gown the bride would surely die before the end of the year. Then there is green thread. Whether the customer is there to see it or not, no dressmaker will keep green thread near spools of another color. Green thread used for basting means the return of a dress for alterations, and there is enough trouble of that kind in a dressmaking establishment without deliberately bidding for it.

“Women who are themselves superstitious are never surprised or offended at a sewing girl’s untidy coiffure. The girls tumble their hair about on purpose when working on a large order, for it is a sacred belief among dressmakers that a hair inadvertently worked into the garment shows that more work is coming soon from the same customer.”

Stafford [KS] County Republican 10 August 1911: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil has written before about the idea that sewing a hair into a wedding gown will bring the seamstress a husband.

Green was widely thought to be an unlucky colour.  Today one would think that was because the dye was often the deadly Scheele’s Green. The superstition might more plausibly be blamed on the fairies:

Green an Unlucky Color.

The Scotch Highlanders considered it unfortunate to wear the fairies’ fatal green in a fight, especially on a Friday, and in many places in rural England, this same belief that the fairies looked upon green as their peculiar hue and resented the wearing of this color by mortals was generally held. Wisconsin State Journal [Madison WI] 23 October 1899: p. 3

Seamstresses had a whole wardrobe of superstitions regarding the dressmaking business as well as matters of life and death.

Dressmakers’ Superstitions.

Theatrical folk are generally supposed to take the palm for superstition, but dressmakers are not far behind. No matter how gilt edged and “madamed” and given to big bills and scornful of anybody who comes to heir afoot she may be, and especially of the somebody who can’t afford silk lining, she wouldn’t dream of sewing the gown while upon you. “Take a stitch while you’re trying the dress on!” she cries. “Mercy, no! I wouldn’t dream of such a dreadful thing. Don’t you know what it means? Every one of those stitches would stand for a lie that somebody was telling about you, and the longer the stitch the bigger the lie.” That is what she will tell you if you ask her or any of her aides to take the least little “tack” in the garment. “Well, I will if you’re willing to run the risk,” said one of the profession resignedly. “Yes, I know I can’t do it so well off you, but it’ll take at least six stitches, and that means just six lies—big lies, too, for the stitches are awful long.” She regarded the customer who was willing to fly thus in the face of fate as nothing short of a marvel.

Mower County Transcript [Lansing MI] 5 January 1898: p. 2

Black Pins and Dressmaking.—A dressmaker, about 30 years old, born and resident at Torquay, when “trying on” or fitting on a new dress to a customer, declined to use a black pin, remarking that were she to use it the dress would certainly not fit.  Report and Transactions: The Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, Vol. 12, Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, 1880: p. 112

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If a garment is cut out on Friday, the person for whom it is made will not live unless it is finished on the same day. Southern Indiana.

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Beginning on Saturday a garment that cannot be finished means death. Ohio.

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Whoever works on a sick person’s dress, he or she will die within the year. Massachusetts.

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When a woman who has been sewing puts her thimble on the table as she sits down to eat, it is a sign that she will be left a widow, if she marries. Central Maine.

This latter superstition provides an admirable excuse to procure a pretty thimble case and consistently place the article within.

 

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.

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation: 1904

The End of Dinner, Jules Alexandre Grun, 1913

Cecilia’s Novel Occupation

By Lola Terry Shannon

Cecilia is a very bright young western woman with artistic tastes and an unusual facility for putting them to practical use, and is the only American woman who has ever made a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as a designer and decorator in connection with fashionable catering. Since she is a living entity at this writing, and very much alive at that, it may be well to state, in passing, that Cecilia is not her real name but only a fictitious substitute for present purposes.

She gave some points on her experience to a little group of summer sojourners at an old-fashioned farmhouse one summer evening, which seemed interesting enough to “pass along.”

“I can’t understand,” she said, in laughing response to the clamorous invitation to tell something about her “novel” occupation, “why there need be anything novel about it. Any woman with average brain power, good health, and a knack for bringing out color effects ought to be able to make a success at my calling. Many a young woman of artistic temperament in our large cities, who is trying to make a living as an artist, musician or writer, would find here a fair, open field for her energies and ideas, with plenty of hard work, it is true, but with good money compensation to offset the late and early hours.

“I started in as an employee in a confectionery store in Chicago and soon discovered that my love of fresh, crisp ribbons and pretty bows stood me in good stead. All of my spare moments were used in thinking up new ideas for candy boxes and baskets, and in inventing new color schemes for our large window. Once I designed some favors which my employer was pleased to consider quite original, and when one of the city’s big caterers applied to him for an assistant, I was selected as an emergency substitute, and finally decided to remain in the business.

“No one on the outside can have any idea of the amount of ingenuity for which the business of a fashionable caterer calls. The detail work is enormous. Each person, of course, wants something entirely fresh and original, and the poor man is often driven to despair in his efforts to obtain ideas that are both novel and attractive.

“I went abroad once to help an American confectioner open up a place in London. It was then that I had my first experience in planning for an English hunt dinner. It was to be given at an old manor, the country home of a certain wealthy lord, and my employer considered it, of course, an opportunity from a business standpoint.

“How we did slave getting ready! We had been given carte blanche as to expense, and it was only a question of design and detail; but it brought on a genuine attack of brain fag for everybody engaged in its preparation. The affair was, however, a great success and launched my chief on the top wave of popular favor.

“It was all in gold and scarlet. The table service was far handsomer than anything I had ever seen or even dreamed of, though I had decorated for some of the wealthiest families in our own country. Such wonderful gold and silver plate, which had been handed down, not for generations, but for centuries, all in rich, specially wrought designs without duplicates! And the rare translucent china and exquisite cut glass, together with the plate, made splendid effects possible.

“Well! As I said, this hunt dinner was all in gold and scarlet. We even invented scarlet candies and bonbons with prince of Wales feathers on them in raised gold effect. These were heaped in gold dishes, solid gold epergnes, with tiny electric lights inside, shining through the transparent candies. The souvenirs were water colors of the famous horses and dogs belonging to the family, on imitation gold-tipped oak leaves, in autumnal scarlet tints. The menus were in the form of maple leaves with gold stems. All the flowers were scarlet. The miniature fence which enclosed the centerpiece was an exact copy of those the hunters were to take in the field and had vines and scarlet blossoms climbing over it. The ices were in the form of stags’ heads and we had hunting horns made of puff paste and filled with pate. The whole thing seemed to be a revelation to the titled diners. and, as I said, brought one American caterer many fresh favors.

“Then there was another affair which came soon after which did much “to help us ‘arrive.’ The order for this dinner was ‘everything in green and white.’ and we decided upon lilies of the valley as the principal floral decoration, and we used them almost by the load. An electric fountain in the center of the table sprayed lily of the valley perfume over floating water lilies. The souvenirs were in green and white. The ices were water lilies and the exquisite table service was in green, white and gold. Green grapes and lilies heaped high in gold epergnes were partially hidden by trailing vines. The electric fountain was the feature that made a hit at this dinner, for nobody there had ever seen anything like it.

“We worked day and night trying to make our Regent street store attractive. We changed the whole color scheme once a week and there was always a crowd in front of our windows after a fresh design had been arranged.

“One week we would have everything in autumn tints. Candy boxes and candies, decorations and trimmings, were gorgeous with reds and yellows and rich russets. In the early spring the place blossomed in pink, with real apple blossoms renewed every day, as the leading decoration. When Sweet Lavender was making a great hit at the Lyceum we decorated the place in lavender. Our candy boxes during that time were all lined with lavender satin and adorned with scenes from the play. There were great masses of violets everywhere. and each lady who made a purchase was presented with sprigs of old-fashioned lavender tied with satin ribbon of the prevailing tint.

“But I think we got the most fun from our fishmonger’s window. We had models of almost every edible variety of fish made out of papier-mâché, from huge salmon which held fifteen pounds of candy to tiny, silvery sardines with their hidden store of pink creams. They were made by an expert and were wonderfully lifelike. The blocks of ice under the big fish were thick squares of washing soda, which has, at a distance, the exact appearance of ice. We broke the soda up into small pieces and mixed it with seaweed on handsome trays for the smaller fish, which even included shrimps and oysters as well as lobsters. These were all filled with candy carefully selected with thought to artistic contrast in color. We made an unexpected sensation which kept our force in jolly spirits for the rest of the season, for the policeman who had our particular block under his watchful eye was deceived by the lifelikeness of our display into thinking that the place had changed hands, and, as no fishmongers are allowed on Regent street, he walked in very pompously, to arrest the head of the firm for violation of municipal law. We knew then that our last effort was ‘a howling success,’ and had the satisfaction besides of getting off a rich joke on one of those top-lofty London police.

“It was well that things happened occasionally, for long hours and incessant work were certainly trying to health and spirits. But we had our compensations. At the end of six months we had made such a decided hit that servants in livery were sent to inquire what our next week’s color scheme would be, so that entertainments could be planned in the same color, and our things obtained without special orders, which always required more time to fill.

“Everybody who is engaged in the catering business must find that entertaining in this prosperous country of ours grows more elaborate every year, and, during the season, a fashionable caterer’s only consolation seems to be that the martyrs are the pick of humanity. Such a constant, well-bred clamor as there is for something fresh and striking!

“If novel designs were necessary for the menus only, the pressure would be wearing enough. but that is the simplest part. The table decorations, forms and garnitures must always be in the nature of a surprise, and to accomplish this in such a way as to pleasantly astonish jaded senses is not an easy task. and it is right here that any number of women of artistic tastes and originality can find quick appreciation.

“As for my method: After an order came in for a particularly elaborate affair, I would go off by myself to cudgel my brain for a new dinner scheme. Then I would talk it over with my employer, who would change a little here and elaborate a little there, offer a few suggestions and then put the whole thing into my hands. When I had made the sketches and designs in the privacy of my own little den. I would go out and give instructions to the bakers, confectioners, florists and candle makers, leaving with them molds and instructions after my designs, after which there were always a hundred other things which I must attend to personally regarding the souvenirs and menus and details of service.

“I had some experience in getting up dinners for uppertendom in New York city last season, and you’ve no idea of the labor that goes into one of those big functions. It’s a city of nerves and notions, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to cater for its rich leisure class. Chicago millionaires do not seem to be so sated with the good things of life. There is a freshness and spontaneity about their enjoyment of creature comforts which belongs naturally, I think, to the breezy west. Last season while I was in New York we had an order from Chicago for everything, even to the waiters. Every smallest detail of that dinner was finished up as completely as possible before it was sent; forward. Even the sorbet cups of ice were frozen and tied with ribbons before being packed. I tied fifteen hundred bows of white ribbon for that dinner. which was entirely in white and green.

“One naturally would think that functions for special days like Valentine or Christmas would suggest themes in themselves, but so many appropriate ideas have been used up already on these celebrations that it has become exceedingly difficult to think up anything distinctly original.

“Designing ribbons and decorating boxes for high-class caterers is a business in itself. One of the most beautiful boxes which I ever designed was ordered by a well-known California woman as a gift to the president and his wife. It was in rich pearl gray and pink satin, hand embroidered and painted, and cost two hundred and fifty dollars, unfilled.

“Yes, there is certainly a fascination about the work, and a wide field for women of artistic originality, and I wonder that more do not take the work up,” Cecilia concluded, as she arose. And, as the little company of interested listeners followed her into the farmhouse parlor, some of them marveled, too, that the wide-awake, aggressive American girl has so completely overlooked this remunerative and, as Cecilia said, fascinating occupation.

Good Housekeeping Vol. 39 1904: pp. 207-209

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Personally Mrs Daffodil would not care to dine while the scent of lilies-of-the-valley was wafted across the soup and fish courses, no matter how novel the electric fountain.

The “uppertendom” of New York was insatiable for novelty in its lavish floral arrangements and cotillion favours.  One of the oddest set of favours were the live pets given at a “swell” New York function in 1897:

Novel Cotillion Favors.

That there is nothing new under the sun is a trite saying which seems truthful; nevertheless, unheard-of ideas are constantly appearing. The latest of these has resulted in a novel cotillion favor. At a recent swell function, live pets were given as favors. Canaries in gilded cages, Maltese and Angora kittens in silk-lined baskets, and tiny toy terriers in dog houses of Japanese niches, were some especially noted.

For the gentlemen there were jointed fishing rods tied with white satin ribbon, skeletons, celluloid skulls, small cameras and silver shaving mirrors.

Dinner favors heard of recently were stuffed birds which could be used in hats, jeweled hat pins, gem decorated belt clasps and neck scarfs.

The Brooklyn [NY] Citizen 7 November 1897: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil expects that the RSPCA would have been waiting outside had any London society hostess attempted such a thing.

“[New York is] a city of nerves and notions, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to cater for its rich leisure class.”

Mrs Daffodil is thankful that the English have no nerves. It makes the caterer’s life much simpler, when clients are so easily pleased with stags’-head ices and hunting horns made of puff paste.

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

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

Finery for the Forehead: 1920

forehead jewel coiffure 1920

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

Finery for the Forehead

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

By Jean Seivwright

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

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

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

MOP coiffure 1920

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

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

peasant headdress coiffure 1920

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

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

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

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

pearl coiffure 1920

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

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

ear-ring coiffure 1920

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

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

crespine coiffure 1920

The Crispine Whose Threads of Gold Are Enlivened with Sparkling Jewels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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