Category Archives: Fashion

How to be a Well-Dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

The well-dressed young man.

How to Be Well Dressed

The New York Star

Every man in New York who has any pride whatever about him likes to be well dressed. This is especially true of the young man, and if he is a discerning one, he soon learns that being decently clad is no drawback to him. On the contrary, he finds that, if anything, it tends to push him along a bit. No staid business man would admit that a good suit of clothes and spotless linen ever made an impression upon him. At the same time he is likely to have remarked to his partner that he favored so-and-so, among a long line of applicants for a subordinate position, because he appeared very respectable. The speaker would never add, of course, that the trim outward appearance of the applicant had materially aided in forming his judgment. He would probably charge the opinion to his ability as a character reader, and flatter himself that he had read the young man with the nice clothes through and through.

There is no doubt about it. A good outfit is a credential that waives considerable examination. A well-dressed man can go through life with his head in the air, and it will be generally concluded that he knows what he is about, while an infinitely superior being, with seedy apparel, will be harassed and cross-examined by lackey as well as master. The first will be given credit for an unusual amount of ability in his line, whether he possesses it or not. If the latter proves the case, surprise will be expressed. In any event, he won’t be hurt by the good start he gets. But the man who is not well groomed will suffer a succession of petty oppositions. He will be set down as worthless at the beginning, and he must have wonderful talents to override the prejudice. He is on the defensive with the world all the time, being constantly called upon to demonstrate that he is not what he seems to be.

Besides, a well-dressed man is nearly always a better man for being well dressed. He takes more pride in himself, his conduct, and his work. What he does he does better. He instinctively endeavors to ” live up to” his appearance. A neat and conventional dress is an easy guarantee of politeness from those you meet, and is a better recommendation than most of the commendatory letters that you may carry. It serves as a ready passport in the business community, and squeezes many a man into good society. Relative to this subject, I once heard a gentleman tell this story: “I believed that clothes never made the man,” said he, “until I started out in life for myself. I was rather indifferent then regarding my attire—in fact, I think it might have been deemed shabby. Well, what was the consequence? Every hotel I went to made me pay in advance if I stayed but a single night. I noticed then that others with better clothes than mine were treated with greater confidence. I took the hint and braced up, and, would you believe it? I could remain at a strange hotel for three and four weeks, after that, and never be presented with a bill. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is unprofitable to dress badly.”

Dr. [Josiah] Holland, who became famous as Timothy Titcomb, made the subject of dressing an important part of his published letters to young men, and the soundness of his philosophy was never questioned. Ten dollars a year spent in neckwear, he declared, went further toward dressing a man well than one hundred dollars a year spent in clothes. Timothy did not assume that a man could neglect his clothing because he wore fine neckwear. But he made the broad claim that a man with spotless linen, a becoming and well-arranged cravat, well-polished shoes and a clean suit of clothes would be described as well-dressed by the casual observer, even if the garments were very much the worse for wear. The greatest compliment that could be paid a man with respect to his apparel, Timothy Titcomb wrote, was to refer to him as one whose cloth and general outward appearance had made no impression, save that it was pleasing or neat. It indicated that nothing striking had been worn, yet an artistic effect had been produced. [Mrs Daffodil suggests that Beau Brummel may have had a prior claim to this idea. He is quoted as having said, “To be truly elegant one should not be noticed.”]

Another philosopher describes the best-dressed man as “he who wears nothing out of the common, but who wears that so well that he is distinguished among his fellows.” Dr. Holland’s idea respecting the necktie and linen is undoubtedly one of the secrets of good and cheap dressing. Scouring and renovating without stint might be added as another. A poor man who wants to dress well and as cheap as he can should not discard a suit so long as its color is firm and its fibres hang together. No man knows how far fifteen dollars a year spent for repairs will go toward making his appearance presentable, nor how large an expenditure for new garments it has saved him, until he tries it.

If men with moderate incomes, who feel obliged to dress shabbily six months out of the year, observed a woman’s way of sponging, overhauling and retrimming they might get a useful object-lesson from it. It is often remarked as being beyond explanation how that fellow can pay his board and dress so well on a salary of fifteen dollars a week or less. I happen to know a young man who does that very thing, and he dresses as well as any of the men about town who have far greater means, and says the cost of doing so is the smallest portion in his expense account. He contrives to own a dress suit, a suit for occasional wear and a business suit. His dress suit he has worn five years already, and has no idea now of replacing it with another. Frequently he has had it altered, to keep nearly apace with the decrees of fashion. In doing this he has practised some original ideas. For example, here is a bill he showed me:

To putting new broadcloth collar on dress suit $2.50

Widening trousers .50

Total – $3.00

The first item is decidedly unique. The present make of the coat might seem an anomaly to tailors, but it is strictly first-class in the public eye. The sleeves of the garment appeared a little bit threadbare, and the owner declared that he would remedy that defect in a couple of weeks by having a pair of new sleeves put in. I asked him how he prevented the new cloth being distinguished from the old, and he replied that his bushelman [one who alters or repairs clothing] managed in some way to sponge them up even. With his other suits he could not resort to such devices, but he keeps them looking new until, I might say, they are worn out. He buys coat and vest buttons by the box; so that they cost him about a cent a dozen. The moment the old buttons grow rusty he plies the needle himself in putting on a new set, and the appearance of the cloth is at once heightened. When binding breaks or gets glossed, he has the garment rebound, and at a very moderate cost it bobs up again in attractive shape.

Now, if one wants to pursue this sort of economy he can do so still further. A silk hat can be made over with any style of brim, washed, blocked and ironed, for one-third the price of a new one. This expenditure will include the cost of new lining, a new leather sweatband, and a new silk band and lining. Between it and a new hat, then, where is the difference? Some small cobblers make a business of vamping patent-leather shoes for two dollars. Nine hundred and ninety-five men out of a thousand throw away their patent-leathers as soon as they crack. The same proportion of men discard light-colored neckties when they become soiled. Various establishments clean them for fifteen cents each, or to practise more economy, a can of ether for sixty cents will clean two dozen and a half of them. Summing the whole thing up, I should say that a man can dress handsomely on from seventy-five to one hundred dollars a year, and very well on much less. [Citing again, Beau Brummel, who replied to a widow who asked how much it would cost for her son to be fashionably dressed: “My dear Madam, with strict economy, it might be done for eight hundred a year.”]

Current Opinion, Volume 4, edited by Edward Jewitt Wheeler, Frank Crane, June 1890 p. 451

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is long past the time that the gentlemen should have been inducted into the sartorial secrets of the lady type-writer and  stenographer who make-over, make-do, turn, press, sponge, and re-trim and who, in the words of a somewhat dreary exponent of domestic thrift, make “economy in dress an art.”

But where does a young gentleman learn to “ply the needle” to sew on one of those buttons so economically bought by the box?  Sisters are an excellent resource or the young lady in the room down the hall at the boarding house might be flattered to be asked to share her knowledge of needle-arts. For the cost of an occasional box of chocolates the young man may find himself freed from the button-sewing altogether, although there is always the danger that he may also find himself betrothed. While such a state could have its disadvantages, he might console himself with the thought that henceforth the care of his wardrobe would devolve upon his wife.

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 Black Rose: 1910

THE BLACK ROSE

Triumph of Botanical Chemistry, but Who Would Want One

(from the New York Times)

The inventor of a process for growing black roses naturally takes pride in his achievement. The black rose is new in agriculture. Nature, within the knowledge of man, has produced no rose of that color, and the black rose, if it is a shapely, full-grown flower, will be cordially received. If it have the perfume of the garden rose, its value will be greater. Some of the most esteemed roses of the florist’s shops are almost odorless. The inventor of the black rose is to be congratulated. Black diamonds and brown ones are esteemed far above their intrinsic value. Mr Burbank’s horticultural hybrids are highly prized. It will not do, in this scientific era, to condemn the gardener or agriculturist for using his wit and art to produce freaks in defiance of nature. The freakish tendencies of nature are now too well understood. The cunning of man cannot outdo them. Only nature has not yet produced a black rose, and the first of its kind will surely command a high place in the market for curiosities.

The utility of a black rose is questionable. It will never satisfy the eye like the red, yellow or white rose: a new poetry of roses must be made to fit it; no lover will come to use it as a symbol of his passion. At its best it will seem a thing of mystery. A bunch of black roses carelessly laid on the rail of a parterre box at the opera will not necessarily charm the vision of the unfortunate lookers-on in the stalls. The near-sighted ones may fancy that the principal occupant of the box is displaying her overshoes. A black rose in a lovely woman’s hair will resemble a rosette of silk or velvet. As a gift the black rose, after its first novelty has worn away, will fit only funeral occasions. Even then its oddity and the extravagance its presence implies, will serve to make it seem unsuitable.

The advent of the black rose will be an event, a triumph of botanical chemistry, a subject for learned discussion, and some more or less tedious frivol. But, after that—what? Who really wants a black rose?

Charleston [SC] News and Courier 17 February 1910: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To-morrow is, Mrs Daffodil is given to understand, World Goth Day. While previously Mrs Daffodil thought that the day was to celebrate European barbarians who opposed Imperial Roman rule, this year she knows better and was ready with this post about the Goth’s favourite posy: the black rose.

It is curious that the alleged inventor is not named in the piece above; Mr Luther Burbank, the distinguished American horiculturalist was always cited as the ne plus ultra of plant breeders, but even he did not breed a black rose.

Two gentleman, both Russian, were named in the British and United States press as the inventor of the black rose.

The honor of making the black rose belongs to an amateur horticulturist—Mr. Fetisoff, of Voronezh, Russia. Mr. Fetisoff has accomplished what professional horticulturists for fifty years have been striving for. They have tried again and again and the wisdom of years has been combined in their efforts and yet they have never succeeded in producing a rose whose petals were absolutely black.

Mr. Fetisoff is guarding the secret of the existence of his black rose with religious care. The Evening Times [Washington DC] 2 July 1898: p. 6

and

A Russian nurseryman, named Seraphimoff, has actually produced a black rose….One would suppose that the admixture of manganese in the soil in which roses or tulips are grown would produce a purple shade in the flowers, but how black, which isn’t recognized as a color, can be developed, one utterly fails to understand.

The name Seraphimoff, is suspiciously religious. One fears that a sacrilegious nature faker is abroad. The word “seraphim” is one not to be used in jokes. The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 19 May 1908: p. 20

Experts who commented on these stories suggested that a black rose might be produced by intensive cross-breeding, or “culture in highly medicated soils.” The cultivar is said to exist in nature in Tibet and in Turkey; outside of nature, they may be purchased at Cartier, in onyx.  If Mrs Daffodil had to guess its meaning in the “language of flowers,” the black rose might signify, “I adore your skull jewellery and your jet lip-stick.” or “You are dead to me.”

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.

 

Hair-dye for Workmen: 1867, 1889

Grey Hair Restorer, 1881

HAIR-DYE FOR WORKMEN

Drives to Use It in Order to Keep Up in the Race with the Young.

There is now going on a mighty struggle which is almost essentially a question of age. Yet it is one which affects thousands and thousands of men and women who are toilers and bread-winners.

On all sides preference is given by employers to youth over more advanced years. Absalom, in the vigor of his juvenility, is content to receive twenty to thirty per cent less money than his more mature rival. In wholesale warehouses, in public companies, in retail establishments, in the street, on the road and the rail, men and women who are still hale and hearty in mind and body have been set adrift to make room for the younger—and cheaper—generations. They are willing to work for the same wage, but the masters will have none of them.

In their distress they turn to a comforter—not to the work-house, if they can avoid so doing; not to the charitable institution, not the trades union, but to Figaro himself, the peruquier, the hairdresser, the barber. The amount of hair-dye used by artisans and laborers of all sorts is not only enormous, but increases day by day. It is not vanity which impels them to the practice, it is life, for which it is well worth dyeing.

The testimony on the subject is undeniable. A knight of the razor in the north of London testifies that he is doing a tremendous trade in hair-dye with working-men for the reasons given above. “They take it home,” he said, “and get their wives to lay it on. In many cases it is an absolute necessity with female employes. Proprietors of big millinery establishments won’t have women with gray hair on the premises.

“You’ve no idea what misery I’ve been aware of in families from gray hair. I knew a man, a father of six children. All of a sudden, from illness, I think, his hair whitened, and his employer took the earliest opportunity of giving him the sack, and getting a younger man in his place. He couldn’t obtain another situation anywhere, and the more trouble he had the older he looked. At last, when he was at his wit’s end, someone told him to get his hair dyed, and, what’s more, lent him the money to have it done. Well, he’s got another place. It’s less money; but you’d hardly know him again. I’ve seen scores like him. Your young folk may sneer at dye and crack jokes on the subject, but as true as I’m not a Dutchman, it’s been the salvation of many hard-working men and women. A lady dealing in human hair near St. Pancras, when sounded on the subject, admitted the practice, and allowed that she dealt very largely in dye, nearly all vended to those earning their living in large commercial establishments.

The same tale was repeated by one who did a good deal of traffic in this way with ladies of the theatrical persuasion. “Lor’ bless you,” he exclaimed. “without hair-dye some of those women would be nowhere. What would you say, if you was a manager, if a girl with gray locks came to you and wanted an engagement? I expect you’d show her the door pretty quickly. I’m not talking of those vain young females who turn black to gold or red to brown. I mean the chorister of thirty-five to forty, still good looking, but who is beginning to show the powder puff on her head. There isn’t one, there isn’t twenty, there isn’t a hundred, but I’d like to bet there’s a thousand or more in the United Kingdom. Their great-grandmothers had to wear wigs; their descendant are a deal more comfortable with a little harmless coloring matter on their own hair.” And so the story runs ad infinitum. London Telegraph

Thomas County Cat [Colby KS] 13 June 1889: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Dyed hair has often been viewed as the prerogative of the aging roué on the prowl for a dewy heiress, the hussy, the debauchee without a portrait aging in the attic, or the mutton dressed as lamb. It is rather refreshing to see it viewed in a less moralising and colder economic light. Even to-day one may find men and women of a certain age being advised to colour their hair in order to get or retain a position. In an excerpt from an article about the technical aspects of dyeing the hair, a tonsorial professional waxed quite candid on the subject:

I was on the point of censuring the habit of using any sort of hair-dye, when the purport of a certain conversation that took place on a certain day, between me and a certain hair-dresser, came to my memory. He had been shaving me; passing his keen razor with delicate care over and among certain deep furrows which mark my face, disfiguring or embellishing me according to people’s fancy. He had been dressing my ragged mustache, and taking heed lest the grizzly beard, which it is my good pleasure to wear, should be curtailed of its normal proportions, when I found his two gray eyes lingering with a sort of deprecating look upon the many-tinted hues of the said beard, mottled with various-colored hairs, in which white predominates.

“I could make you ten years younger,” said he, at length, “if you would only let me. My charge is only three-and-sixpence.”

“That’s reasonable, anyhow,” quoth I; “pray how would you set about it?” “By dyeing that beard of yours,” was his prompt reply. “Its color is disgraceful”

Now the thought of having ten years of one’s life put back was not to be cast aside. Who would not accept the proffered ten years, if they could be given, even by a barber? It was pretence, after all, only pretence; my operator could only make me look younger, – a boon which I considered no boon, and declined. Improving the occasion, I began to inveigh against the practice of hair-dyeing in general. “People should have their hair as Nature made it,” I told him; “people should rise above all foolish vanity.” Thereupon he came out with strong disclaimers, and cogent arguments. He advanced a certain plea for hair-dyeing, the force of which I had to recognize. He spoke somewhat after this fashion:

“It may be all very well for you, sir, to let your beard stay as it is. I don’t know who you are or what you are. You ain’t no clerk, and you ain’t no shopman, or else you would know better…. But s’pose you was behind a counter a selling of silks, or calicos, or ribbons, how do you think the ladies would like your looks?”

It was a home thrust; I involuntarily took stock of myself in a looking-glass. “Do you think the ladies would have anything to say to you? Not much, I guess. S’pose you was a clerk, a wife and young uns at home, s’pose you wanted a situation where a hactive young man was advertised for. How would you get that situation?”

“O!” exclaimed he, taking advantage of my silence. “I’ve helped many a poor gent as warn’t so young as he once was to pleasant places. Better let me dye it, sir; it will do well.” “No no!” quoth I; “it would do me no good, but you’ve thrown a new light on the matter….”

The poor clerk or shopman may, perhaps, be excused for trying to beget an impression of greater youth by dyeing his hair, whiskers, or mustaches black. His bread may in some sense depend upon it; but were he to bleach his naturally black or brown hair, only to dye it some fancy color, one would then call him, among other names, a poor silly fellow.

Every Saturday 6 April 1867: pp 433-434

Physicians invariably inveighed against the toxic compounds used to colour the tresses. But there was a fate worse than dye-ing among those who darkened their hair:

“I wonder if it really as dangerous as doctors say to dye the hair?”

“Certainly! Only more so. I had an uncle who tried it, and he was married to a widow with six children in less than three months.”

The Jackson [MI] Citizen Patriot 14 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about coloured hair-powders for a more temporary effect and the fad for silver hair.

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 a Shakespearean Fairy Flew: 1906

Miss Annie Russell as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. https://shakespeare.emory.edu/a-midsummer-nights-dream/msnd_russell_a_02_front/

MISS RUSSELL AS PUCK

In Every Way the Most Notable Shakespearean Offering That Has Ever Been Witnessed in Jackson

A Crowning Success.

[Miss Annie Russell’s] conception of “Puck,” is the most exquisite treat that has been given the American public in years. The loving mockery and elfish tricks of this household fairy present unique possibilities, and the charming little actress has taken advantage of each and every one of them. Her characterization of the role is the very embodiment of grace, delicacy and daintiness. There is something mysteriously and indescribably elfish about her “Puck,” that warms the cockles of the hart and makes the old young again. The witchery of her personal charm, the glint of her roguish eyes, the grace of her movement, the contagion of her laugh, form a perfect embodiment of what Shakespeare must have intended “Puck” to be, and if the great Bard and Avon could come to earth again and witness Miss Russell’s portrayal of his fanciful role, he would pronounce it thoroughly satisfying….

Never in the memory of the present generations of playgoers has there been such a production of Shakespeare’s fanciful comedy on such a vast scale. The offering Is embellished with mechanical perfection and the staging Is surrounded by artistic excellence never before approached…The flowers glow mysteriously when “Puck” touches them, owls blink solemnly on the tree boughs, fairies flit to and fro through the air with startling naturalness and precision, and every embellishment is wonderful in its originality and perfection. When Miss Russell makes her entrance in the third scene of the first act from aloft, lights on the branch of a tree, flits across to a mossy bank and settles down so softly that the tips of her dainty toes barely dint the downy landing, it looks like a defiance of the laws of gravitation, and forces the conclusion that the climax of fairyland realism has been attained in stage mechanics….

The audience last night marveled greatly over Miss Russell’s flights across the stage, and perhaps few realized the work that was behind that graceful act. Her entrance involves a secret of stage mechanism that is guarded like a jewel of rare price, and requires the alert work of six strong men.

It will perhaps be especially interesting to the ladies of Jackson to know what Miss Russell thinks of this flight. In chatting with the writer on this subject last night she said:

“If I were not an expert horse-woman I never could make that flight. Sounds strange doesn’t it? In the first place I want my friends to understand that I like flying through the air. It is a most exhilarating feeling to stand one instant firmly on the ground and the next to be switched off into space.

“The story of how it is done is most interesting. The apparatus used is in man of its details a secret—a series of wires weighted with bags of shot, worked through a clock-like arrangement, fitted with gear wheels, springs and bolts. It is this clock-like affair that holds the secret, and the owner guards it by removing it from the fly gallery each night and taking it home under his arm. All I know is that it can be so accurately adjusted that the wire will sustain a weight of 1,000 pounds or work just as well as if the weight is only one pound.

“The ticklish part of my flight is this. The machine must be adjusted to carry me between two fixed points. Now this is simple enough in the case of the flying fairies, because they start from one side of the stage and alight at a fixed point at the other side. In my case, I fly to a tree. Now this tree is set on the stage and it is a most difficult matter to set it in exactly the same spot each time. To be sure the stage is marked where the tree is to go, but the variation of a fraction of an inch makes all the difference in the world. That little difference would hurl me against the set piece and do no end of damage to some part of me. It is for this reason that each night, an hour before my flight is to be made, a bag of meal, of my exact weight, takes my place. Then the six men who work the apparatus yank the meal bag across the stage and into the set tree. As I watch that yank I am glad they do not rehearse with me. But once it is adjusted, my flight is as safe, and as sure, and as scientifically perfect as though I were walking across my own drawing room.

“But still there is considerable for me to do. When I land in the tree, I must steady myself in an instant, otherwise I would look like the bag of meal instead of like a bird. That’s where my expert horse-womanship comes in. When I fly from the tree to the stage, the most perfect workmanship is necessary on the part of the wire-workers, because if they did not give me slack the very instant my feet touch the stage I’d topple over like a nine pin.

Even when I do land, you must understand that I am girdled in a steel corset to which the wire is fitted. I land breathless, with this corset gripping me like the iron clad maiden of old. And if you think it is a simple matter to be gay and sprightly with this grip of steel about my heart and no breath—if you think it is easy, well, just try it.

“But for all the difficulties—or possibly because of all these difficulties—I like it. It is such a relief not to be the duffering heroine that I have been most of my stage life.”

Jackson [MS] Daily News 17 November 1906: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Those “duffering” heroines Miss Russell speaks of were sentimental stock roles of Sweet Young Things named variously Sylvia, Esmerelda, Elaine, Hazel, Ada, Maggie, Edith, Ruth, or Sue, of which she heartily tired during her years in the theatre. She was, one fears, typecast, hence her delight in the role of Puck. However, this critic was less complimentary about the Jackson production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream” than the Daily News:  

The opening of the Astor Theatre, New York, September 21, 1906, was signalized by a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” made by the managers of that theatre, Messrs. Wagenhals & Kemper. Miss Annie Russell, an actress of English origin but exclusively American training, acted Puck, and was gay, agile, and frisky…. Puck, though a busy part, is subsidiary in the play, and, except that it provides opportunity for the manifestation of a sprightly, mischievous, frolicsome spirit, possesses no charm that should attract an actor of fine ability to undertake its representation. There is no obvious reason why a female should play it, and probably the only reason why a female ever elected, or was assigned, to play it is that Puck is most effective when assumed by a person whose figure is slight and handsome and whose temperament is volatile—as commonly happens with young women. The most that any player can accomplish with the part is an exhibition of physical agility and vital, elfish, exuberant delight in the mischievous activities of a droll deviltry. Miss Russell’s acting had usually manifested a sentimental temperament and a finical style, but as Puck she was moderately vivacious and pleasing.

Shakespeare on the Stage; Third Series, Volume 3, William Winter, 1916

An acrobatic flying corset used by the “Flying Dancer” Azella in 1865. Perhaps Miss Russell’s flying apparatus was similar. http://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/Online/object.aspx?objectID=object-76193&start=10&rows=1

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.

 

An Imposter at the Concord Ball: 1875

Colonial Revival costumes in a portrayal of George and Martha Washington’s wedding, 1912

A Western Deceiver.

Nora Perry writes of the centennial celebration at Lexington and Concord in a letter to the Chicago Tribune. Of the Concord ball she writes: And oh! What a pretty sight, as everybody unanimously voted. Such brocades, smelling of cedar and camphor-wood, as would now and then appear, plaited and puckered in the very stitches of the old-time—not a fold altered nor a ruffle changed. But there were not many of them. Those fair ones who rejoiced in these veritable old heirlooms walked about with their pretty chins aloft, lifted up above common modern clay by the sublime consciousness of a fine Mayflower ancestry, which these credentials would place beyond dispute.

But a woman’s wit will sometimes get the better of the stoutest credentials; and so a saucy, mischievous little damsel managed to array herself in a brand new gown, which she so plaited and puckered and betrimmed with coffee-dipped lace and scented with camphor-gum, in the very pink and pattern of the Continental dames, that all the little Mayflowers lowered their chins on her approach and whispered audibly, in her delighted hearing, “That is the real thing! Wonder who she is?”

And the little deceiver, with “a smile that was child-like and bland,” went on her way rejoicing, happy as all human nature must be at such a signal triumph. Boston is much too well-bred to ask outright questions of identity, so my fair one kept her secret with these fine Mayflowers; but after the ball she is perfectly willing to reveal her cunning guilt, and to let a faithful correspondent say that it was one of Chicago’s nearest neighbors who thus proved herself more than a match for Boston.

Daily Graphic [New York, NY] 7 May 1875: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On this, the anniversary of the fateful day that the American Revolution began: the commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, it seems appropriate to record the sartorial conflict between the camphor-scented blue-bloods of the East and the parvenu of the West in her coffee-dipped lace.

1876 saw a revival of “Colonial” American costume, from antique lace ruffles at ladies’ elbows to daintily embroidered shoes to sack-back gowns of flowered brocades. Mrs Daffodil regrets to say that some enthusiasts actually remade historic 18th-century garments into fancy-dress costumes or pageant attire for “Lady Washington teas.”

Eighteenth-century costumes were proudly displayed as an emblem of pedigree by Americans who otherwise scorned England’s class system as un-democratic.  An aged American lady of impeccable lineage was distressed to part with her historic quilted petticoat. And this improbably aged relic was described at a celebration of The Geauga County Historical Society, 30 September, 1875:

In the exhibit, first, I bring to your attention, the singular and costly specimens of work presented by Mrs. Polly Norton, of Troy, Ohio, in 1873, a widow lady, seventy-seven years of age, and an early settler in that township. Her husband was a farmer, and died some years ago. First, the waist of a dress; second, a portion of the skirt to another dress; third, a window curtain—all made of linen, the waist being striped with blue, the other two pieces white, all worked in flowers, made of woolen floss. In this floss may be found, at this date, twenty-three different shades of color, and upon the waist are forty-seven different kinds of buds and flowers. Upon the skirt, which is supposed to be about one width, there are one hundred and sixty kinds, and it is estimated that upon the whole skirt there must have been no less than eight hundred buds and flowers worked. Upon the curtain there are one hundred and thirteen kinds, no two of which are considered to be alike. The flax was carded, spun and wove for the fabric of these relics, and the wool was carded and spun for the floss, and it was colored into all the various shades, and then worked into the almost countless flowers upon the fabric. Then the dresses were made, and the curtains stitched and worked, all this having been done by one and the same person, the great-great-grandmother of Mrs. Polly Norton, thus running back, on the line of descent, four generations, or more than six generations of the average life of men. These garments, so skillfully made, must have cost more than twelve months of work to perfect them, including the full set of curtains. The dresses look like the completion of a “sensation” toilet upon the charming person of this great-great-grandmother, as she moved in society more that two hundred years ago, in the colony of Massachusetts. Indeed, they take us back to the threshold of the days of the Pilgrims, and it would almost seem that this dress had brushed against the sword at the side of Miles Standish, or touched the gallant arm of a Governor Carver or Bradford. It was made in the old Bay State, far back beyond the days of cotton mills and whizzing spindles. Pioneer and General History of Geauga County [Ohio] 1880: pp. 42-3

Mrs Daffodil fears that this little story perpetuates the myth of pioneer ladies who made clothing entirely from “scratch,” although, both before and during the Revolution, there was an active trade smuggling the English textiles, laces, and luxury goods the Colonies desired.

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 Wickedest Easter Hat: 1902

1902 Easter Hat

New York, Feb. 23.

Dearest Diana:

I did the wickedest thing to-day—intentionally! Like all other girls I know I did so want a new hat. And like a great many I know, I did not have the money with which to buy it. So what did I do?

I went down into my bandbox.

Later, with my last summer’s hat in my mind, I sallied forth to the nearest maline counter and here I bought four yards of exquisite stuff, all shirred into darling little puffs. With this in one hand I stepped over to the applique counter and bought some silvered dots. I then purchased nine pink roses of natural size and a perfect bush of silvered rose leaves.

Going home I covered my last summer’s hat with the maline, placed the roses on the top of it, at the back, letting the leaves trail down in front over the brim, and, finally, I set a few roses under the side. At the back I arranged some leaves to fall upon the hair.

Then, and here comes the wickedness, I ripped the French label out of my last winter’s opera hat and sewed it into my new Easter hat! And, now, to all intents and purposes, I have an imported creation, rich in everything except the cost.

The Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 2 March 1902: p. 44

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was the holiday dream of every well-dressed lady to have a new Easter hat. Even the dead were insistent about their millinery…. And at this critical time of the fashionable year, ladies were faced with conflicting messages in the papers: “Buy one of our beautiful Paris hats in the latest mode!” Or “Be thrifty! Re-trim last year’s hat so it looks like new!”

It seems a pity that the young lady ripped the label out of her genuine Paris opera hat. There were other options, such as purchasing faux-Parisian labels as mentioned in this advertisement for The Wanamaker Store:

A windowful of children’s hats was shown recently in a New York store with the label of Caroline Reboux on every one. Caroline Reboux, who never made a child’s hat in her life!

In these days, when Paris labels can be purchased so cheaply and affixed to spurious models, there is a comfortable feeling in buying where you are sure that Paris hats are Paris hats. The Morning News [Wilmington DE] 23 September 1904: p. 5

And Mrs Daffodil is shocked to find that American manufacturers were labelling their goods as imported, to increase their desirability.

NO MORE FOREIGN LABELS

LET “MADE IN AMERICA” BE THE WORLD’S STANDARD

A New York society has taken up a new idea which ought to be pressed. Briefly stated it is an attempt to make manufacturers and dealers in this country label their American goods with domestic labels and cease the use of the foreign label on goods made here.

There are plenty good reasons why this campaign should have the indorsement of every sensible business man and every wise consumer. In the first place the question of honesty is involved. The public is swindled by hats bearing a Paris label, when they are made here. In the second place, it is the best policy. We can make most articles in this country as well as they can be made abroad, some of them better. In the third place, it is patriotic. It should be the pride of Americans to use American names and to place upon their products the legend “Made in America,” in competition with the “Made in Germany” label, so familiar in trade. The Allentown [PA] Leader 16 October 1900: p. 1

Easter Hat 1902

 

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 Painter of Black Eyes: 1880

Eye miniature with "tear," early 19th c. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1067812/eye-miniature-unknown/

Eye miniature with “tear,” early 19th c. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1067812/eye-miniature-unknown/

A NEW ART

Black Eyes, Bruises and Blemishes Bleached

By Paint, Pond’s Extract and a Polite Professor,

Who Beautifies Belles, Beaux, and Beaten Wives

“Cress,” the gossipy correspondent of the Chicago Inter-Ocean, has discovered in New York a profession hitherto unknown, which she describes in the following letter.

Reading the advertisements in the daily papers, one involuntary wonders why we are not all “things of beauty and joys forever.” For we are promised compounds that will give us adipose tissue or deprive us of the same when too much has accumulated. We are insured hair in any quantity or color we choose; we are assured that our forms may be developed into molds of grace and beauty, while such trifling accessories as coral lips, pearly teeth, luminous eyes, and dazzling complexions are kept bottled up and to be had for a mere trifle. Beside that there are people who stand ready to puncture dimples, and make you false noses, glass eyes and ivory teeth, furnish you with artificial necks, false calves, arched insteps, etc., until one is impressed with the fact that if it was not for that necessary thing called the breath of life we could do without a Creator, as far as the perpetuation of the race is concerned, keeping up the supply by liberal orders from these factories of imitation humanity, with a clever foreman to put the bits together. Then to lose a limb or two would be a mere trifle; to grow bald or blind, a bagatelle; and when one went travelling it would be easy enough to tuck in a Saratoga trunk a few odd pieces in case of accidents. But without speculating further your correspondent will add that a few days ago she discovered a hitherto unknown profession, lately sprung into life and advertisement, which merits description. The following is

A Sample of the new Notices:

BLACKENED OR BRUISED EYES MADE NATURAL instantly; skin disfigurements concealed. Ladies, send for artist. Studio, 28 West Fourth street.

Calling at the studio, I was surprised to find the owner a gentleman with no small pretensions to the title of artist. The room itself was large and almost filled with oil paintings, among which I recognized the portraits of Rose Eytinge, John Raymond, John McCullough, Charles Pope and others. A large copy of the celebrated “Last Supper” hung on one wall, and studies in oil, lithographs and crayons filled the interstices. However, I was not in search of high art, and far more interesting was the live tableau in the centre of the room that met my gaze. Imagine seated in a steamer chair, in an easy, reclining position, a very fashionably-attired youth (this was early on the day after the Fourth), whose patent-leather boots, white tie, and dress coat would indicate that a lark of the night before had just been finished—the results of the said lark being visible in a large and exceedingly dusky horseshoe heel somebody’s fit had imprinted under one orb. The artist, a pleasant-faced, stalwart young man, was busily engaged in mixing some preparation, and hardly looking up he waved me to a seat, saying, “I will attend to your eye in a moment, Madame!” Glad for this opportunity for observation, I picked up a newspaper, and watched with interest the young “swell” who had been “seeing life” have his acknowledgment of the same obliterated. First the artist poured into a bowl a liberal amount of Pond’s Extract, which, with a soft sponge and the air of a mother administering soothing syrup to her babe, he applied to

The Injured Cheek

During this process he remarked, “I’m afraid you have been trying to cure it with something cold.”

“By jove, how it hurts!” ejaculated the patient. “Yes, she put some ice on it afterward, but it didn’t seem to do any good.”

“Of course not,” said the oracle, severely; “I don’t know why people will persist in making such a mistake. Ice, or oysters, or cold water they will apply in spite of the fact that anything cold makes the blood concentrate beneath the skin and turns it black. What they should do it to bathe the bruise in water as hot as they can stand it; that scatters the blood and keeps the skin from discoloring.”
“Well,” said the exhausted hero of a fracas, with a feeble attempt to be witty, “when a fellow gets into hot water he don’t think of pouring it on.”

By this time the live canvas was ready for coloring, and, with a tiny brush and delicate strokes, the artist proceeded to lay on the flesh tints. For nearly half an hour he worked steadily, pausing frequently to add another shade, then toning the edges down. Then allowing the paint to dry, and then softly rubbing on a fine powder that removed the gloss. Then he stepped back and viewed his handiwork with the air of a stern critic, finally holding a small mirror before the youth, who expressed my thoughts when he exclaimed in admiring accents, “By George, judging from the looks, I couldn’t tell which eye was blacked!” Then with as much of a smile as he had energy for, he added: “How much is it, old boy?”

“Five dollars,” was the answer.

“It’s worth that to

Keep Me Out of a Row With the Governor,

But, deuce take it, I haven’t a fiver left; but take this until I call for it,” and he thrust upon the artist a handsome pearl scarf-pin.

“Now, what can I do for you, ma’am?” queried he of the brush, after a disappointed look upon my unblackened countenance. Whereupon I explained my mission, and the artist, not averse to the idea of being written up, assented to my staying awhile to take notes. “For,” said he, “the day after a holiday I always do a rushing business.” Scarcely had he spoken when a little lady entered. She was modestly dressed in black, and had a rather pretty face, though terribly disfigured by a deep semi-circle of black and blue under one of her eyes. She seemed a little embarrassed, and was profuse in her explanations of how she came by it.

“Indeed,” she said, “I never had such a thing happen to me before in my life, but you see I was going down stairs with a tray full of dishes, and my foot caught in the matting and tripped, and I fell all the way down. Such a thing never happened to me before, and I wonder I did not break every bone in my body. Such a shame it should have come on my eye. I never had a black one before, and it’s so mortifying.”

Again the artist plied his art, taking great pains to match the color of her complexion, and persevering until the ugly-looking mark was rendered invisible. Adding, as he concluded; “You can wash your face in cold water, but don’t use hot or soap, because it will bring the paint off. With a little care it will last

Until the Eye is Cured.”

The lady, after careful examination, expressed herself satisfied, and inquired the cost. “Two dollars,” said the artist, considerately, after a glance at her modest toilet.

“Two dollars!” fairly screamed the lady. “Two dollars for such a pesky little job as that. I never heard of such an imposition. Why, young man, in all my life, I never paid more than fifty cents before!”

This assertion, coming after her profuse explanations, had a very comical effect, which she was quick enough to perceive, and without further parley, she put down the money and departed. When the door closed on her your correspondent inquired if the artist had many lady callers.

“They are not uncommon, and they come as this one did, with profuse apologies and explanations, thinking, poor things, that their stories about tumbling down stairs and running up against doors will be swallowed by me, as if I didn’t know that the brutes who beat their wives are not confined to the wearers of fustian and cowhide boots, and you would be surprised to see some of the ladies who come here in carriages. Ladies living in fine houses, and dressed in silks and diamonds, that would die of shame to have the truth suspected, and come here to have the blows of the coward who pass for fine gentlemen hidden. They would sooner be torn to pieces than own up, and I never knew of but one lady that did. She was a bride, only been married three weeks, and lived on Madison avenue. One day her husband got into a rage and threw his boot at her. It struck her on the forehead, leaving

A Terrible Mark;

But after the shock was over all the poor thing thought of was to keep it from her parents, for she had married against their wishes.”

“Do you ever have any members of the demi-monde here?”

“Oh, yes; though not of the lowest class. They generally get hurt at wine parties, where, after they have drank all they can stand, they commence throwing things at each other, especially fruit. One of the worst black eyes I ever covered was caused by an apple being thrown with considerable force, and fresh lemons can do considerable harm. The gashes from wine-bottles and broken glass generally go to the doctor.”

“What other disfigurements are you called upon to conceal?”

“Why, for ladies generally moles and birthmarks. You see a lady may have a very beautiful white neck or snowy, well-molded arms, but be unable to wear a low-necked party dress on account of one or more of these blemishes. I have regular customers, who, whenever they go to a ball, send for me to paint over these marks. And it is singular the shapes they are in. There is one belle in this city who has on her right arm a regular cross and crown, bright red in color, and large enough to be seen across the room. Another young lady, who has the shoulders of a model, has upon one the initials C.L., in red spots about the size of currants. Still another lady has on her forearm a perfect miniature ladder, though, of course, the majority of these marks assume no distinct form.”
“You must sometimes have ladies who have really suffered from an accident?”

“Oh, yes. There was one young lady here last week whose face was

Covered with Crimson Spots

Big as silver quarters. She was engaged to be married, and to please her betrothed had taken a course of lessons in cooking from Miss Corson. The day before the wedding she invited him to a little supper of her own preparing, intending to give him a pleasant premonition of bliss to come, in the shape of good housekeeping. Her chef d’oeuvre was a dish of soft-shell crabs, and, alas, as she was in the act of frying them, the hot grease sputtered up and burnt her face badly in half a dozen places. It was too late to defer the wedding, and, accordingly she had to have her face done entirely over for the ceremony, but it turned out such an improvement on her natural complexion that I do not think she minded it much.”

“Do you ever ‘make up’ people?”

“Yes, often for dinners and balls, for besides making the complexion, I can fill up wrinkles, and dimples, etc. I do a great deal of this for the dramatic profession. I have made up Rose Eytinge 126 times as ‘Rose Michel,’ and all the Union Square Company during their run of ‘Smike,’ and I used to make up Mr. Palmer whenever he was to make a speech before the curtain. Sara Jewett, Maud Harrison, Linda Dietz, Charles Thorne, Charles Coghlan, Charles Pope, Frederick Paulding, and lots of others, though generally

My Patrons in the Profession

Are debutantes who have not learned the art of making up.”

“I should think this branch of art would exclude any other.”

“Oh, no; I have two gentlemen in the business with me, and I devote most of my time to portrait painting. Barrett, Booth, McCullough, Florence, Sotherns, Raymond, Pope, Brougham, and others have sat to me. McCullough I have painted four times,” concluded Mr. Lysander Thompson, for such is the artist’s name. Before leaving, I asked from what class of men he drew the largest number of blackened-eye customers.

“From sporting men and wealthy business men. The latter class, of course, would be injured by being seen with such disfigurements. There is one gentleman on Wall street who has hardly missed a visit to me this year. Every Saturday night he starts off on a tare that lasts him until Monday morning, when, bright and early, he comes here to get fixed up before going to business. One funny case I had last winter when two gentlemen conspicuous in the management of the Madison-square Garden, got into a quarrel, in the course of which one had both eyes blackened; the other only one. He of the two black eyes came here to be painted over, and told me if I would refuse to fix the other man’s eye he would pay me three times what it was worth. This I promised not to do, and in consequence the worst punished of the two men went round boasting how he had come out ahead, as no one could detect his bruises. The ridicule fell on he of a single and apparently blackened orb.

The Boston [MA] Weekly Globe 28 July 1880: p.7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil scarcely knows what to add to this exhaustive discussion of a little-known art except her horror at the headline’s jaunty linking of “beaten wives” with “belles and beaux” and of the artist’s insouciant and dismissive comment, “poor things!”

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.