Category Archives: Holidays

An Independence Day Toast: early 1800s

 

lady with firecrackes

A pleasant retort was that once given by Admiral Marsden many years ago at a dinner in Malta. It was given on the Fourth of July by him to the American officers on a man-of-war, and all the English officers in the harbor were guests. They were no better bred than many Englishmen of that day, for when the regular toast, “The day we celebrate,” was read, they set down their glasses untasted. The venerable host added, gently:

“The day, gentlemen, when England celebrates the coming of age of her eldest daughter.”

Every face cleared, and the toast was drunk with hearty cheers.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 1 July 1915

Mrs Daffodil wishes all residents of “England’s eldest daughter” a delightful holiday week-end and more presence of mind in the handling of pyrotechnics than the lady on the cover of Harper’s. Mrs Daffodil will be taking a brief holiday as the Family is off to The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for a spot of tennis-viewing.

For images of vintage patriotic tableaux from Independence Day, 1918, please see Mrs Daffodil’s previous post.

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

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

 

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A Skull for a Bonnet: 1896

 

a brooklyn woman whose bonnet is a skull

It is once again “World Goth Day,” a time to celebrate the dark, the decadent, and the black-garbed—although, frankly, Mrs Daffodil tries to quietly exemplify those qualities year-round.  And what better way to celebrate than with a superlative example of morbid millinery?

A SKULL FOR A BONNET.

A BROOKLYN WOMAN HAS THE MOST SENSATIONAL HEAD COVERING IN THE WORLD.

A Brooklyn woman is the proud possessor of the most gruesome headgear ever seen atop of a feminine head. She is proud of her curious bonnet chiefly because it is unique, and the consciousness that it cannot easily be duplicated by her envious sisters adds not a little to her feminine joy.

About a month ago the lady’s husband, a well-known physician of the City of Churches, took home a human skull, which the woman laughingly placed on her head, saying: “How is this, John for a stunning effect?”
“By Jove!” replied the husband, “the effect certainly is stunning. But the authorities would arrest you if you appeared on the street in that sort of head-dress.”

There the matter dropped. But the wife, full of a new idea, had the skull carefully cleaned and polished and, with a deftness known only to the hands of woman, fashioned an affair of skull, feathers and ribbons which, when completed, was as original an arrangement as one could imagine.

“It will make a great sensation,” said the lady of the skull bonnet to a horrified woman friend. And she was right, for wherever the grinning death’s-head, in its downy bower of feathers and ribbons, is seen it causes people to gape in utter amazement. The woman’s audacity is admired by the men, but roundly condemned by the women.

Still, the lady of the skull bonnet is quite indifferent to the criticism of either sex. To be sure, it is only on very especial occasions that the hideously pretty headgear is worn abroad, and then it is generally at night.

You may imagine the surprise of the woman’s husband when he first saw the very practical use to which his wife had put the skull he so innocently brought home. He remonstrated with his wife but to no end, for she contended with true womanly logic, that if it considered proper to wear the dead bodies of birds as a means of decoration, why should not a mere skull be just as properly employed for an artistic effect?

Even so convincing an argument failed to alter the view of the do tor, and he has gone so far as to offer his wife a splendid new bicycle if she will cast aside her queer headgear and don something more conventional. But the bonnet is still in readiness for my lady’s first walk abroad, and will be until she accepts her husband’s munificent compromise.

The St. Louis [MO] Post-Dispatch 11 October 1896: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil rarely wonders at the morbid vagaries of the human race, but she is pursing her lips dubiously about the strict veracity of the tale above. The lady and her well-known physician husband are not named and the image does not convince us it is anything more than a portrait drawn from the artist’s fancy. One wonders if it was merely a satire about the hyperbolic hat styles of the late nineteenth century?

On the other hand, medical students and physicians, quite aside from their proclivities for stealing corpses and treating dissection-room subjects with levity, were known for some very grisly fancies, such as turning human remains into articles such as shoes, tobacco pouches, jewellery, tobacco jars, and drinking vessels. So one cannot entirely rule out the possibility of a skull being casually brought home by a physician. And the late nineteenth century was known for some decadent entertainments, such as the Cabaret du Néant, where the waiters dressed as undertakers and patrons sat at coffin-shaped tables, drank from skull-shaped cups, and watched Death-themed floor shows.

Surprisingly, the term “skull bonnet” was a well-known millinery term. For example:

A fashion writer refers to  “the ugly old skull bonnet we used to see during the war.” in The Weekly Era [Raleigh NC] 8 October 1874: p. 2

A small skull bonnet of straw, the crown surrounded with flowers, is worn with this [spring morning] costume.” (spring morning costume)

The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser 5 May 1881: p. 4

Tiny skull-cap bonnets are mentioned in The Graphic [London, England] 29 April 1893: p. 20

And in other advertisements we see “French Skull Bonnets” [1897]; Silk Skull Bonnets [1906] and the phrase is used to describe the 1920’s cloche: “The modern skull-tight bonnet” [1924]. The term seems simply to mean a bonnet with a tight-fitting crown.

Mrs Daffodil would be delighted to see proof that this was a genuine lady with a taste for truly macabre millinery.  And she wishes those who celebrate it a happy World Goth Day.

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.

La Fête du Muguet: 1912

faberge lily of the valley

A spray of lily of the valley in pearl, nephrite and diamonds, c. 1900, by Faberge. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21517/lot/93/

[In Paris] the palm of popularity must be given to the lily of the valley—the muguet des bois.

What the forget-me-not is to the German Gretchen, the muguet des bois (the wild lily of the valley) is to the Paris grisette, and thus it has been for untold generations. The first of May is known as the Fête du Muguet, and on that day, not only is it traditional for children to make presents of bunches of wild lilies of the valley to their elder brothers and sisters—the flower seems to be dedicated to youth—but in the streets surrounding the opera-house, where all the big dressmakers are, you will see at luncheon-hour troops of the young girl apprentices wearing bunches of muguet in their simple bodices. The muguet brings luck, and it appeals more than any other flower to the humble little Parisienne’s sense of poetry, this delicate spike with its double row of little milk-white bells, its broad tapering leaf, and its peculiarly evocative scent. No doubt she feels that in a sense it reflects herself. Is not her life just such another ringing of the changes on a chime of little silver bells, whose flash and tinkle last for the brief space of a spring season? She has the same native wildness, and simple unconscious elegance. To start forth on a bright Sunday morning for one of the woods near Paris, and pick muguet, is her ideal of a holiday excursion.

“En cherchant du muguet,
Du muguet dans la clairière;
En cherchant du muguet,
Du muguet d-a-ans l-a-a f-ô-r-e-t!”

[In search of the lily of the valley,

the lily in the clearing,

in search of the lily of the valley,

the lily of the valley in the forest!]

she sings, and on her way back she pets her lilies of the valley as if they were human beings: “Oh, the beautiful muguet, how sweetly it smells!” Elaborate are her plans for disposing of it. One large bouquet will remain in her room for at least a week, reminding her every moment of the delightful day she has spent. A few sprays will be given to the concierge, or janitor, whose good graces are to be cultivated; while the remainder will go to grand maman, who will not fail to be tearfully reminded thereby of her own sylvan excursions in search of muguet in those far-off days when there were hardly any railways, and it was half a day’s journey to the woods at Meudon.

According to the herbalists, the petals of the lily of the valley contain a toxic substance, which, like digitalis, has a directly stimulating effect upon the heart. Perhaps this may account, by some subtle process of sentimental telepathy or suggestion, for the charm which the muguet so potently exercises over the heart of those essentially Parisian little beings, all made up of nerves, gaiety, and emotions, the midinette of the dress-making atelier, and the grisette of the Latin Quarter. The street-cry, “Fleurissez-vous, mesdames: voila le muguet!” (Beflower yourselves, ladies: behold the lily of the valley!), followed by, “Du muguet! Achetez du muguet! Du bon muguet parfume!” (Lilies of the valley! Buy the lilies of the valley! Fine scented lilies of the valley!), is one of the oldest in Paris. The muguet harvest is as much a godsend to the pariahs of the Paris pavement as is the hop-picking in Kent to the submerged tenth of the London East End. The May morning has hardly dawned before a procession of ragged, footsore tramps comes streaming into the city from the neighbouring woods, loaded with muguet. On May Day waggon-loads of muguet arrive by train. The flowers are picked when they are still in the earliest bud, for the little Parisian lady likes to see them open out under her own eyes, and so have the illusion that their lives are linked with hers. In some of the great forests round Paris it is forbidden to pick the muguet on pain of a fine; for the pheasants are laying at this season, and to steal the eggs on the pretence of looking for lilies of the valley is a common trick with the villagers.

 Sensations of Paris, Rowland Strong, 1912: pp. 233-236

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is May Day and instead of the cliches about May Queens and the famously bad weather of the holiday, Mrs Daffodil thought she would post instead about the French holiday of La Fête du Muguet, the feast of the lily of the valley. This is said to have had its origins with the Valois King Charles IX when he was presented with a bunch of lilies in 1561 as a porte-bonheur. Charmed, he began giving the ladies of the court lilies on 1 May.  Mrs Daffodil suggests that lilies of the valley brought  the King himself scant luck: his reign was marred by the French Wars of Religion and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

 

In the language of flowers, lilies of the valley mean love, luck, and the return of happiness. They are a favourite of Royal brides: Queen Victoria, Grace Kelly and Catherine Middleton all carried bouquets of lily of the valley.

Despite its name, the lily of the valley is actually a member of the Asparagaceae family. However, you would not dare to enjoy the flower, blanched, with hollandaise sauce. Lilies of the valley are extraordinarily toxic if ingested. This fact may explain the curious Devonshire superstition that it is unlucky to plant a bed of lilies of the valley; the person doing so is likely to die within the next twelve months.

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers a very happy and clement May Day.

 

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.

 

Mrs Daffodil Takes an Easter Holiday

Well, not precisely a holiday…  Mrs Daffodil is tending to her duties during the Hall’s Easter week-end festivities, but fully expects on Monday to discover a carton or two of the chocolate crème eggs overlooked by youthful guests in the hurly-burly of the Easter-egg hunt. Mrs Daffodil must remember to reprimand the footmen who, no doubt, will be found to have been over-zealous in hiding the eggs.

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers all the brightest of sunshine, the prettiest of hats, and the creamiest of deluxe chocolate crème eggs.

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.

Easter Bonnets Through Time: 1922

Easter BOnnets Through Time Miss 1862

1862 Bonnet https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/98105?&searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&deptids=62%7c8&ft=bonnet&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=17

Easter Bonnets Through Time Miss 1872

Easter Bonnets Thorugh Time Miss 1882

Easter Bonnets Through Time Miss 1892

Easter Bonnets Through Time Miss 1902

Easter Bonnets Through Time Miss 1912

Easter BOnnets Through Time Miss 1922

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The article showcasing Easter Bonnets Through Time is headed:

“FUNNY WHAT A DIFFERENCE A FEW YEARS MAKE” IN EASTER BONNETS and comes from the Muncie [IN] Evening Press 14 April 1922: p. 16.

It is rather amusing how quickly the precise silhouettes of historical garments fade from memory. Several of these suggest the approximate “18th-century” costumes worn by ladies at Martha Washington teas. “Miss 1862” suggests Miss Lillian Gish in a period silent film. While some of these hats are not bad and may actually be antique specimens, there is also the whimsical idea that any big hat with a feather is Victorian.

Mrs Daffodil hopes all of her readers who celebrate Easter or Spring are possessed of delightfully becoming bonnets!

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 Eggshell Party: 1915

kelchchicken

The “surprise” in the Kelch Hen egg, by Faberge, 1898 https://faberge-eggs.info/en/kelch_hen_egg_1898.html

FOR A PARTY FULL OF FANCY GIVE A “SPRING OPENING”

The fun of this pretty, fanciful entertainment begins with the opening of the invitations. These are written on yellow tissue-paper and are enclosed in eggshells which have been carefully broken and then glued into place again. Those who wish to do so could send them via Uncle Sam’s mail, packed carefully in the tiny hatboxes which come for place cards at ten cents each. On the other hand, ordinary jewelers’ boxes will serve the purpose just as well. On the box write “Spring Opening. Please open at once,” and on the egg-shell “Important Despatch to Be Opened Immediately” or anything of the kind which conveys the same idea. A simpler method which some hostess may prefer is to write the message about the party on egg-shells which have simply been blown, as this saves preparing the notes, etc., but it is very cunning, if you have time for it, to make the opening as complicated as possible to emphasize the idea. Jewelers’ yellow cotton is pretty for packing egg-shells in the boxes.

How To Decorate

For the decorations, convert the parlor into a picnic scene with features suggesting early Spring. Get real blossoming boughs if possible, with buds just opened or about to open, and bank the walls and fireplaces, etc., with these. Make tissue-paper substitutes if the real blooms are not out in time, or secure them from the favor shops or the Japanese store. In the forks of the boughs tie wee ducklings and Easter chicks made of raw cotton or of plaster or wax, and under the thickets thus formed have nests containing Easter eggs.

In baskets trimmed to represent Easter nests pass around egg-shells that have been broken and refilled with tiny favors. Afterward the shells are either gilded and silvered or they are closed again with strips of gilt or silver paper. The gilt ones are placed in one basket, the silver ones in another, and after the girls have drawn the gilt and the men the silver, there is a general “opening.” The pair whose emblems or tiny favors match are partners. Among the many things which can be selected of a size to pack into egg-shells are wee flags, tiny whistles, paper flowers, raw cotton chicks or birdies, peanut owls, and candy eggs.

The crepe paper headwear which form the favors in one dance could be brought upon the scene in a huge hatbox elaborately sealed and decorated with Spring blossoms, chicks, etc.

Another Opening

Where it is not desired to arrange the affair as a dance, another plan equally appropriate can be found. First of all, have an egg search for egg-shells which have been hidden all around the room. These eggs can be gilded and silvered as described for the dance and can be used as a plan to find partners by matching the contents; or each can contain a question about eggs, which questions go to make up a series forming an interesting contest. Whatever the contents of the eggs to be opened, it is pretty to have them arranged in nests made of baskets filled with straw.

In the case of the contest each on opening his egg-shell might find not only a question about eggs written on a numbered slip of tissue-paper, but also a funny emblem which will give him, when matched up around the room, a partner to assist in working out the egg puzzle. Give all cards and pencils decorated with designs of chicks issuing from egg-shells (that is, give each couple such a card with pencil attached between them) and pass the question slips from hand to hand. The pair who work out most answers correctly could win as prizes cardboard eggs filled with candy.

Another prize suggestion is a potted tulip plant with buds ready to open, or a large (exaggerated size) crepe paper lily or tulip bud might be presented, which, when opened, is found to contain a stickpin or a little bottle of perfume.

The Mary Dawson Game Book: A Manual of Original Games and Guessing Contests, Mary Dawson, 1916

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  All this talk of egg-shells and tiny favours and matching up with partners is very dainty and, no doubt, decorous. Mrs Daffodil would suggest another egg-themed entertainment to generate a wholesome and hearty spirit of camaraderie between the sexes.

HOUSE FOOTBALL

This is a novelty in amusements, and does not possess the element of danger of the real article. All of the furniture must be moved against the wall or out of the room. An egg with its contents emptied is set upon the floor. Two gilded posts at each end of the room mark the goals. The ladies and gentlemen are divided into equal sides; they go down on their knees, each trying to blow the egg shell past the goal of their antagonists. The game is new, but the position somewhat fatiguing.

Godey’s Lady’s Book June 1897

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.

Lenten Costumes: 1876-1890

lent is over2

Lent is Over and the Curate is a thing of the past.

Beginning in the 1870s, a penitential garb was adopted by some fashionable ladies:

Exclusive New York modistes are already displaying some very ecclesiastical looking toilets, designed for special wear during the Lenten season. Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 February 1889: p. 10

The fashion seems to have arisen out of mourning garb and costumes were designed and sold by mourning retailers like Jay’s:

BLACK LENTEN COSTUMES, at Two Guineas each. Messrs. JAY, having had numerous applications from their patronesses for some kind of black dress suitable to the season of Lent, have produced special LENTEN COSTUMES, which, with a sufficient quantity for a bodice unmade, they are selling at £2 2s. each, and which have already obtained the most extensive approval. Jay’s. The Times [London] 13 March 1876: p. 18

There were always critics of modish fashions for widows and of the adoption of those fashions by those not in mourning:

The most successful of the season’s belles in society are widows scarcely out of their weeds. Mourning costumes were never more carefully or coquettishly made. They are not so simple, generally, as a strict regard for propriety might dictate… Widows’ caps have become the jauntiest imaginable, if desired, and in short, mourning is no longer necessarily very somber. To show how much in favor black has grown, it is only necessary to tell that

LENTEN COSTUMES

Will be quite commonly worn this year. They are already being made, and those who don them intend to stick to the quasi-mourning during the whole forty days preceding Easter. This Lenten dress will be black alpaca, serge or cashmere, and cut close in the throat, around which will be a clerical linen collar in black or white linen. The make-up of the garment will be severely simple. A missal, bound in black and edged with silver, will be suspended by a silver chain from a black belt, fastened with a plain, square silver clasp. The bonnet of black will be of the close-sided or white muslin, simply trimmed, will be worn around the neck blow the collar, fastened down with a silver pin representing a Lenten lily; and for the six weeks the hair will be uncrimped, unwaved, unbanged, parted in the middle and laid back behind the ears. In acute cases the underclothes and nightclothes will be embroidered in black, and the stockings will be on the inky hue. Thus attired a good many women might take a further step into religious somberness by getting into a nunnery , and nobody would say them nay, for they will be unfit for the gaze of man. On the other hand, such attire will be rather becoming to rosy and youthful women, and may lead to that other religious rite called marriage. Upward rollings of the eyes and mild pensiveness of countenances will go along with these modifications of sackcloth and ashes. I don’t say that the girls who do these things are humbugs. I will go no further than to express the opinion that not one in ten knows the real meaning of Lent, or would go around the corner to find out…. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 12 February 1882: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Many are the fashion notations, satirical observations, jokes, and sarcastic imprecations muttered under the breath about the Merry Widow. Mrs Daffodil has previously noted anecdotes about the wearing of mourning merely because it was so becoming, so it is no great surprise to find this fashionable austerity adopted as a faux-religious observance during the season of Lent when so many social amusements were forbidden. One expects that the Easter toilettes were that much more brilliant, as a gourmand relishes his meals the more after a course of taking the waters.

THE LENTEN COSTUME What the Fashionable Woman is Coquetting With Now.

New York, Feb. 27. In this season of sackcloth and ashes when the pleasures and vanities are supposed to be laid aside for more sober diversions, woman, seeing that her hands are tied regarding the elegant and showy wardrobe of the ball-room, coquets with her Lenten costume. In this make-up she resembles more closely the fashion plate in a woman’s journal than anything else.

Apparently she regards this as a sort of penance for looking so much prettier before, and it requires so little sacrifice on her part to pose as such a doll, but more likely it is her inherent coquetry which makes her adopt this sedate costume to prove to her admirers that all is not vanity, but a very chic woman can array herself in anything and look well, knowing the great secret of suitability. The less devout, but as clever a devotee is aware that the sober tint without relief of bright color is not becoming to her and here her own judgment is exercised. St Louis [MO] Republic 1 March 1890: p. 16

The austerity of the “Lenten Costume” was good in principle, but became something of a joke.

[Joke 1] “Dolly’s wearing a new Lenten costume.”

“Why do you call it Lenten?”

“She seems to have sacrificed about half of it.” The Hutchinson [KS] News 28 March 1921: p. 3

[Joke 2]

Mrs. Tiptop: Do you know, my dear, that fashion now requires that ladies must wear Lenten costumes?

Mr. Tiptop: Lenten costumes! Are they expensive?

“I am sorry to say they are—fearfully so. It’s some new sort of cloth, but I will have to have one, dear, at once.”

“Humph! Seems to me I’ll be the one that will do the repenting.” The Topeka [KS] Daily Capital 13 May 1887: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil was amused by Lenten shopping restrictions as voiced by a “dear old churchwoman.”

“During the early days of Lent,” said a dear old churchwoman to your correspondent yesterday, “I never shop for anything but black and white goods.” Dear old precisian, she had spent the better part of the morning in deciding the merits of two pieces of silver and black brocade either of which was handsome enough to divert her thoughts from her sins during the morning lesson by the bare memory of it, but she fancied herself very virtuous indeed because she had stopped at the color line—as not a few fancy it for the good of their souls to go to Lenten service in a black gown; and a silver mounted prayer book, swung by silver chains, is simply a patent of humility. Cincinnati [OH] Daily Gazette 12 March 1881: p. 10

This post was originally published by Mrs Daffodil in 2015.

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.