Category Archives: Halloween

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.

Halloween Charms: 1903

apple peel

A young woman tosses an apple peel over her shoulder to divine the initial of her future husband.

Halloween Charms

Young men, who wish to decide their fate on Halloween should dress in their best, walk to the candy store about 7 p.m., purchase a box of the most expensive dainties, and go to the home of some girl. Be sure that you select the home of the one you imagine to be the bright particular star of them all. After asking for her, put your hat and stick within convenient reach, assume a pleasant smile, and when she appears give her the candy. Along with this say as many sweet things as come into your head. Then repeat slowly but distinctly these words: “Will you marry me?” If she answers “Yes” your fate is fixed.

A quaint old custom for girls who wish to peer into the future is to walk down the cellar stairs backward at midnight, holding a candle in the hand and peer into a mirror. There the face of the future husband possibly will be seen. An improvement upon this custom is for the girl to walk into the kitchen and secure a juicy apple pie. Return to the parlor, holding the pie carefully before you. Take a knife and cut it into quarters. Put one quarter on a plate, pour over it some rich cream, lay a spoon beside the pie and hand it to the young man, saying at the same time: “I made this pie myself.” This beats the cellar stairs and mirror experiment about ten miles. It is a certain augur of the future.

Throwing an apple peeling over the shoulder is another odd old custom for Halloween observance. The peeling is supposed to curl into a letter representing the initial of the future husband’s name. A better test than this is to let the young man see you idly scribbling. You write your first name and then his last name. Thus, if your first name is Lucille and his last name is Miggleberry, you would write “Lucille Miggleberry.” Naturally, he will want to see what you have written. Then you must blush and seem confused and try to tear of the paper. DO NOT TEAR IT UP. After due reluctance, let him see what you have written, coyly explaining that you just wondered how the names would look together.

Burning a paper on which is written the name of the adored one is also a favorite charm for Halloween. This is popularly supposed to bring him to his senses. A much surer plan, and a more sociable one, is to invite him to spend the evening, and also to ask another man—a handsome man who is tolerably smitten with you himself. Contrive to send the second man home earlier than the adored one. This is said to work well indeed.

Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 30 October 1904: p. 33

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Other Hallowe’en customs included hiding a dime, a ring and a thimble in a cake or a dish of mashed potatoes. The person finding the ring will soon be married. The one who gets the thimble will be a spinster. And the finder of the dime will never lack for money.  Mrs Daffodil suspects that there was often some sleight-of-hand involved in cutting the cake or dishing the potatoes. There were still other rituals involving mirrors at midnight and various rhyming charms at windows.

Mrs Daffodil is puzzled as to how a religious feast  celebrating the dead emerging from their graves to wander the earth became a festival of divinatory practices to identify one’s future spouse. One supposes it is a manifestation of that vulgar expression, “sex and death,” so amply represented in these latter days by the many “naughty nurse” Hallowe’en costumes.

Mrs Daffodil has written of other, darker Hallowe’en superstitions and of Queen Victoria’s celebration of Hallowe’en at Balmoral.

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.

 

Jack Horner Pies for Hallowe’en: 1909-1916

jack horner pie for halloween

A Halloween party without a Jack Horner surprise pie would be Hamlet with the Dane and Ophelia and even the ghost left out, so barren would the good old day be without this standby. Made of crape paper and holding little prizes and favors, this novelty is sure to be a success with children and grownups alike. In the pie illustrated each little witch with her bright white spotted dress and apron, red cardboard hat and tiny broom, is attached to a string at the end of which is a suitable favor. Weird red “devils” and ugly black cats are perched on the handle of the basket.

The Colfax [WA] Gazette 28 October 1910: p. 8

JACK HORNER PIES.

The Jack Horner pie is a favorite sort of decoration nowadays for all occasions, and as it serves both as a decoration and a receptacle for favors, it is especially valued by the hostess. It is most appropriate for the Halloween frolic.

One Jack Horner pie is simply huge golden pumpkin, made of crepe paper stretched over a wire frame. Inside the paper pumpkin there are little favors, fastened to ribbons. These ribbons are passed through slits in the pumpkin and at their other ends, one of which is placed at each plate, are tiny pumpkins.

A most beautiful Jack Horner pie for a girl’s party represents a pretty doll driving In a goose wagon drawn by black cats. The goose–which is no more than a pasteboard candy box–can be bought at a good candy store, and the black cats are the usual weird coal black little things, harnessed up with scarlet ribbons, which the dollie inside the wagon holds in her small hands. But as to this small lady, she is nothing but head and hands, for her ballooning skirt is meant only to cover the tissue paper bag containing the gifts. A very effective pie could be made of two flat pieces of cardboard cut out to represent a weird at of the Hallowe’en species and painted black. Fasten these each side of a narrow cardboard box, also painted black, and glue crimson paper around the inside of the box to serve as the pouch for the presents. Slit holes in the paper bag for ribbons to come through, and twist around the top lightly so that everything will come out easily.

A clock is a novel Jack Horner pie. It is a round box, of course, covered with yellow paper. On its big face are fastened figures representing the hours of black paper. Two black hands point to the witching figure for 12 o’clock. Hanging from the bottom. like so many pendulums, are ribbons’ which are to be pulled when time comes for the guests to get their gifts.

Still another “pie” is a basket of pumpkins. The basket is covered with yellow paper and in it are lots of little paper pumpkins. Each, of course, contains a gift and when gift time comes the basket is passed around.

Then there is the witch pie. This is a witch made of a doll’s head, with a capacious orange paper skirt and black paper shawl and cap. Under the skirt are the gifts, with yellow or black ribbons attached to them escaping from beneath the hem.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 27 October 1916: p. 16

The imposing centerpiece illustrated [at the head of this post] is a Jack Horner pie, filled with favors. These favors are hidden in the basket which forms the foundation for the “pie,” and ribbons, passing up through the piecrust of crepe paper are attached to the little witches which decorate the top of the pie. The big witch head in the center is added merely ass an ornament and may be presented ceremoniously to some particular guest. A fringe of snappy mottoes with brooms attached surrounds the basket and the handle is covered by witches’ brooms made of faggots in which roost hobgoblins, banshees and other terrifying creatures. Such a centerpiece, of course, would cost a substantial sum, but the same idea might be carried out with less expense, using one good-sized witch for a center and bringing the ribbons attached to the hidden favors over the edges of the basket where they form a fringe finished by little apples or yellow crepe paper pumpkins. The fagot brooms may be easily made form ordinary twigs and hobgoblins and black cats cut form paper may nestle in the branches.

The Topeka [KS] State Journal 30 October 1909: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Jack Horner pies were not just for Hallowe’en, but seemed to receive the most coverage at that time. Many and varied were the shapes and prizes.

Countless are the tiny trifles for 5 cents and less one can find in the stock of some stores and which make the nicest little souvenirs for child parties. One tray discloses little bundles made up of five toys each–a tiny wooden pail of bright apples, a black rake, a black cat, a green frog, a carrot, a cucumber or an onion. Garden vegetables seem to be eminently appropriate for Halloween and everywhere there are delightful candy boxes simulating them. They are all effective on the table, and every box may serve as a souvenir. The small vegetables are, of course, only of painted wood or of cotton, but children find them amusing when they haul them out of a Jack Horner pie.
The more novel the Jack Horner pie for Halloween the more amusing it will seem, so a good deal of personal ingenuity may be exercised. One pie turned out by a toy shop is made like a French doll, the dainty little lady carrying an immense bandbox of flowered paper, this, of course, holding the gifts. Another doll is set in a little cardboard wagon, six black cats, with scarlet leashes, drawing the trap. Behind the wagon fall the ribbons to be pulled, and when the critical moment comes the wagon will go to pieces like the one horse shay.
The Jack Horner pie for Halloween is also often hidden in the stomach of a big scarecrow, and there are balloon aeroplane and goose and owl pies, the gifts tucked away inside the hollow ornament, and covered with tissue paper, so that they jerk out without trouble. But the big paper pumpkin
makes the most effective pie of all for Halloween, and when it is turned out with highest art it may cost $10 in the shop.

The Pensacola [FL] Journal 24 October 1911: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil was explaining the Jack Horner pie to an American acquaintance unfamiliar with the idea, who wondered how the crusts were kept fresh until sold and how the crusts did not crumble when the ribbons were pulled.

 

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.

A Halloween Prank:1910

1910-1919 veiling mourning hat

When a young man rapped timidly at his door the other evening, Rev. George I. Foster, 1106 Addison-rd N.E. opened it. The young man, who was not tall, told Rev. Mr. Foster bashfully that he had come to be married.

“To whom?” asked the minister.

“To her,” said the young man, and he pointed into the gloom of the porch to a rather tall young woman whose features were hid under a heavy dotted veil. It was chilly out and there wasn’t much time for parley.

“Won’t you step in?” said the minister.

In the front parlor Rev. Mr. Foster began conversation with, “You are the couple of whom my wife spoke at dinner?”

“I suppose we are,” replied the prospective groom. “I called up this afternoon.”

So the two stood up and Rev. Mr. Foster began the ceremony.

The young woman was very modest. She answered the questions in her turn, but she couldn’t talk loud. She kept her hat and veil on and perhaps that hindered her or else it was all new to her, or she had a cold. Anyway she managed to make herself heard and when the ceremony was ended the little husband asked what the fee was. He was laboriously pulling a pocketbook out of his trousers’ pocket.

“Now, where is the license?” asked Rev. Mr. Foster, according to rule.

“Why, we had no license,” said the young man as he tendered a bill.

“Then you’re not married.”

“What, not married?” came from the astonished bride and groom together.

The minister said that was the case.

“Very well,” said the young couple.

The young woman lifted her veil, the young man tore a tiny mustache off his lip and there stood Mrs. Foster, the pastor’s wife and Mrs. Alfred Shaw, a near neighbor and friend.

It was Halloween. Rev. Mr. Foster said it was very skillfully done.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 3 November 1910: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil suspects that, had the prank been perpetrated on anyone but a man of the cloth, “skillfully done” would have been the least of the comments from the victim of the imposture. Mrs Daffodil also wonders who tipped off the newspaper. The newspaper rather spoilt the fun with its headline:

MINISTER, ON HALLOWEEN, MARRIES HIS WIFE TO WOMAN LIVING NEAR BY

Goes Through Ceremony According to Rote, Discovering Joke Only When License to Wed is Asked and Refused.

The Rev. Mr. Foster, who was Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Cleveland, Ohio was quite the artistic nibs: he wrote and published operettas, cantatas, and band music. He also knew about the importance of casting the right person for the part. In 1907 he wrote an operetta for the children of the church, “Jack the Giant Killer.” Since none of the children were tall enough for the role of the giant, he looked out from the pulpit at his congregation one Sunday, noted a fellow who towered over his pew-mates and afterwards congratulated a bemused draftsman named John Davis on getting the part. He died in 1935 and the church seems to have closed its doors soon afterward. No one could fill his clerical or theatrical shoes.

Mrs Daffodil wonders if the Rev. Mr Foster was near-sighted. A man’s suit and a “tiny mustache” seems scarcely adequate to conceal the face, form, and sex of a “near neighbor and friend.”

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 Fairy Godmother Treasure Chest: 1920

 

 Fancy Costumes for Children

In one city of about 50,000, there are a great many social affairs for children during the winter, and again and again mothers have been put to much trouble, or have had to forego the happiness of being able to dress up as all children love to do.

One woman with a knack for making attractive garments at small expense undertook to fill this need. She calls her service the Fairy Godmother Treasure Chest.

Now it so happened that she had a large quantity of fancy and plain materials left over from the days when her husband had bought in a bankrupt stock of goods and did not succeed in selling all of it. This would give excellent foundation of materials. She also watched a number of bargain sales and picked up such things as she could use.

cobalt boy fancy dress

Boy’s 18th-century fancy dress http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21727/lot/355/

 

Then in her spare time she fashioned fancy costumes for children out of these. There were clown suits, and little Minute Men rigs, and Martha Washington dresses, and the most wonderful fairies and Puritan maidens, and butterfly and flower suits in bewildering array. She became exceedingly interested in all of these.

martha washington fancy dress

Martha Washington fancy dress for a young girl. http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/87849.html?mulR=1013756972|6

The costumes were either sold outright to the owner, or rented. If rented, the charge was on a basis of 20% of the cost of the costume plus the expense of professional cleaning. Thus, if the costume cost $5.00 (work included), the rent of it for twenty-four hours would be $1.00 plus the cleaning charge, which would be from 50 cents to 75 cents.

In this way every mother was assured that the garment her child wore had been cleaned and thoroughly disinfected after its last use, and so there was no danger of contagion or infection.

Masquerade and costume parties became quite the rage after the Fairy Godmother lifted the cover of her Treasure Chest. Some of the costumes were very striking and beautiful, for it was not difficult to pick up ends and odds of materials and lace curtains for brides’ veils, and all that sort of thing.

About once a year the Fairy Godmother sells the most of her stock to a costumer in a different place, and this enables her to have a fresh supply of attractive goods.

Money for the Woman who Wants It, Emmett Leroy Shannon 1920: pp. 328-329

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It sounds a delightful business.  Mrs Daffodil has seen modern advertisements for ladies who will bring a “dress-up box” to children’s birthday parties and for establishments that specialise in dressing party guests like fairies in pretty pastels and spangled nylon wings.

Mrs Daffodil can remember when every country house worthy of the name had a cupboard where the costumes for amateur theatricals were kept. Often these were run up by the local dressmaker, but (and here Mrs Daffodil advises any dress historians among her readership to avert their eyes) they were also repositories for genuine historic garments which were often carelessly worn and altered. It is possible that the waistcoat worn with the boy’s blue fancy-dress suit pictured above is a genuine antique garment. Eighteenth-century gowns and gentleman’s coats were particularly popular in house-party productions, or, in the United States, for “Martha Washington Teas” or patriotic entertainments. Mrs Daffodil can hear the dress historians blanching in horror….   One hopes that the Fairy Godmother actually made all of the beautiful and striking contents of her treasure chest rather than plundering antique trousseaux preserved in the attic.

 

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.

Bird-cages and Court Toadies: Some Triumphs of Fancy Dress: 1896

Depicting “The Scotch Mail” and “Covent Garden.”

Some Triumphs of Fancy Dress,

J. Malcom Fraser

With the exception of those held during the carnival at Nice, the balls which annually take place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, are the most brilliant pageants of their kind in the world. The fact that Europe’s greatest masters in the art of designing vie with each other in their endeavour to obtain the highest pitch of originality and perfection, is a guarantee of the inventive genius that is brought to bear upon those lighthearted gatherings. In short, it is there that the typical ingenuity of Bohemianism is shown to its greatest advantage.

It is interesting to note that a large quantity of the best costumes that are worn either at the Veglione or the Redoute at Nice are supplied by English makers, and worn by the British and American visitors. As an instance in case I will take that of Miss Loie Fuller, who electrified the popular French watering-place on the Mediterranean in her guise of “Mother Goose.” So struck were the Nicois with the quaintness of the headdress—which, by the way, consisted of a beautifully modelled goose, nestling upon a bunch of crimson velvet—that they immediately conceived the idea of reproducing the coveted design as a gigantic centre-piece for their procession. Now, this costume—as, indeed, are all those which are here described—was designed and carried out by Mr. Clarkson, of theatrical fame.

That our balls are not totally devoid of wit and humour may be seen by the hundreds of living jokes which are invariably prominent when popular feeling is directed towards some political act. I have no doubt that there will be at least one dress at the coming gathering entitled the ‘ Maskrugeraiders,” one half of which will represent the celebrated Dr. Jameson dressed in a roughrider’s costume, while the other half will be the same man in convict’s clothes.

Then, again, the costume on which is pinned a placard informing the public that “Tis years since last we met,” and consisting of a gentleman dressed both as a prisoner and a judge, is not without some humour.

The subject of the illustration on the right of the title is distinctly appropriate. In fact, it is named “Covent Garden.” The costume is a veritable walking allegory, and is so designed as to give the onlooker an idea of the various fruits and vegetables that are sold in the well-known market. It was at first suggested that real fruit should be used to decorate the dress, but a little thought showed the inadvisability of this.

The groundwork of the gown consisted of green and yellow silk, covered and draped with papier mache produce of the most expensive description. A large basket filled to overflowing with grapes and strawberries, surmounted by an enticing pine, was symbolised in the young lady’s hat, while the flora of London was represented by a panier of lilies and wild flowers. The green stockings and shoes harmonised with the general colour of the fruits. Although this magnificent dress cost the wearer £30, she was amply repaid for her trouble and expense by carrying off the first prize of a grand piano.

An extraordinary mixture is the costume, which is embodied in the title, called “The Scotch Mail.” This dress gives us an example of the happy-go-lucky—with great emphasis on the lucky —way in which the members of the “profession” are wont to dress themselves for the fray.

About ten minutes to twelve on the night of one of the balls, a young actor rushed into Mr. Clarkson’s, saying that he particularly wished to be present at the Opera House that night, at the same time giving impossible hints as to how he should be dressed.

Nothing suited him, however, and he was about to retire in despair when he happened to catch sight of a bundle of mail-armour that had been returned from Osborne that afternoon. Donning this, he found to his surprise that it was a perfect fit, and when, in an off-hand manner, he picked up an old property postman’s hat, the idea suddenly occurred to the costumier to wrap a plaid and kilt round him with a card sewn on his dress saying that he was—the Scotch Mail.

No sooner thought of than done, and, as a sort of finishing touch, he was supplied with a worn-ou’ rag-bag and a sporran. Nobody was more surprised than himself when, after the ballot had been made, he found himself the happy possessor of the first Ralli car ever presented as a prize, valued at fifty guineas.

Worth but Worthless fancy dress

Some time ago a dress by Worth, costing eighty guineas, was offered for the best lady’s gown. With the habitual smartness of our English designers to seize every opportunity in the shape of a hint, a costume was soon forthcoming, entitled “Worth but Worthless.” This ingenious design was an exact counterpart of the original prize, but instead of being made of silk and cloth it was totally constructed of that crinkled paper which at the time was greatly in favour for the making of lampshades.

The conception of this idea led to some amusing difficulties on the evening of the ball. The gentleman for whom this dress was made was somewhat small and boyish in appearance, which fact lent itself to his better personification of a dame of high fashion. After some little struggle on the part of the attendants to make the wearer’s waist as small as possible, the dress was fitted on piecemeal, great care being exercised that no tear or rent should be made.

When all these difficulties had been overcome, the question resolved itself into how the would-be dancer could be safely taken to the hall. To be crushed into a hansom and there to sit down meant certain and irreparable destruction to the dress that had cost so much anxiety and forethought. There was only one thing to be done, and that was to throw a shawl lightly over the young man’s shoulders and allow him to walk to the hall, leaning on a friend’s arm, which he did.

That he arrived safely is shown by the fact that he obtained the first prize as recompense for the initial cost of two guineas for the making and designing of the dress and for the exceeding originality of the whole costume.

When at the commencement of last year a certain Earl was raised to the rank of Duke, the ill-favour with which his elevation was regarded was made known by the individual who took upon himself the dress of a “Court Toady.”

Clothed in a green material made of woven wool, with two incandescent lights in place of eyes, he resembled an enormous toad. As may be seen from original drawing, a the reproduction of the blue sash — the insignia of a duke — was passed over his right shoulder and partially covered the Royal Arms, which had been worked upon his back, while in his right hand he held a dispatch box and in his left a bulrush. On entering the ball – room the subtle sarcasm of the whole costume was at once perceived, and the judges thought fit to award a bicycle to the happy wearer.

 

To design a dress that is out of the common, to design one that can be worn with comfort, to combine drollery with beauty, and yet not charge an exorbitant price, is indeed a thing that is rarely done. Yet the example above will show that it has and can be accomplished.

Miss Marie Montrose certainly aided art in appearing beautiful when she wore the dress entitled “Skylights and Nightlights.” This costume was made entirely of blue satin, upon which were painted scenes of nocturnal revelry enacted by various members of the cat tribe in conjunction with mysterious night-birds. The new moon, which was slightly clouded, showed itself upon her bodice, while stars were shining in every position—possible and otherwise. A nightlight rested on her right shoulder, above which the sun seemed to be rising with great reluctance from a mass of loosened hair. A miniature lamp-post was held in the left hand, and was lighted with a small though brilliant electric light—thus completing the exceedingly striking costume that gained a silver coffee set. And yet I question whether the materials used in the construction of this dress cost more than a five-pound note.

Here is an illustration of how a really good idea may spring from an apparently trivial source. One day, during the hard winter of ’94, Mr. Clarkson was walking along the embankment looking at the frozen river. Noticing an indistinct object half buried in a floe of ice his curiosity was aroused, and upon closer inspection he was disgusted to find that the “object” proved to be nothing more than an empty whisky bottle. Picking it up, however, he carried it home with him.

Two days afterwards a decidedly humorous costume was ready for the ball. In point of fact it was the head-dress rather than the costume that was humorous. This consisted of a head impersonating Father Thames, on the crown of which was posed a large frog in the midst of weeds and rushes, holding in one of its fore-feet a reed.

The eyes of this gruesome reptile were illuminated by small lamps. When the wearer of the head-piece turned, the original whisky-bottle came into view, thus explaining the name of the costume, “The Spirit of the Thames.” An appropriate prize was award to this in the shape of a double-sculling boat.

The bird-cage is surely a quaint and ingenious costume, made of pale pink silk, the skirt of which was painted to resemble a cage in which parrots were perched in various positions. Round the upper part of the sleeves were two real cages, in which a couple of stuffed birds were placed; while another parrot, with wings outstretched, covered the front of the bodice. Upon the young lady’s head a live bullfinch was allowed to flutter in its golden house.

The All-Bet Fancy Dress

The raid that was made some time ago upon the Albert Club supplied costumiers with plenty of fresh ideas. One of the best— if not the best—was the one entitled “The All-bet,” which was typified by the individual whose front view was got up to represent a sporting man of the highest fashion, while judicious packages were hung here and there beneath a club notice-board, on which the device “Raid on the Albert Club” informed the uninitiated of the event which the costume was supposed to represent.

The ink-pot and pen on the left shoulder gave evidence of the judicial verdict in the same way as the Indian club showed the Albert’s athletic propensities. Expressive sentiments were scattered here and there, pinned loosely to the costume, such as ” Out on bail,” ” Police evidence,” ” Judge’s decision,” and “The All-bet.”

Very different is the subject of my next illustration. “Peace with Honour” is certainly an appropriate name for the still more appropriate dress that was worn at the Primrose Day ball. The head and shoulders of Lord Beaconsfield were painted upon a yellow skirt, which was tastefully trimmed with primroses. The hat consisted of one mass of the symbolic flowers, as also did the bodice. The primrose-trellised staff, which was grasped in the left hand, completed a costume that cost twenty-five pounds, and succeeded in carrying off a silver coffee set.

In passing, I may mention that the art of designing in England is by no means an unprofitable one; indeed, designers of theatrical and fancy costumes in this country are absolutely the best paid in the world. The sources from which they draw their ideas are practically inexhaustible, as it would certainly take some little time to drain the treasures of the British Museum—to say nothing of the great law cases and Parliamentary disputes that crop up from time to time. In short, nearly every subject lends itself to the cunning of the costumier.

Nor is this all. Sarah Bernhardt.who in herself is a host of ideas, often proves a regular gold mine to designers and perruquiers, though she is extremely hard to please, and will often require ten or a dozen different designs before she is satisfied. Once suited, however, she will think nothing of paying from eighty to one hundred guineas for the design alone.

 

The costume of a Watteau Shepherdess, that was worn by Mrs. Langtry, needs no explanation, for, although it was simple in the extreme, it was undoubtedly worth the first prize that was awarded it.

A noteworthy incident happened in connection with this dress, however. Mrs. Langtry went into the costumier’s some four or five hours before the ball, and, like the owner of the Scotch Mail, demanded a costume for the dance. A rose silk skirt was immediately obtained on which were sewn a number of golden flowers and leaves. The bodice was hastily put together, and, to successfully finish the effect, it was no difficult matter to obtain a straw hat and a walking stick.

There is interest, moreover, in the fact that the artist who designed the plate has sketched numerous asides for the special edification of the practical costumier. The one shown on the left hand bottom corner of the Watteau shepherdess is a hood that might have been made and worn as an alternative to the hat.

The latter is certainly the prettier of the two, and so Mrs. Langtry evidently thought, for she wore it on two out of the three occasions on which the dress was donned.

During the talk about international peace at the end of December, 1895, a peculiarly appropriate dress was worn by one of our most popular young actresses, called “United Europe.” The young lady’s hat consisted of black and white satin, trimmed with red, white, and yellow feathers, while the gown itself was of black satin embroidered with gold.

On an overskirt of various colours were worked the emblems of the different countries of the Continent. The red, yellow, and black puff sleeves were shaded by large revers of heavily embroidered satin; and, in order to heighten the effect of this most artistic costume, the British standard was borne in the left hand. The white Louis XVI. wig completed what was perhaps the prettiest fancy dress that has ever been worn since the first days of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Pearson’s Magazine, Vol. 2, 1896: p. 655

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: So many ephemeral, topical references that Mrs Daffodil scarcely knows where to start!  “Maskrugeraiders” refers to the disastrous Jameson’s raid in South Africa and Sir Leander Starr Jameson’s subsequent arrest. Mr Clarkson is William Clarkson, noted theatrical costumer, wig-maker, and rogue, of whom we shall hear more of in the days ahead. The Albert Club, a well-known betting centre in London was raided in 1894 by the police for offences under the Betting Act. 109 persons were arrested.

Primrose Day is the anniversary of the death of British statesman and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, whose favourite flower was the primrose. “Peace with Honour,” was what Beaconsfield secured when war with Russia seemed a certainty in 1877. The phrase was later repeated by the Kaiser and we all know how well that ended.  Mrs Langtry was, of course, the Jersey Lily, actress and close personal friend of the Prince of Wales. Mrs Daffodil has not yet found out the identity of the “court toady.”

It is always amusing to hear about those busy and important people who rush into Mr Clarkson’s at the eleventh hour and expect not only accommodation, but custom work, when all that are left are Pierrot costumes. “Self-absorbed” is the kindest phrase that comes to mind.

For further, fancy-dress inspiration, Mrs Daffodil recommends a perusal of her “Fancy Dress” category, where readers may read of such unusual costumes as “the mutilated sportsman,” “the knitting bag,” and the “Princess Royal’s wedding fan.”

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.

 

Hallowe’en Supper Frocks: 1894

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

PRETTY FANCIFUL GOWNS SUITABLE FOR THE FESTIVAL

The Picturesque Frocks a Brunette, Chatain and Blonde Will Wear to a Hallowmass Party.

Halloween, perhaps, more than any other fete, supplies possibilities for picturesque and effective gowns, and the end-of-the-century girl is not the one to let them slip by.

A very fashionable wardrobe now owns, along with other dainty evening toilets, a Halloween supper frock, which may be made in any mode, but which, to be just the thing, should suggest, in some way, night itself. Tints vague and intangible, hinting of darkness or the white cool moon, are preferred over glaring dark colors.

As to ornament, there may be some curious jeweled night fly fastened somewhere, perhaps spangled in the hair; and if flowers are used, they too, must propitiate the powers of night in wanes and thick perfume.

The dread witches, who on All Halloween have the threads of fate in their keeping, are said to be difficult ladies to please, but somehow one hopes they will smile on the wearers of the three charming gowns here shown, and provide them suitable husbands. The originals of these dainty costumes, which were suggested by three famous French pictures, were all made by a nimble-fingered New York girl for a Halloween supper. They are to be worn by herself and two sisters, three distinct types; and along with their exceeding effectiveness, they have the merit of having involved comparatively little expense, being all fashioned from materials at hand, some lengths of a marvelous Chinese drapery, a few yards of thick liberty satin bought in better days, and a thin, scant, old tambour muslin slip, relic of a long dead great-mamma and tea cup times.

FOR A BRUNETTE

The first dress shown was for the dark, handsome elder sister of the little Cinderella dressmaker—the type that goes with stiffness and stateliness and rustling textures. It was of the liberty satin in a dim luminous tint, too blue for gray and too gray for blue, and that will show off the wearer’s rich skin to perfection. The girdle drapery of graduating ribbon lengths and bows was of a faint dead sea rose color. This subtle and delightful tint, together with black, repeats itself in the simple but decorative embroidery at the bottom of the wide skirt. The tiny chemise gamp is of white muslin, and the short balloon sleeves are stiffened with tarlatan. To be worn with the dress, as well as the next one, both of which were entirely uncrinolined, were petticoats of hair cloth, with tucks of large round organ pipe plaits, to hold the skirt out in the present approved fashion.

FOR CHATAIN [Brown Hair] COLORING.

The second gown, though perhaps not quite so enchanting as the first, was more suggestive of the witcheries of Halloween. It was of the Chinese silk drapery, in the copper red, and with a fantastic patterning of black bats. The girdle and low neck decoration are of black velvet, and square jet buckles fasten the latter down at intervals.

The very daintiest feature of this paniered gown, however, which in style recalls somewhat little beflowered Dolly Varden, is the undersleeves, made to show off a rounded young arm and drive envy to the soul of womankind. For every woman who is a real woman has a weakness for lace, and these adorable undersleeves were made of the charming old net lace embroidery in back stitch of the long ago.

It came, like the tambour muslin, from grandmamma’s garret, where, when Halloween is over, it is to be hoped, it will be carefully put back.

A GOWN FOR A BLONDE.

The third and last dress, a tiny hint of the Directoire period, is the tambour muslin slip itself, sinfully modernized. Once white, it is now evenly mellowed to a soft caressing yellow, which is further accented by a puffing of pure white chiffon about the neck and skirt bottom. The sleeves are of a rich heavy brocade in black and white, and the belt and crescent ornaments are of silver.

This costume is to be worn to the supper by the little dressmaker herself, and its scant picture lines are sure to become her slim, shortwaisted young figure.

And may the ghost of sweet dead grandmamma not come back to reproach her for desecration.

Nina Fitch.

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 28 October 1894: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Desecration, indeed….  One frequently sees examples of ancient garments re-made into fancy dress or some “amusing” pastiche; a practice which makes Mrs Daffodil’s blood alternately boil and run cold (something that takes rather a bit of doing, given her line of work.) We can only fervently hope that the antique lace and tambour muslin were, indeed, “put back” or, if not, that Grandmamma haunted the offender mercilessly.

While questioning the appalling statement that only “real women” have a “weakness” for lace, Mrs Daffodil will also adjudge the addition of antique lace to an otherwise standard Bat Queen or Empress of the Night fancy-dress costume to be utterly unnecessary.

“Night” was a popular figure in fancy dress. We see an interpretation of that character at the head of this post. An illustration and description of another version follows. Whimsical though the idea is in principal, in real life, wearing a stuffed owl must be a trifle cumbersome:

By way of preparation for it we present for our readers’ inspection a costume representing Night.

It is satin, in two shades of purple. The lighter used for lower skirt has beaded surface. The plain falls over in a plaited back and draped front; wide panel ornamented with stars, butterflies [moths?] and a very demure owl; smoke-colored vail, dotted with stars, covers the crown of hat, held by a crescent and owl; this draping over the right arm and breast, is thrown over the left shoulder and arm. Willkes-Barre [PA] Evening News 6 January 1886: p. 3

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.