Category Archives: Lace

The Grand Duchess’s Trousseau: 1874

 

silver Russian court dress

A silver-embroidered Russian court dress similar to that described below. Late 19th-early 20th century. http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/portal/hermitage/digital-collection/08.+applied+arts/1263439

A correspondent of the London Times thus describes the trousseau of the bride of the Duke of Edinburgh:— “Piloted through a succession of the never-ending saloons of the Winter Palace, we came at last to the antechamber to the Salle Blanche. In this very large room, broad, low tables were ranged, spread with the wonders of the wardrobe of the imperial bride. Who shall describe them, and where shall one begin? Here is a table spread with dozens and dozens of pairs of the most dainty shoes in the world— from long white satin boots, slashed up the front, to small slippers, smart with bows and buckles. A pair of these last was ornamented with a pretty sort of gold work on silk, the peculiar manufacture of one Russian town. Trays of pocket-handkerchiefs, edged inches deep with beautiful lace, and worked with the imperial monogram; piles of petticoats, awfully and wonderfully tucked, and plaited, and embroidered; exquisitely worked linen of marvellous woof, and cambric as fine as floating cobwebs, lay in orderly heaps on every side. Blankets were even there, and some embroidered furniture for bed and table looked rare enough to be put under a glass case, and far too fine and fragile to be ever ‘sent to the wash.’ If one could have brought away the patterns of a row of fascinating little caps hung on stands, how acceptable they would have been to ladies who love to perch these taking shreds of lace and ribbon on the tops of their heads! Gloves are gloves all the world over, at least to look at; but in hosiery there is some room for art and luxury. It seemed impious to look upon shining and delicately tinted silk stockings, marked with the initial letter of the most beautiful names in the world under an imperial crown, and one passed on to expend admiration and wonder on an endless array of lace at one thousand roubles an archine**, and ribbons, quilted white satin baskets, and other mysteries. But the next room, the great Salle Blanche, from the ceiling of which depend immense chandeliers of glittering glass, contained the real glories of the trousseau. Here were the dresses and the bonnets, and the cloaks and the furs. Fifty morning dresses of silk, and satin, and velvet, hung on stands, and their rich tints side by side were a rare study of color. Some of the dresses are rather heavy and old looking, with all their splendor, for a young girl. The gold and silver embroidered white and blue velvet, gowns, with long trains for court, are goodly to look upon, though they must be weighty to wear. The dress of blue velvet embroidered with gold braid is a sort of feminine uniform de rigueur in the Winter Palace for the imperial family on great occasions. The wedding dress was, of course, the centre of interest, and was of white satin, with pointed hanging sleeves, and covered with silver embroidery. It has a long train, and is a glorified specimen of the Russian national marriage costume. Dressing-gowns of every description, from the bona fide robe to be put on on getting out of bed, to that which is merely a costly gown in disguise, were there, and many more devices of feminine ornament than I can remember. For comfort out of doors there, and many more devices of feminine ornament than I can remember. For comfort out of doors there were tippets, and jackets, and cloaks of precious fur, and one sable cloak in particular worth its weight in gold, and perhaps much more. A cloak of white Astrakan, many Cashmere shawls, and dainty opera cloaks,

“’Worthy to be furl’d

About the loveliest shoulders in the world,’

littered the tables luxuriously.  As though the milliners had exerted their skill till ‘the force of fancy could not further go,’ there was not only a whole regiment of dresses in esse , but a large number in posse, in the shape of a row of rolls of silk and velvet. Even as it is, I have not mentioned then bonnets, a whole bevy of which were becomingly arranged on a table to themselves; nor must we tear ourselves away without glancing at the portentous row of great purple Russia leather travelling trunks, suggestive of immense payments for extra luggage.”

Godey’s Lady’s Book, April 1874

**To be Relentlessly Informative, the lace was measured by “archines,” a unit of length formerly used in Russia, equal to about 71 centimeters.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As this is the wedding day of Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie of York, Mrs Daffodil thought a description of a royal bride’s trousseau would interest and intrigue. One doubts that Princess Eugenie’s wedding outfit is quite so extensive as the one displayed in the Salle Blanche— young people these days often espouse a misguided minimalism—although one is certain that she will receive some nice jewels. Mrs Daffodil joins with the entire Empire in wishing the young couple joy.

The bride with the sumptuous trousseau was Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, who, in 1874, wed Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son, in spite of opposition from the Queen, the Tsar and Tsarina. The Grand Duchess was Tsar Alexander II’s only surviving daughter and his cossetted, favourite child, which may have influenced the lavishness of her bridal outfit. He also gave her a dowry of £100,000 plus an annual allowance of £32,000 and a staggering selection of Romanov jewels. He fitted out a luxurious honeymoon suite at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo for the couple, hoping they would decide to make Russia their home, since he was devastated to be parted from his daughter.

The opulence of her trousseau did not reconcile the Duchess to living in England; she disliked the climate and was outraged by having to yield precedence to the Princess of Wales. She was happier when her husband inherited the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and they lived in Germany, away from Queen Victoria’s influence. However, despite its romantic beginnings, the marriage could not be said to have been a success: the Duke was overly fond of alcohol, tobacco, and mistresses—not necessarily in that order. He died in 1900 of throat cancer. The Dowager Duchess lived until 1920, losing her fortune and many family members in the Russian Revolution. One of her daughters remarked that she hoped that her mother would not be disappointed in God when she met the Deity in the Afterlife; so many people and things had disappointed her in life. One could not say that her trousseau was one of them.

 

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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The Point-Lace Handkerchief: 1871

A reporter, who witnessed the re-opening of a great dry goods establishment in Chicago, which had been burned out on the 8th  of October—mentions that he saw a point-lace handkerchief sold to a lady for $59. This little commercial transaction has been much and severely commented on, and we are told that it is even a disgusting incident. We can’t see it, the exceeding sinfulness of the conduct of the lady who bought the handkerchief. All depends upon circumstances, whether she was right or wrong in investing so liberally in a “wiper.” If the money she gave for the handkerchief was honestly hers, she committed no sin whatever in exchanging it for point-lace, unless we are prepared to say that all expenditure save for the absolute necessaries of life is sinful. Is it more sinful to give $59 for a handkerchief than it is to give $10,000 for a horse? Yet there are men who spend thousands, yearly, on horses—and whose rings are many, and rich. Is it a greater offence to lay out money for lace than it is to lay it out in keeping a yacht? A veteran smoker, who consumes many cigars, and those of the best brands, expends every month more for tobacco than the Chicago lady expended once for a handkerchief—and her handkerchief may last for years, and even decades—perhaps for generations, and become the property of her granddaughter—whereas the man’s cigars must vanish in fumo, or they are worthless. In some old European families they have lace that was made and bought, and originally worn, hundreds of years ago. Lace, if it be really rich is an investment that endures, keeping its worth for ages, and growing more valuable as it gains in time. Cigars burn up, horses die, and yachts are lost, but lace lasts. Who knows but that the fair Chicagoan is a prudent, sensible woman, who was only making a sound investment of some of her floating capital? But, we are told, she should have given the $59 to relieve some suffers by the great fire. How do you know that she had not given liberally in aid of the sufferers in her city? It is going rather far to assume that she had given nothing for that purpose. If it be said that she should have given all she had to the sufferers, the obvious answer is, that she was no more bound to do so than were the men who gave something to relieve the persons who were burned out, but who did not give all their possessions. They have many articles in their possession quite as superfluous as her lace handkerchief, and yet they do not think of parting with those articles, because many persons want food or clothing, or both. Why should she not have her luxuries as well as they? It is not fair to censure her while extravagant men are allowed to pass uncensored.

Boston [MA] Traveller 16 December 1871: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Lace, although enduring enough to be heritable by another generation, is still more ephemeral than the poor and the suffering, who are always with us. It would have taken more than the cost of a point-lace handkerchief to restore the losses of victims of the Great Chicago Fire, although a gentleman’s outlay for his yacht might have aided a significant number of the displaced.

Mrs Daffodil considers that the lady in the example above was quite thrifty compared to  these titled and royal personages who paid sinful prices for their lace-edged handkerchiefs.

It took seven years to make a handkerchief for which the Empress of Russia paid $5,000.

New York American 20 October 1898: p. 8

and

The late Marquess of Angelsey owned three dozen handkerchiefs for evening dress wear. They were of the purest white linen, with his crest worked in human hair in the corners. They were made in Switzerland at a cost of $6 apiece. The late Duc d’Albe, Spanish grandee and uncle to ex-Empress Eugenie, was in the habit of ordering twelve dozen handkerchiefs at a time, for which he paid $120 a dozen. But the most expensive handkerchief is in the possession of the Queen Mother of Italy. It took three women five years to make it, and it is valued at $30,000.

Cleveland [OH] Leader 27 November 1913: p. 8

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 Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Waist: 1906

peekaboo waist

Midsummer Follies in Dress

How the Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Shirt Waist Has Grown Worse and Worse Until It Has Gotten Into the Courts.

From the New York American.

The well-recognized innate tendency of woman to carry fashions to outrageous extremes receives a startling illustration this year in the garment popularly known as “the peek-a-boo waist.” It has now reached a phase of disclosure entirely beyond anything dreamed of in civilized countries; since the pagan fashions of drapery yielded to the advance of modesty.

The peek-a-boo waist heads the list of all the follies which woman is committing this summer in the name of fashion. Philosophers, be it noted, have observed that woman is especially prone to commit follies in summer. Associated with the peek-a-boo waist in prevalence and in provocative character is the open-work or peek-a-boo stocking.

The question of the peek-a-boo waist is a serious one for the American people. Leading clergymen have thundered denunciations of it from the pulpit. It has given rise to cases in police courts. In the opinion of clergymen, magistrates and other high authorities, it is the cause of wickedness, strife and widespread demoralization in social and business life.

The New York Telephone company has been forced to issue orders that its women employees shall not wear peek-a-boo waists.

It was found that the men employees were so distracted by the new developments and vagaries of the peek-a-boo, as exhibited by their near neighbors in the Office, that they were practically unable to attend to business, thereby causing great annoyance to the public. A leading bank president called to have his house telephone disconnected for the summer, and addressed his instructions in vain to an assistant manager, whose eyes were busy exploring the mysteries of a peek-a-boo waist.

Even a Parisian leader of fashion has declared that the peek-a-boo waist is immodest. The Countess de Noailles has declared that any woman who wears a shirt waist exposing her bare shoulders is deficient in good breeding. The decollete gown may be excused on the ground that it is worn in the company of friends and intimates, but the peek-a-boo unveils the wearer to the populace. The denunciation from a Parisienne is as significant in its way as that of religious leaders.

In one case the waist led to a violent altercation between persons of good social position and a subsequent appearance in the police court. Upon a recent evening Mrs. Mary Linck and her husband, of No. 835 Cherry street, Philadelphia, were returning home from the theater. They were in a crowded street car and were both standing up. Behind them stood Mr. Joseph Bruce, of No. 4541 North Twentieth street. Mrs. Linck was wearing a peek-a-boo waist of unusually provocative design. The demon of perversity was aroused in Mr. Bruce by the sight of this garment just under his nose. He happened to have an instrument of mischief at hand in the shape of a straw. This he passed through the interstices of Mrs. Linck’s waist and proceeded to tickle her. Thinking it was a mosquito Mrs. Linck slapped at the place on her back, and Mr. Bruce quickly withdrew the straw. He chuckled deeply at the joke, and began it again as soon as she took away her hand. There were actually a great many mosquitos in the air. She slapped and slapped and told her husband how maddening the mosquitos were. Suddenly she turned round and caught Mr. Bruce in the act of tickling. She angrily denounced the offender and grappled with him. Mr. Linck then had the car stopped and gave Mr. Bruce into the custody of a policeman.

Bruce was arraigned at the Central police court before Magistrate Kochersperger, who decided that the act of tickling constituted a technical assault and battery, and held Bruce in $600 bail for trial. It is considered by many that the peek-a-boo waist should be regarded as a justification of this offense, or at least, a greatly extenuating circumstance.

Dr. Jacques Schnier, a dentist, of No. 604 Lexington avenue, New York, appeared before Magistrate Whitman in the Yorkville police court and made a complaint against Miss Adelina Weissman, who lives in the same house. Miss Weissman is pretty and plump, with flashing black eyes and abundant hair. The doctor complained that she wore “an awfully tantalizing peek-a-boo waist,” and that wearing this she came and looked at him while he was engaged in the delicate art of filling teeth and distracted his attention. The magistrate did not find a cause for criminal proceedings, but warned Miss Weissman not to disturb Dr. Schnier unnecessarily.

By the church the peek-a-boo waist is generally condemned. Mgr. McNamee, of St. Theresa’s church, Brooklyn, looked over his congregation and was shocked that most of the young and attractive women in it were wearing peek-a-boo waists, and in many cases very short sleeves.

“It is disgraceful the way some of the women come to the altar to receive communion,” said Mgr. McNamee. “I have been pained to see them coming to the sacrament with these transparent waists, and, worse yet, with sleeveless waists, with hideous looking gloves as substitutes for sleeves. I hope I will not be obliged to say any more on this question.”

The Rev. Dr. MacFarland, on behalf of the Ministerial association, of Iowa, denounced the peek-a-boo. “Our mothers would have thrown up their hands in holy horror if they had been asked to wear the kind of waists the girls now wear,” he said….

A few Sundays ago the pastor of St. Cecelia’s church, in Rochester, Pa., Rev. Father Schoerner, on rising to preach saw before him in the congregation two young women wearing especially flagrant examples of the up-to-date, open-work, sleeveless shirtwaist.

“Go home!” he thundered at them. “Take off those bathing suits; this is a church of God, not a bathing resort.”

Father Schoener’s only mistake was the injustice he did to the bathing suit. At no known resort would bathing suits modeled on such a design be permitted…

Women are showing a fondness this summer for several garments which seem fitting accompaniments of the peek-a-boo waist. One of these is the thin white bathing suit. At Lake Hopatcong. N. J., a young woman gave a fine imitation of Venus rising from the sea. She wore a costume that seemed too beautiful to wet. It was of white brilliantine, trimmed with blue polka dot silk. The blouse was sleeveless, the neck was low, the skirt was short. A white silk cap was perched on Venus’s head. Long, very long, extremely long pink silk stockings encased her limbs.

When this bather emerged from the water and took a sun bath on the pavilion 600 persons surrounded her, but their stares did not disconcert her. When finally she went to the bathhouse a crowd followed her. The manager of the bathhouse ordered her to leave by the rear door and warned her to wear a different bathing suit the next time she bathes there.

The Rev. Mr. Johnson has been preaching against young women, and young men, too, “who go about the bathing grounds with their chests bared and their arms exposed.”

It is interesting to recall briefly the evolution of the peek-a-boo waist. Like other outrageous fashions, such as the crinoline and the eel-tight skirt, it had a comparatively innocent beginning. That was in the year 1900. It was at first confined to a simple little yoke, outlining a pretty girl’s neck and giving fleeting glimpses of the interior decorations. It was graceful, coquettish, piquant. It was a tantalizing hint, not a bare-faced revelation.

By 1902 the peek-a-boo shirt waist had reached another stage in its evolution. The open-work yoke had extended its limits and began to frankly disclose features which garments were supposed to veil.

In 1904 the extent of open-work territory claimed by the shirt waist was increased by spacious Vs descending in front and in the rear to points beyond the limits that mere men had expected fair woman to fix.

In 1905 “panels” of various shapes came to the aid of the V’s in adding space, variety, interest and intricacy to the area of exposure. In the present season the shirt waist, it is believed, has got as near to the Trilbyan “altogether” as it may dare to go.

And fitting companions in disclosure and exposure of the peek-a-boo, apt aiders and abettors in allurement of the casual eye are the open-work stockings. Like the peek-a-boo, they, too, began their career in most modest guise.

Mere pinpricks traced in varied designs that flashed faint, fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. But today they also have advanced to a point where the word “open-work” possesses hardly strength sufficient to be adequately descriptive.

The Topeka [KS] Daily Capital 19 August 1906: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil, who is always annoyed by the gentlemen who have so much to say about the modesty of women’s dress, wonders if these depraved peek-a-boo wearers were also sans corsets, chemises, or corset-covers? Even in summer underthings, the amount of flesh exposed in the sheerest tulle or lawn waist would be negligible, stimulating only to those of powerful imaginations who focused their attentions (or a straw) on fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. In short, Peeping Toms.

There is an antiquated argument that goes like this: ladies who leave their homes in a state of immodest dress somehow deserve to be tickled by straws or worse. To which Mrs Daffodil crisply replies, Rubbish. A gentleman may enjoy the view, if he is able to do so discreetly and without giving offence,  but he is not then allowed to denounce it from the pulpit.

 

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.

Royal Wedding Superstitions: 1886-1922

heather and a good luck horse shoe for a bride 1935

Heather and a lucky horse-shoe for a bride, 1935 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1364613.11

Europe Has Its Royal Wedding Superstitions

Written for Universal Service By a Retired Member of the Royal Household.

London, Jan. 21. In the English royal family there are current a number of superstitions concerning weddings.

For example, the writer is quite sure that the Princess Mary could not be persuaded to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding had taken place. It is one of the oldest superstitions in the English royal family that for a princess of it to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding would be a most unlucky thing for her to do.

On the morning of the wedding of the present queen of Norway, which took place at Buckingham Palace, it became urgently necessary for the then Princess Maud to put her signature to a legal document in connection with her private affairs. It was essential that the document should be signed by her in her maiden name. She meant to have signed it the day before her wedding, but forgot to do so. She absolutely refused to sign it on the day of her wedding until after her marriage, and thereby put herself to a great deal of trouble and legal expense over the signing of the document.

Another wedding superstition prevailing in the royal family is that it is lucky for the royal bride to be able to see the sky on waking on the morning of her wedding day. It is extremely unlikely that the Princess Mary will sleep on the eve of her wedding day with the curtains in her bedroom drawn. Her royal highness will be sure to draw them back so that on waking she may behold the sky. This superstition also prevails in the Spanish royal family and it is customary for members of it the night before their wedding to sleep in the open if the weather permits.

It would be regarded as an unlucky thing by the Princess Mary for her to see her father before she sees her mother on her wedding day. What will happen on the morning of the princess’ wedding will be that her mother will come to her room ere she rises, will kiss her on both cheeks and wish her all prosperity and happiness in her future married life.

It has always been regarded as unlucky in the English royal family to make use of a wedding present before the wedding. All the princess’ presents will be kept in a room at St. James’ palace together with the presents sent to Lord Lascelles, until after the wedding.

There is an old saying current in the royal family concerning a royal bride. It runs:

“With the loss of the shoes, gloves or veil of her wedding day,

The luck of the bride will soon pass away.”

The shoes, gloves and veil worn by Queen Victoria at her wedding are still preserved at Windsor. The shoes, gloves and veils worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary on their wedding days are still carefully preserved by each of their majesties and the Princess Mary will be equally careful not to lose these reminders of her wedding day.

The Austin [TX] American 22 January 1922: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must gently correct the Austin American: Queen Victoria was buried in her wedding veil, so the veil “still preserved at Windsor,” was probably the lace from her gown, which, although quite fragile, still exists.

Orange blossom, white heather, and myrtle were essentials to bring luck to a Royal bride.

Princess Beatrice and Mr William Black between them have done much to render white heather popular. At most of the fashionable weddings which have taken place in London since May the brides have worn white heather It is, in fact, so indispensable just now that the artificial flower-makers produce it in specially large quantities for the marriage market, whilst at weddings at which expense is no object sprigs of the real plant are purposely fetched from the Highlands, At a wedding the other day the bride had real white heather in her bouquet, and there were sprigs of it, mixed with myrtle, on her train as well. Otago [NZ] Witness 12 November 1886: p. 32

All royal brides who are related to the Queen have a sprig of myrtle on their wedding day that is cut from a particular tree. This tree was grown from a slip sent from Germany for the bridal bouquet of the Princess Royal, and the tree it was cut from dates back to the time of the Crusaders. Otago [NZ] Witness, 30 December 1897: p. 43

As per the rhyme about veils and luck, Royal wedding veils received particular attention: the Royal Collection is full of photographs of the veils of the Princesses. Even the continental Royals were punctilious about their preservation:

The wreath and veil form the most important part of a German bride’s wedding dress, and in great families the wedding wreath and veil are carefully preserved among the family heirlooms.

In this connection I was told a rather strange story about the wreath and veil of the German Empress, which the Empress lost some few years after her marriage.

The Empress discovered the loss when she went to show them to a friend, and ascertained that they were not in the box where they were usually kept. The Kaiserin’s wardrobe-room was thoroughly searched, but without bringing to light the precious wreath and veil.

The suspicion of having taken the wreath and veil might have fastened on the Empress’s dresser, only for the fact that she had been for years with the Empress, and was so well known to her that the idea of her having taken them was out of the question. Indeed, the dresser was almost as much distressed at the loss of the articles as her Royal mistress.

The Empress was in a terrible state over her loss, and inquiries were everywhere instituted as to where the wreath and veil could have disappeared to. Ultimately, a year or so later, the missing articles turned up in a box in a lumber-room at the residence of the Grand Duke of Baden, where the Empress had been staying some few years after her marriage, and where apparently she had left her wreath and veil, which she carried about with her for some years after her marriage wherever she went. Seven Years at the Prussian Court, Edith Keen, 1917

Viscount_Lascelles and Mary Princess Royal wedding

Viscount Lascelles and Mary, the Princess Royal, on their wedding day, 1922

While most journalists burbled blissfully along about Royal wedding gifts, articles of the Royal trousseau, and the incomparable charms of the bride-to-be, this article about the wedding veil of Mary, the Princess Royal, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, was uncharacteristically negative in tone. Given the rumours that the marital life of the Princess proved to be less than happy, one might almost call it prophetic.

Wedding Veil to Be Worn by Princess Is of Tragical Origin.

London, Jan. 28. Dire tragedy is associated with the fine old Irish point lace which will adorn Princess Mary’s bridal robe when she marries Viscount Lascelles next month.
It originated from the failure of the Irish potato crop in 1846. The famine which followed was terrible. The peasants lived on the product of their soil and the fruitfulness of the soil, and when misfortune robbed them their desolation was all the more poignant on account of their helplessness.

To a holy abbess in the convent of Youghal in the County Cork, falls the distinction of conceiving this future industry for Ireland. There came into her possession a piece of Milan de Point. She carefully studied the piece of lace and untraveled the threads one by one and finally, after the exhausting research, mastered all the wonderful intricacies of the lacemakers of old Milan.

She then realized its great possibilities as an industry for the starving Irish children. The children cleverest at needlework were the first selected, and she taught them separately what she had learned. They were apt pupils, and the industry spread from Youghal. It spread over the whole of the southern and western counties of Ireland.

Queen Mary has ever been a devotee of needlework, and as Irish point is made entirely with the needle the queen has naturally taken more than a passing interest in this work; for a complete dress of it was made for her at her coronation.

But the vagaries of feminine fashion have interfered with its sale for some months, and it is devoutly trusted in the southern parts of Ireland that the queen’s choice for her daughter’s wedding dress will revive such a demand for Irish lace that will be unaffected by the petty dictates of the mandarins of the Rue de la Paix and Hanover square.

The Anaconda [MT] Standard 29 January 1922: p. 22

 

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 Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

 

 

The Cost of a Fine Lady

The Groans of Husbands.

If any one doubts that we live in the Age of Toys—at an epoch when taste runs more than ever before in the way of articles of embellishment and luxury—he must entertain that doubt at a distance from this metropolis. Indeed, we know not exactly where he will be able to “lay the flattering unction to his soul,” since even the small villages and incipient settlements in the country take their air from New York, and follow as nearly as possible in the footsteps of those who follow the Parisian setters of fashion. The taste or fancy obeys, too, the law of all propensities and habits, of being stimulated by gratification to larger demands. We have been growing steadily in this respect for a dozen years, and now reach a stature in extravagance that enables us to look over the heads of most of our transatlantic neighbors, and take to ourselves the proud consciousness of outdoing them in almost everything.

Look at the dresses of our ladies; observe them in the ball-room or at the opera; or at a simple home reception. That opera shawl is worn by a poor man’s wife; it is merely an imitation of ermine, with chenille [sic] fringe of pink, white or blue, yet it costs twenty-eight dollars. Observe the dress of the lady in the private box, of blue chene silk, with uncut velvet flounces, painted with rich clusters of flowers, and fringed with silk; she paid, last week, $120 for the dress material, besides $20 to her mantua-maker. The India cashmere shawl she has thrown off so carelessly, cost fifteen hundred dollars. The lady near her wears one with a scarlet centre, for which her husband, who has since advertised his goods as “selling off under cost,” paid $1200 to the importer. Her dress is of brown silk with fringed velvet flounces in a tartan plaid pattern; she purchased it some time since for ninety dollars, and it was thought a bargain. She and her friend are going to a party after the opera. Their head-dresses are “very simple,” –one has a head-piece composed of imitation pearls and delicate white ostrich plumes, mixed with bows of scarlet velvet ribbon looped with pearls, and chenille; there is a fall of white blonde lace upon it; the bandeau across the back of the head is also of mock pearls, and the ends of the ribbon are about half a yard in length. The price was only twelve dollars. The other has a bandeau of black velvet, wound with gold cord, and a fall of guipure lace; a bunch of golden grapes and leaves at the sides is mixed with red velvet flowers, and the streamers are of black crimson velvet ribbon.

fall colored headdress and bouquet red velvet leaves gilt mid 19th c

If you go to the morning reception of one of the ladies, you will probably find her attired in a blue chene silk, with flounces of “dead velvet” flowers; its price unmade was $110. At a party given by one to her fashionable friends, she would wear a dress of white Montante silk, with a border a yard deep of brilliant flowers, wrought in velvet or satin, with the rich tints of their summer bloom—the waist and sleeves trimmed to correspond; this “love of a dress” was got for one hundred dollars unmade, and was a Christmas present from a relative. A friend of hers, who wears a white silk, brocaded with gold in waving figures, and paid for the material $150, feels some self-complacency in her evident superiority.

brussels lace mantilla2

The bride, who is receiving the compliments of her visits, wears a scarf of Point d’Alencon that cost her father $1,500. The Valenciennes flouncing, a quarter of a yard deep, on the dress of one of her friends, is worth $100 a yard. Her mother wears a cape of Point d’Aiguille without ground, for which Stewart charged her $160; and her sister a collar and sleeves of Point d’Alencon, of which the price was $150. The elderly lady, who is giving her a word of advice about her future life ,wears a collar of flat point lace, with raised flowers, wrought in the most delicate needle work, for which she gave forty dollars, and thought it a bargain. Another young lady sports flounces of Point d’Aiguille at $70 the yard; and dangles from her gloved fingers a point d’Alencon handkerchief exquisitely worked in buttonhole stitch, with a centre piece of a few square inches of linen cambric, for which her papa gave a check for $200.

venetian lace handkerchief

Her aunt has one in French work, richly and heavily embroidered, that was only ninety dollars. Her cousin wears a white taffety silk dress with three flounces ornamented with broad wreaths in satin or gorgeous flowers—cost $85. Or would you study the tastes of our ladies on a fine day in Broadway! You will see, perchance, a cape of Russian sable from Genin’s at sixteen hundred dollars; or one of Hudson Bay sable at half that sum, or down through several gradations to $200, with victorines and cuffs to match from $85 to $200, in addition. In the evening again, you may see the latest importation of luxury in a Turkish scarf of muslin, embroidered with a gold and pink silk, worth $100, with dress to match, bought for $150, spangled with stars of gold, and having a wreath of delicate embroidery at the bottom. The handkerchief that matches this costume is wrought in a heavy pattern of silver and gold, representing birds of paradise and flowers, with a centre of linen cambric, and was “thrown away” at twenty dollars.. The head dress, which cost the same, is a barb, embroidered with silver, gold and colored silk. The fan is of white chene silk, painted with wreaths of flowers, and finished with heavy silk fringe. This was only fifteen dollars, and is so recently imported that it is not yet in the market. Its peculiarity is that it can be slipped up to the end of the handle, and expanded in a parasol at the owner’s pleasure.

carved conch parure tiara and bracelet

If you have a fancy for jewelry you may easily count up a fortune on the persons of our belles. That set of diamonds, consisting of necklace, bracelet, brooch and ear-rings, is worth $8,500. The pearl set which adorns the maiden of sixteen, cost $1,845. The sprigs represent the buds of the cotton plant. The gold and diamond bracelet pap bought at $1,800; it is superbly set in black enamel and gold—now the favorite setting. The one with the stone cameo representing a Grace holding a delicate wreath over her head, is worth $1200. But the prettiest device is one mama selected on Broadway the other day; quite new! It is a massive gold rattlesnake with glistening scales of diamonds, sparkling like imprisoned sunshine. It may be worn as a girdle, or a necklace, or in five folds around the wrist as a bracelet. On the top of the head is a cluster of large diamonds; the eyes are brilliant rubies, and the sharp teeth are of gold. The price of this captivating creature was but $800. You may see a superb necklace of eighty-seven diamonds in gold festoons, that cost $1,300; and that fashionable bracelet of broad green enamel, bordered with diamonds, representing bows of ribbon confined with braided bands, studded with brilliant gems, was bought at $1500. The set of large sapphires, with diamonds clustering around them, confined by a rope of chased gold, was $2,140. The diamond ring which sparkles on that lady’s finger, of five and a half carats, is worth $1500; and the ear-rings set in black enamel, $1600 the pair. You may see, also, a new style of necklace, formed of a network of black enamel and diamonds, with pendant shafts of gold headed with gems; the price of this, with a corresponding brooch, was $1300 The set of larger diamonds are worth fifteen thousand dollars. The prevailing fancy this winter has been for coral sets, exquisitely wrought. Look at that magnificent rose colored set, representing Cupid embedded in flowers, and birds in the ear-rings hovering over the rich clusters of blossoms. Its price was $550.

carved conch parure necklace and earrings and brooch

You have perhaps seen B.’s gold tea set—consisting of tea urn, tea and coffee pots, sugar bowl and cream pitcher, with twelve cups, saucers, and spoons—for $15,000. Or the gold dinner set, with fish, crumb and pie knives, preserve spoons, fruit basket, grape scissors, sugar tongs, and eighteen knives and forks for only $1,000. We do not yet use gold very generally, but if you take tea with Mrs. A__, she will show you a new tea set of six pieces worth $800—which was hung on her Christmas tree, and point you to a silver epergne with four branches, for the centre of her table, that cost $600; you will have water or lemonade handed you in a tankard and goblet of richly chased silver, on a slaver to match, of the finest workmanship, representing vintage scenes—price $335; and before you leave, the lady will ask your admiration for her last present of two paintings on porcelain—one representing Rubens’ Children, the other by Corfalis—a Festival of Artists—for which the connoisseur is to pay $325.

silver gilt epergne

Smaller articles of luxury are on the same scale. The fish knife and fork used at a dinner, with full length figures of bacchantes on the handles, were not purchased under $85; the crumb-knife with a chased horn-of-plenty for the handle—for $45. The plum cake at the wedding party you attended last week—weighing 75 pounds—with its frost work ornaments six feet high, cost $100; the pyramid, 3 ½ feet high, with classic figures supporting the roof of a temple crowned with wreaths of flowers, $50; meringues in baskets and other attractive forms, $15 each, the boned turkey in jelly, pedestal and all, $15. Your imagination will supply the innumerable articles that must accompany and keep in countenance these elegant trifles.

It will thus be seen that fashion and society in our city, require expensive aids, and embellishments. Ladies are beginning to complain of the enormous taxes levied on “position and advantageous connection;” their husbands have groaned long under the burden. One tells us she is compelled to forego parties though she loves them dearly, and is well fitted to adorn and enjoy them; she really cannot afford to spend two hundred dollars on a dress and its accompaniments, and must, therefore, give up the pleasure. Another who has lightened her purse and oppressed he heart to be splendid, is half sick with chagrin, because another has eclipsed her in extravagance. Many who really have no wish to cramp their means and beggar their children for such empty triumphs, complain that their friends will drop them if they are not magnificent, and that cold shoulders are turned on any thing in the way of a shawl and dress under $500, or an inferior set of sables. There is certainly no doubt that profuse expenditure in dress, furniture and living, is made the test of respectability and the passport to society in our city. The veriest booby or the silliest woman, who can shine in what money can purchase, may command respect denied to worth, excellence and talent, when allied to moderate means.

This is not as it should be. We do not object to the toy mania when it does not break the limits prescribed by nature and reason. Let the rich spend their wealth in luxuries, trifles and in superb decorations, and let others admire the gewgaws if they choose; but let not the better riches of mind and heart be less prized—infinitely superior as they are. Let such of our dames as can afford to indulge their tastes be magnificent; but let the “public opinion” that would exclude from society those who can not afford more than simple elegance, be crushed out of existence. It is unworthy of republicans—unworthy of Christians—unworthy of intelligent beings.

N.Y. Express.

Alexandria [VA] Gazette 21 January 1857: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Strong words, indeed, when everybody knows that the whims of the upper classes give employment to the poor even though the rich may be a trifle careless in paying their bills to impoverished seamstresses. The expensive caprices of the aristocracy also give those less fortunate something to read in the papers on wet afternoons. This article, for example, on “The Cost of a Curtsey,” telling of the expenses attendant on being present at Court, and this one, on “Where that $10,000-a-Year Dress Allowance Goes” must have inspired much amusement and a hearty thankfulness among the working classes that they had not the worries and cares of the wealthy.

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.

 

The Sale of Mrs Lincoln’s Wardrobe: 1867

Mrs Lincoln's wardrobe for sale

Mrs Lincoln’s wardrobe for sale in the New York showroom.

A SINGULAR SPECTACLE

Which has already too large a share of public attention and notoriety, is the exhibition which has been going on for weeks in a small room, upstairs, corner of Houston street and Broadway, of Mrs. Lincoln’s wardrobe. It is a disagreeable subject, and would not be adhered to, only to correct some misstatements and misapprehensions.

No one can look at the collection and imagine that the object in exposing them was to sell them, or make a large amount of money by their sale. With the exception of the lace and camel’s hair shawls, and a few odd pieces of jewelry, there is nothing which any lady could wear, or which in its present condition, would not be a disgrace to a second hand cloth shop. The dresses, those that have been made up and worn are crushed, dirty, old fashioned, and most of them made and trimmed in the worst way. The skirts are too short for any but a very short person, and the commonest muslins, barreges and grenadines are made extremely low in the neck and would not be available for any purpose. There are some brocaded silk skirts in large heavy patterns which have been made but not worn, but these are unaccompanied by any waist, while the price upon them, and all the other articles, is exorbitant. Had the purpose been merely one of sale it would have been better effected through any large dry goods or jewelry house, who would have taken, as they frequently do, the India shawls and diamond rings at a fair valuation, but the display evidently had another object, and for the sake of Mr. Lincoln and his family, the Union League Club, or some other organization, ought to buy up the goods and transfer them to Chatham street as soon as possible.

Daily Eastern Argus [Portland, ME] 1 November 1867: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Although in receipt of a pension granted by Congress, Mrs Lincoln had a terrible fear of poverty and conceived the idea of selling off some of her clothes anonymously. When this was discovered, the President’s widow was savaged by both the Northern and Southern press for selling her “cast-off” clothes. Here is another piece, quoted by Mrs Lincoln’s former dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, in her 1868 memoir, Behind the Scenes.

“The attraction for ladies, and the curious and speculative of the other sex in this city, just now, is the grand exposition of Lincoln dresses at the office of Mr. [W.H.] Brady, on Broadway, a few doors south of Houston street. The publicity given to the articles on exhibition and for sale has excited the public curiosity, and hundreds of people, principally women with considerable leisure moments at disposal, daily throng the rooms of Mr. Brady, and give himself and his shopwoman more to do than either bargained for, when a lady, with face concealed with a veil, called and arranged for the sale of the superabundant clothing of a distinguished and titled, but nameless lady. Twenty-five dresses, folded or tossed about by frequent examinations, lie exposed upon a closed piano, and upon a lounge; shawls rich and rare are displayed upon the backs of chairs, but the more exacting obtain a better view and closer inspection by the lady attendant throwing them occasionally upon her shoulders, just to oblige, so that their appearance on promenade might be seen and admired. Furs, laces, and jewelry are in a glass case, but the ‘four thousand dollars in gold’ point outfit is kept in a paste-board box, and only shown on special request.

“The feeling of the majority of visitors is adverse to the course Mrs. Lincoln has thought proper to pursue, and the criticisms are as severe as the cavillings are persistent at the quality of some of the dresses. These latter are labelled at Mrs. Lincoln’s own estimate, and prices range from $25 to $75—about 50 per cent less than cost. Some of them, if not worn long, have been worn much; they are jagged under the arms and at the bottom of the skirt, stains are on the lining, and other objections present themselves to those who oscillate between the dresses and dollars, ‘notwithstanding they have been worn by Madam Lincoln,’ as a lady who looked from behind a pair of gold spectacles remarked. Other dresses, however, have scarcely been worn —one, perhaps, while Mrs. Lincoln sat for her picture, and from one the basting threads had not yet been removed. The general testimony is that the wearing apparel is high-priced, and some of the examiners say that the cost-figures must have been put on by the dress-makers; or, if such was not the case, that gold was $250 when they were purchased, and is now but $140—so that a dress for which $150 was paid at the rate of high figures cannot be called cheap at half that sum, after it has been worn considerable, and perhaps passed out of fashion. The peculiarity of the dresses is that the most of them are cut low-necked—a taste which some ladies attribute to Mrs. Lincoln’s appreciation of her own bust.

“On Saturday last an offer was made for all the dresses. The figure named was less than the aggregate estimate placed on them. Mr. Brady, however, having no discretionary power, he declined to close the bargain, but notified Mrs. Lincoln by mail. Of course, as yet, no reply has been received. Mrs L. desires that the auction should be deferred till the 31st of the present month, and efforts made to dispose of the articles at private sale up to that time.

“A Mrs. C__. called on Mr. Brady this morning, and examined minutely each shawl. Before leaving the lady said that, at the time when there was a hesitancy about the President issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, she sent to Mrs. Lincoln an ashes-of-rose shawl, which was manufactured in China, forwarded to France, and thence to Mrs. C __., in New York. The shawl, the lady remarked, was a very handsome one, and should it come into the hands of Mr. Brady to be sold, would like to be made aware of the fact, so as to obtain possession again. Mr. Brady promised to acquaint the ashes-of-rose donor, if the prized article should be among the two trunks of goods now on the way from Chicago.”

A detailed description of the New York visit and clothing fiasco by Elizabeth Keckley may be found here.

While Mrs Lincoln was known to be eccentric and erratic, (it has been suggested that her lavish spending was a symptom of a mental illness), few there were  who sympathised with the lady in her grief for her three dead sons and her murdered husband. Even her surviving son, Robert, felt compelled to lock her away as insane.

Mrs Lincoln had been very close to Elizabeth Keckley, her dressmaker and confidante, but when Mrs Keckley published her book about life in the White House, to, as she stated, “attempt to place Mrs. Lincoln in a better light before the world” and to “explain the motives” that guided Mrs. Lincoln’s decisions regarding what became known as the “old clothes scandal,” she was excoriated for violating the former First Lady’s privacy.  This led to a break in their friendship, although it is possible that they reconciled before Mrs Lincoln died. Mrs Lincoln spent her last years depressed and in ill-health, dying at her sister’s home in Springfield, Illinois in 1882.

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.