Category Archives: Lethal Clothing

A Dangerous Pair of Stockings: 1883

A Dangerous Pair of Stockings

A man at Albert Lea, Minn., had the worst time explaining a telegram to his wife. He is a sporting man, who does a good deal of fishing and hunting, and he had a pair of rubber wading stockings which he wore when hunting marshes. A friend of his wanted a pair of them, and he promised to send to New York and get them. The two men were great friends, and the man who had been promised the wading-stockings, and who lived at North Branch, got ready to go hunting last fall, and wanted them, so he telegraphed to his Albert Lea friend, as follows:

“Send my stockings at once, as I need them bad. YOUR BLONDE DARLING.”

The dispatch came to the man’s residence, and his wife opened it, and her hair stood right up straight. When the innocent husband came home she put on a refrigerator expression, and handed him a pair of her own old stockings, done up in a paper, and told him he better send them to his blonde darling at North Branch. He was taken all of a heap, and asked her what she meant, and said he had no blonde darling at North Branch or any other branch; and after he had said he did not know a woman any-where, and never thought of supplying stockings to anybody but his wife, she handed him the telegram. He scratched his head, blushed, and then she thought she had him, but finally he laughed right out loud, and went to his room, where he keeps his guns and things, and brought out the new pair of rubber wading stockings, that he had bought for his friend, each of which would hold a bushel of wheat, and handed them to his wife, and asked her how she thought they would look on a blonde darling. Then he told her they were for his sporting friend, of a male persuasion, and she asked his pardon, but insisted that the telegram had a bad look on the face of it, and was enough to scare any wife out of her wits and stockings. The wading stockings were expressed to the friend with a letter, telling him to be mighty careful in future how he telegraphed.

New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette [Concord, NH] 25 January 1883: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must  take the wife’s side: the telegram certainly did have a “bad look” to it and one cannot blame her for being upset.  For all she knew, it could have been a genuine instance of a stocking mis-communication which would inevitably lead to a domestic tragedy. One is relieved that this was not another and hopes that the “blonde darling” ceased his “kidding” in future.

Mrs Daffodil is reminded of a wag who, as a “joke,” sent out half a dozen telegrams to random acquaintances, reading: “All is discovered. Fly at once!”  The men decamped and were never seen again. In the wrong hands, telegraphy is a dangerous weapon.

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 Mourning Droop: 1931

vogue-vol-59-widow-garden-dress

A MOURNING DROOP

A pretty mannequin who appeared in a Berlin Court to sue her employers for wrongful dismissal saw her case turn out happily, says the “Daily Mail.”

It was admitted that she was a great success in the mourning department of the establishment in which she was employed, but it was alleged that she was an utter failure when transferred to the frivolous department for evening frocks.

“It is difficult to wear evening gowns in the daytime successfully if one is dancing all night in an evening frock,” was her reply.

The manager dismissed her as a pleasure-loving trifler.

“The truth is, I have sacrificed myself for the business,” she said to the Judge.

“When I began in the mourning department, the manager told me that I killed the dresses with my cheerful face and merry expression, and suggested that if I danced half the night I should have an appropriately weary expression.

“I took him at his word and had a wonderful time night after night, with the result that I was almost dropping with fatigue during the day.

“I drooped so beautifully that people bought freely the expensive Paris models which I wore.”

The Judge thought over this singular story.

“I suggest,” he said to the manager, “that you take this young woman back and put her again, in the mourning department.”

The manager consented, and the pretty mannequin looked delighted at the prospect of dancing gaily all night and drooping plaintively in black gowns all day.”

Evening Post, 28 February 1931: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil suspects that the pretty mannequin shortly danced her last dance and drooped her last droop unless she was able to carved out some time for wholesome slumber.

Selling mourning goods required sympathy, tact, and a fine sense of propriety to appeal to the vanity of the bereaved who were supposed to just then be thinking that “all is vanity.” It was essential to find a shop-girl with exactly the right temperament to serve in the mourning department: not so lively that the bereft were disheartened; not so melancholy that they despaired of purchasing

In another store in Fifth Avenue a handsome girl had been saleswoman in the fancy lace section for two years. Her record was admirable until she was transferred to the mourning counter early in the third year. The sales at the mourning counter immediately fell off and the manager started an investigation.

Going down the aisle one morning he noticed this girl with a customer. The customer was robed in deep black and was evidently depending on the girl to sustain her interest in the goods she needed, but the girl was answering inquiries in an absolutely perfunctory manner, with her eyes glued to a bargain table in the next aisle where a sale of laces was advertised. At a question sharply put by her customer she turned her attention to her own counter, and the manager caught the look of distaste and hatred which she flung upon the black things which surrounded her.

This girl disliked mourning, sorrow, death and all things connected with them. She had never known any particular trouble, had a desire for the gay bright colors and things of life, and refused to consider anything but her own needs. She had no sympathy with the black robed mourners who came to her. The manager, being a far-sighted mortal, saw this and realized the girl’s capacities in another branch. He put her at the colored goods counter and sales looked up. 

Crerand’s Cloak Journal, October 1912: p. 166

You will find more information on mourning costumes and customs in The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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 Tightest-Lacing Customers in London:” 1893

 

cdeath-tightlacing-actress-death-by

IMPORTANT OMISSION

An exchange says a Chicago girl has just died of tight lacing—it does not say whether of corset or shoes. Wilmington Messenger.

Evening Post [Charleston, SC] 9 November 1904: p. 4

Recently a crusade has been started in England against tight lacing, led by the Gentlewoman, one of the most valuable of English journals for women. A representative was sent to interview the most prominent stay-makers. One of these is thus reported:

“I am reputed,” she said, “to have the tightest-lacing customers in London; and I think that some of the waists my stays encircle would be hard to beat. I think that some of my customers positively like the sensations produced by tight lacing, or they would never take all the pains they do to get thin, such as dieting and sleeping in corsets, as some of them do.”

“Sleeping in corsets!” I exclaimed.

“Oh, yes; a good many, especially young ladies, do; an opera stay or riding one is a favorite make for the purpose. Let me think. Yes. The largest pair of corsets I have made had a waist measurement of thirty-five inches. The smallest — well, you won’t believe me, perhaps, but twelve and one-half inches was the size. No, I don’t think she’ll be able to get them closed. Every inch under fifteen, with most ladies, means a tremendous lot of lacing in. I’ve known a young lady break five or six silk laces, as strong ones as are made, in getting a pair of new stays close.”

“How small is your pretty assistant’s waist?” I asked.

“Generally about fourteen to fourteen and one-half inches. I find it best for all my assistants to have trim figures; but she has tight-laced to that extent entirely of her own free will. Many of my customers lace to seventeen, sixteen, and even fifteen inches. I suppose you haven’t seen a smaller waist than Miss Blank’s?”

“No.”

“Would you like to?”

“Yes,” I replied, “if such a thing is practicable.”

Mrs. Smith rang. In a few minutes the young lady appeared, and Mrs. Smith and she went into the alcove. Another assistant was summoned, and then a whispered consultation took place. After a minute or two, we heard Mrs. Smith ask: “Can you bear it?” and the answer, “Quite, madam.” Mrs. Smith’s voice again: “There, Miss Jones, I think the laces are close; tie them tightly.” Two or three minutes later Mrs. Smith and Miss Jones came out from the alcove, the latter incased in a long-waisted, black satin corset, which made her waist look scarcely larger than her throat. It seemed incredible that any girl — for she was little more — could breathe and move, let alone move about, without much apparent discomfort, when tight-laced to such an extent.

“Now I suppose,” said Mrs. Smith, smiling at my look of astonishment,” that you will now believe what I told you before — namely, that a well-cut corset and strong arms will make a woman’s waist almost any size she may wish. See!” she exclaimed, taking up a measuring tape off a chair, “Miss Jones’s waist is just thirteen — thirteen and one-quarter inches.”

“How long could you bear being laced up like that?” I asked.

Miss Jones smiled. “Not very long — it is rather painful — half an hour; perhaps an hour.”

Mrs. Smith said, just as we were leaving: “You know, I think tight lacing becomes a positive mania with some women. There are two of my customers, for instance — theatrical people — who usually wear their waists about nineteen inches. Well, when at home they both lace themselves as tightly as their maids can do it.” Another states that at some schools the girls are not only encouraged, but forced to lace. Five different women said that they made corsets for girls of sixteen and under with waist measurements of fifteen inches, and all agreed that girls are put into corsets much earlier than formerly.

The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 30 January 1893

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil suggests that the reporter, who perhaps fell short of a “positive mania,” was still titillated by the subject. Debate over tight-lacing began in the Elizabethan period and goes on even unto the present day. Mrs Daffodil has seen articles about how sleeping in corsets is supposed to promote a slender figure. “Waist-training,” is the term used—as if one’s waist was a sporting dog to be taught to “heel” and “fetch.” The anti-tight-lacers, who were often seen as cranks and, worse, dress reformers, warned of tragic outcomes such as this one:

An actress in a London theatre has just died of tight lacing. The victim of this reprehensible custom had just finished a song and danced off the wings, when she collapsed, calling on her husband in agonized tones to unlace her gown. Before a doctor could reach her dressing room she was dead. Every vital function had been paralyzed by the lacing, and a weakness of the heart was aggravated by the exertion of her performance. It can, however, be said of the generality of woman on the stage that “tight lacing” is obsolete with them. Waists of whatever fashion fit the figure better than they did in years gone by, and there is a generous roominess of bust measure which admits of healthful expansion of the lungs every time the breath is drawn. No lesson will be learned by the fate of this London actress. She represents a bad style of corset, and some natural disarrangement which might have proved fatal had she run for the train or skipped upstairs in a hurry.

Boston [MA] Herald 17 January 1895: p. 6

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.

 

Economy in Dress an Art: 1889

Make-do and Mend.

Make-do and Mend.

WHAT ECONOMY MEANS.

[Dinah Sturgis in Dress.]

Economy is a good deal a matter of habit, and one that is more honored in the observance than in the breach. Those who do not need to count the cost of what they have are a small, a very small, minority. But too many think economy only a bore, when it is in reality an art.

Being economical does not mean going without. It means managing thriftily—so ordering one’s expenditures that each dollar spent shall bring its full value in return. It does not pay to struggle with a mob of people for a half or a whole hour to get some handkerchief for twelve cents that may be had at the next corner in three minutes for twelve and a half cents; nor has one any moral right to ask or expect to get two dollars’ worth for one dollar. But one has right—indeed, it is a duty—to ask full value in return for one’s money. What is economy at one time and for one person is dire extravagance under other conditions. All one’s powers of judgment and fair-sightedness must be laid under tribute to keep one off the rocks of extravagance and niggardliness. This last is a very mild name for the quality of mind that is willing to enrich its material self at the expense of poor workwomen or workmen.

In the matter of a wardrobe, as in all else, true economy is based upon getting the best qualities of materials at the outset. The best is the cheapest in the long run, but the best is not always the highest priced. Fancy fabrics bring the highest prices, but these are usually short-lived in favor and often they are not at all durable in texture. She whose purse is limited will be best dressed if she confines her purchases to standard fabrics, depending upon cut, finish and fitness, and not upon extreme novelty, for style. Having the latest “fad” in dress is an expensive hobby that in no way compensates for the lack of the sterling qualities of appropriateness and becomingness. One who cannot keep pace with fashion’s scouts will save herself much heart-burning by not entering the competition. One is never “out of the fashion” who is becomingly dressed in unobtrusive styles. Pronounced styles must be renounced the instant they become unfashionable, else the wearer is rendered conspicuous, something the woman of refinement always avoids.

Nothing is cheap that one does not want, but it is economical to look ahead, and to buy with an eye to the future. If one finds between two seasons, selling at less than the regular price, just what she is going to need later on, it is a legitimate bargain that she has every right to accept. It has nothing whatever in common with the “bargain” hunting that throngs the counters of largely advertised shops, with women tumbling over one another to get the sop thrown to them in the shape of worthless three-cent trash. While people are crowding in at the front door of shops to secure the “wonderful bargains slightly damaged by fire, water and smoke,” not infrequently the shopkeeper is bargaining with some agent at the back door to supply cheap grades for this “drive” as long as it lasts. Truly there are bargains and bargains.

A few well-made clothes of good quality are far preferable to twice the number of poor quality. Economy has to do not only with providing clothes at the outset, but with caring for them properly afterward. An article of clothing carefully kept will outlast any two that, when they are found to be going, are allowed to go. Sponging, pressing, new braid, and some little alteration, such as redraping, the addition of new vest, collar, cuffs, etc., will give a new lease of life to a gown thought to be quite passe. When a waist is too far gone to be of any more use, and the skirts are good or may be made good by the changes already suggested, there are the pretty plaited, smocked, or tucked blouses to be brought to one’s notice. These may be of inexpensive cashmere, or of expensive silk, according to one’s purse; the point of consequence is that they shall be suitable in texture, color and style.

The makeshifts of women-students, who in order to go on with their work must sacrifice every available penny of their slender incomes, would, if written out, make interesting studies in economy. From the music-student, who washes her own handkerchiefs, and dries and irons them by stretching and pressing them on a marble table, to save on her laundry bill, that she may hear the Gotterdammerung, to the art student who buys soiled white slippers at quarter-price, and turns them into respectable black ones with a bottle of liquid dressing, that she may have something to wear with her many-times renovated black-lace dress when she is asked to meet the artist of high degree, there are doings, often funny, often pathetic, that milady in her boudoir, who thinks economy means merely a jewel less, does not dream of. But it is well she should know about them. Perhaps it will make her more tolerant to know that the gods have not been so generous to everybody as to her own sweet self.

One is never at a loss to put what she has learned or evolved of economical devices to use. It is well to know, whether one is remote from the professional cleaner or has too few ducats to employ him, that silk ties, light gloves, slippers, etc., may be easily cleansed by washing them in naphtha. The cost is but a tithe of the cleaner’s prices. One needs only to know that the liquid is very volatile and very inflammable. Hence but a little of it should be poured out of the bottle at a time, keeping it tightly corked in the meantime, and it should be used out of doors or in a room where there is no fire or lamp. Gloves should be put upon the hands, and the hands then washed in the liquid, rubbing the soiled places lightly. A few hours’ exposure to the air, of articles thus cleaned, will remove every trace of odor. Feathers may be recurled, with a little patience and a knitting needle. Soiled white feathers may be cleansed by washing them in the lather of white curd soap, and dried by shaking them before the fire; they are then ready to curl, done by drawing each thread over a knitting needle. It sometimes saves a few pennies to know that wrinkled but unworn canvas out of old skirts, etc., may be restored to usefulness by sponging it clean and ironing while damp; the pressing with a hot iron restores its stiffness. One’s “good” gloves may be made to last as long again as they usually do others are substituted in their stead rainy-day wear, shopping, etc.; and these second rate gloves need not be depressingly shabby either. Naphtha will cleanse them when soiled, and a little care will keep them neatly mended, and provided with buttons. Thread of the same shade as the kid should be used in mending gloves. Ripped seams need only to be neatly oversewed, but when the kid breaks away oversewing the edges together does not answer; the edges of the break should be button-holed around in fine, even stitches, using a very fine needle, and then worked back and forth in “lace” stitches, drawing the button-hole stitches together, making a “tidily darned place.” The better to strengthen the place, when the kid has already proved to be rotten, put a piece of fine court-plaster, rather bigger than the spot, over it on the under side of the glove. A glove thus mended will give no further trouble—in the same place, at least. Soiled  places on white wool garments may often be entirely removed by rubbing them with Indian meal. Pour a little meal over the place to be cleaned, and rub it lightly with a clean, soft cloth, using fresh meal from time to time, then shake off, and dust the spot with a clean cloth.

One’s peace of mind is so disturbed by the consciousness that she looks shabby that it is of no small importance that the evil day should be warded off. Frequent sponging in ammonia and water will keep one’s black frock and coat, that are trying to shine, in subjection, and also remove spots that come by accident, but which no ordinarily neat person can allow to remain. The shabbiest boots look comparatively elegant if they are kept blacked, supplied with buttons, and free from rips. These last, when sewed up, should be stayed upon the wrong side, a bit of black velvet answering well for the purpose. The bonnet that is gray with a season’s accumulations of dust, and flaunts its dismantled plumes to one’s chagrin, will take on an air of positive elegance if the trimmings be taken off, the felt sponged (with the grain of the felt,) the velvet steamed and brushed, the ribbon turned and pressed, and the hat or bonnet retrimmed, omitting the plume if it is past being an ornament. Trimming, once nice but grown tawdry, spoils the effect of the handsomest material and should be taken off bonnet, wrap, or frock as soon as it reaches that condition.

Once more, economy is not a synonym for poverty; it is the hand-maiden of rich and poor alike. Being economical means making the most of one’s resources, selecting and arranging materials to bring the most generous returns for one’s investments, be they much or little. Economy is not an independent art; it depends for its best results upon one’s general knowledge of ways and means.

The Eastern Star, Volume 2, June 1889

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The authoress (and one suspects that she was born under a less elegant name) is not persuasive that economy is an art form with all of her turnings, and spongings, and pressings, not to say marble-topped tables full of sodden handkerchiefs. It all sounds unutterably dreary and Mrs Daffodil speaks as one who grew up with such dismal economies and found them useful in her career as a lady’s maid. Naphtha in particular, leaves a Smell, no matter how well-aired and one cannot depend on some careless flat-mate not leaving the cork loose and then lighting the gas…

‘Another Camphene Horror. —’A daughter of Rufus S. King, 770 Greenwise street, New York, was dreadfully burnt on Saturday night. She called on a lady, whom she found cleaning her gloves with camphene, and rubbing her own gloves with the liquid, went to the fire to dry them. Her clothes instantly took fire, when she threw her arms around the lady, and they fell upon the floor. A servant girl had the presence of mind to roll the carpet around Miss King, by which her life was saved, though her hands will never be capable of use. The Liberator [Boston, MA] 1 March 1850: p. 3

“Hand in Glove,” by Elizabeth Bowen, is a cautionary tale about the use of benzine to clean gloves, in the guise of a ghost story.

However, remaking articles of dress does have its satisfyingly creative side, as in this story of “The Dress Doctor,” a lady who made her living from remodelling garments. 

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 Ghost Wanted Her Easter Bonnet: 1894

Jose Guadalupe Posada, La Calavera Catrina

Jose Guadalupe Posada, La Calavera Catrina

EASTER GHOST STORY.

It was at the midnight lunch and the telegraph editor told the story. We had all been kicking over the extra ‘assignment’ the city editor had just given us of writing an Easter story. Every man on the reportorial staff was to contribute one. The telegraph editor said he could reel off Easter stories by the yard if he had no more to do than the reporters. The sporting editor asked him for a sample. We lighted cigarettes and prepared to listen. He said:

“This is a ghost story. It is an Easter ghost story, and there is a woman in it. The woman was married to a newspaper man. His name was Bob Scrutiny. He was a jolly good fellow, but a heavy drinker and a thorough spendthrift. His wife was a silly tempered woman, or rather more of a school girl than a woman. Her temper was fearful. When angry her face and neck became scarlet, the veins in her temples expanded and she was a very unattractive person all round. Scrutiny loved his wife more than anybody except himself. He got a good salary, and she spent the greater part of it. He was always ‘broke’ by Thursday and on Mondays he was generally eating lobsters and drinking champagne at midnight. On Fridays he ate toast and drunk tea. Well, Bob was a good newspaper man. He wasn’t steady in his work, but his brilliance at times compensated for his general good-for-nothingness at other times. One night he would fairly reel ‘copy’ off by the yard; the next he would work an hour over a ‘tow-line head.’ But everybody including his managing editor liked him and his position was as secure as—well, as mine, for instance.”

The telegraph editor stretched his legs out complacently.

“But the managing editor resigned finally to accept a position as confidential secretary to Hon. Somebody or other and a new man was called from New York to fill the vacancy. One of these plodders, you know; same yesterday, today and forever; never startled at anything, moving along at the same pace no matter what the rumpus. Everything went on smoothly for a week or so. Then Scrutiny got one of his off spells and also got a big assignment; some gilt edged murder story, I believe. He got his facts all right; he always did, but when he came into the office that evening about 10 o’clock he told us that he’d be d__d if he felt able to write a line. However, he sat down and after three hours apparently hard work he sent his ‘copy’ up. The new managing editor read it. He came downstairs and said:

“’Make a column more of this, Mr. Scrutiny, and make it spicier.’

“’Make a column more of this? Mr., I couldn’t make a line more out of that to save my neck.’

“The managing editor repeated his request, then demanded more of the story and ended by leaving the ‘copy’ on Bob’s desk with instructions to write or quit. Bob quit.

“You don’t see where the Easter part comes in, eh? Well, Bob went home and told his wife of his discharge. It was about a month before Easter. She told him not to mind and gave the usual bread and cheese in a cottage story. Bob felt relieved. Knowing her temper he had anticipated a regular equinoxial storm; on the contrary, for a week or so he lived a regular honeymoon existence.

“But then Lalla, that was Bob’s wife’s name, wanted an Easter bonnet.

“Bob told her he had never denied her anything, but she’d have to go without a new bonnet this Easter. She teased and scolded, wouldn’t listen to reason, and finally worked herself into such and uncontrollable state of anger over the really trivial deprivation that I’m hanged if she didn’t break a blood vessel or something and die right then and there. It was, of course, an awful shock to Bob. He had loved his little wife, and, as men go, had been very true to her. They buried her on Easter Sunday in the big family vault, for Scrutiny came of good people, and Bob wore crepe on his hat and looked haggard.

“One day he came to the office and complained of dreaming constantly about his wife. She came constantly to his bedside and reproached him, he said. Some young fool laughingly asked him if she wanted that bonnet yet. Bob turned white, and said, ‘Yes, she asked for her bonnet, her bonnet, her Easter bonnet, so pathetically.’ This went on for several weeks. He told us he never slept and we knew he didn’t eat enough to keep a canary alive. One night he came to the office late and remarked to his small coterie of friends that he had bought that bonnet and the next time his ‘girlie,’ he always called her that, came to him he proposed to give it to her. We did not take the matter seriously. Well, Bob went home and we learned in a roundabout way that he had purchased a bonnet. He showed it to someone.

“About two hours later the night police reporter brought in the story that Scrutiny had been found dead at the Woodland cemetery.

“We questioned the reporter eagerly. He had not committed suicide, we learned, but there he lay with one hand clutching at the bars of the gate of the tomb where his wife lay buried. And near him lay an empty bonnet box.”

The telegraph editor puffed at his cigar a moment. Then he asked for a light. We roused ourselves and found that our cigarettes had all gone out.

“What do you ‘spose became of that bonnet?” asked the night editor absently.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 25 March 1894: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The acquisition of a new Easter bonnet was an article of faith for every church-going lady; one would be better off dead in a ditch than seen wearing last-year’s bonnet, no matter how cleverly re-trimmed.  Even dead women desired the latest modes in hats. Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a ghost who ordered a hat. Vanity does not end with the grave. This must have been an Easter bonnet to die for.

 

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.

 

Week-end Compendium 20 February 2016

The wind is howling outside Mrs Daffodil’s window and she wishes she had the fetching fan pictured above to hold outside so she could watch it spin in the breezes, which are more March-lion-like than anything February. As we are half-way through the month of February, Mrs Daffodil reminds any of her marriage-minded readers that it is a Leap Year. Proposals must be drafted; venues and rings selected.

A young man’s impulsive sending of a Valentine has life-changing repercussions, in “What Became of a Valentine.” Moral: “Always be Kind to Seamstresses.”

(That heartless person over at Haunted Ohio also shared a Spiritualist sentiment for the holiday in “The Medium’s Valentine.”)

The little-known history of the techniques behind false-eyelashes in “Art Eyelashes and Eye Winkers.”  Suffering for beauty.

A strange story of a mysterious woman who saves the life of a dying man far from home in “A Curious Porcelain Bowl.”

On Sunday, Mrs Daffodil will relate shocking deeds and vile insults as a ladies’ club in a small town tries to stage a “Lady Washington Tea.”

Over at the Haunted Ohio blog, a young man is tormented by a “discontented daemon” who strangles him, slashes his clothes, and levitates him over his master’s house into a quagmire in “Some Discontented Daemon.” Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously.

In a late example of a witchcraft trial, a beautiful foreigner is tried for being “The Witch of Leadville,” in 1899 Colorado.

If one wishes to peruse the Haunted Ohio version of the Weekend Compendium, of a decidedly less elevated tone, one should follow this link.

From the archives, The Chignon Horror: hair-curling horror about what evils lurk in false hair and Chignon Satire: Victorian hairpiece humour.

Also art imitates life or vice-versa? in a story about a green jungle hell and a terrifyingly large spider.  Of special interest to M.R. James fans.

Some of the favourite links of the week: A toothsome post on Irish fairies and Irish food.  Incidentally, “The Fairy Investigation Society” now has an official Face-book page and invites all interested to visit for fairy news and art.

Speaking of “daemons,” EsoterX takes on demon-speak in They Talk Funny in West Hell.

Crash go the chariots: The discovery of the first complete Bronze-age wheel at the site called the “Peterborough Pompeii,” is confounding the experts.

 

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.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

 

 

A Woodsy Costume: 1905

2 rompers

It is a well-known fact that the small-girl of our species is accustomed to derive early but erroneous views as to anatomy from the dolls which her fond imagination converts into loving, though commendably noiseless, babies. Having learned that dolls are filled with sawdust, she firmly believes that the interiors of men, women, and children are artistically packed with the same material. Her first theological problem is how to reconcile the Biblical assertion that she is made of the dust of the earth with her firm scientific conviction that sawdust is really her chief ingredient; and her earliest and most formidable fear arises from the delusion that an accidental pin-prick may let loose her vital sawdust and transform her into an empty and shapeless bundle of clothes. Of course, this anatomical error vanishes with her infancy. Before she has reached her tenth birthday she has discovered that she is filled with a variety of organs which are far more complex than the contents of her doll, and has totally abandoned the theory that the extreme attenuation of her maiden aunt is the result of a chronic leakage of sawdust. It must be a sad moment when a small-girl learns that her doll bears only a surface resemblance to humanity, and that, instead of being dilated with dry and compressible sawdust, she is herself filled with a material that cannot be safely brought in contact with green apples, and for which no ingenious nurse can substitute coal ashes or cotton in case of a serious accident.

But now comes Mrs. Martha Gearing—vaguely described as “of Wisconsin.”—with an invention which aims to convert the sawdust illusion of girlhood into the actual condition of womanhood. Mrs. Gearing is evidently a reformer whose specialty is the elevation of woman; for it is expressly in order to elevate her sex that she has designed a new garment, to be known as the “emancipated costume,” and—we may assume—to be exhibited and described at the next Dress Reform Convention, by the inventor herself. The “emancipated costume’ first dawned upon the inventive mind of Mrs. Gearing as she entered her ice-house one winter’s day. The ice-house was lined with sawdust, and though it was cool in summer, Mrs. Gearing found that it was warm in winter. At once the idea came to her that she could keep warm in winter and cool in summer by lining her own person with sawdust.

From this happy thought was gradually developed the “emancipated costume,” by the wearing of which any woman may emancipate herself from the thraldom of fashion, the trammels of skirts, and the bills of dress-makers, besides securing the utmost physical comfort compatible with a due deference to the present prejudices of civilization in favor of clothes. Thus, Mrs. Gearing kills a variety of objectionable birds with a single garment, and she certainly deserves the fame which she will doubtless earn by her first appearance in public clad in the “emancipated costume.”

It is not an easy matter to describe the new dress. Not that it is at all complex—for it consists of a single garment—but because the theme is too sacred for irreverent handling. Perhaps it may be permissible to hint that were an “emancipated costume.” to be made for a small boy of six years of age, it would consist of a shirt and trousers combined, and forming but one all-enveloping garment. When it is further hinted that whether the “emancipated costume” is intended for a small-boy or a large female reformer, its pattern is precisely the same, a conception of the true shape of the garment may be delicately conveyed to the most modest mind. Of course, there is no law to prevent the wearer of this new garment from also wearing a skirt or two, and such other external articles as taste or prejudice may dictate. Mrs. Gearing, however, urges that the true reformer will wear the “emancipated costume” and nothing else—except a few trifles in the way of boots, hair-pins, and such like coverings for the extremities of the person; and we may expect that all dress reformers who are really anxious for the elevation of woman will share the distinguished inventor’s views.

But the chief characteristic of the “emancipated costume” is the fact that it is made double, and that the intermediate space is divided into a number of presumably water tight compartments. These are each provided with small valves through which sawdust can be introduced in quantities to suit the wishes of the wearer. Mrs. Gearing claims that in extremely hot or cold weather a layer of sawdust an inch thick, evenly disposed about the person, will make the wearer perfectly comfortable. In proportion as the temperature of the atmosphere rises or sinks to the neighborhood of 65° (Fahrenheit) the quantity of sawdust is to be regulated, until the wearer feels neither too warm nor too cold. Thus clothed, she would need but one dress for all seasons of the year, and could adapt her clothing to meet the most sudden changes of weather by merely taking in or letting out a little more sawdust. Of the beauty and utility of the “emancipated costume.” there can be but one opinion. It will certainly be cheaper than the present style of feminine dress, and Mrs. Gearing asserts that it will be far more healthful. There will be “no more corsets,” cries the exultant inventor, “and no more cotton !” The latter allusion we do not clearly understand, but the disappearance of the corset would undoubtedly conduce to the welfare of mankind.

There is no reason, however, that this beneficent invention should be monopolized by women. The school-boy will clamor for an “emancipated costume,” which will enable him to bear with fortitude the réproofs of his father and school-teacher —especially if he lays in a little extra sawdust just prior to an interview with either of them. The brakeman will find that he can survive an unusual quantity of collisions if he is carefully padded with sawdust, and the like precaution will be found extremely useful by book agents and map pedlers in regions where the inhabitants are athletic and wear heavy boots. Thus the “emancipated costume.” will elevate boys and brakemen and pedlers, as well as women, and all over our country those who are peculiarly exposed to contusion will rise up, without regard to sex, color, or previous condition of turpitude, and call Mrs. Gearing blessed. Meanwhile, the small-girl will be more than ever convinced that humanity is largely composed of sawdust, and will undergo the most terrible apprehensions when her brother, who has failed to convince his father that skates are a devotional implement, which a truly devout youth invariably carries to prayer-meeting under his jacket, comes forth from the paternal “study” leaking sawdust at every pore from a rent and treacherous “emancipated costume.”

The Banker and the Typewriter, 1905

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Insulated garments are nothing new in the history of fashion. Ladies wore quilted and down-filled petticoats with comfort and panache.

paisley petticoat

A richly coloured petticoat whose channels are stuffed with down, c. 1860 http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O129215/petticoat-booth-fox/

blue satin quilted petticoat

A beautifully detailed 18th-century quilted petticoat. http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/130065.html?mulR=1650502641|2

Down jackets kept off the chill, while cork-filled garments were recommended for ladies afloat.

Mrs Daffodil will not make the expected joke about “barking,” but is doubtful about the comfort of saw-dust insulation: splinters would seem to be almost compulsory and one fears that the insulating properties of the wood pulp would offer scant recompense for the nuisance of smelling like a saw-mill.  Mrs Daffodil can find no photo-gravures of the emancipated costume and no indication that the ingenious Mrs Gearing ever actually patented her novel garment, but here is  an eerily similar garment of a much later date, designed for exercise.

The description of the emancipated costume given above is that of a child’s “romper suit,” pictured at the head of the post. Mrs Daffodil rather fancies that it actually looked more like this:

1920s clown

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.