Category Archives: Professions

Noted Ladies of the Stage on Corsets: 1890

Adelina Patti endorses the Chicago Corset Company, c. 1880s https://www.rubylane.com/item/398016-4878/Chicago-Corset-Adelina-Patti-Advertising-Trade

A SYMPOSIUM ON CORSETS

The Theories and Practices of Some Noted Singers and Actresses.

[Chicago Tribune.]

A cablegram printed in the Tribune a few days ago said that Mrs. James Brown Potter had abandoned the corset.

A murmur was heard in certain quarters. What had Mme. Patti to say on the subject? A Tribune reporter found the diva in a room filled with the odor of roses. The reporter went at the subject without having been compelled to do so strategically.  Madame motioned Nicolini [her second husband] to a far corner in the room. Then she said in her own peculiar way:

“I think corsets are the correct thing. Some absolutely perfect figures may dispense with them, of course, but the average woman, and especially the stout ones, can not afford to eschew stays. I myself invariably wear them.” “And do you find them injurious?” “Not in the slightest. But, then, my stays are always extraordinarily loose. Interfere with singing? Why, people don’t sing with their stomachs, do they? It must be an oddly formed person who would. As long as one doesn’t wear stays about one’s throat there can be no interference. Now, I can not sing with as much as a ribbon confining my throat.”

Mme. Emma La Jennesse-Albani-Gye’s apartments at the Grand Pacific were as bright as a glowing fire when the reporter called. When “corsets” were mentioned a slight frown deepened in the clear gray eyes, but it passed as quickly as it came, and in her musical voice Mme. Albani gave her views.

“I believe in stays because I have always worn them. I shouldn’t like at all to go without and I’m sure the public wouldn’t like it. Imagine me, for I am a little stout, you know.”

“Plump, Madame, only plump.” “Ah! That is kind of you. Nevertheless you know I shouldn’t look well without a corset. I do not think I could keep up even. I believe the support to be essential absolutely.”

“And not detrimental?”

“Not unless so tight as to interfere with breathing, for breathing is singing. You have seen ‘The Huguenots,’ haven’t you? Yes, well, you remember we all have to wear long pointed bodices there—it was the style of the times—now how could we possibly do so without stays? I don’t know, do you?”

There was an all-pervading odor of roses and white hyacinths through Mme. Nordica’s apartments at the Richelieu. The songstress lay wearied and nervous beneath the eiderdown while her devoted sister tenderly bathed her throbbing brow. The dainty little lady mother sat amid the ruins of Madame’s floral offerings and chatted.

No, Lillian never wears corsets. That is, she never does now—not even for the street or salon. There was a time years ago when she wore them, but they were soon discarded. It was simply a matter of comfort with her. After a while she concluded to try them again. She had several pairs manufactured—little loves of stays, all in delicate satins

“How long did she wear them then?”

“Scarcely at all. One day she said to me: ‘Mamma dear, I am not as comfortable as I used to be; I shall return to the old ways.’ Since then she has never put a corset on.”

“Does she substitute a stiff waist?” “No; she simply wears a thin silk waist, without a suspicion of whalebone in the back and the merest hint of it at the front and sides. We make them all ourselves, so you may be sure they are simplicity personified.

“Cecil, dear, please put your head out of the window; we are having a costume talk and you really must not listen.”

Considering that a fierce rainstorm was raging without, Miss Rosina Vokes was making a cool request of her notably loving hubby.

Mr. Clay merely grinned quietly and sank back further into the recesses of the carriage, shutting his eyes as an indication that his ears were closed.

“My dear child, I couldn’t dream of not wearing corsets. I should not be able to dance or sing or anything. I should be tired to death in no time. Injurious! Fudge! Don’t you pin your faith to loose-seeming dresses. I know a lot of these Greek-draped actresses who lace tight-tight underneath the flowing draperies. Forgive me if I’m positive—that is my way—but I believe in corsets, pure and simple. I believe corsets are just as essential for a woman as suspenders are for a man, and one must wear them if one doesn’t want one’s things all slipping around and off. And then the support. Every decently formed woman needs support, of course. O! women who are excessively thin could go without stays, I fancy; but then they look all up and down, you know. When to put on corsets? As soon as the figure gives the merest hint of development. It is on the same principle as pinning a band tightly round a baby’s dear little body so that its precious back will not get broken. Every woman needs the support of corsets.”

Just then Mr. Clay opened the eye and directed an aside to his wife.

“Tight? Gracious, no. I should not want you to suppose I advocated such a thing for a moment. I honestly don’t believe in that. Don’t tell, though, but I used to be horribly vain. I once wore seventeens—just fancy! Seventeen corset—laced tight. I was off the stage then, and one day was at the Newmarket races. I was fancying myself, I assure you, when I heard an old English lord remark, apropos of me: ‘Good Gawd! She’ll come in half.’ It wasn’t pleasant, so now I wear my stays loose—quite.”

When Mary Anderson was here a Tribune reporter called on her in reference to this all-round question of corsets. Miss Anderson, in her artistic house gown, looked as innocent of stays as Perdita.

“Corsets?” with a cold, pale smile. “No, I don’t wear them. I see Mrs. Croly (Jennie June) has been telling tales out of school, so I may as well confess. I don’t wear stays.” “How did you come to discard them?” “It was after I went to England. My health was poor, and the doctor ordered out door exercise. I took off corsets then, and never put them on again. But then I have no superfluous flesh and am rather too slender. They did not interfere with my posing, but I feel better without them. It’s all ‘as you like it.’ I like it better without.”

“You wear a corset with conventional dress?”

“Never under any circumstances! And the ladies of my company do not wear them on the stage. Stage dressing is nearly always unconventional, except in society plays, the draperies being from the shoulder and armpit, and stays are manifestly out of place from artistic reasons alone.”

“Corsets? Of course I wear them. Who does not? Think of me as ‘Nadjy’ with nothing to tie those black spangles to. I’d drop to pieces,” said Miss Janson. [Miss Marie Jansen] “Then the Tribune might ask its readers to listen to the ‘Tale of Woe’ in earnest. Are they an inconvenience? Look!” She got behind a door in the parlor of the Grand Pacific hotel, and after a furtive glance down the corridor, daintily kicked the palm of her outstretched hand, executing a pirouette after it.

“I’m all right and my stays are as taut as a sail in high wind. Sometimes I have wondered what would happen if the strings should break. ‘Listen to the Tale of Woe,’” she hummed, casting her eyes meditatively on the chandelier.

“Pauline Hallo wears them, too, and all the chorus girls. Some of them would be sad figures if they didn’t. ‘Listen to the Tale of Woe.’ Of course, anyone who sings must wear them loose. I have one now, but look.” She took a deep breath which distended the region just above her fluttering heart that is nightly clasped in a jet black vise, and trilled airily “Listen to the Tale of Woe,” and had plenty of breath to spare after the effort.

Kansas City [MO] Times 19 January 1890: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Operatic ladies, were, of course, known for their famously opulent figures; some even said that slimming cost them their voice. It is rather fascinating that four out of the six ladies who weighed in, insisted on the benefits of corsets. Reform Dress did not make much headway among denizens of the stage.

Adelina Patti was, of course, the prima donna assoluta of nineteenth-century opera. She was one of the financially shrewdest theatrical ladies of her day and, as we see from the advertising card at the head of this post, she endorsed the California Corset Company.

Madame Nordica was the so-called “Yankee Diva,” Maine-born Lillian Nordica, another opera star, famous for her collection of husbands and jewels.

“Listen to the Tale of Woe” was the signature tune of the once wildly-popular opera Nadjy.

Mrs Daffodil has previously reported on gentlemen, including actors, who wear corsets as well as the controversy over tight-lacing, The Flapper and Her Corset, and “The Autobiography of a Corset,” as well as several other posts on this absorbing subject, which may be found by looking under the “corset” filing tab.

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.

 

Girl Wanted: 1874

Lady: “But I very much dislike dogs in the kitchen!”
Cook: “Then it would be no use my engaging of myself, Ma’am—for my object is to get a comfortable home for Tiny and myself!”
Punch 10 April 1875: p. 159

GIRL WANTED

Yes, I want another—”A tidy girl to do house-work in a small family—good wages and a good home.” That’s the way my advertisement always reads, and as soon as the paper is out the girls commence coming. Tidy girls from ten to sixty-five years old come pulling the bell, and when told that they won’t suit they put on such a look of contempt for the door, the door-plate, the front gate and the entire institution, that the world seems three degrees hotter than before.

I always engage the girl. This is because of an idea of mine that I can read human nature, and because I do not fear to tell them in plain English what is expected of them. After the door-bell has been pulled about five times, the right-looking sort of a girl makes her appearance. She says she saw the advertisement, and is invited in. She says she can do any kind of cooking; loves to wash; is fond of children; can never sleep after five o’clock in the morning; never goes out evenings; does not know a young man in Detroit, and she’d be willing to work for low wages for the sake of getting a good home.

She is told to drop her bundle, lay off her things and go to work, and a great burden rolls off my mind as I congratulate myself that the prize-medal girl has arrived at last. She’s all right up to about seven in the evening, when she is suddenly missed, and returns about ten o’clock to say that she “just dropped out” to get a postage-stamp. The next day she begins to scatter the tea-spoons in the back-yard, stops her ironing to read a dime novel, and at supper-time wants to know if I can’t send the children off to live with their grandfather, get a cook stove with silver-plated knobs and have an addition built to the kitchen. That evening a big red-headed butcher walks in, crosses his legs over the kitchen table, and proceeds to court Sarah. She doesn’t last but a day or two longer, and then we secure another.

This one is right from New Hampshire, and doesn’t know a soul in Michigan, and yet she hasn’t finished the dinner dishes before a cross-eyed young man rings the bell and says he’d like to see Hannah for a moment. After seeing him, Hannah concludes not to stay, as we are so far from St. John’s church, and as we don’t appear to be religious people.

The next one especially recommends herself as being “just like their own mother” to the children, and isn’t in the house half a day before she draws Small Pica over her knee and gives him a regular old Canadian waltz.

The next one has five recommendations as a neat and tidy girl, and yet it isn’t three days before she bakes the shoe brush with the beef, washes her hands in a soup tureen, or drops hairpins into the pudding.

I growl about these things after a while, but I am met with the statement that they had worked five years for Governor this, or Lord that, and that in all that time no one had so much as looked cross-eyed at them. I am called mean, ill-tempered, particular, fault-finding, and all that, and the girl goes away wondering why the Lord has spared me as long as He has.

We’ve been wanting “a good, tidy girl” for these last twelve years, and I suppose that we may go another dozen and still be wanting.

“Quad’s Odds” M. Quad, 1874: p. 173

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Domestics come and domestics go, but The Servant Question is eternal….

Mrs Daffodil has been fortunate in her selection and retention of staff, but the many jokes on saucy servants and demanding domestics hide the pain of those in suburban villas and New York brownstones longing for a Girl.

Mrs. Hiram Daly — “And so you’ve got your old cook back! I thought you told me she was married about three months ago, and had gone to housekeeping.”

Mrs. Riverside Rives — “She has given up housekeeping and has come back to me.”

Mrs. Hiram Daly — “What was the matter?”

Mrs. Riverside Rives — “She couldn’t get a girl.” — Puck, 1893

Mistress (severely) — “If such a thing occurs again, Norah, I shall have to get another servant.”

Norah — “I wish yer would; there’s easily enough work fer two of us.” — Tit-Bits. 1901

Binks: Oh, yes, she carries herself like an empress, and bosses me around all she likes now; but wait until we are married, and then see how she’ll fawn and cringe.

Winks: To you?

Binks: No, to the servant girl.

The Philipsburg [MT] Mail 15 August 1895: p. 7

Mrs. A: “I see you have got a new servant girl.”

Ms. B. “Yes, I make it a point to get a new one every month.”

Mrs. A: “But that must be very inconvenient.”

Mrs. B: “Yes, but there’s nothing going on in this town that I don’t know all about it.”

Illinois State Register [Springfield, IL] 28 August 1887: p. 2

First suburban — ” Hello, Smith! You are got up regardless. Going to a wedding?”

Second suburban— “No. I’m going in town to try to engage a cook, and I wish to create a good impression.” — Bazar, 1892

Mistress (trying to be agreeable) “What are your favorite dishes, Bridget?”

The new cook: “To ate or to break, mum?” 

Daily Illinois State Register [Springfield IL] 2 April 1907: p. 10

 

Mrs Daffodil has previously written on How to Spoil Servants

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

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

 

How She Spent Her Summer Vacation: 1904

EARN VACATIONS

How Self-Supporting College Girls Manage.

ALL INDEPENDENT

NOT TOO PROUD FOR ANY HONEST EMPLOYMENT

Do Sewing and Fancy Work, Serve as Companions and Wait at Table.

Vacation to the average college girl suggests rosy visions. It means halcyon days at home, where she is really the guest of honor in her family circle. Little functions are given in her honor. The home dressmaker is busy planning her fall clothes; there are trips to the shore and visits to friends, and the college girl feels that life as a whole is certainly jolly.

But there exists another class of college girls, to whom the mellow summer days represent anything but leisure and luxury. These are the girls who make not hay, but money, while the sun shines. To the girl whose every want is provided by indulgent parents summer means absolute relaxation, but to the girl who is making her own way through college, with perhaps a small allowance from some rich relative, summer means merely a change of work. Like the adaptive American girl that she is, however, she finds that the change of work is really a recreation, and she has real pleasure in the increase of her funds.

Methods of earning money vary at different colleges, and are governed generally by the class of pupils how attend. For instance, at a woman’s college in New York state, notorious for the wealth of its alumni, several girls who are clever and dainty with their needles are earning their way by making exquisite lingerie and dress accessories for fellow-pupils with liberal allowances. One of the girls thus explained her work:

Work With Taste.

“We keep closely in touch with the newest designs in lingerie, neckwear, fichus, and so forth. Where our classmates run into New York on Saturday for matinees and concerts, we haunt the exclusive shops, not only for bargains in materials, but for the newest ideas. During the past year we have kept constantly on hand collar and cuff sets made in Russian cross-stitch, Hardanger and broiderie d’Anglaise. These we sell to the girls, not only for their own use, but to send home as gifts. It is really funny to hear a girl gasp: ‘Oh, mother’s birthday is next week! What shall I send her?’ And that is where we make a sale. Of course we must make our things a little more dainty than anything you could buy at a shop. They must not suggest machine work.

“Such work means that we must give up many of the little social pleasures and use our eyes constantly, but we wear glasses when doing the needle work. After all, sewing and studying do not wear on the eyes in just the same way.” Sometimes there comes to this college the daughter of a wealthy man who is not versed in modes and fashions, or does not know how to buy or wear the little articles of dress which mark the smart girl, and he is quite willing to pay for a course of training in the gentle art of dressing in good taste. In other words, she not only buys needle work from these college seamstresses, but adds a comfortable sum for the information.

A Smith College girl, who is to be married in the fall, has placed her entire order for trousseau lingerie with two undergraduates, who will execute the order during the summer at their own homes.

She Wanted Boarders.

The number of domestic occupations which girls seek as a means of making vacation money should convince the veriest pessimist that the higher education cannot down the distinctive feminine instinct. As an illustration, a Wellesley girl, who had been famous for the quality if not the quantity of her chafing dish at the spreads, announced that she had taken a summer camp in the Maine woods and wanted boarders. In a very short time she had more applications than accommodations. The shacks, which the girls will occupy with a chaperon, are primitive, and the life will be entirely in the open, but the fare will be wholesome and well served. The college girl will do all of her own cooking. She expects not only to pay for her own vacation, but to make a comfortable nest-egg for the next college term.

At one of the eastern colleges where a summer school is held, two pupils from the winter term have remained to do dormitory work. Ten girls from a New England college have gone to act as waitresses at an exclusive mountain resort. No other waitresses will be employed, and the girls have secured a few special privileges in the matter of rooms, bathing hours, &c., otherwise they will be treated exactly like the rest of the help in the house.

At Bryn Mawr there is a regular society for helping self-supporting girls to secure summer work. Notices are sent to the old alumni, asking for positions a secretaries, companions, tutors, governesses and the like. College girls are in demand as governesses or companions for young girls whose parents are traveling or occupied with social or business affairs. The girl who “stands in” with the faculty is sure to get a place during the summer.

Goes Clerking.

A student who shows herself particularly suited to clerical work is sometimes retained as secretary at the college during the vacation, or is given employment in the college library. College offices must be kept open during the summer, and it is then that the clerical work is really the heaviest. Innumerable letters must be answered, prospective patrons must be received and shown over the college grounds, and the great wheels of education must be oiled and put in working order of the fall term.

Summer tutoring is one of the most lucrative methods of raising money during the vacation. Girls how have failed in their examinations are more anxious to secure the services of a classmate who has passed triumphantly through the ordeal than to hire a professor who is perhaps to posted on the recent trial. The unsuccessful one, by giving a few hours each day to this work, may pass in a second examination, which is given before the fall term opens. Two girls, who are taking post-graduate work at a Pennsylvania college, have opened a boarding house in a pretty suburb near Philadelphia. One of them looks after the housekeeping and the other does the tutoring, and they have all the pupil-boarders they can accommodate.

A Bryn Mawr girl has taken a position for the entire summer with a wealthy family who owns a hunting lodge on the Canadian lakes. The family consists of a man, wife and two sons. The men folk are devoted to hunting and fishing, and the wife and mother is devoted them, though not to their sports. So she contents herself for the entire summer in a wild and lonesome camp, where it is practically impossible to entertain the average summer guest. The men folk go on long hunting and fishing expeditions with Indian guides, and the woman is left a week at a time with her servants. The Bryn Mawr girl has gone with her as a companion, and will be well treated as a friend rather than an employe. Her duties will consist of reading with her hostess, tramping with her through the woods, and making herself generally agreeable and companionable. For this she is paid not only her expenses, but a little salary. Her outfit of clothing is most simple, consisting of short skirts, leggings, big hats, etc., with none of the summer fripperies which look so dainty and come so high.

At one of the colleges where the girls go in heavily for athletics a couple of students will put in their vacation at the very practical work of making gymnasium and basketball suits in the club colors. The suits will be made to fit different types of college girls as these young dressmakers have learned to know them, and will be ready to turn over to customers after the second fit when the college opens.

The Evening Star [Washington DC] 2 July 1904: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While one certainly applauds these plucky young lady scholars, Mrs Daffodil cannot let pass unchallenged several absurd notions proposed by the journalist who wrote about their summer labours.

First, “The number of domestic occupations which girls seek as a means of making vacation money should convince the veriest pessimist that the higher education cannot down the distinctive feminine instinct.” The heading about “not too proud” suggests non-existent options for these self-supporting scholars; the author seems unaware that opportunities for ladies outside the “traditional” domestic occupations are exceedingly limited.

[Given the correct opportunities, Mrs Daffodil would have pursued a career outside of the domestic sphere, perhaps in medical research or procurement: “bodysnatching” as it is termed by the vulgar. Fortunately she has been able to turn that interest into a lucrative and useful side-occupation.]

Talk of broiderie d’Anglaise and chafing dishes reinforces the foolish notion that higher education will make a female mannish or deranged or dissatisfied with her “proper” station in life—a dissatisfaction, in Mrs Daffodil’s opinion—devoutly to be wished.

Second, “the change of work is really a recreation.” Well, really… Mrs Daffodil would like to see the author set to waiting tables at a summer resort and subjected to heat, fatigue, unpleasantries, and over-familiarity, if not outright insult and abuse from “gentlemen” on holiday. Then one would give much to hear his thoughts on how a “change is as good as a rest.”

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 Eye-Miniature Fad: 1905-1916

Eye miniature with tear, anonymous, c. 1790-1820 Usually the tear is a feature of later revival pieces http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1067812/eye-miniature-unknown/

Of all the odd fads that have reached New York via London, the latest captures the palm. What do you think miladi is presenting her true love with nowadays? A miniature of her beautiful eyes—eye, rather, for only one eye is pictured. The fad is just now raging in London, and a few smart New York women, just over from a season in the world’s metropolis, brought the fad with them. The Duchess of Manchester is one of them….

Now that the fad has hit Gotham inside of a year—the way fashions travel—it should be raging in San Francisco. Of course the photographers will take it up, and eye photos as well as miniatures will be possible. The frames, jeweled or merely of gold or silver, will be another item. If every man cannot write a sonnet to his mistress’ eyebrow, he can at least present her with a photo of his best orb….

Eyebrows are not necessarily a part of the eye miniature, but eyelids and lashes are. Half-closed lids are significant of indulgence and are a great “give-away” in an eye picture. Dark circles under the eyes are by the Parisian demi-mondaines considered a beauty and they cultivate them to make themselves of an effréné [frantic] appearance, but the bud of 20 or less would not like to see her eye miniature with one of these borders.

The white of the eye should be pure and pearly, which in the fashionable devotee of the cigarette it never is. “Pink eyes” and “red eyes” would be tabu to the eye miniaturist. The eye that gives way to grief is never lovely…. The San Francisco [CA] Call 9 April 1905: p. 6

Many distinguished ladies had their eyes “done.”

In the eye miniatures of today the eye is painted life size and the color of the iris, the shade and curl of the eye-lashes, the form of the lid and the shape of the brown, are all indicated. Queen Alexandra, the Princess Henry of Pless, her sister; the Duchess of Westminster and the Countess of Warwick are among the women who have given orders for eye pictures, it is said. The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 14 March 1905: p. 7

Miniature artists found themselves back in fashion:

[The miniature artist] Mr Williams has “an eye for an eye,” so to speak, in a special and most interesting way. That is in his successful introduction, or revival, of the poetic art of painting miniatures of eyes-eyes alone, as if shining out of the sky or the imagination-to be set and worn as jewels on cuff-links, brooches, scarf-pins, in watch-cases, and the like.

Tie-pin with lady’s weeping eye, c. 1900-10, painted during the eye-miniature revival https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/search#/2/collection/43600/tiepin-with-a-miniature-of-a-ladys-eye

It is in line with the pretty conceit of Count Robert de Montesquieu, who gave a series of ‘‘conferences” in New York one season, and in his discourse on “Jewels” led up triumphantly to the demonstration that the most varied, wondrous, and beautiful of all gems or jewels are-eyes.

A famous eye-picture, perhaps the earliest, was that of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the morganatic wife of King George IV, who sat for it to the great Cosway himself, and had the tiny miniature set in a gold bracelet, which the king wore upon his wrist.

The eyes of Mrs. George Gould and those of her daughter Marjorie, painted from life by Alyn Williams, are worn by Mr. Gould on cuff-links. The same artist has done a marvelously expressive miniature of the prom-lidded, yet keen and kindly eye of the late King Edward. This was what probably gave a new start to the fashionable fad.

A truly royal pair of cuff-links. The one at the left has a painted eye of Queen Mary (top) and of King George; the other one shows an eye of Queen Alexandra (top) and of King Edward VII

At a recent miniature-show in London, many paintings of eyes were shown, including some dating back more than a century, to the time of Cosway. One of the most interesting curios in the collection was an exquisite bracelet containing seven diamond-set miniatures depicting the eyes of the seven children, of a Scotch laird. There was also the melting dark eye of the lovely Lady Blessington.

We have no specific record of the prices commanded by the early English miniaturists. Those of their present day successors are decidedly “fancy,” and Alyn Williams undoubtedly heads the list. His uniform price for painting a pair of eyes is two hundred dollars.

Cosmopolitan, Volume 53, 1912: pp. 667-8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As the commentary on an eye miniature from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection says:

Eye miniatures came into fashion at the end of the 18th century. They seem to have originated in France, and were a curious but brief anomaly in painting in miniature. They represented an extremely intense manifestation of an already emotionally charged art, apparently an attempt to capture ‘the window of the soul’, the supposed reflection of a person’s most intimate thoughts and feelings. Often, as here, the result was a compelling piece of jewellery. But sometimes the result was merely anatomical and unpleasing, or uncanny and disturbing.

Mrs Daffodil concurs that the result is often disturbing. One fancies that the lover’s eye miniature might be a sort of witchery, the all-seeing eye watching the Beloved’s every movement… Not a pleasant thought.

The fad continued through the War and even into the 1930s.

An eye miniature by Emily Drayton Taylor after 18th-century miniaturist Edward Greene Malbone, c. 1930 http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/2904?sortBy=Relevance&ft=eye+miniature&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=11

Since the present war began [miniature artist] Ernest Lloyd has been sojourning in Southern California and has introduced the eye miniature among society folk there. It is the claim of the artists that they paint the eyes because they reveal more than any part of the face. “It is a wonderful thing to know how to read one’s character through the window of one’s soul,” declared Mr. Lloyd.

The eyes of Napoleon and Josephine, herewith reproduced, are the work of Miss Minnie Taylor, a well-known artist in San Francisco. Miss Taylor is such a rare soul herself that she is always seeking to find the soul of those with whom she comes into contact; hence this painting of the eyes has had a special appeal for her. She copied the eyes of the great conqueror and his wife from the originals in the famous Wallace collection in London, the largest collection of miniatures in the world.

When the pictures were first introduced, they were then, as they are now, set in gold and jeweled frames and given to friends as little intimate and secret presents, meant to convey a sweet and delicate sentiment. When the fad shall have reached San Francisco, Miss Taylor’s service doubtless will be in great demand for she probably is the only artist in the city who has made a study of eye miniatures.

California’s Magazine, 1916: p. 184

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

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

 

Mrs Daffodil on Flowers

A miniature flower painting by Jan Frans van Dael, mounted as a brooch. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=jewellery&oid=156467

Since the Family is away on holiday over the week-end, Mrs Daffodil is taking this opportunity to take a brief holiday of her own, possibly paying a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and returning, refreshed, Wednesday next.

She has posted on floral themes many times, so, to while away the hours for those of Mrs Daffodil’s readers who will be counting the moments until a new post appears, here are some posts pertinent to the topic of flowers.

Strange Flower Superstitions of Many Lands

Queen Adelaide’s Flower-Acrostic Dress

The Wild-Flower Wedding

A Miniature Matterhorn and Gnome Miners

Funeral Flowers for Young Helen

Napoleon and the Gardener

A very recent post: The Black Rose

And Mrs Daffodil’s favourite gardening story, “The Occasional Garden,” by Mr H. H. Munro [Saki]

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a delightful and restful week-end with well-filled picnic hampers and unclouded blue skies.

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

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

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

The well-dressed young man.

How to Be Well Dressed

The New York Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

To putting new broadcloth collar on dress suit $2.50

Widening trousers .50

Total – $3.00

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs Daffodil has been reminded that it is the long-suffering tailor who is the best ally of the well-dressed young man. This young gentleman, who was not worried about economy, hired his own personal tailor. There were also second-hand and rental establishments to aid in the refurbishment of one’s wardrobe. And this post is a look at the cost of a Gilded Youth’s summer costumes.

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

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

 

The Black Rose: 1910

THE BLACK ROSE

Triumph of Botanical Chemistry, but Who Would Want One

(from the New York Times)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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