Category Archives: Professions

A Skirt for Nothing: 1903

pink satin post2


They entered the street car, en route to the matinee, with a swish of silk petticoats and happy in the possession of the latest creations in French millinery and this season’s models in feather muffs and boas.

“What do you think of my skirt?” asked one of them, glancing down at an affair in fancy novelty silk of the latest cut which she wore.

“A dream,” replied her companion, “I have been admiring it all along. You are certainly growing extravagant, dear.”
A look of satisfaction spread over the other woman’s countenance. She lowered her voice impressively, but not enough to prevent the other passengers in that end of the car from hearing. “It didn’t cost me a cent,” she said.

“A present! You lucky mortal. I wish I had a half a dozen sisters, cousins and aunts to give me lovely things once in a while!”

“Not a present, either. Just the luckiest chance in the world,” replied the owner of the skirt with increasing satisfaction in her voice. “You see, I went out Monday to buy a skirt. I wanted something rather smart for an afternoon, something like this, in fact; but I had been so liberal with my other clothes that I really didn’t see how I could afford one. I spent the entire morning trying to pick up a bargain, and finally I went to Jones & Smith’s. I have an account there, you know. Well, I couldn’t find a thing I would look at for less than twice what I was able to give, and as it was 1 o’clock and I was cross and worried and worn out, I decided to go into their lunch room and treat myself to something dainty and refreshing, just to cheer me up.

“Well, my dear, it was too fortunate. It had looked like rain that morning, and I had put on that old green skirt—you remember, part of the suit I had made to order last autumn.

“Well, as luck would have it, it was a new waitress who took my order. She was awkward and nervous, and as she was placing my tea on the table she stumbled and spilled the whole thing, cup and all, right into my lap.

“I didn’t even wait to eat lunch. I went right down to the office and complained. The men were extremely polite when they found out I had an account there. Besides they could see that the skirt was of expensive material, and somehow—I’m sure I didn’t say so—but somehow they seemed to be under the impression that it had been made last spring. Anyhow I told them that I considered it good for another season’s wear—which was true, if only I hadn’t been seen in it a whole season already—and that it belonged to a suit which had cost me $90, and that I thought they should at least make it good to me with another skirt. And it ended in my going back and getting this dream of a skirt for nothing. What do you think of that for luck?”

“But,” protested the other woman whose face had grown grave as she listened, “Didn’t the poor girl have to stand the cost of that skirt?”

“Oh—hm—well, now, I never thought of that. Perhaps she did have to pay something; but of course they would never have charged her with the whole price of that skirt. And, then, it was entirely her own awkwardness.”

“Of course, if she spoiled your skirt—“    her friend began, thoughtfully.

“Oh, my dear, that was the best part of it,” exclaimed the piece of selfishness incarnate, with a jubilant laugh. “The other skirt wasn’t spoiled at all. You see, it was only tea. And after it was sponged off and pressed one could never tell the difference.”

Great Falls [MT] Tribune 6 December 1903: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  “Selfishness incarnate” rather unstates it…. The “poor girl” probably lost her job. She was awkward and nervous because she–the sole support of her invalid mother, drunkard father, and five brothers and sisters–had landed a job after many months of searching and was anxious to make a success of it. One can be sure that the store docked her pay for the full amount of that “dream” of a skirt, just as one can be sure that, feeling that nothing mattered any more, the former waitress either went on the bottle or on the streets. Fashionable clothes have been the ruination of many a good girl….


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.


Aviation Costume: 1909-1916



buttonless costume for lady aviators 1909


Entirely innocent of buttons, the aeroplane gown has arrived. The one shown in the accompanying photograph is the creation of a famous designer. It opens in the back, on the left side, and fastens closely with hooks. There is not a button in it. The “trousers” are of sufficient length to reach the ankles, and are caught up below the knee and held there by rubber bands. The width of the pantaloons is 56 inches.

The Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 5 December 1909: p. 51


Of Course Every Woman Who Wears One Need Not Fly, but Some of Them Actually Will Pilot Machines.

All of Them Are Amusing and Delightful, and After All the Main Thing This Season Is to Be in the Picture.

Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd

Sports clothes again! One simply cannot escape their lure, and there’s no denying that they are the most important fashion items on this summer’s horizon. One can get along with very few dressy frocks, but one must have smart sports clothes if one has the faintest ambition to be fashionably attired.

Some of the clothes are actually for sportswear, too. American girls and women do not go in for athletic sports as they did a few years ago. It is not obligatory, as it was then. A woman may now admit without a blush of shame that she does not play golf or tennis, even that she does not ride or swim, though she will miss many a good time and a considerable degree of popularity if she does not do these things; but the one thing she cannot afford to abjure is the wearing of sports clothes.

Fortunately for the unstrenuous, sports clothes this summer are quite as decorative as they are utilitarian– far more decorative in most instances–and one may wear them for mere loafing without feeling incongruously clad; but for the women who actually go in for sports there are plenty of things practical as well as good looking.

The aviation costume is the latest sports clothes fad, just as aviation is the latest of sports. Even yet there is no general feminine need of such an addition to the wardrobe, but some women do manage flying machines and more fly in the capacity of passengers, and the designers have supplied clothes for these pioneers.

sporting costume leather

Amusing and delightful costumes they are, too, usually of soft leather or oilskin with a loose belted and pocketed coat, breeches cut like rather full riding breeches and tucking under snugly fitted puttees, and a hood or helmet which closes under the chin and has a short cape attached to the neckband and meant to be worn either under the coat or outside of it.

Some of these costumes have in addition a short skirt of the leather to be donned when one is not in the machine, but, as a rule, the sportswoman scorns this amendment. Purple, dark green and brown are the three colors most often used in the leather for suit and hood, and the puttees and boots may be either black or brown. One good looking Trench costume was all in smoke gray, suit, hood, puttees and boots; the breeches of cloth, the coat and hood of leather.

Apropos of coat, breeches and skirt costumes, these are used for many sports purpose nowadays and are shown in tweeds, frieze, khaki, linen and many other materials suitable for rough sportswear. Where once it was the very exceptional thing for a woman to take to breeches or bloomers for any purpose, the practice is now very common indeed, in camp, for fishing, shooting, mountain climbing and even for long “hikes” outside of mountain country. There are those who object to the innovation, but the woman who has once known the comfort and joy of such dress on her outings in rough country will find it hard to reconcile herself to petticoats again for sportswear.

The coats of these suits are usually on the Norfolk or shooting coat order, severely tailored, and the skirts are plain, modestly wide, quite short, unlined, usually opening up the front. The absolutely practical nature of the costume is its apology and its justification and any sacrifice of these characteristics detracts from the success and modishness of the outfit, though many women make such mistakes.

Divided skirt costumes of the same general character as the breeches costumes just described are also shown by the makers and sellers of sports  clothes and are liked by those women for whom the breeches costumes are too radical. They are comfortable for almost any kind of sportswear, though not so comfortable as the breeches suits, and the latter, with the additional spurt as a concession to the conventionalities in places where those conventionalities exist, are increasingly popular.

The Sun [New York NY] 9 July 1916: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: March 5-11 is Women of Aviation Worldwide Week and 8 March is International Women’s Day.  It seems a good day to remember Miss Harriet Quimby, the first woman to qualify for a pilot’s certification in the United States.  She wore a stylish and distinctive purple flight costume, possibly as part of her role as spokeswoman for a grape soda called Vin Fiz, after the aeroplane. Sadly, she died in a flying accident in 1912, age 37.

By 1916, aviation costume was somewhat codified, as opposed to the early days of flying ladies, when a good deal of improvisation went on.  There are photo-gravures of Miss Katherine Wright, sister and manager of the Wright Brothers, her skirts tied with a scarf to avoid embarrassing exposure aloft.  Some female pilots went without corsets for fear that a crash might lead to a whalebone impalement. Masculine garments were borrowed and cobbled together in functional, if not decorative ways.


Costumes That Are Now Designed For the Lady Aeroplanist.

“Madam, your airship awaits you.”

“Very well, James. I’ll be there just as soon as I get my new aviation hat on straight.”

No, gentle reader, this is no joke. So interested have the fair sex become in aerial navigation and such progress has been made by the airship inventors that it begins to look as if the prediction made two years ago that milady would do her shopping by airship in 1910 might come true. At any rate, the big London and Paris dressmakers seem to think so, for they have included in their latest styles some new and striking aviation costumes for the feminine fliers. No doubt there will be a demand for them, as a number of women have sailed in aeroplanes recently.

the aeroplane hat

When going up in an airship the greatest danger is of taking cold in the throat or ears, and a hat has just been placed on the market which protects both organs.

aviation costume 1909

Besides the aviation costume shown in the illustration, which was designed in London, one is being shown by the Paris dressmakers. It is rather advanced, but then the woman who goes aeroplaning is an advanced woman. The costume consists of a waterproof hood, a heavy woolen sweater, canvas knickerbockers, army puttees and stout shoes. A pair of automobile gauntlets, and if desired, goggles, complete the rather bizarre costume.

During his stay in Europe Wilbur Wright took up at various times six women—his sister Miss Katherine, Mrs. Leon Bollee, Mrs. Lazar Weiler Countess Lambert, and Mrs. Hart O’Berg, wife of his business manager on the other side.The Wright brothers confess rather proudly that their sister knows almost as much about aeroplanes as they do, and is competent to handle one in flight alone. During the recent remarkable demonstration of airhsip possibilities at Rheims, France, the women spectators were even more enthusaistic than the men. Every indication points to a continuation of this enthusiasm among the more daring of the sex, to the point of actual ownership and personal operation of flying machines.

International Gazette [Black Rock NY] 2 October 1909: 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.

Dandy Dogs: 1896

Dandy Dogs.

William G. FitzGerald

When you hear a man say he has “led the life of a dog,” it is pretty safe to assume he has not been dandled in the lap of luxury for some time anterior to his plaint. But surely, after the publication of this article, the popular significance of the metaphor will lose its force—if, indeed, the meaning be not completely reversed, so that inclusion in Dandy Dog-dom will represent the Alpha and Omega of epicurean splendour. . The fact is, mere ordinary folk have not the remotest notion of the extravagant extent to which canine pets are pampered nowadays by their highly-placed mistresses; and so utterly astounding and fantastic are the details, that I propose giving chapter and verse, so to speak, for every statement made.

reception room Dogs' Toilet Club Strand


The first photograph reproduced shows the reception-room of the Dogs Toilet Club, in New Bond Street—an institution certainly beyond the wildest dreams of the Battersea pariahs It was started by an enterprising and cultured lady, who had noticed the righteous wrath of the average domestic on being asked to give a pampered pet its daily bath. Everything about this club is of the daintiest; the very prospectus is in blue and gold, with a delicate bow of green ribbon at one corner. The reception-room—as one may judge from the illustration—is quite a sumptuous apartment; and the ordinary man on entering it may stumble over a costly occasional table, or occasional dog, as the case may be. For many ladies leave their pets here while shopping; others bring the little creatures to be shampooed, brushed, combed, clipped, and attended to by a professional chiropodist. Expensive sweetmeats are provided as a temporary solatium for the absence of the mistresses. The pictorial art of this handsome apartment is distinctly canine; so, too, are the contents of the glass-topped table seen on the left. This contains an interesting—not to say surprising—collection of requisites for fashionable dogs. There are morning, afternoon, and evening coats; mourning outfits, travelling costumes, and bridal dresses—for woe unto the canine aristocrat that hath not on a wedding garment when occasion demands. But more of this hereafter. The lady on the right has taken up the very latest sweet thing in dogs’ driving coats—the “Lonsdale”—made to measure, in fawn cloth, lined with dark red silk; it has a cape of the same that falls upon the pet’s shoulders, and a frill round the neck. This ornate garment is finished off with two gold bells; and the full collar is edged with fur to match that on the dress of the mistress.

Where did all this originate? In Paris, the city of eccentric, extravagant modes. Perhaps I cannot do better than reproduce the business card of Madame Ledouble, whose sumptuous establishment in the Palais Royal (Galerie d’Orléans) may be described as the Eldorado of Dandy Dog-dom. Not only does madame make dogs’ coats and fripperies generally, but she also publishes a canine fashion-book, of which an excellent notion may be gathered from the illustrations on this and the next page. These animals are stuffed specimens; all the others portrayed in this article are “from life.”

madame Ledouble dog couturiere Strand

But let us consider for a moment these chic canine fashions—which, by the way, were photographed in Paris specially for THE STRAND MAGAZINE, thanks to the courtesy of M. Henri Durand, the agent for “Spratt’s Patent” in the French capital, and I must number the “models” in order that each may be briefly described.

wedding costume for dog Strand

No. 1 is a splendid wedding toilet of white broche silk, trimmed with satin ribbons and orange blossom.

winter visiting dress


No. 2 shows an imposing winter visiting costume with a Medici collar of chinchilla. Other furs can be had, such as sable and ermine.

theatre costume for dog Strand

A gorgeous theatre dress is No. 3; it is made in rich broché velvet, with a collar trimmed with sable.

lingerie handkerchief and boots for dogs Strand

Next comes the array of dainty lingerie (No. 4). The dog on the left, with the “mutton-chop whisker” appearance–(reminding one of the club waiter), is clothed in a dressing gown of thick silk, which protects him from the matutinal draughts; and his fellow-dandy is seen in a spotless chemise de nuit, which leaves uncovered the paws and tail. In the same group are seen a few other assorted night-shirts in silk, gauze, and flannel, together with dogs’ handkerchiefs suitable for various occasions, and india-rubber boots, laced and buttoned.

dog mourning toilette strand

An appropriately lugubrious mourning toilet is depicted in No. 5. This is made in black cloth, velvet, or mousseline de soie, with a nice full collar. Of course, the handkerchief is en suite. 

yachting costume for dog Strand

No. 6 shows a lovely yachting “gown” of navy blue cloth, with an anchor embroidered in white, red, or blue silk, matching the uniform of the crew. The name of the yacht always figures on these coats.

visiting and traveling dresses for dogs Strand

No. 7 is a distinctly striking group. The dog behind on the left is wearing a visiting costume of green cloth trimmed with fine astrakhan. Next is seen a white flannel coat with hood, for travelling in Switzerland; then come the two dogs on the right, one of which is clad in a spring coat of light cloth, and the other in a bright red and white garment, from whose pocket peeps a silken mouchoir.

tweed traveling coat for dog Strand

No. 8 is a substantial travelling costume in Scotch tweed, with a pull-over collar, and pocket for railway-ticket, which latter is also shown.

Of course there are also bathing-dresses for Brighton, Dieppe, and Trouville, And it is not necessary for Madame Ledouble to measure the dog herself. You just write for patterns and fashion plates, and on choosing the outfit you receive careful instructions as to the measurement of your own pet, which instructions are carried out with surprising alacrity and splendour….

dog tailoress at work Strand

In the next photograph is seen an expert lady tailoress at work upon some stylish dog-coats. She is putting the finishing touches to the “Warwick.” This is a promenade costume in fine brown cloth, shot with pink, lined with rose-colored silk, fastened with a 15-carat gold clasp, and further ornamented with a double ruching at the neck like a lady’s cape. The coat on the machine is in dull red velvet, lined with white moiré. Observe the large scent-bottles near the seamstress ; for these dainty garments must be perfumed, otherwise the captious canines might (and do) evince a sudden dislike to the expensive garment selected.

But the aristocratic dog’s wardrobe also contains outfits for special occasions. I have seen a yellow satin coat trimmed with Honiton, and priced at ten guineas. An old favourite, seventeen years of age, was shown to me, and on being requested to examine his coat (of fine cloth lined with costly sable) I found a small electro-magnetic appliance sewn between the cloth and the fur lining. This dog was a bit of a hypochondriac—always fancying he was ill; he did, however, occasionally suffer from pneumonia and backache.

It is absurd to suppose that all kinds of dogs wear these garments; for example, no one would think of putting a coat on a Chow-Chow. On the other hand, dachshunds are sometimes provided with warm coats, and sealskin waistcoats alsomainly because they are apt to run through pretty long grass, and in this way, being short-legged, get their precious little stomachs wet, thus inducing various parlous canine ills. Wedding garments are always attractive; and of course, on such festive occasions, her ladyship’s pet is very much en suite. The little animal’s interest in the function may be infinitesimal—he may even regard the whole business with fierce loathing; still, he is dressed. The Maison Ledouble turns out wedding coats in white, – yellow, and crimson satins trimmed with orange blossom at the neck, and with white satin leaders; these coats cost about £5 each.

Should the newly-made bride wish to take her darling with her on the honeymoon trip, the dog-maid (no sinecure, this) swiftly changes Fido’s garments, replacing the gorgeous wedding outfit with a neat travelling suit of box-cloth, complete with hood and pockets for handkerchief, railway ticket, and biscuit—the latter by way of refreshment en route. If you think the toy dog is hustled into the guard’s van, you are grievously mistaken. He is carefully placed in a travelling kennel, such as is seen in the photograph.

travelling dog kennel Strand

This is really a beautiful hand-bag of cow-hide or crocodile, silver-mounted, and costing from four to ten guineas. It is well ventilated, and supplied with lambs’ wool mats. The wire grating is heavily gilt, or plated; and there is a leather flap which may be let down at the dog’s bed-time, or when the sun is too powerful for his eyes. Now, consider for a moment the group of costly canine trifles seen in the accompanying illustration.

some Paris novelties for dandy dogs Strand

I will describe each briefly, commencing with the top left-hand corner: (1) dress collar of pure white ivory, in imitation of that affected by the human genus dude, it has a neat, black tie; (2) collar of different shape, with tie, gold bell, and white silk leader; (3) dainty lace-bordered dog’s handkerchief of soft white silk; (4) three gold collars; (5) packet of 24 tiny hairpins, specially made for the toilet of lady poodles; (6) neat gold bracelet or bangle; (7) gold collar; (8) ditto; (9) collar of golden rings, price £15; (10) dress bracelet for lady poodle, consisting of purple satin bow with diamond buckle, valued at £45; lastly, we have a fine cambric handkerchief, and a silver collar.

These were photographed by our own artist at Barrett’s, in Piccadilly—a gorgeous establishment, whose proprietors make a special feature of catering for dandy dogs. It takes a lot to surprise Mr. Henry Barrett —to whom I am indebted for several photographs.

Dogs’ coats range in price from one to three guineas; collars from a sovereign to £60, some being of 18-carat gold fastened with a diamond brooch. Dogs with small heads and fat necks wear “harness.” This is an elaborate arrangement of straps with gold and silver mounts, whereby the pet is led from a ring on its back. Messrs. Barrett recently carried out an order for a certain noble lady, who wanted a gold-mounted tandem and four-in-hand harness—technically perfect—so that she might “drive her (canine) team afield” down Bond Street and in the park.

The mistress does not carry her pet’s handkerchief ; this would be an unpardonable breach of canine etiquette. The perfumed cambric or silken square is coquettishly stuck in Fido’s own coat pocket, so that it may be available for use on wet days, when those low omnibuses, carts, and cabs splash so horribly.

Maltese dandy dog Strand

The little Maltese here shown is called “Dandy”—appropriately enough ; and he is dressed quietly and neatly, but in the best of taste—as these things go. His coat— colour photography is still a thing of the future—is of crimson velvet lined with white silk; and he has a nice curb-chain bracelet, worth five guineas, on his left paw. In winter Dandy wears a fur coat; and I may say that these garments are usually lined with seal and sable, their cost ranging up to ten or fifteen guineas.

Dogs’ bracelets or bangles cost, in gold, from two to ten guineas each; and in silver from 15s. to 3os. In Paris, these ornaments are frequently seen studded with precious stones, rendering the pet a most desirable piece of portable property. And the gems used vary according to the breed of dog.

Why, the very combs and brushes used on canine toilet-tables are as costly as choice of materials can make them. The hair-brushes are specially designed so that the hairs stand at a certain angle, thus facilitating the treatment of tangled (natural) coats. Three or four large brushes are first used ; then come the finer kinds, and lastly the combs, which are made in steel, silver, buffalo-horn, and tortoise-shell. The brushes cost from 5s. to 10s. 6d. each (dog’s name in gold or silver extra, of course); and the cheaper kind of combs are sold at Barrett’s for 3s.6d. and 5s. 6d.

silver collars for big dogs Strand

Fastidious folk sometimes design collars in silver or gold for their own dogs; and big dogs often have solid silver collars made for them; notice two of these in the next picture.

The fact is, money is literally no object where aristocratic pet dogs are concerned.

gold and silver dog couples and bracelets Strand

Mr. Barrett tells me he has often made muzzles in gold and silver—as though such would be more tolerable than the “regulation patter” ; also leaders consisting of long chains of fine gold, and golden couples for promenading with pairs of dogs. A number of gold and silver couples and pretty bracelets are shown in the above illustration; it will be seen that the last-named ornaments lock on the dogs’ paws, thus obviating to certain extent the annoyance of periodical loss of valuable jewellery. By the way, anyone who has seen a lady trying to lead two playful pet dogs in the West-end will at once appreciate the use of the couples.

drawing room basket for dog Strand

In the accompanying photograph is depicted a dog-basket or drawing-room lounge. It is lined with seal-skin and trimmed with bright red satin to match the decorations of the apartment. These baskets are also made by Barrett’s, lined with satin, plush, and brocade. Baskets are now being ordered which can be attached to cycles, so that the mistress can take her own daily exercise and give her beloved pet an airing at one and the same time.

The well-being of these toy dogs is studied to a truly amazing degree. What could possibly be more comical than the fully-equipped canine dandy here shown? This black-and-tan terrier is dressed for a morning call with his mistress, who will leave her pet’s card as well as her own, this extraordinary custom being considered necessary if there happens to be a toy dog at the house about to be visited.

a morning call dog with collar and calling cards Strand

Look at the little animal’s quaint tie and collar; and his card-case, sticking out of the front of his coat. The fair Parisienne, on hearing of ordinary sober English customs, is contemptuously amused, and probably exclaims: “Mais c’est drôle.” But the leaving of her dog’s card on a fellow-pet during the morning drive—this she considers in no wise funny.

And yet this fashion is now fairly with us; and, absurd as it is, there are still more outrageous canine modes to follow.

Here you have a good view of wet weather dogs’ boots: pretty little rubber goloshes, with black studs or buttons. Our artist photographed the set at Messrs. Atloff and Norman’s, in Bond Street. The boot for big occasions, however, is that shown in the next illustration; you may see the original for yourself at Barrett’s, in Piccadilly. This boot is of soft brown Russia, with a nice silk lace to match; the set of four is made to measure for two guineas. The rubber goloshes are sometimes worn by rheumatic dogs; others wear them because, while in London, they suffer from a foot complaint caused by the metallic grit on the roads.

The Strand Magazine 1896

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil can hardly think what to add to this exhaustive catalogue of luxury for dandy dogs, except that she has previously written about dog calling cards.


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 Dress-Maker’s Lover: 1879

The Dress-Maker’s Lover.

Cupid is at work again in our community, and this time he has rammed an arrow right through the swain, but it seems has only tickled the gay young dress-maker a little with the feathered end of his dart. The following poem written by the victim tells the whole story:

Only this one dear boon I ask,

That you will give me your a dress,

That in your smiles I yet may basque,

And gain new life at each caress.


The blushes mantle on your cheeks;

Deny me not, it’s dread foulard;

I’ve pressed my suit for days and weeks,

And sent you letters by the yard


Oft at your feet I’ve knelt and braid,

But you have cut me short and square;

It lace with you, but I’m a frayed

You will not make up to me fair.


It’s sashy pale has grown my face,

Though all things look most navy blue;

I’ll collar mine, or I will face

Whatever evils may ecru.

The State Rights Democrat [Albany, OR] 19 September 1879: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A Valentine’s effusion of the most cutting pattern…. It is obvious that the speaker considers himself incom-pleat without his be-stitching companion. Mrs Daffodil feels that he is waist-ing his time. A man who took such liberties with the language would be ill-suited to matrimony and without stay-ing power. He might wish to so-lace himself with Mr Hugh Rowley’s jokes:

Why is love like Irish poplin?

Because it’s half stuff.

Why is a deceptive woman like a seamstress?

Because she is not what she seams!

Puniana, Hugh Rowley, 1867: p. 213-4

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the happiness of loving and being loved on this Valentine’s Day.

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

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

The Chorus Girls Make a Dragon: 1893

ali baba headline


Startling Stage Realism Ingeniously Made of Harmless Material.

[Boston Herald]

There are, indeed, tricks in all trades, and, as theatrical business has become more or less of a trade, it follows that it has its tricks. “In “Ali Babi,” the big spectacle presented by the American Extravaganza Company at the Globe Theater, there appears at a given hour something which makes a man who has been drinking feel queer, while the prohibition contingent look at it with horror and then with delight. This is the snake, or as it is billed, the dragon, and it is forty feet long. It is a very ingenious affair, and was made in Paris by M. Ganet, the master of properties of the Chatelet Theater.

The body of the reptile is nothing more nor less than twenty young women who travel on all fours, and who, at the right moment and a given signal, jump up and reveal themselves as diabolical sprites. They are clad in gray tights and green bodices, and on their heads are little horned skull caps. The article of attire that gives to each the appearance of apportion of the serpent’s body, and which, when the twenty girls creep along in follow-the-leader fashion, makes a wriggling, creeping snake of monstrous size, is a satin-lined cloak of thin canvas, which is roughly painted and mottled in green, yellow and white to represent the scales of a reptile’s hide.

The awe-inspiring, bird-like head, with rolling, ghastly eyeballs and crocodile jaws, serrated with rows of cruel, sharp teeth, is said to be the most ingenious part of the affair. It is made of papier mache and wicker work, light enough for a boy to carry, and, with devices inside to move the jaws and eyes.

The eyes are swung on a pivot and worked by means of a spiral spring. The huge jaws are hinged, and a stout lever inside, with the aid of a little muscle, makes them snap and yawn ferociously. Each nostril is shaped like the crater of a volcano, and the aperture from which the molten lava would come is replaced by a little alcohol lamp, the faint, blue flame of which cannot be seen from beyond the footlights. Over each of these lamps the fan-shaped mouth of a long tube comes. About six inches from the lamp and connected with the tube is a receptacle for lycopodium. When the boy who manipulates the apparatus concludes that it is proper for the dragon to make an imposing display of its ferocity, he blows through the tube, the powdered club-moss seed is scattered over the alcohol flame and makes a ghastly bluish and altogether startling flash.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 11 March 1893: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The dragon was a high-light of the Ali Baba entertainment and was invariably mentioned in reviews and advertisements.

“The Dance Diabolique,” executed by twenty secundas, who are metamorphosed from a monster fire-breathing dragon…. The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 1 January 1893: p. 6


The ballets of “Ali Baba” are three in number, and are novel in both movement and costuming. They are a Nautch dance in the first act, a demon dance in the second act, in which a monstrous, fire-breathing dragon is instantaneously transformed into a score or more of dancing sprites… The Indianapolis [IN] Journal 23 April 1893: p. 10

 Victorian stage designers were most ingenious, creating on-stage sand-storms and thunderous tempests. Costume designers peopled the stage with fanciful animals and made fairies fly.  A forty-foot dragon would have been a mere bagatelle.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that she was unable to find a photo-gravure of the ensemble en dragon, but she was able to locate an illustration of one of the costumed young ladies.

ali baba dragon chorus girl costume

A thumbnail sketch of the costume of one of the chorus who made up the body of the dragon.

The dragon dance sounds like an uncomfortable occupation, even for the young and lithe. Mrs Daffodil suggests that a more appropriate name for the entertainment would have been “Creeping Beauty.”


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 Maid with Red Hair: 1899


In the spring of 1899, being then a member of a certain Psychical Research Society, and hearing that a ghost had been seen at No — Southgate Street, Bristol, I set off to interview the ladies who were reported to have seen it. I found them (the Misses Rudd) at home, and on their very graciously consenting to relate to me their psychical experiences, I sat and listened to the following story (told as nearly as possible in the eldest lady’s own words) : ” It is now,” she began, ” some ten years since we were the tenants of the house you mention, but I recollect what I saw there as vividly as if it were yesterday.

“The house, I must tell you, is very small (only eight or so rooms), dingy, and in a chronic state of dilapidation ; it stands in the middle of a terrace with no front garden to speak of, save a few yards of moss-covered tiles, slate-coloured and broken, whilst its back windows overlooked a dreary expanse of deep and silent water. Nothing more dismal could be imagined.

“Still, when we took it, the idea of it being haunted never for one instant entered our minds, and our first intimation that such was the case came upon us like a thunderbolt.

“We only kept one maid, Jane (a girl with dark hair and pleasant manners), my sisters and I doing all the cooking and helping with the light work. The morning on which incident No. 1 happened, knowing Jane to be upstairs occupied in dusting the rooms, and my sisters being out, my mother asked me to go into the kitchen and see if the stove was all right as ‘there was a smell of burning.’

“Doing as she bid, I hastened to the kitchen, where a strange spectacle met my sight.

“Kneeling in front of the stove, engaged apparently in polishing the fender, was a servant-girl with RED hair; I started back in astonishment. ‘Who could she be?’

Too intent at first to notice my advent, she kept on at her work, giving me time to observe that she was wearing a very dirty dress, and that her rag of a cap was quite askew. Satisfied she was not ‘Jane,’ and wondering whether some one else’s maid had mistaken our kitchen for her own — the houses in the terrace being all alike — I called out, ‘Who are you? what do you want?’ — whereupon, dropping the fire-irons with a clatter, she quickly turned round, displaying an ashen-pale face, the expression on which literally froze me with horror.

“Never! never had I seen such an awful look of hopeless, of desperate, of diabolical abandonment in any one’s eyes as in those of hers when their glance met mine.

“For some seconds we glared at one another without moving, and then, still regarding me with a furtive look from out of the corner of her horrible eyes, she slowly rose from the hearth, and gliding stealthily forward, disappeared in the diminutive scullery opposite.

“Curiosity now overcoming fear, I at once followed. She was nowhere to be seen; nor was there any other mode of exit by which she could have made her departure than a tiny window, some four feet or so from the floor and directly overlooking the deep waters of the pond to which I have already alluded.

“Here, then, was a mystery ! What had I seen? Had I actually encountered a phantasm, or was I but the victim of an exceedingly unpleasant and falsidical hallucination? I preferred to think the former.

“Not wishing to frighten my mother, I intended keeping the incident to myself, writing, however, a complete account of it in my diary for the current year, but, a further incident occurring to my youngest sister within the next few days, I determined to reveal what I had seen and compare notes.”

The eldest Miss Rudd now concluded, and on my expressing a desire to hear more, her youngest sister very obligingly commenced:

“I had been out shopping in the Triangle one morning,” she said, “and having omitted to take the latchkey, I was obliged to ring. Jane answered the summons. There was nothing, of course, unusual in this, as it was her duty to do so, but there was something extremely singular in what appeared at her elbow.

“Standing close beside — I might almost say leaning against her (though Jane was apparently unaware of it) — was a strange, a very strange, servant-girl, with red hair and the most uncanny eyes; she had on a bedraggled print dress and a cap all askew ; but it was her expression that most attracted my attention — it was horrid.

“’Oh Jane!’ I cried, ‘whoever is it with you?’

“Following the direction of my gaze, Jane immediately turned round, and, without a word, FAINTED.

“That is all. The apparition, or whatever you may please to call it, vanished, and the next time I saw it was under different circumstances.”

“Will you be so kind as to relate them?” I inquired.

Miss Rudd proceeded: “Oh! it is nothing very much!” she exclaimed, “only it was very unpleasant at the time — especially as I was all alone.

“You see, mother, being delicate, went to bed early, my sisters were at a concert, and it was Jane’s ‘night out.’

“I never, somehow, fancied the basement of the house; it was so cold and damp, reminding me not a little of a MORGUE or charnel-house; consequently I never stayed there a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, and on this night in question I was in the act of scurrying back to the drawing- room when a gentle tap! tap! at the scullery-window made me defer my departure. Entering the back kitchen, somewhat timidly I admit, I saw a face peering in at me through the tiny window.

“Though the night was dark and there was no artificial lighting at this side of the house, every feature of that face was revealed to me as clearly as if it had been day. The little, untidy cap, all awry, surmounting the shock-head of red hair now half- down and dripping with water, the ghastly white cheeks, the widely open mouth, and the eyes, their pupils abnormally dilated and full of lurid light, were more appallingly horrible than ever.

“I stood and gazed at it, my heart sick with terror, nor do I know what would have happened to me had not the loud rap of the postman acted like magic; the thing vanished, and ‘turning tail,’ I fled upstairs into the presence of my mother. That is all.”

I was profuse in my thanks, and the third Miss Rudd then spoke:

“My bedroom,” she began, “was on the top landing — the window over-looking the water. I slept alone some months after the anecdotes just related, and was awakened one night by feeling some disgusting, wet object lying on my forehead.

“With an ejaculation of alarm I attempted to brush it aside, and opening my eyes, encountered a ghastly white face bending right over me.

“I instantly recognised it, by the description my sisters had given, as the phantasm of the red-headed girl.

“The eyes were terrible! Shifting its slimy hand from my forehead, and brandishing it aloft like some murderous weapon, it was about to clutch my throat, when human nature would stand it no longer — and — I fainted. On recovering, I found both my sisters in the room, and after that I never slept by myself.”

“Did your mother ever see it?” I asked.

“Frequently,” the eldest Miss Rudd replied, “and it was chiefly on her account we relinquished our tenancy — her nervous system was completely prostrated.”

“Other people saw the ghost besides us,” the youngest Miss Rudd interrupted, “for not only did the long succession of maids after Jane all see it, but many of the subsequent tenants ; the house was never let for any length of time.”

“Then, perhaps, it is empty now?” I soliloquised, “in which case I shall most certainly experiment there.”

This proved to be the case; the house was tenantless, and I easily prevailed upon the agent to loan me the key.

But the venture was fruitless. Three of us and a dog undertook it. We sat at the foot of the gloomy staircase; twelve o’clock struck, no ghost appeared, the dog became a nuisance — and — we came away disgusted.

A one-night’s test, however, is no test at all; there is no reason to suppose apparitions are always to be seen by man ; as yet we know absolutely nothing of the powers or conditions regulating their appearances, and it is surely feasible that the unknown controlling elements of one night may have been completely altered, may even have ceased to exist by the next. At all events, that was my opinion. I was by no means daunted at a single failure. But it was impossible to get any one to accompany me.

The sceptic is so boastfully eager by day. “Ghosts,” he sneers, “what are ghosts? Indigestion and imagination! I’ll challenge you to show me the house I wouldn’t sleep in alone! Ghosts indeed! Give me a poker or a shovel and I will scare away the lot of them.” And when you do show him the house he always has a prior engagement, or else the weather is too cold, or he has too much work to do next day, or it isn’t really worth the trouble, or — well! he is sure to have some very plausible excuse; at least, that has been my invariable experience.

There is no greater coward than the sceptic, and so, unable to procure a friend for the occasion, I did without one; neither did I have the key of the house, but — taking French leave — gained admittance through a window.

It was horribly dark and lonely, and although on the former occasion I did not feel the presence of the superphysical, I did so now, the very moment I crossed the threshold. Striking a light, I looked around me: I was in the damp and mouldy den that served as a kitchen; outside I saw the moon reflected on the black and silent water.

A long and sleek cockroach disappeared leisurely in a hole in the skirting as I flashed my light in its direction, and I thought I detected the movement of a rat or some large animal in the cupboard at the foot of the stairs. I forthwith commenced a search — the cupboard was empty. I must have been mistaken. For some minutes I stood in no little perplexity as to my next move. Where should I go? Where ought I to go if my adventure were to prove successful?

I glanced at the narrow, tortuous staircase winding upwards into the grim possibilities of the deserted hall and landings — and — my courage failed.

Here, at least, I was safe! Should the Unknown approach me, I could escape by the same window through which I had entered. I felt I dare not! I really could not go any further. Seized with a sudden panic at nothing more substantial than my own thoughts, I was groping my way backwards to the window when a revulsion of feeling made me pause. If all men were poltroons, how much would humanity ever know of the Occult? We should leave off where we began, and it had ever been my ambition to go — further.

My self-respect returning, I felt in my pocket for pencil, notebook and revolver, and trimming my lamp I mounted the stairs.

A house of such minute dimensions did not take long to explore; what rooms there were, were Lilliputian — mere boxes; the walls from which hung the tattered remnants of the most offensively inartistic papers were too obviously Jerry built; the wainscoting was scarred, the beading broken, not a door fitted, not a window that was not either loose or sashless — the entire house was rotten, paltry, mean; I would not have had it as a gift. But where could I wait to see the ghost? Disgust at my surroundings had, for a time, made me forget my fears ; these now returned reinforced: I thought of Miss Rudd’s comparison with a morgue— and shuddered. The rooms looked ghastly! Selecting the landing at the foot of the upper storey, I sat down, my back against the wall — and — waited.

Confronting me was the staircase leading up and down, equally dark, equally ghostly; on my right was what might once have been the drawing-room, but was now a grim conglomeration of bare boards and moonlight, and on my left was an open window directly overtopping the broad expanse of colourless, motionless water. Twelve o’clock struck, the friendly footsteps of a pedestrian died away in the distance; I was now beyond the pale of assistance, alone and deserted — deserted by all save the slimy, creeping insects below — and the shadows. Yes! the shadows; and as I watched them sporting phantastically at my feet, I glanced into the darkness beyond — and shivered.

All was now intensely suggestive and still, the road alone attractive; and despite my spartonic resolutions I would have given much to be out in the open. The landing was so cramped, so hopeless.

A fresh shadow, the shadow of a leaf that had hitherto escaped my notice, now attracted and appalled me; the scratching of an insect made my heart stand still ; my sight and hearing were painfully acute; a familiar and sickly sensation gradually crept over me, the throbbing of my heart increased, the most inconceivable and desperate terror laid hold of me: the house was no longer empty — the supernatural had come! Something, I knew not, I dare not think what, was below, and I knew it would ascend.

All the ideas I had previously entertained of addressing the ghost and taking notes were entirely annihilated by my fear — fear mingled with a horrible wonder as to what form the apparition would take, and I found myself praying Heaven it might not be that of an elemental.

The THING had now crossed the hall (I knew this somehow instinctively) and was beginning to mount the stairs.

I could not cry out, I could not stir, I could not close my eyes: I could only sit there staring at the staircase in the most awful of dumb, apprehensive agonies. The thing drew nearer, nearer; up, up, UP it came until I could see it at last — see the shock-head of red hair, the white cheeks, the pale, staring eyes, all rendered hideously ghastly by the halo of luminous light that played around it. This was a ghost — an apparition — a bona fide phantasm of the dead ! And without any display of physical power —it overcame me.

Happily for me, the duration of its passage was brief.

It came within a yard of me, the water dripping from its clinging clothes, yet leaving no marks on the flooring. It thrust its face forward; I thought it was going to touch me, and tried to shrink away from it, but could not. Yet it did nothing but stare at me, and its eyes were all the more horrible because they were blank; not diabolical, as Miss Rudd had described them, but simply Blank! — Blank with the glassiness of the Dead.

Gliding past with a slightly swaying motion, it climbed upstairs, the night air blowing through the bedraggled dress in a horribly natural manner; I watched it till it was out of sight with bated breath — for a second or so it stopped irresolutely beside an open window; there was a slight movement as of some one mounting the sill: a mad, hilarious chuckle, a loud splash — and then — silence, after which I went home.

I subsequently discovered that early in the seventies a servant-girl, who was in service at that house, had committed suicide in the manner I have just described, but whether or not she had RED hair I have never been able to ascertain.

P.S. — The Ghost I am informed on very reliable authority, is still (August 1908) to be seen.

Some Haunted Houses of England & Wales, Elliott O’Donnell, 1908

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Red hair was considered to be either the mark of the Devil or a sign of a coarse or depraved person. While one might consider engaging a red-headed scullery maid, a red-headed parlour maid could not have been countenanced.

We have heard supernatural tales from Mr O’Donnell before: The Ghost with One Shoe; The Banshee Sang of Death; The Spectral Hound.  He, Mrs Daffodil has observed, had a wide streak of misogyny, was obsessed with “Elementals” and decay, and—Mrs Daffodil knows that you will be grieved to hear it—often paltered with the truth. Still, we are obliged to him for providing us with the grues on snowy afternoons.


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 Slop Shop Trade: 1887

1841 skeleton tailors in sweatshop



What It Costs to Put “Bargain” Price Marks on Wearing Apparel

Dangers of the “Slop Shop” Trade

Business Needing Ventilation

The slop shop is the biggest thing in the cheap clothing trade, and the slop shop keepers are the hardest taskmasters of the poor slaves of the metropolis. Competition in the retail clothing business has brought this condition of things about. Besides, the whole system on which the manufacture of cheap clothing is carried on is as bad as it can be, and its continuance is a menace to public health and a danger to the general welfare of the community beside which the much talked-of tenement house manufacture of cigars is nothing.

There are comparatively few clothing factories in New York. Most of what are called such are simply shops where the cloth is cut. It then goes, each sort of garment separately, to the “tailors,” so-called, who have their shops all over the city, but chiefly in the most densely populated tenement house districts and in the very slums. One tailor will take out hundreds or thousands of pairs of pantaloons in a week, another carries off the coats, and the vests go somewhere else. If these men or women have any shops at all they are simply their living rooms in the tenements where they hire girls to come for from nothing to a few dollars a week and work at sewing machines making up the garments. In many instances men instead of girls are hired, especially on heavy work, but in either case the people are crowded as closely as the machine can be put together, often four or five in one small room where all the household lives and all the domestic work is carried on. In these places, reeking with all the vile odors of the tenements, with dirty children crawling over the filthy floors, playing among them by day and sleeping upon them at night, in an atmosphere, in short, of dirt, disease and death, the garments are finally made up.

They may be “finished” —that is, have the buttons put on and the other hand sewing done—in the same place, or this work may be farmed out to still more abject slaves than those who toil over the machines—to women who are prevented by invalid husbands, young children, or other reasons from leaving their homes, and who are therefore obliged to take up for their work whatever pittance the slop shop barons will dole out to them, and trust to charity for enough more to stave off starvation.

In the barren rooms of these lowest of slaves the garments have a change to get a new variety of odors and disease germs. Then they go, most likely, to the button hole factory, where they touch shoulders with similar lots from dozens of other tenement house shops, and when their own odors and germs have thus been amalgamated with the odors and germs of all the tenements for half a mile around, they go back to the original slop shop, and thence in the course of time to the alleged manufacturer, who sells them to a wholesaler, maybe, from whom they go to the retailer, and after all these different hands have taken their toll the general public is invited to come in and look at the wonderful bargains in clothing.

Often they are wonderful bargains, indeed, in spite of the numerous profits that have been made off of them; but if they are cheap it is because women have turned their sinews into thread and their blood into sewing machine oil in the making of them. They are aired and fumigated, and cleansed, maybe, before they are sold, but a man in the business says; “If people knew where those clothes have been they would never buy them.”

Philip Leidesdorff has been in business for eighteen years. His brother is with him now, and they have a buttonhole factory. They take the work after those who get it from the manufactures have made it up and put in the buttonholes for so much a hundred.

“This tenement house work,’” he says, “is the ruin of the clothing business, and worse yet, it’s the ruin of those that work at it. Someday people will wake up to what this cheap clothing business means. Go into some of these tenements and you’ll find in some of the little rooms a whole family living, and three or four girls working at machines all day. They take the goods from the tailor’s and make them up in the rooms where they cook and sleep. Why they use the clothes for bedding, even. If people could see once the vile holes in which the clothing is made up they’d never buy any of it. I wish they could see some of it when it comes here to have the buttonholes put in. It gets aired and cleaned before it is put up for sale.

“The way these people do is to get young girls to come and learn the business. They make them work six weeks for nothing, or, maybe $2 a week for their work, and they pack just as many of them as they can get into one room, along with the children and the cooking and all the rest. That way they make a little money for themselves at the expense of the girls, but it don’t do them much good, for pretty quick the manufacturer grinds down the price another peg, and the more they grind the girls the more the manufacturer grinds them, until nobody is making more than a bare living. The people that take the work out in the country to do are pretty near as bad as the tenement house people for prices, but, of course, they’re cleaner. If it wasn’t for them prices would be a good deal higher in the city. New York is the worst city in the country for sewing women. In Philadelphia, even, they pay them a good deal better. It’s all on account of this tenement house work, and it’ll never be any better till they pass laws making it illegal for more than one machine to be put in an ordinary living room.”

“There’s another thing,” said David Leidesdorff, a brother, “and if cholera or any such disease ever gets a start in this city people will find it out mighty quick. These tenement house factories would spread the disease through the whole country. I’ve always said that if cholera ever got a start in New York I’d drop this business and get out right away, and I’d do it, too. They have a board of health and laws enough here, but I’ve never been in a city yet, and I’ve been all over the world, where they allowed such things as they do here. Only last winter, at a place in a street right near here, the children in a family were sick of small pox in the same room where the clothing was being made up and sent out every day. These people don’t have any more regard for the laws or for other people’s health than they do for their own health, and if you have ever been in any of the holes where they live and work you know how little that is. This whole business of the manufacturer of cheap clothing needs a showing up.” New York Sun

Canton [OH] Repository 28 December 1887: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is fascinated by how the buttonhole factory brothers are well aware of the dire conditions in sweatshops and condemn sweated labour—while benefiting from it. Of course, to-day New York is one of the leading fashion capitals of the world, yet cheap clothes are more prevalent than ever, manufactured  under conditions their purchasers can only guess at.  Enslaved persons toiling in “sweat-shops” may be found, even in many of the world’s most affluent countries. Tragically, plus ça change…

Contagion from textiles has been a consistent theme in world history: Mrs Daffodil cites the plague begun in Eyam by flea-infested fabric from London; a fatal shawl, said to be behind a Russian plague outbreak in 1878, remonstrances about disease in hired mourning clothes, and the ghastly traffic in clothing stolen from corpses. A good deal of the pressure to unionise garment workers arose from fashionable ladies’ fears of contagion in sweated clothing.

To be Relentlessly Informative, “slop shop” comes from “slops,” the full breeches worn by sailors. They could be purchased ready-made and the term came to be attached to establishments selling any  cheap article of clothing.


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.