Category Archives: Sewing

The Cunning Tricks of Skillful Fingers: 1874

white rabbit egg dye The Pharmaceutical Era 1887

WHAT A WOMAN SAW.

I thought I should die a-laughing, and yet I | didn’t dare let the pucker out of my lips. There were four of them, Mary, Martha, Maria and Margaret, all at home with their mother, and she a widow. Mehitable, the youngest girl, was married, and lived just “’cross lots.” Her two little boys nicknamed Mink and Monkey, were at grandma’s every day. They were so happy—that family away in Southern Ohio, where I was visiting. My cousins said I must visit there before I went home, because none of those girls had ever seen a live authoress, and they didn’t know but people who “writ for the papers” went on all fours, like quadrupeds.

These girls’ ages were all the way between thirty-five and forty-five. They were not handsome; they were dark, and stout, and had strongly-marked features, and bold, bright, courageous eyes, and their dear old hands were hard, and stained, and horny, and very, very handy at all kinds of work, from plowing down to all the pretty devices which make a woman’s nature so sweet, and tender, and womanly. Ah! how this pretty work, the cunning tricks of skillful fingers, so fascinating to the mind of woman, does stamp her as lovable and sensitive, and sweet souled. It is like the delicate vine of embroidery about a dainty garment.

This was three years ago. As soon as I sat down in the great rocking-chair, which gave me such a soft and gracious welcome, my eyes fell upon the carpet, which was of home manufacture. The colors were red, brown, green and purple, graduated shades, with a singular, little ribbony stripe of black, orange and pink, twisted together in a way that made the colors intermingle beautifully.

Practical working woman as I am, I did not long stand on ceremony, I can assure you. I was so taken with the carpet that I began asking questions right away, for in the two hundred and fifty yards which I had made, not one yard of it could compare with that rare and pretty piece.

The dear old girls! they all talked at once; they fired up with an enthusiasm, that really made them handsome. They told me it was all made at home, the warp spun and dyed, and the rags cut, sewed, colored and woven by themselves. Such colors! I took out my note-book to jot down the different names of the dyes, which I had never yet heard of; all bought in one package, and called Leamon’s Aniline Dyes, twelve kinds in one box, to be bought of any whole. sale druggist in the United States. The directions go with the dyes in full, so that any child can use them successfully.

Nature lets nothing in the world remain useless; she makes everything serve a purpose, live again, and do good in some form or other. Just so with these managing, planning, contriving girls, they let nothing go to loss, they turned everything to good account.

My note-book has a page well packed with items, picked up that day, which I am glad to give to the sisterhood. One of the prettiest things I saw, was a what-not made of wood, covered with a thin layer of putty, into which had been worked some of Leamon’s | Brown Aniline Dye until it was the shade of black walnut; this was permitted to dry well, then putties of different colors, dyed with red, green, purple, gray, and any shade required for vines, leaves, berries, grapes, etc., were made, and put on as nature and fancy dictated; this was likewise set aside to dry, and then varnished. It was marvelously beautiful, and these what-nots had sold readily for twenty and twenty-five dollars.

A cornucopia made after this style was elegant. They can be varied by coloring the groundwork putty different shades, and any girl, at all ingenious and tasteful, can make them. They were filled with grasses and mosses, dyed green, oats and nodding swamp-grasses were dyed red, and blue, and purple, and yellow; while flowers of the amaranth were intermingled. All kinds of parlor ornaments and winter bouquets were made this way.

I think handsome rugs adorn and make cozy one’s sitting-rooms, but these girls had made them too pretty to step on. I felt afraid of crushing some of the half-opened buds, and the fresh, crisp-looking, leaves. They had spun yarn out of lamb’s wool, dyed it with the Aniline Dyes, and worked them over a pattern taken out of a magazine. The chair and sofa-tidies wrought on black canvas, were perfect. The second-best rugs were made out of old white woolen stocking: legs, dyed bright colors, the strip, cut narrow, round and round, thus turning to a good and life-long account what some women would use for moth-feed.

But the table-mats! I tee-hee’d right out! I promised the dear old gals that I would not let it get into the papers ‘long-side of the felicitous names of Mary, Martha, “Marier and Marg’et;” nor will I. No one knows whether the last name is Smith or Jones. Those delectable mats were made out of old worn-out felt hats, such as the neighbor boys used to fight bumble-bees with! The girls washed them clean in hot soap-suds, dyed them dark slate, and peachy drab, and rich wine color, stretched them well, tacked them on a board to dry, out in the sunshine, and when ready, cut them in circular shape and bound with crimson braid, or maroon, or any color that contrasted pleasantly. Then in the centre of each they stitched with bright yarn the words “meat,” “coffee,” “potatoes”

Now many a woman situate like these were, would have mourned because she could not find her “sphere,” she would have sighed for a “mission” in this world. These four sisters had missions. They filled positions that women, gifted with wealth, and beauty, and intellect, never could have filled so gracefully, and so excellently and well. Opportunity was theirs for a wide usefulness, they could bless, and help, and teach, and cheer their unskillful sisters, and could develop the latent resources of theirs most admirably.

I was amused and delighted at one of them telling about selecting her sister’s wedding-dress.

“I got dark gray cashmere,” she said; “for I told Hitty it could be dyed into half a dozen new dresses before it was wore out. When she was tired of gray, she could take some of the Aniline Dye and make it slate color, then afterwhile a light brown, then dark brown, then plum, then navy blue, and finally she could turn it the third time and end with Leamon’s immaculate black.”

Now there is more sound truth in this than fun, and if a dress is honest goods, and all wool, Mary was correct; the wedding-dress would do to wear to all the births, and baptisms, and weddings, and funerals, and finally make a very respectable and no doubt comfortable burial robe. I respect the woman who is rich in resources, who can see her way out of a dungeon or over a wall, or through a hole.

They dyed a pink wool delaine dress a dark crimson for one of the neighbor’s girls—never a spot in it. They wet it thoroughly in warm soap-suds first, and then for a mordant used alum-water. For another they dyed a white zephyr shawl a deep scarlet to match the fringe; while ties, ribbons, sashes and all such things just bloomed out into new beauty, and usefulness, and renewed freshness.

Plumes of exceeding loveliness were made of white chicken-feathers, dyed all shades of pink, from deep rose down to pale blush and all colors of blue from graduated shades, fading away to the palest, daintiest int of a hue. In making the plumes, the under side of the feather was scraped away with a knife, and it was left pliant and flexible. Another way they made beautiful, long, waving plumes, was by dyeing the tips of feathers brown, or black, and sewing them on fine cap-wire, overlapping so that only the fine tips showed. These sold for four and five dollars. Any girl can make her own. Bird-wings they colored, and the girls said they could not be told from “boughten wings.”

They made old veils into new ones, stiffened by a weak solution of gum-arabic. With these magic dyes they colored blue ones green by dipping into yellow dye, drab and gray they dyed brown, and brown black, and dingy black ones culminated into jetty black.

Old dresses were made into any color desirable, care being taken to wet the goods well first; steep slowly, and set the color with a mordant of alumwater; dilute sugar of lead and water, or saleratus-water. Then drain instead of wring, and press under a paper while damp, until dry.

In the hands of these wonderful girls dyed turkey feathers made nice fans.

An old knit sacque, faded and dingy, they raveled out, dyed brown and crocheted into a new and modern one by following a paper pattern laid in the lap; for an edge or border some fine, soft yarn of an old nubia, [a knitted head-scarf] raveled and dyed maroon and royal purple, and the sacque was a marvel and a beauty, and will last a lifetime. The old sacque was sleeveless; the new one has sleeves knit seamless, and is so warm, and snug, and pretty. I tried it on, and it fit like the truth.

Something pretty, I don’t know what it was called, made out of snail-shells dyed different colors, stood on a wide window-shelf—looked like a mound somewhat, only it was irregular in form. Then I saw something else rare and new out on the cool, breezy porch. They had taken some large clam-shells, boiled them in lye, and all the rough, gray exterior had come off and left them white and fine; these had been boiled in dyes of three or four different colors, and they were beautiful. I never knew this kind of shells could be cleaned and made good for anything, and I asked how they learned it. Mary looked over at her sister affectionately, and said: “Oh, Marg’et thought of it herself!”

They had likewise taken a couple of old nubias— one they left white and the other they dyed a delicate salmon—ripped them apart, and they were left nearly square. Now you wouldn’t guess what they made of ’em. Nobody would. I told you they made everything live anew, and I should have said that often the second life was the better and more useful one. Why, they spread them over soft, white batting, with a white lining, and made wee baby cradle-spreads of them. The white one they knotted with blue, and the blue one with white, and bound the edges with ribbon to match. You can guess how sweet a baby would look with such a fleecy covering.

They said the Aniline blue made nice bluing for washing-day; and the black, with the directions given with the package of dyes, makes the best black ink they ever saw.

Coral baskets and pretty nicknacks were made out of raisin-stems by adding some of the red dye, while melting, to the white wax and bees wax. These girls made brackets of them, too, bright and glistening, and even prettier than the real coral or those of sealing-wax.

Burlap rugs, made with a rug-hook out of soft old coats, and trousers, and ladies’ cloth, they finished with a bright edge of fine old flannel or opera-cloth, dyed those shades that would harmonize or work in unison. Sometimes, you know, colors don’t agree, and will mutually swear at each other.

An old, dingy, merino shawl they colored a deep black with Leamon’s black dye for their pastor’s wife, then cut it over into a dolman, trimmed it with fringe that had been on their mother’s parasol, and finished with bias bands of black silk which had once been their grandmother’s “quarterly meetin’ apron.” Truly, I never saw such generalship since the days of the man who was willing to “fight it out on that line,” etc. I wish I could tell you all I learned that day, but space will not permit.

Last October I was visiting in that neighborhood again. The week before I went there, Marg’et was married to a widower, a merchant who lived in the village. Of course she sent for me to come and see her, and—who ever heard of the like!-Leamon’s Aniline Dyes had gotten that old gal a husband

He told her, and she told me, how it came about. He said she sat in range of his roving, searching eye one Sabbath, at church, and that she did look so sweet, and peaceful, and modest in her quiet brown dress, and little brown hat with its tossy, tilting feathers, and the rose-pink bow in her hair and on her bosom, that before he knew it he had elected her the queen of his heart, the gem he would wear henceforth–if he could get her. And he vowed he’d get her if he could. He watched her all the time, and bowed and smiled at the door, and walked down the lane as far as the big white hawthorn, and in the evening he called awhile, and kept on calling and calling, until he called her his wife, and bore her away to his own dear little home-nest among the cedars and the climbing-roses. She further told me that the dress he admired was a soft, drab-y cashmere, sun-faded, and she had dyed it a dark, rich, nutty brown, taking special pains with it. The hat she had worn for years, an old white one; but she colored, stiffened, pressed and trimmed it with a bit of seal-brown and a nodding bunch of the ends of bronze cock-feathers, pink face-trimming, never thinking her close economy was weaving a snare to catch the heart and hand of a lone, lorn “widdy man.”

The kind, mellow, married woman! she had saved me a generous slice of the wedding-cake. It was that delicious kind called watermelon-cake. I ate it that evening as we sat at tea, the willow trailing its lithe branches to and fro across the dining-room windows that opened out upon the prettiest, shadiest lawn and orchard I ever looked upon. Such cake! It really did resemble a cool, crisp slice of melon with the seeds in it. I will give you the recipe in its proper place sometime; will only say now that the red core of the melon-cake is made by adding a grain or two of red aniline to a few drops of cinnamon essence.

Among the wedding gifts that delighted me most was a pompous white rooster and a hen to match, the gifts of the little nephews, Mink and Monkey. Their tails had been dyed dark red with Aniline Dyes, and they did look too cute!. It was such a roguish present.

We went into the parlor to see some of the bridal gifts: they were nearly all the handiwork of the beloved sisters, Mary, Martha and Maria. One, I remember was a lovely picture-frame; and another was a beautiful lamb-skin mat, dyed light brown, very fine, and velvety, and exquisitely finished with a cardinal border. A flossy little Maltese kitten slipped into the parlor behind us, and nestled itself in the dazzling centre of the pretty rug. Before Marg’et closed the door, she called it out into the sitting-room, with a gentle “Come, Leamon ‘”

PIPSEY POTTS.

Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine, Volume 46, 1878: pp. 394-

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:   It sounds a perfect hell of fancy-work!  And incidentally a puff-piece for Leamon Aniline Dyes…

We have met with the art of economy in dress–a dreary and thankless task–but these ladies seem to have been truly inspired to create articles they found beautiful and useful, and–happy accident!—a snare to catch the heart and hand of a lone, lorn “widdy man.”

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

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

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The Song of the Hammer: 1903

gossips patchwork picture

“Gossips” Patchwork picture redrawn by Carmel Wilson c. 1938 https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/patchwork-picture-gossips/8QFUFJIsR64J3Q

The Song of the Hammer.

At the home of a dame devout,

Who in mission work always led,

The sewing society sat about,

Plying their needles and thread;

And in a melodious key,

Without hesitation or stammer,

Incessantly and relentlessly,

They sang the “Song of the Hammer “:

Knock, knock, knock,

With never a halt or pause;

Knock, knock, knock,

Without provocation or cause.

Characters white as snow

Are daubed with spots of black,

While these righteous, merciful sisters sew

To cover the heathen’s back.

 

Knock, knock, knock,

None whom they know is spared;

Knock, knock, knock,

How their neighbor’s faults are aired!

The absent members, too,

Come in for their share of abuse,

While these worthy dames, with much ado,

Sew shirts for the heathen’s use.

 

“Now, there’s that girl of Clark’s,

Her conduct is really a shame,

With her tomboy capers and larks,

I just know her mother’s to blame!

And, although her mother’s my friend,

I’m sure that the giddy young flirt

Is bound to come to some bad end

As sure as I’m hemming this shirt!

 

“And that giddy young Mrs. Wright,

I’m sure you’ll all agree

That her conduct was simply a fright

At Mrs. DeLong’s last tea;

I’d not be a bit surprised,

But would think it a matter of course

If some day I should be advised

That her husband had sued for divorce.”

 

Knock, knock, knock,

While the hours are dragging slow:

Knock, knock, knock,

Till they all get up to go.

Their work for the day is o’er,

Their duty done with zest,

And when each is at home alone once more,

She’ll trim up all the rest!

 

Oh men with sisters dear,

With wives and sweethearts glad!

Did you ever happen to hear

Them giving their friends the gad?

If not, sneak home some day

And list to the sewing club’s clamor,

As they sing that old, familiar lay

Entitled “The Song of the Hammer.”

The Cleveland [OH] Leader 21 December 1903: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To be Relentlessly Informative, this is, of course, a parody of Thomas Hood’s poem “The Song of the Shirt.”

Indiscreet gossip might have embarrassing consequences, as one finds in these two little anecdotes:

Over the Fence.

Mrs. Slingonin put her head over the fence and thus addressed her neighbor, who was hanging out her week’s washing; “A family has moved in the empty house across the way,

Mrs. Clothes line.” “Yes, I know.”

“Did you notice their furniture?”

“Not particularly.”

“Two loads, and I wouldn’t give a dollar a load for it. Carpets! I wouldn’t put them down in my kitchen, And the children! I won’t allow mine to associate with them. And the mother! She looks as though she had never known a day’s happiness. The father drinks, I expect, Too bad that such people should come into this neighborhood. I wonder who they are.”

“I know them.”

“Do you? Well, l declare. Who are they?”

“The mother is my sister, and the father is superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school.”

A painful pause ensues.

The St Johnsbury [VT[ Index 29 May 1884: p. 3

CAUGHT IN THE ACT.

Two Ladles Discover How They Had Made Themselves Disagreeable.

Two ladies were standing on the doorstep of a house in Georgetown, where but a moment before they had rung the bell and were waiting to be admitted. One was talking along very intently, when the taller woman interrupted her. “Be careful,” she said, “somebody may hear you.”

“I’m very particular,” responded the other. “I looked all around before I said anything and there was nobody in sight.”

“That’s what I thought once, too, and I made a serious mistake. I was calling once, just as we now are, and was with a woman who could and did say the meanest things about people I ever heard talk. I’m not given to that kind of thing usually, but I do love a bit of gossip, and sometimes I am led into saying things I shouldn’t. On this occasion the lady we were to call on was not a favorite of mine, and when the other woman said something sarcastic I chimed right in and said I thought she was the silliest and most extravagant and homeliest and dowdiest and stupidest woman of my entire acquaintance, and that I only called from a sense of duty anyhow. And a few other things, like that, I said.

“Well, we were let in after a long wait and the reception we got was the chilliest I ever met with. I couldn’t understand it, for we were really on very good terms, as those things go, and we got out as soon as we could. That night I told my husband about it when he came home, and he wondered at it too. Next evening he came in smiling, and told me that the next time I had anything to say about my neighbors on their own doorsteps I bad better first see if there were any speaking tubes to tell on me. That explained it all in a second. A doctor used to live in that same house and he had a speaking tube at the door, as physicians do. The lady we were calling on had never changed it, and as I found out afterward, the moan thing, she used to sit close to the other end of that tube and listen to what people might be saying at the door.

“She didn’t make much by listening to me, and she didn’t dare to tell me that she knew what I thought of her, and I didn’t care if she did know, only since that time I have been more careful. There’s a tube up there, see?” and the tall lady pointed to an innocent looking monthpiece pouting out of the door frame. However, there was no response to their ring, and as they met the lady coming in just as they started away they felt perfectly safe and had a nice call.

The Scranton [PA] Republican 16 October 1897: p. 4

To be fair, not removing the rubber tube was not quite playing the game, although Mrs Daffodil admits that she would not hesitate to deploy such a device to her advantage.

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 Sewing Machine Agent and the Widow: 1875

lady at sewing machine 1860s

How a Pennsylvania Widow Served a Sewing Machine Agent.

The usually quiet little village of Leesport on the line of the Philadelphia & Reading railroad, eight miles above Reading, has had a sensation, which has caused a good deal of amusement. A Reading sewing-machine agent induced the head of a family to take a machine and pay for it in monthly installments. Before the machine was paid for, the husband and father died. The widow was in destitute circumstances, with half a dozen children, and unable to pay the balance owing on the machine, when the agent came round to take the machine away. She determined that he should not remove the machine until he had handed back at least some of the money that had been paid on it by her husband. He was apparently just as determined to secure the machine without returning any of the filthy lucre, insulted the woman and endeavored to take by force what he said belonged to the company by reason of the payment of monthly installments having been stopped.

While the agent was inside the house she locked both the front and back doors, and put the keys in her dress pocket, and being a robust woman “went for” the agent. She took hold of him and a severe and prolonged struggle ensued, while the children were frightened and cried and screamed. The widow threw the agent over the hot kitchen stove, and finally succeeded in setting him down on top of it and held him there, when he begged piteously for mercy. “For God’s sake, let me go, and I’ll pay you back every cent your husband paid me.” Being satisfied that he was severely scorched, if not partly roasted around the thighs, she pulled him off the stove, but held on to him until he had paid back every cent of the installments and then she gave him two minutes time to take the machine and clear out with it. The name of the plucky woman and also that of the agent, are withheld by special request.

Atchison [KS] Daily Patriot 30 September 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr Isaac Singer patented  the sewing machine in 1851. It was touted as relieving the housewife from the drudgery of sewing, yet made possible even more drudgery in sweatshops.

We might debate who did it better:  how very different the methods of this “robust” widow were from those in another story of a widow and a sewing machine on the hire-purchase plan. Equally happy endings, except, possibly, for the scars impressed on that part of his anatomy by the agent. And a salutary anecdote about the importance of life insurance.

 

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.

 

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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.

Spoopendyke and the Bathing Suit: 1880

1877 men's bathing suit

A COMPLICATED GARMENT.

“My dear,” observed Mr. Spoopendyke, looking up from his paper, “I think I would be greatly benefited this Summer by sea baths. Bathing in the surf is an excellent tonic, and if you will make me up a suit, and one for yourself, if you like, we’ll go down often and take a dip in the waves.”

“The very thing,” smiled Mrs. Spoopendyke, “you certainly need something to tone you up, and there’s nothing like salt water. I think I’ll make mine of blue flannel, and, let me see, yours ought to be, red, my dear.”

“I don’t think you caught the exact drift of my remark,” retorted Mr. Spoopendyke; “I didn’t say I was going into the opera business, or that I was going to hire out to some country village as a conflagration. My plan was to go in swimming, Mrs. Spoopendyke, to go in swimming, and not grow up with the country as a cremation furnace. You can make yours of blue if you want it, but you can’t make mine of red, that’s all.”

“There’s a pretty shade of yellow flannel–”

“Most indubitably, Mrs. Spoopendyke, but if you think I’m going to masquerade around Manhattan Beach in the capacity of a ham, you haven’t yet seized my idea. I don’t apprehend that I shall benefit by the waters any more by going around looking like a Santa Cruz rum barrel. What I want is a bathing suit, and If you can’t got one up without making me look like Fulton street car I’ll go and buy something to suit me.”

“Would you want it all in one piece, or do you want pants and blouse?”

“I want a suit easy to get in and out of. I’m not particular about following the fashion. Make up something neat, plain and substantial, but don’t stick any fancy colors into it. I want it modest and serviceable.”

Mrs. Spoopendyke made up the suit, under the guidance of a lady friend, whose aunt had told her how it should be constructed. It was in one piece, and when completed was rather a startling garment.

“’I’ll try it on, to-night,” said Mr. Spoopendyke, eyeing it askance when it was handed him.

Before retiring Mr. Spoopendyke examined the suit, and then began to get into it.

“Why didn’t you make some legs to it?  What d’ye want to make it all arms for?” he inquired, struggling around to see why it didn’t come up behind. “You’ve got it on sideways,” exclaimed Mrs. Spoopendyke. “You’ve got one leg into the sleeve.”

“I’ve got to get it on sideways. There ain’t any top to it. Don’t you know enough to put the arms up where they belong?  What d’ye think I am, anyhow? A star fish? Where does this leg go?”

“Right in there. That’s the place for that leg.”

“Then where’s the leg that goes in this hole?”

“Why, the other leg.”

“The measly thing’s all legs. Who’d you make this thing for, me? What d’ye take me for, a centipede? Who else is going to get in here with me? I want somebody else. I ain’t twins. I can’t fill this business up. What d’ye call it, anyway, a family machine?”

“Those other places ain’t legs; they’re sleeves.”

“What are they doing down there? Why ain’t they up here where they belong? What are they there for, snow shoes? S’pose I’m going to stand on my head to get my arms in those holes?”

‘I don’t think you’ve got it on right,” suggested Mrs. Spoopendyke. “It looks twisted.”

“That’s the way you told me. You said, ‘put this leg here and that one there,’ and there they are. Now, where does the rest of me go?”

“I made it according to the pattern,” sighed Mrs. Spoopendyke.

“Then it’s all right, and it’s me that’s twisted,” sneered Mr. Spoopendyke. “I’ll have my arms and legs altered. All I want is to have my legs jammed in the small of my back and my arms stuck in my hips; then it’ll fit. What did you take for a pattern, a crab? Where’d you find the lobster you made this thing from? S’pose I’m going into the water on all fours? I told you I wanted a bathing suit, didn’t I?  Did I say anything about a chair cover?”

“I think if you take it off and try it on over again, it’ll work,” reasoned Mrs. Spoopendyke,

“Oh! of course. I’ve only got to humor the gastod thing. That’s all it wants,” and Mr. Spoopendyke wrenched it off with a growl.

“Now pull it on,” said Mrs. Spoopondyke.

Mr. Spoopendyke went at it again, and reversed the original order of disposing his limbs.

“Suit you now?” he howled. “That the way you meant it to go? What’s these things flopping around here?”

“Those are the legs, I’m afraid,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, dejectedly.

“What are they doing up here? I see; oh! I see, this is supposed to represent me making a dive. When I get this on, I’m going head first. Where’s the balance? Where’s the rest? Give me the suit that represents me head up,” and Mr, Spoopendyke danced around the room in fury.

“Just turn it over, my dear,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, “and you are all right.”

“How’m I going to turn it over?” yelled Mr. Spoopendyke. “S’pose I’m going to carry around a steam boiler to turn me over when I want the other end of this thing up? S’pose I’m going to hire a man to go around with a griddle spoon and turn me over like a flapjack, just to please this dod gasted bathing suit? D’ye think I work on pivots?”

“Just take it off and put it on the other way,” urged Mrs. Spoopendyke, who began to see her way clear.

Mr. Spoopendyke kicked the structure up to the ceiling, and plunged into it once more. This time it came out all right, and as he buttoned it up and surveyed himself in the glass the clouds passed away and he smiled. “I like it,” he remarked, “the color suits me and I think you have done very well, my dear; only,” and he frowned slightly, “I wish you would mark the arms and legs so I can distinguish one from the other, or some day I will present the startling spectacle of a respectable elderly gentleman hopping around the beach up side down. That’s all.”

The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 27 June 1880: p. 2

swimsuits 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have met the irascible Mr Spoopendyke before, as he complained of the masquerade costume the much-tried Mrs Spoopendyke had selected for him. Back in the day his vile abuse passed for humourous domestic banter. If Mrs Daffodil were Mrs Spoopendyke, she would have sewed a number of lead weights into the seams and hems of the bathing costume she had so kindly constructed and would have encouraged the lout to eat a hearty lunch and then take a nice long swim, far far from shore.

 

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.

Concerning Negligees: 1900

1902 negligee

1902 negligee http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/159445?rpp=30&pg=1&ft=negligee&pos=3

Concerning Negligees

Philosophers say that when a man is intoxicated his real nature may easily be discovered. Carlyle, in his great and thoughtful work on clothes, did not give the lounging garb of woman the serious consideration it deserves. He wandered off into the realms of the abstruse and came to no such conclusions as these:

  1. Whoever would know a woman thoroughly must have a chance to know her in a wrapper.
  2. The colors that she chooses, the style that she affects, and, above all, the way that she wears it, will be such commentaries on her taste and character as are nowhere else visible.
  3. A flannetl lounging gown made like a friar's robe negligee

In the street every woman is perforce garbed much like every other woman. The tailors, the ready made departments of the shops, and the inherent feminine distaste for appearing different from other women, arrange that. even if one has wild yearnings after primrose or crimson, and aspires to originality of cut, one has to be very wealthy to gratify this taste in public. The ready made departments do not cater to would-be esthetes, and the tailors permit no rebellion against their dictates.

But the negligee, the little home made affair, the two days’ work of the seamstress or of the clever needlewoman herself! That is another matter. In fashioning that there is no hard and fast law of cut or color to follow. Though drab be the prescribed street colors, one may riot in red indoors. Every woman may be herself—and that is why the negligee is to woman the same involuntary confession that inebriety is sometimes to man.

There are women, of course, to whom negligee is unknown, and while they may be wise so far as their failure to provide possibly damaging biographical notes of themselves is concerned, they are the most short sighted of mortals so far as comfort, economy, and health go.

lounging in half undress negligee

The lounging gown is of course a comfort. That needs no elucidation. Its economy is equally plain. To lounge in tailor made attire is distinctly extravagant. To lounge in half undress is a short sighted, cold inviting policy, profitable to no one but the doctor.

The woman who provides herself with enough comfortable lounging gowns is a wise one. The one who has a warm flannel wrapper in which to infold herself when she comes in tired and in need of a few minutes’ sleep; who has a soft silk affair in which to lean back luxuriously in a steamer chair in her own room while she reads or has a late breakfast; who has short bed jackets to cover her shoulders when she indulges in a sybaritic breakfast in bed, or even spends a day there; who has warm, soft slippers by her bed to slip her bare feet into the instant she arises: who has pretty little matinées in which to make a comfortable, ungirt, and yet respectable appearance at the family luncheon table in an emergency–this woman is wise in her day and generation She is pleasing not only to her household, but she is a pleasure to herself as well; for the woman who does not take a youthful delight in such possessions is no true woman. The little luxuries of life do as much to keep the spirits of women fresh and young as anything except love and religion, and she is fortunate who realizes this in time.

The materials of which these gowns and sacks are made are inexpensive, especially in the spring and summer. The eider down and cashmere lined silk of winter may be dear enough to bar their use, but in the spring, when Japanese silks, lawns, and dimities may be had at prices ranging from twelve cents a yard up, there is no reason why any woman of moderate means should fail to have plenty of negligees.

For the summer bath robe–that shapeless, comfortable garment which no wardrobe should be without—there is no better material than terry. Originally and strictly, terry was a silk or woolen fabric with loops uncut. Probably most of the terry seen in bath robes has had little acquaintance with the silkworm or the sheep. But however cottony the cheap varieties are, they are admirably adapted to the summer bath robe. It comes in all colors and combination of colors. There are delicious yellows, pale blues, tender pinks, stripes as admirably blended as the rainbow’s, to say nothing of pure white. All of these wash well, as every one knows who has seen the borders of Turkish bath towels come clear and unclouded from many scaldings. The goods cost from thirty cents a yard up, according to width and quality. Six yards of the wide variety or eight of the narrower will make a bath robe.

In gowns that are less openly utilitarian, the Japanese ideal still prevails. You may spend fifty dollars on a kimono of peach bloom silk crape, with silver traceries upon it; or you may expend seventy five cents upon a blue and white cotton crape a size or so too large for you—or for any normal woman—and therefore reduced in price. Half an hour given to turning up the hem and shortening the loose sleeves will make it wearable.

Between these two extremes, the kimono may be had in every conceivable fabric, no matter how far removed from the Japanese. There are figured lawns and organdies made up in the loose, flowing style. There are white mull kimonos and blue gingham kimonos. There are figured kimonos trimmed with bands of plain goods, and, conversely, there are plain kimonos adorned with figured edges.

Next in popularity to this style, which has a certain quaint prettiness and a great deal of comfort to recommend it, comes the “student’s gown ” style. No mortar board young woman upon a college campus would admit the resemblance between her dignified academic robe and this negligee, but nevertheless there is one.

student's gown wrapper negligee

The student’s gown wrapper is as guileless of fit as the kimono, except at the neck. It is gathered around the neck and half way down the shoulder seams in the back and front, and falls in straight

It has sleeves put into an armhole of more conventional size than the kimono’s, and the sleeves themselves are considerably more modest in their dimensions.

The bath robe crosses in front and is tied in place by a cord around the waist. The kimono also laps one side of the front over the other and holds itself together, if its wearer is orthodox, by a broad sash, and by a brooch or button if she is not. The student’s gown wrapper fastens down the front with a succession of ribbon bows.

All of these, however, are for the inmost privacy of one’s room. One of the ways, it may be mentioned, by which a negligee reveals its wearer’s character is the time and place where it is worn. The woman who is not able to resist its allurements when she emerges into the public part of her house, or who receives in it, has written herself down as unmistakably as the woman who comes into a hotel dining room wearing the garment known as a tea gown.

This tea gown has, however, its place in the well-regulated wardrobe. It is not a garb, as the initiated have sometimes supposed, for receiving guests at teas or for wearing on one’s day at home, but it is a cross between the bedroom gown and the regular skirt and bodice in which one fronts the world. If one is very tired, one’s family will forgive a tea gown if it is pretty and the dinner is strictly a family affair—at the dinner table. One‘s intimate friends, calling at an unexpected hour, may be received in it in one’s own rooms. It is the half way gown.

It must fit more closely than the less formal negligees, but it is still easier to wear than a skirt and waist because it has no bands, and as a usual thing it makes no attempt to fit tightly at the waist. The back may be plain or full. The front is almost always full. There is generally a loose girdle fastening the front down.

A particularly pretty gown of this sort was made of striped Japanese silk, in pale lavender and green. There was a pointed yoke of coarse white lace laid over lavender silk in both back and front. In the back a triple Watteau pleat started from the point of the yoke. The sides of the gown fitted smoothly to the figure, and the front was gathered fully into the yoke. A girdle of lavender velvet, starting under the Watteau pleat in the back, crossed the sides and front, and fastened on the left side with a large upright how. The yoke, the belt, and the bow gave almost the effect of a waist, without any of its discomforts.

Simpler and even more effective in this regard was a gown of old rose China silk. In this the fullness in the back began at a high, Empire waist line, while the sides were fitted and the front fell loose from the neck. An Eton jacket of cream lace covered the back down to the fullness and came far enough across the front to give the effect of a folded vest to the drapery there. A girdle of cream lace, crossed in two bands, confined the fullness at the waist.

The lace Eton jacket, either sleeveless or sleeved, is admirably adapted to transforming a loose silk wrapper into a garment of some dignity and formality.

A white lawn wrapper with insertions of black lace in the front and across the deep flounce which finished the gown was rendered extremely chic by a sleeveless bolero of black lace, while a bolero made of alternate stripes of white lace insertion and blue ribbon gave a touch of formality to an otherwise extremely simple blue lawn robe.

a tea gown and dimity matinee negligee

The matinée is the tea gown cut off a little below the waist line. It fits about the shoulders; it has a close back or a Watteau back; it has a jabot of lace, or a hand of insertion, or a bunch of ribbons down the front. Sometimes it is an abbreviated kimono, though this is really more of a combing jacket than a breakfast sack.

A really charming matinée was made of “ all over ” white embroidery. It had a fitted hack and a full front, fastening on the left side. There were short under arm seams, so that the front had the bolero effect. These were edged with a double frill of white footing. The neck was cut off sharp in front

And edged with footing, while in the back a graduated Elizabethan collar rose. This was of doubled material, wired, so that the proper flare was obtained, while the wire was removable, so that there was no trouble with proper laundering.

Some exquisitely pretty morning sacks are made very simply of lawn or organdy. They have groups of fine tucks down the half fitting back, while the front is tucked ear the top instead of being gathered. The neck is slightly sloped in front, and a double ruffle of the lawn, edged with narrow Valenciennes, outlines the neck and the front.

Very plain jackets of white lawn are made to seem elaborate by fastenings of ribbon bows and by fichus of net draped  around the neck.

In the realm of bedroom shoes there are all sorts of fascinations. There are cool sandals of woven straw, lacing in true Greek style between the ties and strapping around the ankle. These, except for the faddists who believe in bare feet, are only to make the morning journey to the bathroom.

green tuft turkish mules 18th c

hot pink mulesembroidered pink mules

There are heelless slippers, and slippers which are half heels. There are shoes that come well over the instep, and shoes that barely cover the toes. There are Turkish slippers barbarically embroidered and felt slippers Puritanically plain.

If a woman is extremely fastidious and has plenty of money or of time, she may have her bedroom shoes to match her bedroom gowns. Plenty of time is said advisedly, for it is as possible for the possessor of this valuable commodity to make her own slippers of quilted silk or satin or terry as it was for her to crochet the pink and blue slippers of a decade ago. The soles, either with or without heels, may be bought, and for the rest, time, patience, and a good pattern are all that are necessary.

fur slippersermine slippers

In winter the best shoes are those which are lined and bordered with fur, and which come up well over the instep.

In summer, smooth silk, quilted or plain is better, and lower vamps are of course in order. Indeed, for summer nothing prettier can be imagined than the shoe which consists only of a heel and sole with a small upper in front only, into which the toes may be thrust rather for the purpose of keeping the shoe on than for protecting the feet. These may be bought in leather of every color and in several colors of silk; or they may be made to order to match any silk negligee.

The fur border which is such an attractive part of the winter bedroom shoe loses its charm in the spring, when the severe finish of a heavy silk cord, or the frivolous one of a pleated satin ribbon, becomes more seasonable.

The Puritan, Vol. 8 1900: pp. 363-368

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add to this exhaustive excursus except to applaud the notion that the negligee reveals the character and to shudder at the depravity of the “woman who comes into a hotel dining room wearing the garment known as a tea gown,” that garment noted for its acquaintance with the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue…

 

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.