Category Archives: Sewing

A Crazy Quilt Tragedy: 1911

Domestic Tragedy.

“Lobelia!” The voice of Mr. M’Swat was high-pitched and imperative, yet had a note of vague alarm in it.

“What is it, Billiger?”

“I can’t find my neckties.”

“Your neckties? They’re scattered all over the bureau.”

“I don’t mean the ties I wear every day. I mean the others.”

“What others?”

“The—the ones I’ve worn from time to time, you know, and put away, as good as new.”

“How should I know anything about them?”

“Do you mean to tell me, Lobelia, you don’t know anything about a a—box of neckties I have kept for years in this second drawer?”

“What a fuss you are making over a box of old rags! What do you want of it, anyway?”

“I want to put a few of these in it. You don’t know what you’re talking about, madam, when you call them a lot of old rags, either. I want to know where they are.”

“Well, you needn’t go to rummaging through any more of those drawers. You won’t find them there. I can tell you that.”

The wrath of Mr. M’Swat assumed a lurid, ghastly character.

“I think I have certain inalienable rights in this house, Lobelia Grubb M’Swat,” he said. “And among these is the right to keep my neckties in my own drawer, in my own dressing case, in my own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and the statutes in such case made and”—

“You needn’t tell the neighbours about it. Before I’d make all that racket about a lot of old, worn-out neckties–”

“Who told you they were old and worn out? Didn’t you hear me say distinctly they were”—

“Now, you know, Billiger M’Swat, you haven’t worn one of those old ties for years and years. What’s the use”—

‘Then you do know something about them! I thought sol Why did you try to deceive me? Why did you tell me”—

“That’s right! Accuse your wife of lying!”

“Didn’t you tell me you knew nothing about them?”

“No, sir! I said nothing of the kind!”

“Lobelia! Wife of my bosom! Look me in the eye. Where are those neckties?”

“Wh-what do you want of them?” asked Mrs., M’Swat, rather feebly.

“I simply want to know what has become of them.”

She put her handkerchief to her eye. ”

“I–I th-think it’s just mean”—

“What’s mean?”

“Here I’ve slaved away day after day, making something nice”—

“Lobelia, where are those neckties?”

“Billiger, I have made them up into the loveliest crazy quilt”—

“A crazy quilt!” he yelled. “Thunder and Ben Franklin! Woman do you know what you have done!”

“lt was nothing but a lot of old”–

Mr. M’Swat became tragic.

“Mrs. M’Swat,” he exclaimed, in a deep bass voice. “I have been making a collection of artistic neckties for ten years. Some of them cost me over a dollar. None of them less than 50 cents. You have ruined a unique, unequalled, original 75dol. collection of ties”—

“Oh, Billiger, why didn’t you tell me?”

“To make a 4dol. crazy quilt! Why didn’t you tell me?”

Husbands and wives, why will ye hide things from each other?— Chicago Tribune.

North Otago [NZ] Times 8 April 1911: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The craze for “crazy patchwork” was a long-standing one and one perhaps responsible for more marital unhappiness than any number of Vamps. Mrs Daffodil has written of the patch-work “mania” and the terrible lengths ladies would go to for “samples” to make their quilts and of their depredations on the households’ wardrobe. It was a dark time…

Truth in Jest

The girl with soft grey eyes and rippling brown hair that walked all over your poor fluttering heart at the charity ball, has just finished a crazy quilt containing 1,064 piece sof neckties and hat linings, put together with 21,390 stitches. And her poor old father fastens on his suspenders with a long nail, a piece of twine, a sharp stick, and one regularly ordained button.

Southland Times 26 January 1886: p. 4

This squib suggests that the craze even changed fashions in men’s neckties:

The crazy quilt rage goes on in as intense a fashion as that of roller skating, and Lent has not subdued but rather emphasized the rush for “pieces” of the most gaudy hues. Men growl that their neckties are not safe, the dry goods houses are getting niggardly about samples, and gradually masculinity is arraying itself against another woman’s right. Have you noticed the tendency toward sobriety in color in men’s neckties? It is a growing one and only the result of a plot between men and brothers against women and sisters. And I don’t wonder at it. Neither will you, when you lose a brilliant-hued scarf for days and have almost forgotten it, when it suddenly appears to you in the form of a center piece in a crazy quilt. I have gone necktieless, suffered and cursed, and am therefore a rabid adherent of the new movement in neckties, even if it, in the end, leads us to black and sober solid colors. There are more ways of crossing a river beside jumping it. Therefore a change of style in mankind’s wear that will cripple the crazy quilt mania will be in the nature of an elevation of the dynamiter with his own mechanical can.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 25 March 1885: p. 4

 

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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Liverwurst and Limburger: Christmas Presents Made at Home: 1911

house horrible button hook hanger

A button-hook hanger made from a potato masher. An example of a Happy Hands at Home holiday gift.

How To Make Christmas Presents at Home

(The first of our famous and helpful “How To Make” series.) By F. P. PITZER

A Teething Ring For Baby.

Keep an old liverwurst in a cool place for a day or so, and then rivet the ends together. Then cover the whole with wursted—oh, pshaw! we mean worsted—wrapping it around as closely and tightly as possible. This will prevent the liverwurst from biting the baby.

Cologne Bottle Holder.

First have a first-class tailor take the measurements of the bottle. Then take a silk sock—one can be found in almost any eight-dollar-a-week clerk’s washing—and cut off at the top where the garter generally takes a grip with its tin teeth. Then cut a few holes in the top and run some baby ribbon through them, so that the opening can be readily tightened or loosed. Into the holder thus made slip the bottle. If the bag is lined with banana skins, the bottle will slip in more easily. If it is to be used to hold a flask instead of a cologne bottle, never mind the baby ribbon or the sock.

A Jewel Case.

Get a cube of limburger cheese, and with a stiletto cut out the insides and line with zinc. Cover the outside with wallpaper. Sprinkle the interior with Towne’s Remarkable Hair Grower. (For sale at this office. Well recommended by such shaggy-haired funny fellows as Bill Nye, R. K. Munkittrick [humourist, author, and editor of Judge] , J. K. Bangs, W. J. Lampton [satirical writer and poet] and others too humorous to mention.) In a few days the grower will cause hair to sprout out on all sides and make a fine, soft lining. Building the box from cheese makes it stronger and a scentsible gift.

A Button Holder.

Cut the stiff bosom from your father’s or husband’s best shirt. Tie a ribbon to the name plate at the bottom, and then, rolling it upward, tie the same through the excavation where his dollar-twenty-five stud usually rests. Close up the sides of the cylinder thus made with sausage skin, and cut a hole in the top just large enough to admit a button. Do not make it too large, or it might admit cigar stumps, ashes, cuds of tobacco or other emblems of masculine civilization. Baby ribbon can dangle all around it, like a Boer’s whiskers. When finished, varnish the whole thing with maple syrup. This syrup will catch and hold any burglarious flies that might call to steal some of the buttons.

Book-markers.

Perhaps the best book-markers we have ever seen were ten chubby little bread-and-jam-covered fingers that evaded its nurse and walked up the shelves of our bookcase one day. But, of course, every one hasn’t these little fingers in the house, so we give the following more simple method of making a handy bookmarker. Cut a piece of birch bark from an elephant’s hide, two inches wide and four inches long. Any elephant will stand long enough to permit you to carve a piece of hide from his envelope. He may strike you with his trunk, but he will soon tire of this. After you have cut out a piece of the proper size, chew on one end of it until it has the resemblance of fringe and then with a red-hot poker burn an appropriate motto in the left-hand corner, such as “Damn the Trusts,” “Let Well Enough Alone,” “Stand Pat,” or other quotation appropriate for a quiet home. Do not burn these mottoes in the hide before it is taken from the elephant. We know of only one man who tried to do this, and now he is in a place where his poker stays continually red-hot.

Caricature; wit and humor of a nation in picture, song, and story, 1911

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We have previously read of the Empress Augusta’s appalling Christmas gifts. Then there were the useless articles of fancy-work so often dispensed at Christmas with no recourse, but to accept them graciously.

It is frequently said that, in gift-giving, “It is the thought that counts.”  Mrs Daffodil has seen entirely too many thoughtless gifts and would amend this axiom to include a thought for the actual recipient’s tastes, wants, and needs.

Still, Mrs Daffodil knows that many people fervently subscribe to the “happy hands at home” school of holiday gifts. They derive moral and spiritual satisfaction from their handicrafts and there is no dissuading them from their fell purpose. It is in the hopes of pushing these Happy Handers to the reductio ad absurdum that Mrs Daffodil appends a few more hints.

Christmas Hints

A simple and tasteful homemade picture frame may be constructed from common gas pipe cut into suitable length and tied together at the corners with shoe strings.

A neat paperweight may be made by wrapping half a brick in paper such as butchers use and tying it with red tape.

A dainty towel rack may be fabricated from a baseball bat and two cigar boxes. Shellac the boxes and sandpaper the bat.

An ordinary cobblestone hand-painted with lampblack and household ammonia makes an excellent door weight.

A novel pipe rack for fastidious smokers may be made from a small strip of one inch plank. Bore holes in it for the stems of the pipes to pass through.

A dried muskmelon shell makes an attractive tobacco jar.
Janesville [WI] Daily Gazette 16 December 1904: p. 7

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.

 

Autobiography of A Christmas Gift: 1908

Autobiography of A Christmas Gift.

I am a Christmas gift. In fact, I have always been one. My age is now nineteen, though I may look older. I was made by the dainty hands of Miss Susanna Silkes, who at that time was just the age I am now. Guess her age at present? She is still Miss Susanna, and she still owns me.

Oh, yes. Miss Susanna gave me away. Perhaps I should explain that I am twins, being a pair of knit slippers. Miss Susanna, it was understood, had benevolent designs upon the young pastor of her church, so she knit me and sent me to the reverend youth.

Next Christmas, the preacher, who had received five other pairs, sent me to his sister. You see, knit slippers are guaranteed to fit any feet as well as any other feet. So the preacher’s sister was not at all offended.

The next Christmas she sent me to her old college chum, Mrs. De Brown, who was a member of her brother’s congregation. Next Christmas Mrs. De B. sent me to her pastor. The pastor grinned when he saw me again and remarked something like “Cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you after many days.”

The next Christmas the pastor sent me to his old college chum, who was sweet on Miss Susanna. There was every prospect of a match, since Miss Susanna had despaired of winning the preacher, who was known to be engaged to another lady. But—the very next Christmas the preacher’s college chum sent me to Miss Susanna with a perfumed note praising her dainty little feet. This broke off the match, of course.

Well, next Christmas Miss Susanna mailed me to a friend of hers clear across the continent. Miss Susanna’s address on the corner of the box in which I was mailed got rubbed off en route, and her friend didn’t know who sent me.

So the very next Christmas I returned to Miss Susanna. Oh, I was hard to lose! I was not made to wear; I was made to circulate. I am a good thing and so everybody passes me along.

Oh, so you recognize me now? Yes, I spent a year with you. Well, time slips, and I must be going. This is Christmas eve, you know.

T. Sapp, Jr.

Daily Herald [Biloxi, MS] 21 December 1908: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The making of slippers was a well-worn Christmas ritual for the ladies of the parish. Slippers in daintily designed or even beaded Berlin wool-work were perhaps the more usual format, but no matter the method of production, they were all equally despised by their beleaguered recipients.

Some might think it a pity that Miss Susanna did not swallow her pride–after all, the old college chum did not have an inkling about the slippers’ origins and did, after all, praise her dainty feet, although she seems to have taken it in the spirit of mockery. How much human happiness turns on these miscommunications! Miss Susanna did not consider that she could have spent a useful life knitting slippers for the Deserving Poor of the parish, kept comfortably in yarn by her devoted clerical husband.

 

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.

Suffering from Bazaars: 1867

Collinson, James, 1825-1881; At the Bazaar

CONCERNING BAZAARS.

I wonder who “got up” the first bazaar? “The world knows nothing of its greatest men” we are told, but if the inventor of bazaars can lay claim to greatness on account of having invented bazaars, I think it is just as well for him, or her, that the world knows nothing of them. The temptation of those who have suffered either as buyers or as sellers to curse their memories would be terrible in the extreme; in fact, awful as might be the consequences of indulging in a fierce string of invective, I do not think that the temptation so to indulge could be resisted; and then consider, not only the quality, but the quantity of vituperation, for who has not at least once during their life-time suffered from bazaars?

There is a society [in aid of the deserving poor] and all the ways of collecting money from said society have been “played out” as the Yankees say, and if something is not done the society will be “played out” too…

The “Meetings in Aid” talk to empty benches, and the plates at the door have only a few coppers upon them, the collecting cards show a nil return, the clergymen will not lend their pulpits, and at last some one as desperately energetic upon the subject of the [charity]… proposes the getting up of a bazaar!

How easy it is to write those words, with what volubility they slide from our tongues; but oh the difficulty, practically and actually, to “get up” a bazaar! Have any of you experienced it? Have you been surfeited with dolls, smothered with mats, plagued with pen-wipers, hung over with anti-macassars, and found your life a burden to you with pincushions? Have you ever known the torment of not only having to collect these things among your friends, but of having to make them up yourself? Every table in your drawing-room is strewn over with bits of cloth, shreds of silk, ends of ribbon, strings of beads, pieces of braid, and squares of cardboard! These are a small portion of the raw material waiting to be made use of; but besides these there are on other tables, and on chairs, on the top of the piano, on the chimney piece, everywhere and anywhere, undressed dolls of all sizes and shapes—from the large wax with the flaxen curls and the terribly vacant blue eyes, to the doll of wood with the stiff joints, and the hair and-the boots put on with a paint-brush!

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Then in the drawers, or upon the shelves of your wardrobe, there will surely be stored articles contributed by friends, and of course ready for the bazaar. A twin-sister of the blue-eyed flaxen-haired doll, which you have to dress, is here, brilliant in white muslin over pink calico, with a gipsy hat and a scarlet opera cloak—congruity is seldom remembered in doll’s attire. Then there is the nun-doll, and the Normandy peasant doll, and the Newhaven fishwife, and the buy-a-broom girl, and Red riding-hood, and a bride and a bridesmaid, and an old grand-dame. The gentlemen dolls are comparatively scarce, but we have the negro minstrel…and we have a sailor, a collegian, a soldier and a policeman, and that is, I think, the sum-total of our “Mr. Dolls,” to quote Eugene Wrayburn, in “Our Mutual Friend.”

puppies pen wiper.JPG

And then the pen-wipers! There is the cocked-hat shape and the flat-bottom boat, and the set of melon-shaped leaves worked with beads, and the other set of leaves, with a thing stretched upon them intended to represent a dog—it is like no dog that I ever saw—and dozens of others all equally ingenious and useless.

cms 744974

The pincushion family is even more numerous: they begin with the ambitious “Box”—that which once held fragrant ” Havannahs” is now trimmed with lace and ribbon—and the round affair, with the little glass in the centre for flowers, and go down to the smallest thing which can be made and stuffed. We have the Wellington boot and the Blucher boot, and the high-heeled slipper! we have the church-steeple, the belfry bell, and the kitchen-bellows! we have balls, hoops, and croquet mallets—these last are quite a new invention; we have pincushions for the workbox, for the pocket, and the belt; we have pincushions into which it is impossible to put pins, and pincushions from which it is impossible to take pins out! We have hard pincushions and soft pincushions, and pincushions which are neither hard nor soft—in short, pincushions enough to set you mad, and to make you wish that there were no such things as pins in the world!

And then the mats. Of all the rubbish which a bazaar collects together defend me from the mats! Mats of worsted-work and mats of beads, mats of crochet and of knitting, mats of shaded wool crimped to represent moss, and mats of shaded paper crimped to represent leaves! Mats of every size, shape, and colour; mats for the tea-kettle and the tea-urn, the lamps, and the jugs! Mats made of steel rings and—yes I have seen them—mats made of shirt buttons!

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When I add to these the handsome pieces of worsted and patchwork (which rarely sell), cushions, slippers, tea-pot “cosys,” fender-stools, foot-stools, chairs, borders for table-covers, borders for chimney pieces, banner screens and hand-screens, sachets, what-nots, carriage-bags, travelling-bags, bags for nothing at all—when I enumerate the “anti-macassars” —why not call them “anti-trotter-oil pomades?” —in knitting, netting, tatting, and crochet, in braiding and applique, in everything that is possible and impossible—when I try to give even a faint idea of the assortment of children’s clothes, and of the hundred and one knickknacks for which I could not find either a name or a use, you will have some idea, if you have no personal experience, of the “matter” which accumulates when a “bazaar” is about to be got up!

But far be it for me to say that a bazaar is all work and no play; on the contrary, it is generally considered “delightful” and “great fun,” except perhaps by “papa,” who never can find a chair to sit upon while the bazaar mania lasts; and also by “mamma,” who, after the first few days, begins to think that the “girls” are wasting their time, and that the bazaar gives Mr. Verdant Green, the curate, too many opportunities for “dropping in.”

bazaar apron with leaves

But “girls,” as a rule, like fancy work, they have a positive genius for slippers, and are in their element among mats; besides, won’t it be nice to appear in pretty new muslins and becoming hats on the day of the bazaar; and “won’t it be fun to act shop-maids!” Such a good excuse for a little “innocent flirtation.” Oh, yes; the young ladies are all sympathy for the [deserving poor]!

But the really hard work begins when it is announced that enough of dolls have been dressed, pincushions stuffed, and rubbish generally collected; then the day for the sale has to be fixed, placards have to be drawn out, printed, pasted, and posted! the room has to be swept and garnished, the tables have to be set and ornamented, and the wares have to be spread out! How joyfully the young ladies assemble the day before the bazaar to do the work of decoration, and how fagged they are before evening, how weary of the sight of pink and blue glazed calico of laurel branches and paper flowers, of hammers and of nails! But there are not—more is the pity—any fairy wands now-a-days, and if we don’t like looking at bare walls while we are dining or dancing in public, or while we are selling dolls for charity, we must just buy the hammers and the nails, the glazed calico and the paper flowers, and set to work to make the bare walls look smart. Indeed, a great deal of what I may collectively call “hammering and nailing” goes on in the world before we can dine or dance, or get married, or even see our friends in a quiet way: yes, and even when the child is born, and the man dies, we have the frosted christening cake, and the plumes upon the hearse.

But the decorations are finished at last, and the tables are arranged, and how difficult it was to arrange them in the most effective manner, and so to dispose the dolls, the pincushions, the pen-wipers, and all kinds of rubbish so as to prevent Mrs. Smith from fancying that her contribution was not thought so much of as the contribution of Mrs. James. The sale begins at one o’clock, and by half-past twelve the fair shopwomen, in the new muslins and the becoming hats, are in their places, with little cash boxes beside them, and little piles of small silver for change, and a little pencil to jot down accounts.

female members of charity bazaar 1885

Lady workers at a charity bazaar, including a fortune teller in the front row, 1885

There is a great deal of variety about these amateur shopwomen: there is the timid seller, who either sits down behind her counter, or else shields herself behind a screen of antimacassars, or pinafores, which she has ingeniously suspended for the purposes of fence; she is always changing the position of her wares, and hoping that they look well from the outside; after everything she sells she counts her money, and she is the only one from whom, on the first day of the sale, any article can be got a bargain. She never asks any one to buy anything, but when people come up to her stall she gently puts some little thing that she fancies they may be looking for, more prominently in view. It is to her that children who have small sums, varying from one penny to six, to invest in behalf of the [charity], invariably resort; she is almost certain to cheat herself rather than disappoint the eager little buyers, and to give a shilling doll for sixpence; indeed I think it may be said that the timid seller does not make much.

Then there is the worrying seller: she is generally a “fast” young lady, and she keeps shop as though she had served her time to a “fancy business.” Her wares are arranged to the best advantage, she knows where everything is, and if she have not exactly what you ask for, she will give you something far nicer and prettier, she says, in every way; she is never at a loss for anything, from a sharp answer to a penny top; it is very hard to escape from her without buying: you feel that you are being taken in, but you have no power to resist; she tells you that the article you are looking at is really “ridiculously, shamefully cheap! that you never saw so pretty a “cosy,” so “lovely a fender-stool,” or such a “love” of a smoking cap; and then, if you are a gentleman, you probably buy the three articles, although perhaps, strictly speaking, you have no tea-pot for the “cosy,” no fender for the stool, and no head for the cap, for you don’t smoke! and having paid for them you are about to “move on,” trying to feel that you have not thrown away your money, when the worrying seller again attacks you to take a ticket for a raffle— “A splendid cushion, worked in beads, for sixpence! fancy that cushion for sixpence!”

lily cushion

Well, you think it would be cheap at the money, and although you never won anything at a raffle in your life, you give your sixpence, and you are allowed to escape for the present.

Then there is the quiet, lady-like seller, about whose table I think the steadiest trade is carried on; she does not force you to buy whether you like it or not, neither will she allow people who really want to buy to pass on to other tables, as the timid seller would do. She is generally a pretty girl too, and of course the gentlemen crowd about her, and the gentlemen attract the ladies, and so the world goes round!

Then there, is the seller great at expedients by which to get off the large unsaleable articles, and the small rubbishy articles, and from whom, especially on the second day, you can get the most wonderful and unexpected bargains. For the large articles, such as worked chair-covers, cushions, banner-screens, &c, &c, she gets up raffles, she charters unwary young gentlemen, and giving them the articles to be raffled for, and a piece of paper and a pencil, she sends them about through the room to collect names and shillings. Then, with the smaller things, actual rubbish, which no one in their senses would buy, she makes up a raffle in which there are no blanks! The name of the particular chiffon is written on a slip of paper, the slips are put into a “wheel of fortune,” you give your sixpence and draw your slip, and get your doll, your pincushion, your pen-wiper, or your mat!

There is always a great deal of excitement round this seller’s table; she is so full of fun, and tells you so pleasantly, if you lose in one of the large raffles, “to try again, and you will have better luck!” that you do try again, and if, as is very probable, you have not better luck, she will perhaps console you by telling you that “everyone can’t win.”

charity bazaar peddler doll.JPG

And among the buyers there is quite as much variety as among the sellers. I have often thought that if, of the people who go to an exhibition—say of pictures—those who go to see and to be seen, those who go to meet their friends, those who go because everyone goes, those who go because they may as well kill time by staring at pictures as kill it by not staring at them, were all turned out, the people who go to see the pictures from the pure and simple love of art, would be few indeed. And so with bazaars—of those who go for amusement, from curiosity, and from idleness were all turned out; those who go to buy, and especially those who buy for the sake of charity, would be a decided minority.

But among the actual buyers at a bazaar there is, as I have said, a great variety. There is the gentleman who declares that he intends to lay out exactly half-a-crown, and who lays out five pounds before an hour; there is the hard-to-be-pleased buyer, who is also determined to lay out a certain sum, who is equally determined not to be imposed upon, and not to be inveigled into putting in for a raffle, this buyer (generally a rich old maid) turns a deaf ear to the worrying seller, while she coolly examines almost every article upon the table, and probably ends by walking off to another stall without having opened her purse; she finally expends her money upon useful frocks and pinafores for her little nephews and nieces at home.

Then there is the reckless buyer—by far the more numerous class—who buys the most absurd and utterly useless things, and who, moreover, carries them about for the rest of the day, and finds them dreadfully in the way. And there is the buyer who is watching and waiting for bargains, and always asking “What is the lowest you will take for this?These buyers disarrange the table sadly and take up the different articles and pinch them and pull them and squeeze them in a most tormenting way; they open everything in the shape of a box, and generally smell them too; they examine into the mysteries of the doll’s attire in a very impertinent, I might almost say indelicate, manner; they turn the “cosies” inside out, and count the needles in the needle-books; but the way in which they maltreat the mats is really shocking. Indeed mats generally at a bazaar have a bad time of it, there is no respect for them, dolls sit upon them, and they are flattened out of all shape by cushions.

1871 charity bazaar for consumption hospital

Charity Bazaar in Aid of the National Hospital for Consumptives, 1871

I think the grand mistake of all in connexion with bazaars is in making them to last two days; when the second day comes the sellers are tired, the wares are tossed, and the whole affair is as flat as stale champagne. Of course there are exceptions, and I have myself been at bazaars which were better the second day than the first.

Finally, it has always been a perplexing question to me to know what becomes of the things which are not sold at bazaars! Do the dolls emigrate? do the pincushions and the pen-wipers and the mats melt? or is there a “Hades” for fancy work—a “Happy hunting ground” for Chiffons, into which they vanish and are heard of no more? Or are they returned to their original owners, or makers rather, to be pulled out of workboxes, or writing-desks after many years, and contemptuously thrown aside with the remark—”Look at that dreadful old thing which I made for the [Charity] Bazaar!” S. G.

The Ladies’ Cabinet of Fashion, Music & Romance, 1867

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has been reluctantly involved with several charitable jumble sales. Not only was it painful to see the waste of time and materials expended in inadequate fancy-work, one had existential questions about why someone would have deliberately dressed a pair of taxidermied rooks in 18th century costumes and posed them under a glass bell as if dancing a minuet. The misguided horrors that had once been the ornament of  some suburban villa were truly shocking to contemplate. It is often said that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Mrs Daffodil fears that a great many people required a stomach-pump.

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.

 

Fancy Dress in a Hurry: 1916

ladies churchill watteau shepherdesses fancy dress

FANCY DRESS COSTUMES

Fancy dress costumes may be made very quickly. A certain woman who prides herself on being able to do all things in a hurry, invited to a fancy dress ball, accepted the invitation over the telephone to save time.

She let the costume go till the last day, when, at 4 o’clock, she stopped in at a shop and bought several yards of cretonne. Once home, with the help of pins and the maid’s services, she was sewn into her costume—that of a Watteau shepherdess.

The costume consisted of a pink satin foundation dress that she already possessed. The cretonne, pleated into the belt and puffed up into panniers, matched the satin. A wide stain belt laced up the front was the bodice. A little lace shawl made the kerchief. A last summer’s sailor was cocked up into a shepherdess hat with ribbon streamers.

Inside of 40 minutes the shepherdess was ready, telephoned for a taxi and arrived at the ball—a week too soon! It is well to look twice at the date of an invitation.

With an old party frock a pretty costume can often be made if not in as short a time as the one described.

A copy of a well-known picture can often be made with such light changes that they are hardly noticeable, says the New York Herald. The black and white balls that are so popular are even simpler, for fantastic costumes are more successful than those that are historical. A costume can be first planned with black and white cotton cloth, copying some poster or advertisement found in the back of the magazines or in the newspapers.

Peasant costumes are easy to make because all the pattern companies carry one or more patterns suited for costume balls.

Anaconda [MT] Standard 9 January 1916: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The very quickest fancy-dress costume Mrs Daffodil has seen at the Hall was worn by an absent-minded gentleman who, just before leaving his flat, realised that the party invitation called for fancy dress.  He arrived wearing faultless evening costume, a peevish expression, and a single soda straw in his breast pocket. His character? “The Last Straw.”

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 Fairy Godmother Treasure Chest: 1920

 

 Fancy Costumes for Children

In one city of about 50,000, there are a great many social affairs for children during the winter, and again and again mothers have been put to much trouble, or have had to forego the happiness of being able to dress up as all children love to do.

One woman with a knack for making attractive garments at small expense undertook to fill this need. She calls her service the Fairy Godmother Treasure Chest.

Now it so happened that she had a large quantity of fancy and plain materials left over from the days when her husband had bought in a bankrupt stock of goods and did not succeed in selling all of it. This would give excellent foundation of materials. She also watched a number of bargain sales and picked up such things as she could use.

cobalt boy fancy dress

Boy’s 18th-century fancy dress http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21727/lot/355/

 

Then in her spare time she fashioned fancy costumes for children out of these. There were clown suits, and little Minute Men rigs, and Martha Washington dresses, and the most wonderful fairies and Puritan maidens, and butterfly and flower suits in bewildering array. She became exceedingly interested in all of these.

martha washington fancy dress

Martha Washington fancy dress for a young girl. http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/87849.html?mulR=1013756972|6

The costumes were either sold outright to the owner, or rented. If rented, the charge was on a basis of 20% of the cost of the costume plus the expense of professional cleaning. Thus, if the costume cost $5.00 (work included), the rent of it for twenty-four hours would be $1.00 plus the cleaning charge, which would be from 50 cents to 75 cents.

In this way every mother was assured that the garment her child wore had been cleaned and thoroughly disinfected after its last use, and so there was no danger of contagion or infection.

Masquerade and costume parties became quite the rage after the Fairy Godmother lifted the cover of her Treasure Chest. Some of the costumes were very striking and beautiful, for it was not difficult to pick up ends and odds of materials and lace curtains for brides’ veils, and all that sort of thing.

About once a year the Fairy Godmother sells the most of her stock to a costumer in a different place, and this enables her to have a fresh supply of attractive goods.

Money for the Woman who Wants It, Emmett Leroy Shannon 1920: pp. 328-329

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It sounds a delightful business.  Mrs Daffodil has seen modern advertisements for ladies who will bring a “dress-up box” to children’s birthday parties and for establishments that specialise in dressing party guests like fairies in pretty pastels and spangled nylon wings.

Mrs Daffodil can remember when every country house worthy of the name had a cupboard where the costumes for amateur theatricals were kept. Often these were run up by the local dressmaker, but (and here Mrs Daffodil advises any dress historians among her readership to avert their eyes) they were also repositories for genuine historic garments which were often carelessly worn and altered. It is possible that the waistcoat worn with the boy’s blue fancy-dress suit pictured above is a genuine antique garment. Eighteenth-century gowns and gentleman’s coats were particularly popular in house-party productions, or, in the United States, for “Martha Washington Teas” or patriotic entertainments. Mrs Daffodil can hear the dress historians blanching in horror….   One hopes that the Fairy Godmother actually made all of the beautiful and striking contents of her treasure chest rather than plundering antique trousseaux preserved in the attic.

 

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 Duty to Humanity: 1886

THE FUNNY SIDE OF DRESSMAKING

“Dressmaking has its humorous side as well as anything else,” remarked a little black-eyed dressmaker on North Clark Street.  “There is the thin woman who will dress in snaky stripes, the scrawny girl who insists on a  décolleté gown, the matron of embonpoint who pleads for flounces to the waist, the matchlike maiden who wants a torturingly tight bodice, and the fluffy-puffy little body who wants gathers.

“But I never give in to them,” she continued with a snap of her eyes.  “I think too much of the human race.  I believe we all have one duty toward humanity.  Mine is to keep women from committing artistic suicide.  The little idiots come into my parlors, look at a fashion-plate, discover the picture of a lady in green gloves holding her fingers as if they were covered with molasses-candy, and decide that they want a dress like hers.  Now, there are nineteen chances out of twenty that the dress was never meant for her at all.  If they think so much of dress, why don’t they make a study of it?

“There is a certain rich lady here, with the face of a Madonna, who came to me with goods for a plaid dress.  I wouldn’t make it for her.  ‘Madame,” I said, ‘you must dress in gray silk.’ I had my way.  There wasn’t a bit of trimming on that dress—nothing but draperies—and she looked like a goddess.  Then another mistake is the universal adoption of color because it is announced to be fashionable, regardless of the fact that the majority of the wearers are making perfect guys of themselves.  Heliotrope is a point in question.  There is a young bride on State Street who came home from Europe last week with a dress of heliotrope.  Her skin is as dark as a Spaniard’s, and her hair and eyes are jet black.  She would have been magnificent in dark red or a cloud of black lace – but heliotrope!” and of this the dressmaker nearly died… [Chicago News]

The Lamar [AL] News 1 April 1886: p. 4

John_Faed_-_The_Little_Seamstress

The Little Seamstress, John Faed, Artuk.org

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire We can but respect the dress-maker’s scruples and punctilious devotion to her calling!  The great Charles Frederick Worth himself was similarly conscious of his duty to humanity.

How Worth Makes The Woman.

Very many ladies of this city send regularly to the great man-dressmaker, Worth, in Paris, for their dresses, both summer and winter. Do not for a moment suppose all these women have seen Worth. The greater proportion send a photograph to him, with a description of the complexion, the color of hair, eyes, etc. It is not an infrequent occurrence to have the photograph returned to the owner with regrets at being unable “to compose a toilet for Madame.” A lady of high fashion in this city relates how she went to Worth on one occasion to have a number of dresses made. He asked her to walk across the room. It was a medium-sized apartment. When she was about half across, he called to her from the sofa where he was sitting, “Madame, that is enough; I cannot invent a dress for you; your figure does not please me. Good morning, Madame.” A mother and daughter in this city, charming women, but newly rich and over-anxious about dress, wear the most exquisite toilets of Worth’s composition, which are entirely unique. They have never been to Paris, or “waddled through the Tuileries,” yet Worth has seen them—that is, he has their life-sized pictures; he admires them, and sends then; poetical and ravishing dresses.

The Millinery Trade Review 1876

Miss Maude Annesley, who spent a fruitful year in Paris chronicling French life and fashion, wrote about the tactful Parisian dress-makers.

Even in the rooms of the humbler dressmakers there is a faint echo of the method of the great ones. There is a drawer full of pieces of many colours, wherewith effects can be tried, there is a long glass in three parts in which to study “all sides of the question,” there are thick curtains ready to be drawn when artificial light is needed. Then, although there are no mannequins to prance about in wonderful confections, there is the dressmaker herself, who sees at a glance what Madame ought to wear, and will proceed to illustrate her notion with silk and pins to her customer’s entire satisfaction. They all have taste and ideas, these dressmakers. They would never think of allowing some one to choose anything unbecoming. There is the difference between an English and French dressmaker. In London a woman enters a well-known dressmaker’s establishment, or goes to some old favourite — it is the same thing everywhere. She chooses what she wants, and her taste is rarely disputed.

I will not say that a Parisian couturiere is always right, no one is infallible; but I aver that she very rarely is mistaken in her ideas of what will or will not suit her customers.

And she is so clever in inventing little notions to hide or lessen some imperfection. If Madame is too thin (very rare in these days of the thin woman rage!), if she is too fat, too short, too tall —then it is wonderful to watch the skillful hands manipulating drapery and trimmings. And the tact shown is remarkable.

I was once waiting in the waiting-room at my dressmaker’s when, from the fitting-room, I overheard an enlightening conversation as follows: —

Customer — “I want the neck cut low. No collar.”

Dressmaker — “Parfaitement, Madame.”

Pause. Some action which I naturally could not see.

Dressmaker — “How charming Madame looks with that white tulle edged with pink against her cheek!”

Customer, in “purry-purry” voice — “It is rather becoming. You can use that for the guimpe.”

Dressmaker, sorrowfully — “Alas, Madame, impossible. One cannot edge a guimpe with pink, one can do it only on a collar. It is a thousand pities Madame is to have no collar, her complexion looks ravissante with this pink. However, it is no good discussing it.”

Pause. Some talk about a sleeve.

Customer, in doubtful voice — “Do you think the dress would look as well with a collar?”

Dressmaker, still sorrowful — “Much better, Madame. However, we will not talk of it. . . Does Madame like this band of lace straight or crosswise?”

Customer, after much talk of lace and frills, and several pauses — “Do you know, I think I will have a collar after all! That pink is so charming.”

Dressmaker, joyfully — “Oh, I am glad, Madame. I would not have thought of trying to persuade Madame, but I am sure it will suit Madame admirably.”

Some time afterwards the lady who was “not persuaded” passed through my room. She had no collar to her dress, and her neck was short, her chin double, and two deep wrinkles surrounded the yellow “column.”

I told my dressmaker what I had overheard, and she chuckled. “Well!” she said. “What else can one do with ladies who are unreasonable?”

I agreed, and admired her diplomacy.

My Parisian Year, Maude Annesley, 1912

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.