Category Archives: Sewing

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.

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The Dress-Maker’s Lover: 1879

The Dress-Maker’s Lover.

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

Only this one dear boon I ask,

That you will give me your a dress,

That in your smiles I yet may basque,

And gain new life at each caress.

 

The blushes mantle on your cheeks;

Deny me not, it’s dread foulard;

I’ve pressed my suit for days and weeks,

And sent you letters by the yard

 

Oft at your feet I’ve knelt and braid,

But you have cut me short and square;

It lace with you, but I’m a frayed

You will not make up to me fair.

 

It’s sashy pale has grown my face,

Though all things look most navy blue;

I’ll collar mine, or I will face

Whatever evils may ecru.

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

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

Why is love like Irish poplin?

Because it’s half stuff.

Why is a deceptive woman like a seamstress?

Because she is not what she seams!

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

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

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

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

The Virot Label: 1909

LABELS.

They Are Meretricious Things If They Misbrand an Article.

“You can go right on talking to father, Mr. Jerrold,” Madge Roberts said, gaily, “but I want Mrs. Jerrold to see my Virot hat.”

“I am sure, just because I happen to be a mere man, you wouldn’t be cruel enough to deprive me of a pleasure,” Mr. Jerrold retorted.

Madge dimpled, and made him a courtesy. She could not help being happy that the hat was so becoming.

“And it cost, exclusive of the label that I begged from Cousin Adelaide, exactly six dollars and seven cents,” she explained triumphantly, to Mrs. Jerrold. “Every girl I know, except one that I’ve let into the secret, really thinks it is a Virot.

“Why not let them think it is a Roberts and get the credit you deserve?” Mr. Jerrold suggested with, beneath the light words, a gravity which Madge was too absorbed to notice.

“If that isn’t a ‘mere man’ question!” she responded. “To get looked down upon by lots of people when a simple little label ca get me looked up to! I made my suit myself and it’s as a big a success as my hat—and everybody thinks it came from Hammond’s. It’s my good luck to have rich cousins who can furnish the labels of the swell shops. I’m quite willing to keep my talents in the background; it counts a great deal more to be stylish than to be talented. I must run now—and take my Virot to the recital. Goodbye, both of you!”

It was a careless scrap of talk—nothing was farther from the girl’s thought than that it would influence her life. Yet only four months later, when her father’s sudden death made it necessary for her to become a wage-earner, that winter evening returned to her in a way she was never to forget. She had gone to Mr. Jerrold to ask his influence in obtaining a secretaryship of which she had heard.

Mr. Jerrold was kindness itself, but he shook his head gravely.

“Miss Madge,” he said, “I would rather lose a thousand dollars than say what I must say, yet I should not be fair to you if did not say it. I cannot recommend you for the secretaryship because it is a position of responsibility and demands a woman of irreproachable honesty and honor. It is the Virot label that stands in the way, Miss Madge. It is not that I should not trust you as far as you saw, but –I could not be sure that you would see clearly. I will do my best to help you obtain some other position, but I could not in justice to the trust imposed upon me recommend you for this.”

Two minutes later a girl hurried down the street, her cheeks burning and her eyes full of tears. But she had learned her lesson. Youth’s Companion.

The Daily Herald [Chicago IL] 4 June 1909: p. 3

mourning hat virot paris 1902

Mourning Hat, Virot, Paris 1902

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have previously read the breathless confession of another lady who basted a Paris label into her home-made hat and yet we do not hear that she suffered by her little deception. Frankly, Mrs Daffodil is inclined to be tolerant of such minor impostures, particularly when they are perpetrated by a very young woman, the petted daughter of the house. In the hierarchy of Deadly Sins, they rank rather lower than say, Wrath or Lust, hovering around the moral level of Filching the Last Chocolate Biscuit in the Tin.

Mr Jerrold may have been kindness itself, but he seems to have had no understanding of those “careless scraps of talk”  heedless young persons are apt to utter. For one ghastly moment Mrs Daffodil thought he was going to decline to help the newly bereaved girl at all, leaving her to drudge and starve, exposed to all sorts of terrible temptations!

Certainly the gentleman was well within his rights to decline to give Miss Madge (yet who, after all, was industrious or thrifty enough to make her own suit) a recommendation for that sensitive secretaryship, but one hopes he had more congent reasons for his priggish refusal than a deceptive label from Virot.

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

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

 

 

The Slop Shop Trade: 1887

1841 skeleton tailors in sweatshop

CHEAP CLOTHING

LIVES OF WOMEN WORN OUT ON READY MADE SUITS.

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

Dangers of the “Slop Shop” Trade

Business Needing Ventilation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Second-hand Silks: 1900

ONE WOMAN’S WAY

A Livelihood Gained from the Feminine Sense of Jumping at a Good Thing.

“I met a woman not long ago on the road,” remarked a New York drummer, “who gave me a point or two on how a bright woman can make her way in the world. She was a widow, with two children to support, and was housekeeper of an Indianapolis hotel until her health failed. She had to give it up at last, though she tried to hold on, for that was all she knew how to do, and she retired with only $100 or so to go on. Not knowing exactly whither to turn, she went to New York city and just wandered around for a while, looking at things. One day she saw the women crowding the life out of one another at a bargain sale of skirts, and a thought struck her. She let it develop for a day or two, and then spent all the money she had for silk skirts that were destined for the bargain counter. They were rumpled and looked jaded and tired, but she took them as they were at small figures, and carried them to her rooms. There she ironed and pressed them out till they looked like new, and then went out into the suburban towns to sell them. She found ready purchasers at good prices, and came back for more. These she made as good as new and had no trouble in disposing of her stock.

purple flower petticoat 1900

Flowered silk petticoat, early 1900s, from a trousseau. Observe the pinked edges of the flounces. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/86380?rpp=30&pg=3&ao=on&ft=petticoat&pos=73

She added shirt waists next and then began getting shop-worn silks, remnants and that kind of stock, and gradually increased her territory, hiring somebody to do the renovating while she was attending to the buying and selling. She has been at it three or four years, and in that time has built up a trade that is paying her this year between $500 and $600 a month. She has her children at good schools; has a nice little home in one of the suburban towns, which she owns, and is about the thriftiest and most business-like woman I ever saw. No training either to begin with, just the woman’s sense of jumping at a good thing and getting it.”

The Mantiowoc [WI] Pilot 8 March 1900: p. 1

pale pink frou frou petticoat

Pale pink silk petticoat, amply endowed with “frou frou,” http://art.famsf.org/petticoat-544761a-b

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To the practised nineteenth-century feminine eye, a worn silk garment spoke of genteel poverty and dreary domestic economy. Normally a lady would be advised to pick the gown apart and make into something for one’s little daughter, although if a silk dress was not absolutely falling to bits, it might be veiled with chiffon or other fabrics to hide the wear. There were also suggestions for refurbishing worn silks (particularly expensive mourning crapes) involving various receipts, such as water in which potatoes had been boiled or the following shuddersome hell-brew:

The following method is said to be an excellent one for the renovation of old, half-worn silks. Boil into a pulp three or four old kid gloves, using a bright, new pan, and putting the gloves into cold water. Strain this pulpy mass, adding a little hot water, and a teaspoonful of ammonia. Wash the silk thoroughly in this, putting into the rinsing water some borax and spirits of camphor. When cleansing black silks use gloves of any color, but when cleaning light silks use light-colored gloves. Good Health, Vol. 24, 1889: p. 317

Mrs Daffodil has previously written on the rag trade and on successful lady drummers.

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.

 

A Jolly “Darning Party:” 1888

 

A Jolly “Darning Party.”

There is a very clever little housekeeper living in the busy portion of town and having a family of eight to look after, who makes light of family mending. Her method of disposing of this bugbear of the housewife may aid some of her weary sisters, whose lives are weekly blighted by the stockings and underwear to be made over anew.

“In the first place,” she says, “I make the three men and one boy in my family change their socks four times each week. When socks cost only 25 cents for a good pair, why should they not own a half dozen pair? Then on Sunday morning I overlook and collect all the soiled clothes and put aside every garment that needs mending. Monday morning, while the servant girl is washing the sheets, towels and such articles, my oldest daughter and myself rise a half hour earlier and mend all the torn or ripped articles before breakfast. When the clothes come from the ironing there are but few stitches to be set. I once had a girl who always insisted on putting her clothes to soak Sunday morning, but I persistently kept back those needing mending until Monday.”

Another family of growing children have a rather novel method of darning their stockings. There are four boys and five girls, three of the latter being able to darn nicely. Every Tuesday evening they have a “darning party.” The boys thread the needles, select the different cottons or wools, and the girls do the darning. The oldest boy reads some favorite book aloud, and at 9 o’clock cake and lemonade, or some like treat, is served. Any member of the family having more than two holes in one stocking is fined a penny for each hole, and the money goes to purchase new books.

The Saint Paul [MN] Globe 26 February 1888: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, really… a “darning party” in which only the girls do the work yet the boys get the treats? To use an American adjective, that is “darned” unfair. Mrs Daffodil suggests sequestering girls and refreshments behind locked doors until the boys learn to darn nicely.

The gentlemen, it seems, will do anything to avoid darning their own stockings, although there was a presumption that men as a species were utterly unable to undertake such delicate work.  Some ladies found in this male ineptitude a business opportunity:

In Philadelphia a guild of kind-hearted ladies has been formed to do mending for bachelors at low rates, It is conjectured that “they sew that they may reap.’ Nelson Evening Mail, 6 May 1886: p. 2

Mrs George Washington was praised for her ceaseless knitting and darning, as were ladies who invented darning efficiencies such as this

THREADED NEEDLE CASE

At a recent entertainment the hostess, a woman high up in the social world, tore her gown so that repair was necessary, and one of her intimate friends went up to her bedroom to chat while the mending went on. The maid produced a sewing case full of needles threaded with silk and cotton in different colors, so the work was quickly done. The hostess, as they went downstairs, boasted of her foresight in having needles always ready for evening work, as it had made her nervous to see her maid try and try again for a needle’s eye when she hurried. She not only has a stock of needles on hand in black and in white, but on the day that a colored frock is to be donned for dinner needles are threaded in that color and put in place in the work basket. In fact, the system has been so perfected that the cook has a stock of threaded chicken needles handy, threaded each as it is used, so that they all will be ready if many viands need a stitch or two, as many do, to keep some fancy sharp for baking. It takes only a few moments on a bright day to thread the needles and the system really saves eyesight and time. Evening News [San Jose, CA] 14 July 1911: p. 2

What a blighted life that woman “high up in the social world” must lead if her greatest boast is of pre-threaded needles….

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.

 

Hallowe’en Supper Frocks: 1894

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

PRETTY FANCIFUL GOWNS SUITABLE FOR THE FESTIVAL

The Picturesque Frocks a Brunette, Chatain and Blonde Will Wear to a Hallowmass Party.

Halloween, perhaps, more than any other fete, supplies possibilities for picturesque and effective gowns, and the end-of-the-century girl is not the one to let them slip by.

A very fashionable wardrobe now owns, along with other dainty evening toilets, a Halloween supper frock, which may be made in any mode, but which, to be just the thing, should suggest, in some way, night itself. Tints vague and intangible, hinting of darkness or the white cool moon, are preferred over glaring dark colors.

As to ornament, there may be some curious jeweled night fly fastened somewhere, perhaps spangled in the hair; and if flowers are used, they too, must propitiate the powers of night in wanes and thick perfume.

The dread witches, who on All Halloween have the threads of fate in their keeping, are said to be difficult ladies to please, but somehow one hopes they will smile on the wearers of the three charming gowns here shown, and provide them suitable husbands. The originals of these dainty costumes, which were suggested by three famous French pictures, were all made by a nimble-fingered New York girl for a Halloween supper. They are to be worn by herself and two sisters, three distinct types; and along with their exceeding effectiveness, they have the merit of having involved comparatively little expense, being all fashioned from materials at hand, some lengths of a marvelous Chinese drapery, a few yards of thick liberty satin bought in better days, and a thin, scant, old tambour muslin slip, relic of a long dead great-mamma and tea cup times.

FOR A BRUNETTE

The first dress shown was for the dark, handsome elder sister of the little Cinderella dressmaker—the type that goes with stiffness and stateliness and rustling textures. It was of the liberty satin in a dim luminous tint, too blue for gray and too gray for blue, and that will show off the wearer’s rich skin to perfection. The girdle drapery of graduating ribbon lengths and bows was of a faint dead sea rose color. This subtle and delightful tint, together with black, repeats itself in the simple but decorative embroidery at the bottom of the wide skirt. The tiny chemise gamp is of white muslin, and the short balloon sleeves are stiffened with tarlatan. To be worn with the dress, as well as the next one, both of which were entirely uncrinolined, were petticoats of hair cloth, with tucks of large round organ pipe plaits, to hold the skirt out in the present approved fashion.

FOR CHATAIN [Brown Hair] COLORING.

The second gown, though perhaps not quite so enchanting as the first, was more suggestive of the witcheries of Halloween. It was of the Chinese silk drapery, in the copper red, and with a fantastic patterning of black bats. The girdle and low neck decoration are of black velvet, and square jet buckles fasten the latter down at intervals.

The very daintiest feature of this paniered gown, however, which in style recalls somewhat little beflowered Dolly Varden, is the undersleeves, made to show off a rounded young arm and drive envy to the soul of womankind. For every woman who is a real woman has a weakness for lace, and these adorable undersleeves were made of the charming old net lace embroidery in back stitch of the long ago.

It came, like the tambour muslin, from grandmamma’s garret, where, when Halloween is over, it is to be hoped, it will be carefully put back.

A GOWN FOR A BLONDE.

The third and last dress, a tiny hint of the Directoire period, is the tambour muslin slip itself, sinfully modernized. Once white, it is now evenly mellowed to a soft caressing yellow, which is further accented by a puffing of pure white chiffon about the neck and skirt bottom. The sleeves are of a rich heavy brocade in black and white, and the belt and crescent ornaments are of silver.

This costume is to be worn to the supper by the little dressmaker herself, and its scant picture lines are sure to become her slim, shortwaisted young figure.

And may the ghost of sweet dead grandmamma not come back to reproach her for desecration.

Nina Fitch.

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 28 October 1894: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Desecration, indeed….  One frequently sees examples of ancient garments re-made into fancy dress or some “amusing” pastiche; a practice which makes Mrs Daffodil’s blood alternately boil and run cold (something that takes rather a bit of doing, given her line of work.) We can only fervently hope that the antique lace and tambour muslin were, indeed, “put back” or, if not, that Grandmamma haunted the offender mercilessly.

While questioning the appalling statement that only “real women” have a “weakness” for lace, Mrs Daffodil will also adjudge the addition of antique lace to an otherwise standard Bat Queen or Empress of the Night fancy-dress costume to be utterly unnecessary.

“Night” was a popular figure in fancy dress. We see an interpretation of that character at the head of this post. An illustration and description of another version follows. Whimsical though the idea is in principal, in real life, wearing a stuffed owl must be a trifle cumbersome:

By way of preparation for it we present for our readers’ inspection a costume representing Night.

It is satin, in two shades of purple. The lighter used for lower skirt has beaded surface. The plain falls over in a plaited back and draped front; wide panel ornamented with stars, butterflies [moths?] and a very demure owl; smoke-colored vail, dotted with stars, covers the crown of hat, held by a crescent and owl; this draping over the right arm and breast, is thrown over the left shoulder and arm. Willkes-Barre [PA] Evening News 6 January 1886: p. 3

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

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