Category Archives: Shoes

The Ghost with One Shoe: 1910s

Shoes with cut-steel buckles, c. 1914-17 http://collections.lacma.org/node/228104

When one reflects upon the number of people one meets who lead almost entirely animal lives, can one wonder that so many cemeteries and churchyards are haunted! It was once popularly supposed that only the spirits of suicides and murderers were earthbound, but that idea has long been exploded, and it is now recognized by all who have given the subject any earnest reflection at all that the bulk of hauntings when not due to elementals are caused by the earthbound phantoms of the extremely sensual or even the merely intensely material. The spirits of such people would appear to be attached to the material world they loved through the medium of their bodies, articles of clothing, or any personal effects which act as magnets, and to be either loosened from it and transferred to some other sphere. or maybe annihilated altogether–no one knows–the moment such remains and effects are cremated or otherwise equally obliterated.

This being so, these phantoms would divide their visits between the places containing the objects of attraction, haunting most frequently that spot to which they were most strongly magnetized, in the majority of cases the spot containing their bodies or skeletons, usually a churchyard or cemetery. And as it is so often but a step from the grave to the chancel, a reason may thus be supplied for some, at least, of the occult happenings that are commonly reported as taking place in churches. The cessation of hauntings do not, however, always depend on the destruction of articles; on the contrary, they are not infrequently dependent on their careful preservation and return to the rightful owners, when those owners are either alive or, as it more often, perhaps, happens, dead. Here is a case in point: Rathaby Church until quite recently was haunted by an old lady with a poke bonnet and violet petticoat. The Vicar, The Rev. C. Bodkin, was inveigled one day into confessing that he had seen the apparition on at least three occasions. The first occurrence was as follows: Entering alone into the Vestry one August evening, hot and weary, he sat down, and taking off his boots, which, being new, had blistered him badly, he was preparing to put on a pair of somewhat antiquated “elastic sides” which he kept there, when, to his surprise, he saw standing in front of him a little old lady with a big poke bonnet and a violet silk petticoat. As the bonnet covered the upper part of her face, which she kept rather bent down, and the sunlight was fast fading, the Vicar could not distinguish any of her features saving the chin, which was very prominent, but from her clothes he saw that she did not belong to the parish and accordingly concluded she was a stranger. He felt annoyed that she should have entered without knocking, more especially as he was not in the mood to be disturbed. However, trying to appear as courteous as possible, he hurriedly slipped on his old pair of boots, and rising to his feet exclaimed, “What can I do for you, madam?” There was no reply-only a silence which at once impressed him as being singularly emphatic, if not awe-inspiring. He repeated his question, this time, he admits, not quite so politely: whereupon the old lady slightly lifted her gown, and with a naive gesture, pointed at her feet.

The Vicar, who, no doubt, despite his vocation, was human enough to admire a pretty ankle, following with his eyes the direction indicated, perceived with astonishment she only had on one shoe–a remarkably small patent leather one with a large, highly polished silver buckle. On her other foot was a violet stocking, nothing more.

“Good gracious, madam,” he ejaculated, “you will catch your death of cold. Pray be seated here whilst I go and find your shoe. Where do you think you dropped it?”

He took a step towards her as he spoke, with the idea of helping her into a chair, and his hand was actually within reach of her arm, when she suddenly vanished, and there was nothing in front of him but a bare wall. He was then frightened, for he could not persuade himself that what he had seen was merely an hallucination, and without waiting to complete his toilet, he went into the and waited there till the arrival of the sexton.

Ten days later he saw the same phantasm again. The encounter took place this time during the evening service. The congregation were kneeling down and the Vicar was about to begin the collect when some one laughed, a very malicious and highly disrespectful he-he-he! The Vicar, shocked beyond his senses, instantly stopped, and glancing furiously in the direction of the noise, was on the verge of ordering the offender to quit the Church, when his jaw fell. Looking up at him from almost beneath his very nose were a pair of pale, wide open, luminous eyes, full of an expression of malevolent quizzical coyness, that at once sent his thoughts back to certain queens of the demi-mondaines he used to see, surreptitiously parading the streets, in Cambridge, thirty years ago. They made him so hot and cold all over, he was horribly ashamed–ashamed that his, or as a matter of fact any other church, could hold such things. They must be removed with the utmost precipitation–immediately.

He tried to speak–to tell her to go, but found himself spellbound, hopelessly fascinated. His throat was parched, his mouth all tongue, he could not articulate a syllable, and all the while he was striving his utmost to overcome this condition of helplessness, the eyes kept continually leering at him. As for the rest of the face, it was that of an old, a very old, woman with obviously dyed hair arranged coquettishly in tiny yellow curls on either side of a low, straight forehead. She had neat, regular features, a trifle aquiline perhaps; with a chin that although rather too pronounced now–the inevitable effects of old age–might well have been once full of soft dimples, and beautifully rounded. The teeth even, pearly and glittering, struck the Vicar as far too perfect to be anything but false, though on that score he had no grounds for complaint, as he was in the same plight himself, having long since parted with his own molars, a fact which, however much he tried to persuade himself to the contrary, was the common knowledge of every one in the parish. The figure wore a rich cream-coloured cashmere shawl, from between the folds of which he could catch the gleam of silver buttons and mauve silk; and although the rest of her was hidden by the pew, he knew her at once to be the unknown stranger who had vanished so inexplicably. As he -stared she got up, and, leaving the pew, commenced gliding towards him, holding her violet skirt high above her ankles, and pointing significantly at her tiny feet, one of which was encased in a glittering buckle shoe and the other merely in a stocking.

The Vicar’s heart almost ceased to beat, his eyes swam, his knees shook. God help him, in another second she would be in the pulpit!

In the frenzy of despair he burst the paralytic bonds that had so effectually held him, and stooping down picked up a box of matches and threw it at the old lady. She instantly vanished.

Then the reaction set in. Relief brought hysterics, and in a state of utter collapse the worthy Vicar lolled against the ledge of the pulpit and began to laugh and cry alternately. He was promptly escorted home by a half dozen sympathetic, if somewhat—at least so his wife thought–over-zealous ladies, and the congregation, who, it transpired, had seen nothing of the phantom, attributed his behaviour to an unlimited variety of popular ailments.

The third encounter with the ghost occurred about a year after this incident. It was on St. Martin’s Eve, and the Vicar was preparing to leave the church for the cheerier precincts of the vicarage, where a substantial supper was awaiting him, when a current of icy air suddenly blew into his face, and he found himself confronted by the dreaded figure of the old lady. The enveloping gloom, for there was no other light in the church save that proceeding from the candle the Vicar carried, intensified the lurid glow emanating from the phantom and made it stand out with horrible distinctness. Each line, each feature, were magnified with a vividness that is indescribable, the ultima thule of horrordom being attained in the eyes, which, paler and larger even than before, scowled at the Vicar in the most diabolical fashion.

Paralysed with the suddenness of the vision, the Vicar felt all the strength die out of his limbs; his blood congealed, his hair rose on end. Nor were his feelings in any way mollified when the figure stretched out a long and bony forefinger, and shook it angrily at the floor. The Vicar looked down, and be it to his everlasting credit, blushed-he admitted as much to me afterwards–for whilst there was the same gaudy, shameless buckled shoe on the one foot–on the other there was simply nothing, not even half a stocking. And the abandoned phantom laughed a laugh that set every stone and rafter in the great, gaunt building resonating. When the Vicar looked up again the figure had disappeared. This was the climax. Sooner than, run the risk of incurring another such indignity, the Vicar declared his intention of leaving. One of his most ardent devotees heard of the matter, and in mad desperation wrote to me. Candidly, I never refuse ladies. I am an advocate not merely of woman’s suffrage, but of woman’s participation in everything. I daily visit a lady barber’s, and think there ought to be lady soldiers, sailors, Members of Parliament, dentists, coal-heavers, gutter-rakers and sanitary inspectors.

I went to Rathaby, and although my vigils in the church for three consecutive nights were productive of no ghostly result, the atmosphere of the place struck me as so conducive to occult phenomena that I was quite ready to believe that what the Vicar had seen was subjective and not hallucinatory. Consequently I made vigorous inquiries in the neighbourhood, and at length elicited the information that some forty years before an old lady corresponding to the phantom in the violet petticoat had stayed for the summer in a farmhouse about three miles from Rathaby. Rambling about one morning on the lonely hillsides, she had fallen into a disused quarry and broken her neck.

“I remember quite well,” my informant went on to say, “that when I helped raise her body she had on only one shoe–a shining leather thing with a bright buckle. We could not find the other anywhere and concluded it had got wedged into some crevice.

Her relatives–a nephew and niece–were at once sent for, and at their directions, the old lady was buried in the Rathaby Churchyard in the exact clothes she wore at the time of her death.”

This is all the information I was able to extract from this individual. Another person–a septuagenarian ex-blacksmith–afforded me a great sensation. Leading me upstairs into a tiny bedroom not much bigger than a bathing machine, he approached a worm-eaten chest of drawers, opened it cautiously, and beckoning to me in a very mysterious manner, pointed to an object that lay in one comer. It was a small patent leather shoe with a large silver buckle and Louis heels. A more rakish-looking affair I had never set eyes on.

“I found that,” he said in a hoarse whisper, “in the quarry where the old lady broke her neck. It had got wedged into a hole. You may have it for a trifle.”

I gave him five shillings and brought away the giddy article.

My next step was to find the grave of the old lady, in order that the missing shoe, which I suspected was the origin of the haunting, might be returned to the rightful owner. But here an unexpected obstacle presented itself. The Vicar foolishly declared he could not sanction the opening of the coffin without permission of the old lady’s relatives. As this permission could not be for the simple reason that the relatives were not traceable, all further investigations ceased, and I came away highly incensed.

The third night after my return home, between 2 and 3 a.m. there was a violent knocking at my bedroom door and on opening it–very reluctantly, I admit–to see who was there, I perceived a shadow on the moonlit wall opposite-the shadow of an old lady with a poke bonnet. For some seconds I stood and watched it anxiously. Then I fetched the shoe and gently threw it at the spectre. It vanished, but from along the passage, down the narrow winding staircase, and from the hall beyond there came the clearly unmistakable tappings–the sharp resounding tap-tap-tap of a fast, a joyfully fast, receding PAIR of Louis heels.

The front door slammed–a neighbour’s dog howled–a church clock sonorously thundered two—and all was still. From that night, neither in my house nor in Rathaby, has the ghost been seen again.

The Occult Review June 1913: pp 310-314

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Even in death, ladies understand the importance of fine foot-wear. There is an ancient Greek ghost story about a husband haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, who appeared wearing only one sandal. She angrily told him one of her sandals had fallen off and not been burnt on the funeral pyre–hence her barefoot condition. He immediately ordered a lavish new wardrobe, including several pairs of expensive sandals and had the garments burned, which placated his ghostly wife.

This narrative, by the way, comes from Mr Elliott O’Donnell, a popular “ghost-hunter” of the early 20th century. Despite his assurances that he never refuses the ladies, he exhibits a strong misogyny in his work, manifesting here in his unpleasant insinuations about the character of the Louis-heeled ghost. If dyed hair and violet stockings were a crime, Mrs Daffodil knows a number of ladies who would find themselves in the dock.

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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Hints for Summer Travellers: 1913

Good Ideas for the Summer Traveler

By Companion Readers

Making Children Intelligent Travelers—A mother with two children of grammar school age found it necessary to take a long journey. She provided herself with folders containing a good map of the section to be traversed and brief descriptions of the important towns. A time table giving the time of arrival and departure from each station, the altitude and distance from the starting point, aroused great interest.

The children had their own inexpensive watches, and thoroughly enjoyed following the time table to see if the trains arrived and departed from the stations on time; and also, at their mother’s suggestion, they noticed the altitude of certain important points and whether they were going up or down grade (by the direction of streams, etc.). They also noticed the distance from their original starting point. Early training of this sort produces intelligent travelers. K. E. A.

A Steamer Box

By Clio Mamer

For a friend who was given a trip to Europe by her father, I decided to get up a steamer box. She was to be on the water six days, so I asked eleven of the girls with whom we were both upon intimate terms to send me a little present for her. I asked them to send gifts small both in size and price. I wrapped each gift in tissue paper and tied it with baby ribbon. On the outside of each package I wrote the day upon which it was to be opened, and these packages were then packed in the smallest box that I could squeeze them into. I gave my friend instructions that she was to open only two of the packages a day. Among the contents of the box were: a diary, an ink pencil, a package of envelope paper, a wash cloth in a rubberlined case, a powder bag. an embroidered jabot, and small boxes of candy and nuts.

An impeccable shoe trunk from Yantorny, c. 1914-1919

Summer Trip Shoe Bag
By C. S. Spencer

Make a cretonne shoe bag the size of the back of your trunk, and tack it with four thumb tacks in the top tray. It is easily adjusted to the back of the trunk when your destination is reached, and will not interfere with raising the lid.

Trunk and Tray Cloths
By Mrs. F. W. Terflinger

A set of trunk and tray cloths make a most acceptable and inexpensive gift to a traveler. They are to be placed between the underwear and other clothing, or between dark and light gowns. One should always be reserved to be tucked neatly over all when the main part of the trunk is filled. Cut your material an inch or two larger than the body of an ordinary trunk, and bind with bias seam tape before placing two or three initials in the center of each cloth. There should be two or three of these cloths for the body and two smaller ones for the tray. The larger of the two for the tray should be double and bound only on three sides, finishing the fourth side with a hem and casing for drawstrings. This serves as laundry bag. I have seen sets made of white indian head and finished on the edge with a heavy lace, but the prettiest of all are made of light blue linen or chambray. bound and worked in white. Embroider on each tray cloth the initial of the friend for whom you make it. Woman’s Home Companion, Volume 40 1913: p. 21

Women who travel a great deal are including sets of pyjamas in their outfits far wear on sleeping-cars and steamers. They are made of silk, either white or colored, with full Turkish trousers and a loose jacket to the knees, large turn-down collar trimmed with lace, which is cascaded down the front, frills of lace at the wrists and edge of the jacket. A loose girdle is worn or not, as the fancy dictates. In the Red Sea or Indian Ocean most of the women passengers aboard ship wear this arrangement, and the custom is being adopted in this country. The Argonaut March 21, 1898  

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Useful suggestions, all, to which Mrs Daffodil would add an affecting incident, which suggests an article which might best be left at home:

A SLEEPING-CAR EPISODE

The Uniontown (Pa.) Standard narrates this exciting incident: “A few nights ago a passenger on the western bound train, Connellsville route, engaged a berth in one of the palace sleeping coaches. When she was ready to retire she took from her satchel a gum bed, which she inflated and placed upon the regular bed in the berth she was to occupy. It happened that her berth was very close to the stove, and the night being rather cold the porter fired up pretty lively. The heat from the stove caused the gum bed to expand until the pressure got so great that it collapsed with a tremendous shock, similar to that of a cannon, and the passengers jumped out of their berths in their night clothes, thinking there was a collision. The force of the collapse threw the lady against the ceiling of the berth, but did not hurt her beyond a slight bruise. When the real state of affairs was known and the lady was found to be unhurt, the thing created considerable merriment among the passengers, and that lady vows she will never take any more gum beds with her when she goes a traveling. The Fremont [OH] Weekly Journal 15 January 1875: p. 2

And do avoid wearing wool when travelling with the tots:

Kiddie-Kar Travel

In American there are two classes of travel—first class, and with children….

I had a cousin once who had to take three of his little ones on an all-day trip from Philadelphia to Boston. It was the hottest day of the year and my cousin had on a woollen suit. By the time he reached Hartford, people in the car noticed that he had only two children with him. At Worcester he had only one. No one knew what had become of the others and no one asked. It seemed better not to ask. He reached Boston alone and never explained what had become of the tiny tots. Anyone who has ever travelled with tiny tots of his own, however, can guess. The Benchley Roundup, Robert C. Benchley: p. 66

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.

 

 

 

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

underwear-department-1890-1

DRESSING ON $50 TO $200 A YEAR

By Emma M. Hooper

It is becoming an almost universal practice for husbands to allow their wives, and parents to make their daughters, a fixed allowance for their clothes and personal expenses, consequently the question has arisen as to how the best results may be obtained from the expenditure of a stated sum of money. Every woman should know how to spend money to the best advantage, but this she cannot do unless she is trusted with a certain sum at regular intervals—which sum, of course, must be largely dependent upon the income of the breadwinner of her home.

For the matron or young girl with fifty, one hundred or two hundred dollars a year, or, perhaps, even less, there must be a great deal of planning if the sum is to cover the necessary outlay for the year. It is for just such women that I have prepared this article.

DRESSING ON FIFTY DOLLARS A YEAR

For the muslin underwear all trimming, unless it be a crocheted or knitted thread edge done at odd times, must be omitted. Unless one is very hard on her clothes, which is usually another name for carelessness, three sets of muslin underwear added each fall to the supply on hand will answer every purpose. The material for these will cost three dollars. Two sets of wool and cotton underwear for three dollars should also be added; they will, with care, last two winters. The next year buy four cotton vests at twenty-five cents, thus alternating the expense.

A Seersucker petticoat may be bought one spring for seventy-five cents, and two white muslin ones the next for a dollar and twenty-five cents, so I will count in but one dollar for the yearly average. A black alpaca petticoat for two winters will cost a dollar. It may need a new ruffle the second year. Two heavy flannel skirts may be had for a dollar and a half, and two light ones of flannelette for ninety cents. These should last three years by making them with a tuck to let out as they shrink. Only a third of this combined expense should be charged to each year, and always arrange so that these articles are not needed the same year. The woman dressing on the sum of fifty dollars must be a manager and able to do her own sewing, or she will utterly fail to make the good appearance which every woman desires to make.

ECONOMY IN SMALL BELONGINGS OF DRESS

Six pairs of hose at a dollar and a half, and two pairs of shoes at two dollars and a half must keep her shod, and this will probably mean mended shoes before the year is out. A corset at one dollar and a half may be worn a year. A pair of rubbers and parasol one year, alternating with an umbrella the second, the three costing two dollars and a half for each year. A winter jacket at eight dollars and a spring cape at three, must last three years, so I will count in the yearly average expense for wraps as four dollars, as each garment may need a little new trimming or renovating of some sort. Two pairs of gloves, cotton and kid, and a pair of mitts crocheted by the wearer will cost a dollar and a half. A new hat, and an old one retrimmed each year, will mean five dollars, and it will also mean that recurling of feathers, steaming velvet to freshen it, and the cleaning of ribbons and lace must not be numbered among the lost arts, for such accomplishments prove a great saving to the woman with small means at her command.

WHEN BUYING DRESSES, SKIRTS AND BODICES

In the line of dresses I allow two new ginghams and two cotton shirt-waists each spring, at a cost of three dollars for the materials. A Swiss or organdy, with ribbon belt and collar, every second summer, will be four dollars. A silk waist every second year will be four dollars; it will alternate with the best thin summer gown. A cheviot or serge dress in the fall will cost ten dollars with linings, etc., and will bear wearing for two years. Try and have a new fall gown one year, and a woolen one for the spring the succeeding year. A black alpaca skirt for four dollars will wear for two years. This makes a total of forty-six dollars and eighty cents, leaving a small margin for making over a gown, and for handkerchiefs, ribbons, veils, collars, etc.

These small things add much to one’s appearance, and need not be over an ordinary grade, but they should be fresh and bright. Iron out ribbon collars and veils when wrinkled, and they will last longer.

WITH LESS THAN FIFTY DOLLARS

Dressing on fifty dollars a year requires careful economy, but what about the thousands who have less than fifty dollars a year for personal use? It means well-worn and carefully mended garments, and a new wrap only once in four or five years, and a very simple hat in two. One woolen dress at ten dollars must last three years. Among inexpensive dress goods it is well to remember that serge and cheviot give the best wear. Two gingham gowns will be two dollars, and two shirt-waists seventy-five cents; a crash suit for summer, lasting two years, a dollar and a half; a couple of heavy ginghams for housework in the winter, a dollar and sixty cents; six pairs of hose, a dollar and a half, and two pairs of shoes, five dollars.

Three sets of unbleached muslin underwear will be two dollars and a half, and two sets of merino, vest and drawers, two dollars; the latter must wear for two years. A seersucker petticoat made in the fall will be heavy for winter, and washed thin for the summer, at a cost of sixty-five cents. Two flannelette skirts for sixty cents, and two red flannel ones for a dollar and forty cents will wear two years, leaving half of that amount to be charged to each year. Count five dollars a year toward a wrap once in four years, and one new hat a year. Allow three dollars a year for a pair of rubbers, leather belt, handkerchiefs and gloves, and a dollar and eighty-nine cents for renovating a gown of last year, and an average of thirty dollars is reached.

Save at least a dollar and have some magazine to brighten your lives, even if it means extra darns or patched shoes, for the brain craves food, as well as the body, clothing.

DRESSING ON A HUNDRED DOLLARS

This seems like untold wealth after the smaller income, but the girl or woman having one hundred dollars a year, and indulging a craving for amusement, will soon find it slip away unless she is very careful.

With this amount prepare the muslin underwear, sets of drawers and vests, cotton vests, petticoats, flannel and flannelette skirts, as described in the outfit for fifty dollars. To the six pairs of hose add two pairs of tan-colored to wear with russet shoes in the summer, adding shoes at two dollars, to two pairs for five dollars, allowing two dollars for hose. Corsets, a dollar and a half; rubbers, fifty cents. Parasol one year and umbrella the next will be two dollars yearly.

Every two years buy a winter jacket at eight dollars, and a light wrap for four, making a cost of six dollars per year. Two pairs of kid and two pairs of silk gloves will be two dollars and a half, and I will allow six dollars for millinery. Ten dollars is not too large a sum to allow for the many little accessories that add so much to a toilet, as collars, ribbons, belts, cravats, handkerchiefs, etc. Five dollars may be laid aside for the remodeling of last season’s gowns, and five more for the church donation and some especially-prized paper or magazine.

JUDGMENT IN BUYING DRESSES AND SKIRTS

In the spring a jacket suit of serge with a silk front and linings will be ten dollars for two years. A crash skirt at seventy-five cents, two shirt-waists within the same amount, and a wash silk waist will be a dollar and a quarter extra. One season have a white organdy gown, and the next a figured dimity, each trimmed in lace and ribbon and costing. five dollars. A less expensive cotton gown will be four dollars, and an added black skirt of taffeta at seventy-five cents a yard, eight dollars, the latter lasting two years and answering for all seasons, as will a neat silk waist at the same price. One new fall suit each year will give a change, as the second winter sees the gown of the first remodeled. Allow six dollars for this each year, as it pays to buy as nice a quality of dress goods as one can afford.

The total now shows an average of eighty-five dollars and a half, and the remainder will be needed for an evening gown for holidays, changing with an organdy. For this price one of China silk at fifty cents, with a velveteen belt and shoulder bows, and lace at the neck, will be the best purchase, and make over for the succeeding year.

As white China silk washes and dry-cleans well it is a useful purchase, lasting two seasons for the evening, and then will answer for the lining of a chiffon waist. The latter would need four yards, at sixty-nine cents, and ribbon belt and collar. By having a white silk and two or more colored ribbon and velvet belts, sashes and collars, several changes may be effected at a small expense. Very pretty sashes are now made of a full width of chiffon or mousseline wrinkled closely around the waist, knotted at the back and allowed to fall in two long ends, which have been simply hemmed and tucked on the lower edge.

WITH TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS

A person with a two-hundred-dollar income should certainly give some of it in charity. If living in the city, five dollars is a moderate sum to allow for car fare, the same for charity, and for the savings box, and another five for the church collection. An occasional concert, visit to the theatre, etc., may be counted as ten dollars, with reading matter and stationery at five. A journey for a short visit comes within the life of many, and can hardly be encompassed under ten dollars. The idea of buying the most expensive clothing in alternate years should be followed with this income, as with the smaller ones. Goods of a better quality may also be purchased with the additional sum. I can only give an average, as one person may visit a great deal, the next one seldom go out; one may be very careful in the care of her clothes, and another be distressingly careless, all of which affects the garment’s wear. With a limited wardrobe avoid striking novelties, startling colors and a large variety of shades. With the two-hundred-dollar income allow for the assistance of a dressmaker, when making the two best suits.

SELECTING THE IMPORTANT ITEMS OF DRESS

A winter coat at twelve dollars, a spring jacket at six, and a fur collar at eight, should last three years, at a cost of a little over eight dollars per year. Twelve dollars will cover the millinery, and six dollars the gloves. Count shoes as two pairs at three dollars, a pair of ties will make eight. A nice winter gown of broadcloth with velvet trimming may be counted for fifteen dollars, and may alternate with a stylish little dress of figured taffeta silk suitable for concerts, dinners, etc., each lasting two years. A black silk skirt, and an evening waist of light silk trimmed with lace, ribbon or chiffon, costing ten dollars each if both are made at home, will make the expense small when divided between two winters.

A dainty tea jacket of cashmere, lace and ribbon, costing three dollars and a half, will last several seasons. An evening gown of white net over percaline, with lace and velvet trimming, may be evolved out of fifteen dollars. Ten dollars will be used for freshening up the gowns of last year, and another ten will go for the little things—collars, cravats, veils and handkerchiefs.

For the spring buy a foulard or light wool gown one year, and a jacket suit of covert, serge or cheviot the next, the latter answering for traveling and outing wear, and the former for church and visiting. These gowns would certainly average twelve dollars each year. A piqué suit at three dollars, a white organdy lined with lawn for six, and a figured dimity for the same would be fifteen dollars. Three cotton shirt-waists for a dollar and twenty-five cents, and one of wash silk would answer for the summer.

In giving prices I take an average obtainable in New York, Chicago and Boston.

SELECTING THE MINOR ARTICLES OF DRESS

Eight pairs of hose for two dollars and a half, an alpaca petticoat with silk ruffles for two, a percaline petticoat for a dollar, and two white ones for two dollars would be a fair supply. Corsets, a dollar and a half; two heavy flannel skirts for a dollar and seventy-five cents, and two of flannelette for a dollar would last two years at an expense of half of that for each year. Four sets of underwear at a cost of six dollars may be allowed, though costing less if made at home. Three sets of mixed wool and cotton will last three years, and cost four dollars and a half. At least two pretty corset-covers for wearing with thin dresses will be a dollar and fifty cents.

Alternate parasol and umbrella at a cost of three dollars, rounding up a total of one hundred and ninety-five dollars. The small amount left is soon eaten up by a gift or two, an extra bit of adornment, such as a fluffy mousseline boa now so fashionable, a new purse, toilet articles, etc. If advice has any weight I would advise saving another five for the savings box, for it is such a comfortable feeling to know that you have even a small sum laid away for a the unexpected that is always sure to happen.

In selecting a wardrobe from season to season try to have a black gown, or at least a black skirt, always ready for use. If of silk, have it gros-grain or taffeta; if of wool, a serge, mohair, Eudora or cashmere. Do not buy in advance of the season, as the goods are then high in price, and beware of extreme novelties at the end of the season; they are too conspicuous to be forgotten.

Another thing to remember is that it costs no more to select becoming colors than others that do not bring out one’s good points. Having a gown made in a becoming style, simple or elaborate, does not increase the expense, or need not if the wearer knows how her gowns should be designed to suit her figure and complexion—the tests. When a limited wardrobe is necessary, avoid too great a variety in coloring, and under all circumstances have one gown of black goods appropriate for all seasons. By having a supply of colored ribbon collars, and one or two fancy vests and belts, this black dress will answer for the foundation of both house and street toilets, and you will always be ready for an unexpected journey, sudden visit or simple entertainment.

The Ladies’ Home Journal, Issue 1, 1898

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really has nothing to add to this exhaustive analysis of dress goods and ribbons except to define “crash” for those unfamiliar with the textile as a light-weight, coarse, unevenly woven cloth of cotton, linen, jute, or hemp.

The advice to frugal ladies to accessorise gowns of a single colour to simulate variety in one’s wardrobe has been repeated ad nauseam in fashion magazines since time immemorial. Mrs Daffodil has taken this good counsel to heart: her entire wardrobe of gowns is of black materials; the restful monotony varied only by aprons of white or black, as required.

Readers will find information on how wealthy ladies spend their dress allowances here.  How much fashionable gentlemen expend on their wardrobes is described here and here. An absurdly expensive bicycle costume is documented here. If one wishes to know what it would cost to be correctly presented at the Court of St James, here are all the details.

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.

 

Mortuary Professions for Ladies: 1889-1910

Josephine Smith, age 84, digging a grave at Drouin Cemetery, Victoria, c. 1944 https://www.flickr.com/photos/national_library_of_australia_commons/6174073756

Josephine Smith, age 84, digging a grave at Drouin Cemetery, Victoria, c. 1944 https://www.flickr.com/photos/national_library_of_australia_commons/6174073756

To-day Mrs Daffodil has invited that crepuscular person from the Haunted Ohio blog to discuss mortuary career choices for women. She frequently writes on the popular and material culture of Victorian mourning and is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead. One presumes she is au courant on these dismal trades of the past.

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While Mrs Daffodil has previously remarked on a lady undertaker, and, we know, of course, that women were often the washers and layers-out of the dead, today I present some less usual mortuary professions for the ladies. We begin with the funeral stenographer. From the late nineteenth century onward, it was considered bad form to read a funeral sermon from notes; hence the need for someone to take down the more-or-less extemporized eulogy.

A QUEER JOB

There is a quiet young woman in a quiet, unobtrusive gown who has become quite a familiar figure at funerals. She is well known to the undertakers, at least. She always sits in the background with notebook and pencil, and her nimble fingers jot down verbatim the addresses and prayers that are uttered at the coffin’s side.

This young woman, it is said, up to a year ago, was a stenographer in a big mercantile house down town. She lost her place on account of the hard times and the consequent curtailing of the office force. She haunted the employment agencies at the various typewriter concerns for a time, but there were thousands of others doing the same thing—looking for a job. Her money was running low and she grew discouraged. Like many women she had a penchant for going to funerals, but she had not been able to indulge in this morbid fancy while regularly employed. She went to a big church affair one day, and took along her notebook and pencil, thinking she would take down the addresses just for the sake of practice. As the people were filing out a man asked her what she had been doing, and she falteringly admitted that she had been taking down what was said, so as to keep from forgetting her stenography. The man in question proved to be a friend of the family of the deceased, and said that if she would write out the prayers and addresses, putting in the hymns in their proper place, that he would pay her well for the transcript. She got $15 for this. It then occurred to her that here was a way of earning a living better and more profitable than anything else in her line.

She began to watch closely the obituary columns of the daily papers and to make calls on the undertakers in the neighborhood where she lived. It was not long beer she got another job, through going after the business in this way. Now she has about all she and her assistant can do. She charges from $15 to $50 for her services.

So far as is known she has little if any competition, and sometimes her earnings run as high as $125 a week. Strangely enough, however, she has been cured of her morbid fondness for funerals, and feels like giving up her curious way of earning a living for something less profitable, but more prosaic. She fears chronic melancholia. Daily People [New York, NY] 16 January 1910: p. 7

The young lady could have assuaged her fondness for funerals by becoming a professional mourner, as these funeral fans were jocularly called:

PROFESSIONAL MOURNERS

Get No More Free Rides, Says an Akron Undertaker.

“The professional mourner will get no more free rides at funerals conducted by us,” said an Akron undertaker, the other day, to a Democrat representative, with satisfaction beaming from every line of his countenance.

“Professional mourners! Free rides!” exclaimed the reporter in astonishment. “What do you mean? Tell us about it.” “Well, it’s this way,” said the undertaker. “At every funeral of which we have charge, we find three or four women, or maybe more, (professional mourners, we call them) who are in no way related to the family of the deceased, who had never perhaps even seen the person whose obsequies they are attending, and yet they are found occupying seats in the very front row, usually shedding tears copiously, and always dressed in black. When the time comes to go to the cemetery they are again found in the front rank and in spite of us, secure seats in the carriages provided by the relatives of the deceased for intimate friends, enjoy a free ride to the cemetery and back, and get all the choice morsels of news, which later is related to friends, all decked out with furbelows and embellishings with all the details of human grief and heartbreak which they have witnessed, worked in. To these people nothing is sacred, nothing too holy for them to gossip about.

“All this has been remedied, however, and the next time a professional mourner attempts to get a ride in one of our coaches a disagreeable surprise awaits her, for we have adopted a card system by which the names of the persons whom the bereaved relatives desire to have seats in the carriage is given to us. These persons are furnished with cards, and only those presenting cards to the driver will be allowed to ride.” Akron [OH] Daily Democrat 15 March 1902: p. 1

There were, in some cities in Europe and America, true professional mourners, both male and female, who were paid to look lugubrious. They had unions, went on strike, and there are records of some being arrested for pushing their services too aggressively at the graveside.

Female pallbearers were not unknown, particularly in the case of young persons, whose friends were often asked to be pallbearers. To give just two examples: “The pallbearers will be six girls dressed in white.” [1902] “The coffin was being carried into the church by four young ladies, who according to the wish of the deceased, had been selected as bearers.” [1885] We can see one pallbearer dressed entirely in white and several others with white garments in Death of Her Firstborn, by Frank Holl.

A few women found work as grave diggers, something so rare that it called for comment in the newspapers. (Mrs Daffodil has written about Elizabeth Thorn, who dug graves under dire conditions after the Battle of Gettysburg.)

WOMAN GRAVE DIGGER

London, Oct. 2 Miss Janie Beeching, grave digger of Lewes, prefers to work at night instead of by daylight. She goes to the cemetery after dinner and digs graves by candlelight. Wilkes-Barre [PA] Times-Leader 2 October 1919: p. 12

WOMAN GRAVE DIGGER

A woman as a grave digger! The idea seems almost impossible, but in the town of Lewes, England, there is a lady who fills of the office of sexton. Everybody knows her, and until recently she dug all the graves in Lewes cemetery. Now, at the age of 60, she contents herself with filling them up and attending to the mounds and flowers. Mrs. Steele, the name of the sextoness, if one can use such a term—is a very healthy old lady, and she has been heard to say that she will never leave her post until it is her turn to have a grave dug for her. May the time be far distant. It is a wonderful sight to witness the old lady use the spade. Omaha [NE] World Herald 4 September 1898: p. 21

If one didn’t have the stamina for grave digging and had an artistic bent, there were work-at-home design schemes:

A NEW INDUSTRY

“Lady wanted to draw, at home, original designs for coffin furniture.” The above rather ghastly advertisement appears in one of the London dailies, so that those who happen to have artistic wives or daughters pining for an opening for their talents will probably now find their homes littered with suggestive sketches of “caskets,” specially and severally designed for railway directors, Primrose League dames, members of Parliament, and others. Whether the said sketches will be calculated to promote the cheerfulness of the domestic home is quite another matter. Press, 2 August 1889: p. 3

Many milliners specialized in widow’s hats and veils. Women were also employed to design and manufacture burial robes, which were often lovingly described in the same seductive terms as fashionable clothing for the living. The one difficulty was finding shoes for the dead, but an innovative Joliet dressmaker built a thriving business on funerary footwear:

SHOES FOR THE DEAD

A Novel Industry in Which Chicago Supplies the Whole World.

That there is nothing small about Chicago has been so frequently demonstrated as to need no reiteration…But that Chicago supplies an article in the production of which it has no rival in the world may be news to many readers. It is an article for which there will be a ceaseless demand so long as people die and are buried in the prevailing style. To the present funeral, if it is carried out in the height of fashion, belongs a burial shoe. It is as necessary as any other part of the garments worn on the last journey by young or old of either sex.

The fact that the rigor mortis made the feet of dead persons so unwieldy as to necessitate a foot-gear several sizes too large for a long time painfully impressed a Joliet dressmaker, a Miss Loomis. She went to work and constructed a shoe which not only did away with clumsy leather encasements, but, in true feminine style, she brought her ingenuity to such a point that the corpse of a person may be buried in number 2s while the wearer in life required number 4s. Of course the invention was promptly patented, and in the course of time a company was incorporated which supplies two-thirds of all the manufacturers of and jobbers in funeral supplies throughout the United States, and sends the product of the Joliet dressmaker’s inventive genius even across the ocean.

The shoe consists of knitted pieces of wool or silk, which are inserted at the heels and at the insteps, making it possible ot cover the rigid “understanding” of dead persons not only with a snug fit but in becoming style. In a block on Dearborn street a dozen or fifteen girls are at work from morning till night of each working day to manufacture nothing but burial shoes of all sizes–from those for tiny babies to the ones for the oldest inhabitants…The firm turns out from fifty to a hundred pairs a day, and they are all taken rapidly, because burial shoes have, since the last year or two, become a necessary part of the outfit of the dead. Patriot [Harrisburg, PA] 11 September 1888: p. 2

And finally, an ingenious lady in New York who found a gap in a very specialized market and set out to fill it:

Woman With a Business Head Rents Smelling Salts to Visitors at the New York Morgue.

[New York Sun:] The man in the doorway crooked his finger at the wiry little woman in black, who sat on the curbing just outside the morgue.

“See her?” he asked.

“The curiosity-seeker thus addressed said, “Yes. What about her?”

“She’s a genius, that’s what about her,” said the man. “She has hit upon a most peculiar calling, and I’ll bet she will make money out of it, too. She has laid in a supply of smelling salts and rents out the bottles at the rate of 10 cents an hour to people visiting this institution. There are five different parties in here now, and each person is provided with smelling salts rented from this enterprising old lady.

‘I am glad she hit upon the plan. I had been thinking for a good many months in a vague sort of way that some such preventive of fainting ought to be supplied to tenderfeet that come spying around down here, but I never even perfected the project in my own mind, much less put it into execution. But it was different with the old lady.

“What first suggested the scheme was her own experience, when she came down here to look for a friend who had disappeared. She got so weak and nervous that she declared she would surely die if she didn’t get a whiff of lavender salts. She didn’t get the salts, because we had none about the place, neither did she die, but when she recovered she started in business.

“The lady’s profits vary, of course, with the attendance at the morgue. Some days she earns quite a decent salary. Take Tuesdays, for instance. For some reason, which I have never been able to discover, Tuesday is the public’s favorite day for doing the morgue.” The curiosity-seeker looked doubtfully at the woman on the curbing. “I wonder, “ she said, “if I’d better rent a bottle, too?”

“Going in?” asked the man.

“Yes,” said she, “I think so.”

“Then get a bottle, by all means,” was the reply. “It will cost but a dime and will save you no end of nervous chills.” Los Angeles [CA] Times 13 July 1901: p. 15

While the article blames the necessity for smelling salts on the “weak and nervous,” the little woman in black knew what she was up against. A chapter in The Victorian Book of the Dead gives the gruesome particulars of the sights and horrific stenches of the New York Public Morgue, particularly in summer. Lavender would scarcely make a dent….

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil applauds those ladies who make a living in the mortuary professions. She herself has had frequent occasion for contact with the dead, albeit normally without remuneration or public notice, working quietly behind the scenes, as it were. Despite taking pride in her work, Mrs Daffodil shuns undue notice as she feels that assisting the police with their inquiries would take entirely too much time away from her duties at the Hall.

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 Mismatch Fad: 1912

mismatch fad

The Newest Crazy Change-Side Fad

Mismated Stockings, Slippers, Gloves and Earrings, the “Odd Eye” and “Triangular Smile” Now Make Fashionable Women Look Like Masterpieces by “Futurists.”

In the extraordinary new and fashionable attempt of women to look as though a strong gale had given them a hopeless list to starboard the only one-sided opportunity that seems to have been overlooked is a lateral curvature of the spine.

To be truly fashionable and up to the minute, a woman must contrive to appear about as symmetrical as a grapevine. One-sided costumes began it—gowns sweeping the floor on one side and revealing the ankle on the other, trimmed on one side, plain on the other; coats with a sou-west-by-west effect. But, bless us! That was only the first primmer class effort of the fair ones to get out of plumb.

Now she has to shift her centre of gravity clear down to her bones. That her legs and arms are reasonably well mated is little short of a disaster. If nature provided her with eyes that match, something must be done about it. A nose that is in the middle of the face won’t do at all, and a mouth that reposes directly beneath it is of no sort of use except for alimentary purposes.

Actually, this boxing the compass with sartorial and anatomical details has become so popular in fashionable circles that it is a wonder that any fair member of the smart set promenading Fifth Avenue, New York, with multitudes of imitators overflowing into the Gay White Way, can look Nature in the face.

She could hardly do it anyway, with her vision distorted by that “odd eye” enlarged out of all proportion to its mate by the artful use of belladonna, and her head drawn over to the “O.P. side,” as they say on the stage, by the weight of a coiffure operating like a shifted cargo of pig iron aboard an Erie Canal barge. Besides, Nature certainly would resent that brand-new “triangular smile” which women who are in mode now sit up nights to cultivate.

If the late Aubrey Beardsley should come to life and take luncheon at any of the New York’s “smart” hotels it would be impossible for him to resist the temptation to immortalize the New York woman of fashion of this day, date, and minute somewhat as is attempted on this page—the lopsided lady with a vengeance!

The whole business started with the opening of the last silly season. Last summer at Newport there were some of the oddest effects produced by the strange fad. For instance, one morning, when the Casino lawns were crowded with tennis enthusiasts from all parts of the country, Miss Eleanor Sears came in with Harold Vanderbilt. There was nothing unusual in this, of course, but everyone who saw her gave a gasp and said:

“What is the matter with Eleo’s feet?” There was nothing the matter with the feet, but there was something strange about her slippers. On her left foot Miss Sears was wearing a bright red slipper and on her right foot she was wearing a black one.

“Everybody is doing it now,” said Miss Sears when Cynthia Roche Burden asked her why she had made such a mistake, and Miss Sears was right. Everybody did seem to be getting one-sided in one way or another. The next day Mrs. Alexander Bache Pratt, one of the prettiest and one of the wealthiest brides of a year ago, appeared wearing a red silk stocking on her left foot ad a black silk stocking on her right foot. But Mrs. Pratt went even further, and on the red foot she wore a black slipper, and on the black foot she wore a red slipper!

It was young Mrs. Sidney Colford—formerly Clare Knight, of Philadelphia—who was the first matron to wear the one-sided gown. One day Mrs. Colford appeared at Bailey’s Beach wearing a marvelous creation of black and white. The left side of her costume was of oyster white satin made absolutely plain from shoulder to hem. The other side was of black satin draped in a most graceful manner at the side. The contrast between the plainness of the one side and the pannier of the other was most marked.

A similar surprise was sprung upon Newport several years ago, when Mrs. Reggie Vanderbilt’s mother, Mrs. Belle Neilson, wore one very large pearl earring and one very large turquoise earring. At that time all the Newport women thought that Mrs. Neilson had made a mistake, but she very soon told them that it was the very latest Paris fad, and the next day all her friends were wearing mismated jewels.

Last Summer Mrs. Craig Biddle revived this fad and wore one  beautiful black pearl earring and one very large emerald earring.

At the recent Horse Show the new Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt wore a curious necklace; one side was of pearls and the other of rubies.

The wonderful diamond garter—or what Mr. John R. Townsend called a “leg bracelet,” worn by a very prominent matron, was the sensation of the hour at the Horse Show. It was a broad band of diamonds clasped on the left leg just below the knee. From it hung a two-inch fringe of smaller diamonds. The matron’s skirt was slit up on the side so as to show the garter.

And then there is Mrs. Dick Stevens, the wife of the Mr. Richard Stevens who owns the “Castle” over on the Hoboken side of the Hudson. Mrs. Stevens is one of the most spectacular members of the Newport colony. She has her ball gowns slit ‘way up one side and where the slit ends she wears a bouquet of flowers. And so this peculiar fad is affecting practically everything that a woman wears and it is difficult to know where it will stop.

So the dear creatures are cultivating lopsided features to correspond with the lopsidedness of their wearing apparel. The eye on the more ornamental side of the costume is thus treated with belladonna, to enlarge and make it more brilliant, while the other eye is encouraged to look as insignificant as possible.

Even a nose can be manipulated in a way to turn it several points to the sta’board or the la’board of the course which the lady-brig has marked on her chart. This adds considerably to the irresistible piquancy of the “triangular smile,” which, in the mean-time, she has so painfully acquired and which is so subtly babyish in its effect of trustful innocence.

3 cornered smile

The “triangular smile,” when once acquired is really an economy. It is accomplished by sharply elevating the centre of the upper lip, thereby revealing only two upper incisors instead of a full set of teeth, upper and lower.

Considerable time and not a little inconvenience is the cost of acquiring this three-cornered expression of approval. You have to sleep in a sort of bridle with a vertical front strap firmly clamped to the tip of the upper lip, which, it draws upward toward your nose all through your sleeping hours—if, indeed, you are able to sleep that way.

Examination into the whole matter in a scientific spirit, however, suggests a more serious reason for the existence of the triangular lady with her pronounced list to sta’board. There is, in fact, no denying that she approaches more nearly than anything else human to the ideas of the masters of the “Futurist” school of art—as is plainly indicated by the two examples reproduced on this page. You will observe that the distinguished painters of these two portraits of women saw nothing about their subjects which did not suggest vague cubes, triangles, rhomboids and other familiar geometrical figures, some regular in form, but most of them decidedly irregular. Furthermore these ladies immortalized by “Futurist” masters have that same characteristic list to sta’board that is so pronounced in the case of victims of the fashionable, new lop-sided fad.

Perhaps the “Futurists” are right. Perhaps that is how our sisters and sweethearts really look, anyway, and that someday we’ll be educated up to seeing ’em that way even when their clothes are on straight.

mother and child lewis

“Mother and Child” Wyndham Lewis

head of a woman picasso

“Head of a Woman” Pablo Picasso

The Salt Lake [UT] Tribune 15 December 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously reported on the eccentricities of “Polaire,” the self-styled “ugliest actress in the world,” who was trying to introduce the fad of nose-rings in 1913. Polaire at least had the merit of being an actress for whom news-worthy eccentricity was a positive virtue. One fears that Miss Eleanor Sears and Mrs. Belle Neilson really did make a pair of bloomers with their footwear and jewellery, which they hastily covered with the fig-leaf of an entirely imaginary Parisian novelty. Mrs Daffodil dislikes, but does not blame, the Futurists for the mismatching fad.  Such things come and go in the world of fashion. One anticipates that by the time the Great War broke out, young ladies had better things to think about than belladonna in the eyes and “nose bridles.”

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 Shoe in the Safe-deposit Box: 1904

Stephen Millbank’s last morning was exactly what every other week-day morning had been for the twenty-five years of his married life, except for half-a-dozen brief business absences. The excellent breakfast was put on the table at eight o’clock by the exemplary maid-servant, just as Mr. Millbank came down the wide front stairs—a handsome but not ostentatious flight—suggesting dignified and self-respecting prosperity. Mrs. Millbank complete in costume and composed in countenance, was already in the breakfast-room, a careful eye on the details. Not a tremor of premonition came to either of them, nor to the maid-servant waiting respectfully by the sideboard, as he blessed the food provided for their use and shook out his napkin. They talked cheerfully during the meal—both considering cheerful talk valuable to the digestion—of business matters and charitable projects, and decided what he should give toward the new church—a decision she afterward faithfully fulfilled. Then they took their places at the library desk to go over the household accounts of the day before. This was perhaps the most intimate and companionable moment of their daily life together—certainly the most keenly interesting. The expenses were within their margin, as usual, the balance unimpeachable. Mr. Millbank patted his wife’s hand with an approving smile.

“My dear, you are a perfect helpmate,” he said. He kissed her cheek, and as nine was striking he closed his generous front door behind him for the last time. Dignified, commanding, carrying the stoutness of prosperity but not the fat of self-indulgence, he turned toward the bank which thirty-five years before had admitted him as a serious and hardworking clerk and now opened respectfully to him as president. He had been a conscientious little boy, a model student, a vigorous worker, and then, when he had-turned his unremitting wisdom to the choice of a wife, an irreproachable husband. The city was proud of him and his flawless career, and the lapses of weaker brothers were seldom discussed in his presence. A man of his unswerving rectitude, could not be expected to make allowances. He was admittedly the leading citizen.

An hour later half the city knew that its leading citizen had been struck and instantly killed by an electric car. That the accident was entirely the motorman’s fault was little good to Stephen Millbank now; but it brought a certain dim comfort to his widow, as maintaining to the end the fact that never could a foolish or ill-considered act be laid to his account. Unexpected as his death had been, Mr. Millbank’s affairs were in perfect order, and the two executors had fulfilled their tasks within a very few weeks. It was a surprise to them, therefore, six months later, to receive a notice from a safe deposit company stating that the rent on a box held by Mr. Millbank was now due. Among all his neatly catalogued papers there had been no record of any such box. Moreover there had been plenty of boxes at his disposal in the safe deposit of his own bank, so why should Mr. Millbank maintain one elsewhere? He was not a man to pay out $22 a year for no reason.

They took Mr. Millbank’s keys merely as a formality, and made their way downtown, two keen, sober, grizzled men, not so far above the world’s weaknesses as Mr. Millbank had been, yet excellent citizens. The manager of the safe deposit met them with conviction, and showed them the entry made fifteen years before, when Stephen Millbank had rented the box. He himself had gone down to the vaults with Mr. Millbank on that occasion and, after opening the box, had turned away while something was put in. Mr. Millbank had never returned, but his check had come with perfect regularity ever since. A key was identified as that belonging to the box.

“Strange that there should have been no memorandum, with Mr. Millbank’s habits,” said Mr. Jerome, as they followed the manager to the vaults.

“And $22 a year—very extraordinary, very,” nodded Mr. Thompson.

The box was opened and the manager discreetly turned his back while Mr. Thompson took out a package clumsily wrapped in white tissue. As the shape made itself felt through the wrapping, he turned a little pale and drew nearer to Mr. Jerome, with a glance toward the waiting manager. They took off the papers in silence, then stood staring in helpless, dismayed wonder. On Mr. Thompson’s unsteady hand was poised a white satin slipper.

It was soiled and frayed with use as well as yellow with time, but it was slim and delicately shaped, curving up from a tiny, pointed toe, to an extravagantly high heel. A little ghost of a past perfume seemed to rise with the unfolding of the paper, and to hover between the two grizzled, speechless men. Suddenly Mr. Thompson, with a deep breath, gave a warning nod toward the manager’s back and thrust the slipper into his pocket.

“Doubtless nothing of importance, nothing at all,” he said. “Nevertheless, we will take them home and examine them.”

“Yes, certainly,” stammered Mr. Jerome.

Five minutes later they were seated side by side in an uptown car in profound silence. Not till they were half-way home did Mr. Thompson speak, and then his head was turned away from his companion.

“If I recollect correctly,” he said slowly, “ah—Mrs. Millbank has not a small foot.”

“Yes—that is my impression,” murmured Mr. Jerome, his eyes looking vacantly in the opposite direction.

Current Opinion, Volume 34, 1904

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is not surprised that the two gentlemen leapt instantly to a sordid (and completely unwarranted) conclusion at the contents of the safe-deposit box. To Mrs Daffodil’s mind, the slipper suggests renunciation. After all, if one were pining for a lost love, or had a fancy for ladies’ footwear, the late Mr Millbank would have visited the vault at some time during that fifteen years to reminisce or caress the adored object.  And if the affaire were ongoing, what need for a satin memento?

Mrs Daffodil, in a flight of fancy, sketches an alternate scenario: Mr Millbank, seeking to capture his lost youth after a sensible ten years of marriage, meets a young person on one of his business trips. One thing leads to another until an impending blessed event drives the frantic young person to make demands. The sensible Mr Millbank is appalled.  He thinks deeply, then he invites the young person to go for a walk in the park by the river. On the bridge, acrimonious words are hurled as it begins to rain. There is a struggle, an impulsive motion of revulsion or perhaps a despairing leap. He makes a futile grab. A splash, a white face, and a bubbling cry….

Mr Millbank is left standing alone in the rain with a single satin slipper in his hand. Mechanically he puts it into his pocket and walks back to his hotel. He is snug at home when the body is discovered. The newspapers cluck briefly over the sad, old story. The shoe is placed in the safe-deposit box. Mr Millbank does not forget.

Or, in yet another plausible scenario, if chemists examined the shoe, they would find traces of champagne from a single midnight supper decades ago. Mr Millbank, perhaps awakened to the imprudence of keeping the shoe in his home or office by an associate’s domestic embarrassment, tucked it away in the safe-deposit box. No one would have been more surprised than the lady herself, now a buxom matron living respectably in Cleveland, Ohio, to find that a long-forgotten gentleman had kept a souvenir of a memorable evening.

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.

 

Arranging a “Ritzy” Shoe and Hosiery Department: 1922

stockings and shoes

“A Better Tie-Up Between Shoes and Hosiery

The Woman Customer Friend Has a Few Ideas Which
Were Accepted by the Merchant

(From Queen Quality Between UsJune, 1922, Issue)

When the Wanderer put his head in at the office door of my shoe store last Saturday morning, his always pleasant face wore a broad smile.

“Come out of your shell, old turtle,” he greeted me cheerfully. “Mrs. Wanderer’s up front buying out your hosiery department. Hold on, though!” he added as I jumped up, “‘phone your wife to come down to lunch with us—so you and I can talk shop in peace.”

Now the Wanderer’s wife was not “buying out” my hosiery department. Yet she and the clerk were deep in conversation.

“I was just following in the footsteps of my illustrious husband and giving this young lady a lot of perfectly good advice about running a business she knows more about than I do,” she said as we shook hands.

Friend Wife Talks

“Charley, for goodness’ sake when you let Nick talk you into adding this hosiery department, why didn’t you make him tell you how to sell the stuff? It’s miles out of your line.”‘

“Why, it’s doing about as well as I expected,” I replied. “It’s rather a novelty yet—women haven’t got used to buying hosiery in a shoe store, I guess.”

“Suppose you tell us how it ought to be managed,” said the Wanderer, meekly.

“Tell you?” scoffed his lady. “You’d never see it. But go on back to your lair and gossip for half an hour and I’ll show you.”

Obediently we retraced our steps—nor did we reappear until my wife came to call us.

How She Trimmed the Case

Mrs. Wanderer—wearing an expression of supreme content—waited for us by the hosiery display case. This is what she’d put in it—an exact copy of the list I made that afternoon to refer to when arranging future displays.

Floor of Case (reading from left to right): a dark brown walking oxford with a pair of plain brown hose, matching exactly. Center, smoke, calf sport oxford trimmed in brown calf, accompanied by three pairs of hose, one a heavy smoke-colored silk, the second brown silk and wool clocked in orange, the third brown and gold heather mixed wool. Right end, tan walking oxford with matching hose.

First Shelf: left end, white cloth oxford, two pairs of hose, one heavy white silk clocked in red, the second a lighter weight plain white. Center, white cloth oxford with black calf trim with a pair of white silk hose clocked in black, and one pair of black clocked in white. Right end, white cloth strap pump with one pair white lace clocked silk hose, and one pair white drop-stitch stripe.

Top Shelf: left, a low heeled, single strap pump, patent vamp and beige suede quarter with a pair of beige hose exactly matching the suede, and a second pair of beige with black clocks. Center, patent two strap with Louis heel, accompanied by three pairs of hose: one black, one white (self clocked), one blond. Right, gray suede elastic side three strap, with one pair plain gray hose, matching exactly, and another of paler gray clocked with the shade of the shoe itself.

Stunts Don’t Fool ‘Em

Now I’d always made it a point to show a sample of every style and color I had in stock, and I don’t mind confessing that showcase looked mighty empty.

Guess the Wanderer thought so, too, but that didn’t stump him.

“Going on the same principle as those milliners who put just one hat in the window—only not quite so much so?” he queried.

“No, you goose, that’s nothing but a selling fad—a pose that doesn’t fool us for a minute,” was the answer. “This is sense. Show a woman how what she wants or is thinking of buying, is going to look with something she’s got,” she added triumphantly.

“Of course!” seconded my wife.

This Was Her Psychology

Then, just in time to save me from having to admit that I didn’t “get her,” she continued—

“Look at that white shoe with the black trim. Any woman would buy white stockings to go with it. The less obvious but smarter thing is white clocked in black. Show her that—and sell her the hose. If she’s just a bit daring she’ll like the black with the white clocks—and she’ll know without your reminding her that she can wear that same stocking with any all black shoe. Work it backwards. Suppose she has some black and white stockings, but no shoes like these—you’ve put into her head how stunning that combination would be with her white satin sport skirt and black silk sweater. Now do you see daylight?”

“You mean make my shoes sell appropriate stockings to go with them—and my stockings sell shoes?” I questioned.

Each Display Helps the Other

“Of course,” was the calm reply. “You’re selling ‘footwear’ now—not just shoes. Well, then, why not make your two departments help each other instead of letting your poor little hosiery department struggle along by itself?

“Why,” with a smile, “haven’t you seen shirts and the right scarfs to go with them displayed together in the men’s shops for years and years—and you never thought of anything so obvious as this? I’m ashamed of you both—but particularly of Nick, who ought to know better.”

To be perfectly truthful with you I’d not much notion that her arrangement would work such a whole lot better than mine—but fortunately I didn’t voice the thought—for right now I’m mailing orders for an extra supply of several styles of fairly high-priced stockings. And when I bought the original lots I rather had my doubts if I could sell a dozen pairs of each style!

There’s another queer twist to this little experience. A friend of mine—one of the members of our Board of Trade council— told me the other day his daughter said we had a “Ritzy” footwear shop! And she’s just home from a six months’ visit with an aunt in New York.

Oh, well, you never can tell, but it always pays to listen respectfully to a clever woman anyhow. 

Boot and Shoe Recorder: The Magazine of Fashion Footwear, Volume 81, Part 2, 1922

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: With hemlines beginning to rise in the 1910s, ornamented stockings were more popular than ever: one finds stockings embellished with beads and lace inserts, striped like sticks of candy, embroidered with whimsical figures or even the owner’s name about the ankle, or hand-painted by artists.

One of the more mystifying developments in American slang was the 1920s penchant for phrases such as “Friend Wife” and “Friend Husband,” always used in a somewhat humorous domestic context.  Surely the persons using the phrase could not all be Quakers? This 1914 squib does not illuminate the origins of the phrase, but does explain how one observer saw it.

“Friend Wife”

The slang straw shows how the thought wind blows. This term, “Friend Wife,” is now in good and regular standing with such observers as the cartoonist Briggs of the Chicago and new York “Tribunes,” colymnists like F.P.A. [Franklin P. Adams] and B.L.T. [Bert Leston Taylor], and story-writers such as George Randolph Chester. It is very doubtful is the phrase would have caught on a generation ago. To our ears it sums up an aspect of the change that has come about in the daily status of women; it recognizes in a half-humorous way the practical working equality of the sexes that is a great fact in modern life. In the light of this careless phrase we see clearly how empty is the chatter of the antisuffragists and the drivel of the so-called feminists. Most people are still very much like human beings.  Collier’s, Vol. 53, 1914

 

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.