Category Archives: shopping

Our Pet Handkerchiefs: 1889

1884 grape handkerchief

1884 handkerchief trimmed with point de gaze. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/handkerchief-66177

OUR PET HANDKERCHIEFS.

Handled with Caressing Fingers, Sighed Over and Cherished.

Something About Their Styles, Textures and Exquisite Finish.

Do you pet a handkerchief? No? Then you are not a woman and this article is not for your perusal.

Some women pet hobbies, others pet dogs, a few pet babies, but all the gender pets handkerchiefs.

The woman doesn’t live with a streak of the aesthetic in her nature, who hasn’t a filmy rag or two folded away in her for-ever-and-ever box and hallowed by the memory of other times and other lives.

It is only necessary to pick up one of these sheer little napkins to experience a palpitation of the heart. It is sure to be pretty, a little yellow with age, and faintly suggestive of some delicate scent that brings back a schoolboy, a sweetheart or the hero of some Commencement ball, lawn party or kettledrum. Perhaps there is a stain of lemonade on it; maybe it’s teardrop, but whatever the blemish, it is as sacred as the pale colors that mellow an old prayer rug.

The scent of flowers will recall a woman’s face and voice to the man in a reverie and a cloud of cigar smoke, but nothing will resurrect the Jack or Tom or Billy of long ago quicker than the sight of his handkerchief. If he is dead there’s a gentle kiss to his memory, and if he is married a sigh and perhaps a scrutiny of the web as if to divine in its meshes the reason of it all.

You have to be a woman with a lot of sentiment in your soul to fully understand a girl’s love for a bit of lace and mull.

It’s a species of idolatry such as a virtuoso lavishes upon a choice piece of miniature painting. It is handled with caressing fingers, sighed over, dreamed over, rinsed in perfume, folded away in withered rose leaves, and to think even of laundering it would be a profanation.

With all her love and reverent worship of lace and fine linen, there isn’t a woman in a whole congregation who is a judge of either fabric. In buying she looks at the decoration. If it is pretty the article is purchased, and as a rule she would rather have an ornamental handkerchief for 75 cents than a sheer linen plain edge. Ironed with a silver gloss and finished with open embroidery or cheap lace, any clerk with a tongue can make the fair customer believe that she is getting all linen, which in reality is all but 1-10 of 1 per cent. Cotton.

Men, as a rule, do better in their purchases. They don’t pretend to be judges. When an article is submitted his highness shakes it in the air. If the fluff flies he doesn’t want it, and he runs through the stock playing flag with each article until one is found that beats the air clean.

The handkerchief markets of the world are in the north of Ireland, in France and in Switzerland. Perhaps nine-tenths of the trade is supplied by the Irish firms, Belfast being the real centre of supply. The fabrics are sent to the distributing agencies, by whom they are bunched with threads and patterns, to be again distributed among the skilled needlewomen, by whom they are hemstitched, decorated in black or drawn-work and white or colored embroidery. These unfortunate workers receive an incredibly small sum for their labor, but, poor as it is, they are glad to do it. Irish-made handkerchiefs vary in price from 25 cents to $3, and while warranted to be all linen the fabric may be a coarse quality.

It is difficult to say which are the finest goods of French or Swiss make. In either it would seem as though the acme of needlework had been reached, and the very perfection of linen weaving.

Textures of such exquisite finish as to suggest silk are by no means uncommon, but you will have to pay $3 for a specimen, and that, too, without a vestige of trimming or decoration. The hemstitch varies from one-sixteenth to an inch and a half, but it is a real luxury to feel the delicate web against your face. Handkerchiefs of this sort are carried by high-born ladies and by others not so high, but of equally exalted notions about the elegancies of life.

It is said that in her boots, gloves, and linen a woman’s taste mirrors itself, and there is much truth in the saying. Handkerchiefs with scalloped edges, dotted borders and needle-wrought hems are indeed beautiful, but the poetry of a handkerchief hangs about the frill of a lace, which may be one-third of an inch or a hand deep, but must be the real thread.

handkerchief trimmed with valenciennes lace

Embroidered handkerchief trimmed with Valenciennes lace, mid-19th c. https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/-/HQHw3duV2A7pxQ?childAssetId=zQFwpV6cZuPLQw

Of all handkerchiefs the most genteel is a dollar square of linen lawn edge with narrow valenciennes. It was a handkerchief of this sort that the gentle Elizabeth Barrett had in her hand when the poet Browning felt his heart desert him. It is, too, this same style that you will be attracted by if you ride much in the Fifth avenue stages or touch elbows with the slowly moving matrons and haughty beauties of the Knickerbocker set. You can pay $25 for a piece of Swiss embroidery or $25 for a fancy in French with a vine of open-worked lilies round the edges, neither of which will begin to champ like the sheer linen with its suggestion of fine lace that $5 will procure.

The stage is no a poor field for the study of the beautiful hand loom. Mrs. [Lily] Langtry habituated herself to the use of linen lawn that was as delicate as the inner lining of a silk-worm’s house, that could not have cost less than $50 a dozen, exclusive of the lace that edged them. Pauline Hall has some superb specimens of lace woven about a centre of sheerest linen about the size of a checker square, and the charm of Mrs. [Cora Urquhart Brown-] Potter’s handkerchief was the faint odor of violets that seemed a part of the web and lace.

[Helena] Modjeska likes a filmy piece of French mull with the narrowest edge of lace. Miss [Mary] Eastlake has a fancy for Nottingham lace that she buys in the town by the dozen, and the last consignment to Mme. [Adelina] Patti consisted of satiny hand-woven linen with two deep hems, very simply stitched.

NELL NELSON.

The Evening World [New York NY] 27 December 1889: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In some of our discussions of the cost of ladies’ wardrobes, we have frequently seen reports of very costly handkerchiefs.  However, Miss Nelson asserts that it is not the cost, but the memories and sentiments associated that make a handkerchief a “pet.” Mrs Daffodil purses her lips dubiously at how useful such a “pet” accessory might be: they cannot be trained to repeat clever bon mots; they do not chase off burglars; nor are they effective mousers despite their French appellation of “mouchoir.”  Scarcely worth their keep, one thinks.

Mrs Daffodil appreciates how some gentlemen show a more practical attitude towards the quality of their linen:

A Madrid journal [La Tela Cordata] is printed on linen with a composition easily removable by water, and the subscriber, after devouring the news, washes his journal and has a handkerchief.

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 3 September 1899: p. 8

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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Mistaken Economies of Women: 1907

 

TEXTILES

MISTAKEN ECONOMIES OF WOMEN

Every woman, no matter how much a spendthrift she may be, has periodical attacks of economy, frugality, stinginess, call it whatever name you will—something that makes her unwilling to part with even the most worthless of her possessions.

Some one excuses her by saying that it is woman’s nature to draw toward her whatever comes within the range of her vision, but whatever the cause it seems born in woman, like her love for laces and puppies and doll babies.

That is one of the reasons that women are such bargain hunters. They buy because things are cheap, and therefore they reason that it is economy to become possessed of those bargains. In their frugal minds they argue that if they don’t need it now they will at some future time, so they plank down their money and march out of the store, hugging their bargain, whatever it happens to be.

That is the reason also why houses are made with attics and lots of closet room. They are for the women to stow away the things they do not need—and probably never will need.

Ever heard of a man saving anything? As soon as s man’s hat gets a dinge in it he gives it to the ash-man. Likewise his frayed collars, his fringed trousers, his old shoes and his other belongings. The Ashman or the garbage gentleman naturally falls heir to everything as soon as the season is ended.

Not so with the woman.

Up in the attic there are trunks and boxes and telescopes and weather-beaten old satchels, literally bulging with old clothes and other things the woman is saving. Over in the corner stands a walnut bed they bought when they first went to housekeeping. Somebody told her once long ago that walnut would be very scarce and valuable some of these days, so she is saving it.

There are hats up there that have been collecting dust and cobwebs, for 10 years and dresses so old that they have come back into style again—almost.
There are stings of buttons and scraps of lace, and rolls of gingham and silk and calico, that have been saved for patches. The garments of which these scraps of silk and gingham and calico are remnants were worn out long ago, but she still keeps the rolls because they may come in handy some of these days.

There are six or seven umbrellas in the corner. No, they are not umbrellas, either, but skeletons of umbrellas. Not one of them would turn water. They are merely shreds of Gloria cloth and wire and wood—but she is keeping them, probably for a rainy day.

There is an old muff and a long snake-like boa hanging from a wooden crosspiece, and both are full of moths, which some day are going to crawl downstairs and reconnoiter the parlor, and look over the rug and the piano.
She is saving that fur, for she has  hunch that some day she will want a dress trimmed with fur, but its dollars to round doughnuts that she will have forgotten it by the time she buys the dress, or else the moths will have finished the fur.
The secondhand dealer would give her exactly 50 cents for that walnut bed, and the ragman would give her half a cent a pound for those old skirts and basques and polonaises and overskirts and pelisses and things, the very names of which she has forgotten since the time they were in vogue. She couldn’t get a cent for the fur nor the umbrellas for the very good reason that they are no earthly use to anybody.

There might have been times in the history of every one of these articles when they would have been of value to somebody. Some woman would have been grateful for those garments; some poor, old, ailing body would have rested easier for that old walnut bed; even those umbrellas and those old furs might have kept water and frost away; but up in the attic, where they have collected dust for years. They have benefited nobody. After all, there is such a thing as being too saving.

The Pittsburgh [PA] Press 8 September 1907: p. 47

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is most convenient, to be sure, to blame women for any clutter around the home. Mrs Daffodil knows of far too many gentlemen who cling to the detritus of long-discarded hobbies and sports, not to mention the rotting carcasses of sports cars, which, had they been put into trim, might have been enjoyed or else sold for a tidy profit at auction.

As the winter holidays approached, Mrs Daffodil noted a plethora of articles urging a pre-holiday “cleanse,” which suggests a rather dreadful stay at some country-house clinic where the inmates ingest kale juice and raw nuts. The items to be discarded were things like plastic containers, wire clothing hangers, and even cardboard boxes of food, which were to be decanted into sanitary glass jars.  There may be some merit in binning sauce-stained Tupperware missing its lid, but Mrs Daffodil draws the line at keeping only those things that have been used within the last year and which “bring joy.”  Under that standard, Mrs Daffodil would have to purge the Hall of an immense and gruesome Caravaggio painting of Judith and Holofernes, as well as several heirloom tiaras of immense value, but limited aesthetic appeal.

 

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.

 

What Shall I Give: Christmas Suggestions for the Seven Ages of Man: 1913

18ct gold dressing table set Tiffany 1930s

18-ct gold Tiffany gentleman’s dressing table set, 1930s https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/24252/lot/357/

WHAT SHALL I GIVE?

CHRISTMAS SUGGESTIONS. (By Imogen in the “Dominion.”) The most distracting thing in the world is to know what to give at Christmas time, and the difficulty is still more accentuated when the recipient is a man, and since there are so many men there must be an equal number of. sorely-perplexed women ransacking their brains for ideas that may materialise into new, useful, or ornamental gifts for members of their family, friends, or those of any other standing in their regard.

In desperation the question was hurled at a modest, unsuspecting, hard-working man the other day.

“What would you like for a Christmas Present?

The pen fell out of his hand and he subsided into his chair. “This is awfully sudden,” he murmured in subdued, tones. “Have you come in for unlimited wealth?”

“No! I’m, merely wanting to know what men like for presents.” was the crushing reply.

“Oh Is that all!”

A pause.

“I see what you’re after,” he broke out. with a sudden rush of discernment. “You shall have my little lot.”

After a few seconds’ laboured thinking, he handed in triumph a small sheet of paper. “Quite simple, don’t you think?”

The paper read as follows:

“One new pipe, costing 2s 6d; one new cricket bat, weighing only 21b 4oz, with sliding cane in the handle; one pair feather-weight shoes, weighing .0005 of an oz. so that I could field at cricket.”

The suggestions found an encouraging reception, especially the featherweight shoes. Another occupant of the room was asked his preferences. His cup of happiness was so full, however, that all he could think of was a new pipe (evidently an insatiable and everlasting need among men) and, as an afterthought, a pair of bath slippers, and not even after a few minutes devoted to hard thinking could he think of any other need. He was not a millionaire either, or if he was he kept the fact a deep, dark, horrible secret, possibly, a necessary thing in these Socialistic, Red Federation days. A newcomer into the room was asked ingratiatingly what he would like given, to him. Delightedly he smiled. “It’s very kind of you. There are a few trifles I would like, especially as I may be going to England shortly. Shall I begin?” He began!!!

“A safe money-belt; a fitted suitcase; a. dressing-case; a shaving outfit; pair of prism binoculars; Thermos flask; monogramed pocketbook; walking-stick medicine case; military brushes; opera glasses; silver shoehorn collar-case; silver soap cup; safety razor; fountain–!!!

“Why, what is the matter I can still go on, you know.”

It was an undoubted fact. He was prepared to go on for quite a long time, but a telephone call being made upon him, he had to vanish.

A comprehensive addition to the little list of possible gifts enumerated above might be found in the appended suggestions, which are taken from the Christmas number of the “Ladies’ Home Journal.” It is quite suited to the seven ages of man:

rabbit rattle

German velvet rabbit rattle, c. 1906 http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1122524/soft-toy/

For the Baby Boy.

Hanger for his wardrobe, trimmed baby basket, celluloid, rubber, and stuffed toys, hand-made dresses and skirts, celluloid toilet sets, rompers, worsted cap, silk bonnet, corduroy coat, stuffed animals, silver cup, low table and chairs, eiderdown bath robe, rattle, ring, and dell, pillow-cover, bootees, worsted sacque, sweater, leggings, carriage cosy, rag doll, silver spoon, table tray, bath thermometer.

For Little and Big Boys.

House slippers, building blocks, indoor-outdoor games, balance toys, moving toys, mechanical toys, soldier’s suit, fireman’s suit, books, dog, kitten, rabbit, bird, dog-collar, folding desk, roller skates, comb and brush set, kindergarten gifts, reflecting lantern, camera, bicycle, athletic game books, clothes-brush, penknife, boxing gloves, pedometer, pocket compass, inexpensive watch, Indian clubs, blackboard, electric train, painting book, bow and. arrow, scout equipment, shooting game with cork ammunition, cowboy suit, vocational toys, filled school case, tool chest, stilts, boy’s suitcase, camping tent, microscope, gauntlet gloves, tool-chest, stationary engine, referee’s whistle, school pennant, megaphone, developing film.

 

The Young Man, Father, and Grandfather.

Gloves, silk hosiery, slumber slippers, blanket robe, housecoat, sectional bookcase, lawyer’s brief case, wing chair, footstool, pictures, desk, carving set, handy box, week-end trunk, Malacca walking-stick, evening slippers, rain-coat, silk shirt, hip pocket book (monogrammed), spring grip dumbbells, bill fold and wallet, medicine cupboard, leather key case numbered for 10-1 dozen keys, barometer, thermometer, flexible top cloth brush, silk or knitted muffler, umbrella, coin purse, magazine subscription, sweater, football, starter’s golf clubs, tennis racket, silk or flannel pyjamas, manicure set, triplicate mirrors, brush and comb set, toilet water.

travelling rug hermes 1930s

A leather and woollen travelling rug by Hermes, c. 1930s https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15398/lot/286/

If He Travels.

Leather sewing box, rubber-lined tourist cases, soft leather, necktie case’ with stickpin and collar button pockets, travelling rug and strap, leather shirt case with collar, cuff, glove, and tie compartments, suitcase, umbrella, travelling medicine chest, commutation ticket case, fitted toilet case, traveller’s slippers in case, fitted leather correspondence case, leather jewellery box.

 

If He Motors.

Fitted emergency case with instruction book, lunch basket, gloves, clock, pennant, automobile match safe, foot muff or warmer, motor roll for coats, etc., leather air cushions, motor rugs, goggles, muffler, leather shell coat.

cartier chinoiserie letter opener watch

Cartier chinoiserie letter opener/paper knife with clock. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22466/lot/1147/

For His Desk and Den.

Large calendar, newspaper rack, clock, desk set, letter clip, postage scales, assorted stationery, expanding hook shelves, large scrap basket, desk scissors, reading lamp, cushions, ivory paper knife.

gentleman's gold pocket watch chain and seal 1929

Gentleman’s gold pocket watch, chain, and fob, c. 1929 https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/17233/lot/188/

In Gold and Silver.

Eyeglass case, scarf pin, shirt studs, key chain, signet ring, charm, cuff links, gold pencil, fob, lapel chain, watch, gold buckle with leather belt, gold vest-pocket fountain pen, platinum chain for evening wear, silver photo frame.

1920s shetland golf jumper

A 1920s Shetland golf jumper, useful for any out-of-doors sport. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O368372/golf-jumper-unknown/

For Outdoor Life.

Leather leggings, folding pocket camera, driving gloves, raincoat, blazer, stop watch, athletic jersey, harness, saddle.

Timaru [NZ] Herald,  20 December 1913: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil would note that although slippers do appear  on the list, gentlemen rightly recoil from those beaded, Berlin-wool-work horrors young ladies inflict upon them.

Let us hear from a candid gentleman who enumerates the many useless gifts he has received over the years and frankly states what he wants:

A Christmas Letter.

From the Christmas Peck.

Dearest Phyllis:

Pray remember when you’re making up the list of your presents for December (unless I am to be missed) that I’ve slippers, picture brackets, smoking sets of various types, half a dozen smoking jackets, thirty-seven meerschaum pipes, twenty patent “kid glove menders,” collar boxes by the score, of embroidered silk suspenders forty-eleven pairs or more! That each year since I was twenty I’ve received a paper weight, have penwipers, ink stand plenty, paper cutters—twenty-eight. That I’ve Browning and Longfellow by the hundreds—every kind; Shakespeare—black and blue and yellow; Milton till I’m nearly blind!

So there’s just one present only that I’m wanting in this year of my bachelorship so lonely—that’s yourself, my Phyllis dear.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 25 December 1897: p. 15

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 Festive Christmas Tree: 1906

the festive christmas tree illustration 1906.JPG

The Festive Christmas Tree

It will not be the fault of the shop-keepers if your Christmas tree is lacking in characteristic beauty, for as early as November first the toy departments were beginning to assume a “Christmasy” aspect.

The number of people who purchased decorations at that time was altogether surprising, and from the first week of November to Thanksgiving the buying has been unprecedented. There are two good reasons for early buying; the novelties, of course, quickly disappear and the stock becomes exhausted; again when purchased in ample time there is less danger of the frail ornaments being broken, which is sure to occur when the holiday rush is on for good and everybody is making for the same goal.

While there is nothing strikingly new or unusual among the fanciful embellishments for this year’s Christmas tree, they are sufficiently satisfying and ornate to please the little men and women for whom they are intended, happy sojourners in the Land of Delusion.

FAD FOR DIMINUTIVE TREES.

It is probably owing to the small box-like rooms that prevail in recently built houses and the growing popularity of flat-life that brought the diminutive tree into favor. At any rate, real and artificial trees from 24 inches to l yard high and from this height to the fast vanishing giant balsam that ends unwillingly beneath the ceiling are all equally desirable according to recent advice.

Every purchaser buys a tree best suited to the available space in his home. Children may trim and untrim small trees and so engage their time for days at a stretch, whereas with the usual size tree this is not possible. Besides, there is an economical side to the dwarf-like tree, which is vastly better than none at all, when a larger one proves too great a tax for a slender purse. The attendant annoyance of falling greens and the time required in trimming the tree are reduced to a minimum.

Small trees are also employed to bear the gifts for the children, which is even more fun than finding them under the tree.

ORNAMENTS IN BLOWN GLASS.

A number of very attractive shapes are shown in colored glass ornaments, besides the standard ones that have been doing service for many years. The coloring this year seems to be unusually brilliant, three or four hues often being combined in one piece. Many of the more expensive ones are hand-painted and encrusted with diamond dust.

All sorts of egg and oval shapes are conspicuous, striped, plaided and rainbow tinted, with queer little spirals of gilt running over and around them.

About a hundred and one different models for airships, some horizontally built, others like balloons swinging vertically, are in profuse assortment. These are mostly seen in a single color with spirals of gilt surrounding them. Boats, horns of plenty, besides hosts of others, may be added to the list. Many musical instruments are displayed alike in painted glass, with bright and dull finish.

Bunches of grapes in gold, silver, green and purple glass are available from 5 cents to $1, and must assuredly be included among the essential decorations.

FANS AND FAIRIES.

Miniature fans with the tops finished by frills oi a plain color and enlivened with tinsel, ornate flowers, fancy heads and sparkling dust, are among the attractive novelties; these fans vary from three to six inches, the sticks are of gilt and silver paper, some of which are mounted on heavy cardboard.

The Christmas fairy does not flourish in her undisputed sway today as she did when we were nursery enthusiasts. But she is the same ornate, fluffy spangled lady, sometimes wearing frilled skirts of gold paper, again one of coarse lace with paper flowers and bits of tinsel and stars or one of cotton net standing out in a characteristic, bouffant fashion.

Quite amusing are the little roly-poly decorations, dudes, Indians, clowns, dancing girls, besides those of the animal tribe, rabbits, dogs, cats, pigs, bears and what not, all fancifully garbed, with their bearing attached to swing on the tree.

NOVELTIES IN PAPER AND BEADS.

Both plain and crepe papers enter largely into the fanciful designs of all sorts. Very graceful indeed are the horns of plenty of embossed gold and paper filled with flowers, some of which support a fairy butterfly, glistening with varicolored diamond dust.

Large single flowers, the rose, chrysanthemum and sunflower, besides sprays, are realistically designed in colored papers, their petals touched with gold and silver dust. Torpedo bonbons, wishing bon bons gayly decorated with tinsel, fancy heads and flowers are fashioned of colored papers. These, it may be whispered, are not in the least difficult to make and very effective, and in white, scarlet, yellow, pale blue and pink make a good showing. I neglected to say that in some of the single flowers of crepe paper a little doll’s face unexpectedly appears.

Among the most effective novelties handled by several houses are those of varicolored beads, made up into unique little ornaments. Many of these are of pendant persuasion and occasionally combined with glass beads, as in air ships, for example.

Strings of glistening glass beads and crystal shapes, some in one color shading from light to dark, again several colors alternating with each other, produce a most artistic effect when arranged in garland fashion. In pure white they catch and reflect the light, like so many diamonds.

Crystal or glass fringe in gracefully shaped oval pendants of varying color add a refined brilliancy, to the tree as a whole that seems unmatched by any other medium of decoration.

MARJORIE.

The Sunday Journal [Minneapolis MN] 9 December 1906: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written on this subject before, discussing how to make a Christmas fairy for tree or table. The vogue for “diminutive trees” also calls to mind an ingenious lady who made miniature beaded trees.

It is rather sad to think that so many of the ornaments so delightfully described above have not survived. The glass ornaments are easily shattered–and even more readily if any person in the house found an air- or pellet-gun under the Christmas tree and especially if they have seen the film, The Thin Man. 

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

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

Ladies Who Collect Diamonds: 1888

 

DIAMOND COLLECTIONS

A Fashionable Fad That Is Uniquely Profitable as Well.

Jewelers’ Weekly

A jeweller says: “I saw a very handsome collection of diamonds a few days ago; not that there’s anything particularly surprising in that statement, but it was where I saw them that surprised me. They lay in soft little nests of cotton wool in the depths of a pretty Indian box, and to me, used to seeing them upon the tables in my own and other dealers’ offices, they looked rather strange when displayed in a prettily furnished drawing room. The diamonds in question rested upon an antique, spider-legged table, covered with quaint and delicate carvings.

“My hostess showed me the stones in a way which let me see she fully appreciated their value, and I ventured to ask her what on earth she was doing with such a quantity of unset gems, and whether she had any intention of opening an office in opposition to myself.

“’Why,’ said she, ‘is it possible that you don’t know it’s fashionable to make a collection of diamonds or precious stones?”

“I blushingly confessed my ignorance of fashion’s decree, and handing me a cup of tea, she bade me sit down and proceeded to enlighten me.

“’Every woman who can afford the hobby,’ said she, ‘now has a collection of diamonds. They are often bought under a guarantee that the jeweller who sells them will take them back at a certain percentage of the cost, and in my estimation they are better than stocks and bonds anyway as an investment, because their value doesn’t fluctuate to any extent and—because they are. That’s why!’

“I ventured to suggest that the latter reason was rather a feminine one and asked for further particulars.

“’Well,’ she continued, ‘there isn’t much more. A great many ladies of my acquaintance have snug little sums laid away in gems, but you may be sure they don’t let everybody know it, and it’s only their most intimate friends who have seen them. We who haven’t quite so valuable a collection, however, frequently meet at friendly tea parties, where we show our treasures and sometimes do a little trading; just enough to make us feel like business women, you know.

“I mentally blessed these ‘friendly tea parties,’ and ever since my visit have indulged in the wish that the number of their fair participants may multiply and prosper.”

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

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is a pity that some enterprising lady did not start the “Gem of the Month Club” in support of the jewel collectors. Mrs Daffodil considers that those persons who host parties for their friends where they attempt to sell plastic storage pieces and cosmetics are missing a lucrative opportunity.

The narrator’s condescending attitude towards ladies and their jewels was, alas, universal. A lady was happy to accept gems and jewellery from her husband or any other interested gentleman party, but would trust him to secure them at the vault and provide adequate cover in case of loss or theft. She was expected to adorn herself in the fruits of her husband’s industry (or the forbidden fruits of her personal affairs) and was told not to worry her pretty little head over her jewels’ safety or value. This perceived ignorance came in useful when ladies needed to have paste replicas made so that the genuine necklace or tiara might be put into the hands of some discreet pawnbroker for a little ready cash.

A YEAR TOO LATE.

A nobleman went to a pawnbroker to borrow a thousand pounds upon his wife’s jewels, and said, “I want you to take the stones out of the settings and put false ones in their stead, as I do not wish her to know that I have pawned them.”

“You are too late,” said the pawnbroker,” “for I purchased the real stones of my lady last year.”

2,000 Jokes and Jests: Wit, Humor and Anecdote, Native and Foreign, Classic and Otherwise, 1893  P. 32

 

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

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

Suffering from Bazaars: 1867

Collinson, James, 1825-1881; At the Bazaar

CONCERNING BAZAARS.

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

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

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

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

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

puppies pen wiper.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

bazaar apron with leaves

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

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

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

female members of charity bazaar 1885

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

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

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

lily cushion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1871 charity bazaar for consumption hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Left-Over Laundry: 1889

 

laundry 1901

LEFT-OVER LAUNDRY

Novel Business of a Smart Young Boston Man

“Those bundles,” said he, “which that young man took off with him were what would be called left-over laundry. That is, they have lain upon our shelves for several months since they were washed and have never been called for.”

“Do you have many such bundles?” “Well, yes, we do. That young man who just went out calls here about once a month and he gets just about as many bundles every time. You see there are a great many forgetful people in this world, and many of them will take a bundle of clothes to some laundry office, and then, before it comes time to take them out, will have forgotten where they left them, and so the stuff is left on the agent’s hands. Then again many of the bundles are left by drummers and other travellers who are called away from town before their clothes are washed, and either do not come back at all or have forgotten the place when they do come.

“Then there is still another class: Young men who have money one day and are broke the next. These fellows will often leave large bundles and then will not have money enough to spare to get them out for some time and when they do get them the laundry has been in the office so long that they feel ashamed to call for it. From these and some other causes we have many bundles which would never be called for it they laid on our shelves for ten years. Until within a few months all of these bundles have been a dead loss to us, as we are obliged to pay the laundryman for washing the clothes and then get nothing for them.

“As they are all second-hand clothes we could not sell them until this young man came long and he takes all we have off our hands. What does he do with them? Why, he sells them, of course, he makes a business of it, and goes all over the city and suburbs, collecting this uncalled-for laundry. Of course he has to buy it blind, as he is not allowed to examine the bundles before purchasing them, and so he gets all sorts of things in all sorts of conditions, but as, for instance, he only has to pay ten cents for a shirt, and often gets one which is nearly new and costs perhaps $2, he can afford to get stuck on a few of the things.

“He has made it his business to get acquainted with poor young men and women, to whom he sells articles for about a quarter of what they would cost in the stores and still manages to clear from 300 to 500 per cent on his sales. Not a bad profit, if the sales are big enough, is it? And the business is an easy and a clean one to handle. Altogether it is one of the most novel methods of making a living that I have heard of for some time.”

Denver [CO] Rocky Mountain News 29 December 1889: p. 17

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is always interested to hear of ingenious entrepreneurs who find ways to re-use clothing—an idea which is attracting new interest these days. We have heard of the lady who renovated silks, and of the widow who cleverly restyled outworn fashions.  Second-hand clothing was a lucrative business, either as clothing or even as rags. Certainly it would have been a more cleanly trade than handling the clothes at slop– or pawn-shops. One wonders if the young man kept a store-front or if he went door-to-door to those poor young men and women, peddling the contents of the bundles.

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.