Category Archives: shopping

The Fashion Demonstrator: 1898

worth eau de nil 2

SPRY MODELS NOWADAYS

Supple, Shapely Forms Assisted by Nimble Wits in Setting Off the Good Points of Wares

Variety of the Goods Sold by Women

Elaborate Procedure of Foreign Dressmakers.

The demonstrator is to the front now. There are demonstrators of household appliances, demonstrators of food products and medical appurtenances, demonstrators of wearing apparel, demonstrators of everything under the sun except matrimony, and the tenantable qualities of flats and apartments to let. You may notice a bustling, wide-awake-looking woman rustling about almost any boarding house nowadays, and you are told, on making inquiry as to her calling or occupation, that she is a demonstrator. Whether it is some newly invented contraption for light housekeeping, or a new face mask, or complexion wash, demonstrated on one side of her own face and the back of one hand, whether it is a corset, or a combination garment, or a glove fastener that engages her efforts, she is certain to be busy.

In the world of wearing apparel it used to be the model upon whom much depended; the model with so many inches of bust measure to her credit, so many inches of waist measure, so much length of limb. The model stood like an inanimate statue and allowed capes, coats, street suits, and reception gowns to be placed upon her at the will of the saleswoman, taking really very little interest in the proceeding. Occasionally she submitted to having a hat perched on her head to see how it went with the suit. The demonstrator is of a different pattern. She is all alive, all pliancy. A certain grace of bearing and movement is as essential to her calling as a well-developed figure.

wedding corset 1898

Manufacturers with a new make of corsets to put on the market, for instance, begin by engaging a demonstrator to show its advantages to the woman buyer of a big store, and having won approval, gets the firm to give a special view of the corset. Cards are sent out to selected customers announcing this special view. The new corsets and the agile demonstrator have a room to themselves, a room gas lit, warmed, and properly decorated, where Miss B., the shapely demonstrator, may shine out as a central figure. None of those who attend this opening (men are excluded of course) is left in the slightest doubt as to how far the bones in the corsets will bend without breaking; how strong and durable they are; their weight, length, and their special advantages. Miss B., has three or four other makes of corsets at hand and tries them all on in turn in order the better to demonstrate the superiority of her own goods. The demonstrator’s business is not all in one direction. She must be as quick to show the weak points in rival wares as to exhibit the rare qualifications of her own.

The guests at the special view are not alone the customers of the retail house. Cards have been sent to representative trade journals in the manufacturer’s interests, and these papers send women to report upon the merits of the corsets. Representatives of retail houses in other cities are also on hand. Miss B. has enough spectators to give her inspiration in her task.

As with corsets, so with everything new in the way of women’s wear, whether outer or under garments. No longer though is the model or the demonstrator a mere lay figure. The new-style demonstrator who tries on a gown or a coat, must walk well and enter into the spirit of her business, displaying to the best advantage certain ins and outs of the garment that otherwise might pass unnoticed.

“A good demonstrator can sell any amount of goods that otherwise might be passed over as unattractive, or of little worth,” said the head saleswoman in one store. “Say a woman comes in here looking for a gown and does not know exactly what she wants. All our gowns valued at $100 or more are shown on the demonstrators. In looking over the assortment, the shopper may find a costume that suits her in every respect, but for a certain arrangement of the trimming. Perhaps the effect that she objects to may be new in style, and for that reason may strike her as odd, when in reality it is a great addition to the costume. The demonstrator puts on the gown and walks about in it for inspection. She lifts her arms to her head and puts her figure in graceful poses; she gives the gown a style that never would have been made apparent, had it been put on a wired frame or an inert model. The idea that the modiste had in view when she designed the gown is made really chic and original, and will suit her perfectly.”

The demonstrators in the big wholesale Broadway houses are kept busy in winter trying on thin, unlined summer gowns for the next season’s wear. They try these on over tight-fitting jerseys. The out-of-town merchant who comes in to see the effect of the new styles may be wearing a heavy overcoat at the time, but the demonstrators are usually hearty, healthy young women who do not suffer from fluctuations of temperature.

irish crochet summer dress

“Trying on these flimsy, thin things in winter isn’t near as bad as bundling up in furs and heavy jackets for the trade in the summer time,” said a demonstrator, and then she went on to say how well she liked the business and what excellent opportunities she and her mates had for getting really first-class gowns and coats for much less than actual cost.

“A demonstrator has a much better time than a salesgirl,” she said. “Our hours are shorter, and we generally get off at half past 5 the year round. Of course a demonstrator in a wholesale house is in much better luck and has less to do than one employed in a retail house. In the months when we are busy we are rushed to death, but for a good deal of the time there is very little to do and our wages go on all the same. August and September are busy months for us, and from the middle of January to March is the rush season.”

It seems that the animation and power of expression demanded of the present-day demonstrator on this side of the water are qualities that have long been required abroad.

“At the famous outfitters in Paris and London,” said a business woman, “there are demonstrators not only of one style of beauty, but of all the varying types—blond, brunette, and intermediate colorings. One demonstrator will be tall, slender and willowy in form; another will be plump and small; another tall and of Juno-like proportions. The visitor is shown into a room that gives no indications of the nature of the business to be transacted. A few good pictures and some flowers may be about, but the furnishings and appointments are very plain, so as not to detract from the gown that is to be the main object of interest.

“‘What style of gown does madame require?’ has been asked at the door; and according to the kind of gown desired is the special room into which the customer is shown. One apartment is devoted to ball and reception toilets, another to street suits, yet another to outing costumes or gowns for house wear. Madame waits in the empty room and soon a demonstrator comes in and walks quietly about as if looking at the different objects in the room, so that the customer may see to advantage the gown she has put on for her benefit. The demonstrator is as near in appearance to madame’s physical type and coloring as the assortment of demonstrators permitted. Every aspect of the gown—sideways, back, front, three-quarters view—is shown. Then the demonstrator withdraws, and another of the same type, but wearing a different gown, comes in to take her place. So the different toilets are show until one is chosen. Of course this is in one of those establishments where the artist will not make a gown or a garment for a woman which he thinks unsuitable for her, even if she orders it. The demonstrators both here and abroad are often pressed into service to sit for pictures to be used as advertisements for the house. The demonstrators in the high-priced establishments are courteously reticent, and seldom have a word to say, throwing all their force of expression into poses and gestures. Demonstrators like Miss B., who shows corsets or some new-fangled stocking supporter or combination garment, are glib of tongue, and emphasize every motion with a flow of words. They are energetic and pushing, and to a certain degree, modifications of the woman drummer.”

The Sun [New York, NY] 9 January 1898: p. 26

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As this article observes, the work of the fashion demonstrator is much more akin to that of a woman drummer than that of, say, the French mannequin.  The vendors of the ever-changing world of fashion were constantly in search of the latest line of patter or display. This novel tactic for showing gowns was adopted by a London dressmaker:

Some clever dressmaker in London has chosen to be original, as though we would not all choose if we could. Each one of her young women attendants is dressed in some costume that the firm wishes to advertise. One glides about in a soft clinging dress of the first Empire. Another is jaunty in one belonging to the Directoire period. One with rosy cheeks, that the fogs of London and long hours of standing have not paled, stands blushing in the dress of a debutante. Leaning in pensive attitude with sad looks, here is one in long, sweeping robes of mourning and dainty and exquisite in lace and soft silks sits someone by a tea table handing steaming cups to ladies worn out with the task of choosing gowns to outrival those of their rivals. Otago Witness 20 June 1889: p. 34

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

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

 

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The Nice Equipments of a Dainty Person: 1839

The Luxuries of Commerce An extract.

Even in the simple business of refreshing ourselves with a good breakfast, we employ or consume the products of many regions. The tea we drink comes from China, or the coffee, is from Mocha, in Arabia; the sugar with which we sweeten it, from the West Indies; our porcelain cups and saucers were probably made in France; the silver spoon with which each is provided, once lay dark and deep in the mines of South America; the table itself is mahogany, from Jamaica Honduras; and the table-cloth was manufactured from a vegetable production in Ireland; the tea-pot is probably of English block-tin; and the steel of which the knives are wrought, may have come from Germany or Sweden; the bread is made of wheat, raised probably in Michigan; and the butter, if particularly good, must have come, a Philadelphian will say, from the neighborhood of his own city. If we are in the habit of eating relishes at breakfast, we discuss perhaps a beef-steak from Ohio, or a piece of smoked salmon from Maine, or it may be a herring from Scotland. Or suppose we take so very useless a personage as one of the foplings, whose greatest pleasure is in the decoration of their persons, and whose chief employment is to exhibit themselves at stated hours in Broadway, for the admiration of the ladies—and see how many lands are called upon to furnish the nice equipments of his dainty person. His hat is made of fur, brought thousands of miles from the north-west coast of America, or from an island in the South Antarctic ocean; his fine linen is from Ireland, inwrought with cambric from British India; in the bosom glitters a diamond from Brazil, or perhaps an opal from Hungary; his coat is of Saxony wool, made into cloth in England, and it is lined with silk from Italy; his white waistcoat is of a fabric wrought in France; the upper leathers of his morocco boots have come from Barbary, and the soles are made of a hide from South America. His white hand, covered with kid-leather from Switzerland, jauntily bears a little cane, made of whale-bone from the Pacific, the agate head of which was brought from Germany; and from his neck is suspended a very unnecessary eye-glass, the golden frame of which is from Africa. His handkerchief is perfumed with scents of Persia, and the delicate moustache that shades his upper lip, has been nourished by a fragrant oil from the distant East, or by the fat of a bear that once roamed for prey amid the wastes of Siberia; while its jetty blackness has probably been artificially bestowed, by the application of the same Turkish dye that gives its sable hue to the magnificent beard of the sublime Sultan.

The Knickerbocker, July 1839: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Although to-day one hears complaints about the “global economy,” it was ever thus. One is grateful to the particular gentlemen who scrutinise the details of their wardrobe so carefully. They enrich our vocabulary with words like “beau,” and “dude,” and the admirable “fopling.” Mrs Daffodil will suggest the latter to a marchioness of her aquaintance, who keeps Pekes.

For more on the niceties of a gentleman’s wardrobe, see How to be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget and Young Mr Van Gilder’s Summer Wardrobe.

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 Aristocats: 1909

 

OUTFITTING HER MAJESTY, THE CAT, NOT AN EASY TASK NOW

The Society Feline Is Many Grades Removed from the Midnight Prowler on the Back Fence.

Blue Blood in a Cat’s Veins Is a Costly Fluid

Fashionable People Are Turning Nowadays from the Dog to the Cat

More Cats Were Seen in Newport Last Seasons Than Ever Before in its History

A Cat Is Better Fitted For Carrying About.

The proverb maker says “A cat can look at a king.” But it takes a king to look at a fashionable cat these days. At least a king of coin, for a society feline is as far removed from the midnight prowlers, whose habitat is a plank on the backyard fence as the moth is from the star. Blue blood in a cat’s veins is a costly fluid. Most cats serve only the boy in the backyard and the cartoonist, but a cat of fine blood and prize markings is a feline gem of the rarest ray serene. And each ray of blood, so to speak, is worth its weight in silver.

Fashionable folk are turning from the dog to the cat. The cat is being gradually promoted from the basement to the sleeping basket in the parlor. Instead of sleeping wherever it can the cat now has a specially made sleeping basket and wears a nightgown. The cat craze is spreading everywhere. More cats were seen at Newport last summer than ever before in all its history. And this when the time of the cat is winter. A cat looks more fashionable in winter than in summer. A dog can follow all right in the summer, but in the winter he can’t jump through the snow; and if he does he gets is boots all dirty. A cat is fitted for carrying. Then in the winter time when the dog cannot very well accompany his owner the cat comes into her own. Her long, thick fur makes her look appropriate when the snow blows and the wind bites. When the air sings and brings red to women’s cheeks a cat looks a picture under a woman’s arm.

 

 

This winter more than forty cat shows will be held in the United States. Rare cats will be exhibited and blue ribbons will be awarded from Bangor, Me., to Pasadena, Cal. Even in Canada cat fairs will be held. There the two governing bodies that hold these shows, and the books of these institutions show that there are 2,000 pedigreed cats in the United States. And all the fashionable Toms and Tabbies are not pedigreed, nor are they social climbers. By chance they happen to have the marks and qualifications that go to make a desirable cat, and the first thing they know they are raised to the ranks of society by being taken up by a cat lover.

Ask the first man you meet on the street, or the person next you on the car what he imagines a fashionable cat is worth and he will wrinkle up his brows for a moment and say: “Oh, I suppose about $20.” Then he will blush and built fortifications by saying that he supposes there might be one cat worth that much.
Tell a cat fancier that and he will slap his knees in glee. He will inform you impressively that you couldn’t any more than buy a night prowler for that.

Why, $20 wouldn’t go very far toward outfitting a cat even. Goodness no! Twenty dollars would leave a cat’s wardrobe so barren that a cat of luxury would get up and stalk majestically away. Put $20 in a cat’s outfit and you would have to have the bill of sale to know that you had bought anything at all. It wouldn’t more than buy a cat blanket and a few catnip balls. Cat is another way of spelling money. Especially if you put fashionable before it. A kitten from a blooded sire sells for from $50 to $100. Yes, actually sells. That is the mark-down price, too. The value of an average prize-winning cat is about $150. Then when you begin to sift them out for the best the price jump up like steel on a squeeze. Whenever you start out to buy a blooded cat or kitten take a full pocket-book. Cats often change hands at $500.

 

Mrs. George Lynas, an Indiana woman, has a cat that she bought in England for $525. This does not include the expense of bringing him over. He is a Persian Chinchilla, and is 3 years old. His name is Rob Roy II. Of Arrandale. His name is no more aristocratic than he is. Mrs. James Conolisk of Gowanda has a cat valued at $800. Ho, that is not just the value she puts on it; there are several persons who would like to become his owner at that figure. That is not all. C.H. Jones of Rochester, N.Y., has a cat that he holds at $2,000. No, that is not a mistake—there should be three ciphers after the “2.” The animal’s name is Honorable Peter Stirling—or “Petie.”  Honorable Peter is a very famous cat, and is known wherever cat lovers congregate. “Petie” has a record behind him, for he has promenaded on Broadway with his master without string or chain. He walks along with his master with all the proud dignity of his namesake. Two thousand dollars would buy enough ordinary cats to have made the Pied Piper hurry out early in the morning and study the want ad section. If you had $2,000 to invest in the common or backyard variety of cats you would have to put electric trucks on all the furniture vans in town. The Egyptians who held cats to be sacred and bowed down to them in worship would only give two or three kopecks for a bushel of them. Such a cat as “Petie” ought to be able to look at a whole battalion of kings and never get fussed.

¿With Kindest Greetings for this Christmas dayî

Lithograph scrap, cat in a slipper, 1870s

A complete outfit for a cat looks like an inventory of the trunk of a belle going to the seashore for a month. Tabby has to have more things to wear than a bride. Tabby must have a collar. Some cats have lived and flourished to a ripe old age on the division fence who never once felt the need of a collar. But you must remember that our Tabby is a fashionable cat. A collar worn by Fluff would never do for Tabby, Never! Horrors! no! A dog collar on a cat! Again horrors! Even if nine tenths of the people can’t tell a dog collar from a cat collar it would never do to put Fluffs collar on Tabby. Tabby could never lift her eyes in self-respect if she had to wear a dog collar.

lalique cats choker

The caption is ambiguous as to whether this Lalique glass collar is a collar engraved with cats or a collar designed to be worn by cats, c. 1906-8 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/cats-choker/IgHy04_MHQ64MA

A cat collar is rope-shaped—round–so that it will fit down into the fur. The collar isn’t to show much, for the cat’s fur is an adornment. On a short haired cat a collar of some width may be used, but never on a cat of long fur. The color of the collar must harmonize with the color of the cat. A cat properly rigged out is a study in color harmony. There should be no abrupt changes of color; the blankets, collar and leading string should present one impression—an artist would call it a “tone.” The rigger out of cats is just us much of an artist as the man who sticks his thumb through a palette and smears paint on his jacket. Before a man will begin to outfit your cat he steps off a few pace and casts a critical eye over her, studying her just as a decorator does a room before he begins operations. As far as the ensemble will harmonize this year the prevailing color in collars is tan and brown.   Last year the collars had a touch of red in them, but this season they are more sombre. A collar costs just what you want to pay for it—usually more. You can begin at $10 and keep on for some time. The costlier collars are set with stones; often a small diamond gleams on top of the collar, or a row of moonstones may encircle the leather belt. When you begin putting stones and jewels on the collar of your cat you are adding ciphers behind the first figures on your check-book with great celerity. Then a “lead” must be bought. The lead is of braided leather or silk cord and must harmonize with the collar and blanket. Otherwise there would be a discord in the color symphony.

cat in cradle 1880 Letters from a Cat

A cat of caste must have three blankets at the very least. No self -respecting cat can have fewer. A dog would need more, of course, but a cat, since its hair is its show, must have a wardrobe of three blankets. One is a house blanket; this is to keep its fur slick and smooth. Then it must be the possessor of a heavy winter blanket, and a lighter one for spring. The ruling color for winter blankets is dark, with blue as a choice. The spring blanket may show more color. On a cat of color a Scotch plaid may be worn, but if the cat is of solid color the fast color should be kept to. From the present rage in cat and cat accessories it will not be long until the fashion magazines will devote a corner to the latest styles in cat outfittings side and side with the latest in women’s hats and muffs.

Your pocketbook gets a full breath when you come to boots; a dog can wear rubber boots or leather hoots and enjoy them, but a puss in boots goes only in Mother Goose rhymes. Boots were tried for cats, but the cat always sat down and tried to get them off. But cat cuffs make up for lack of boots. A cat cuff is a kind of wristlet worn around a cat’s ankle. They are made of leather, and fasten on with a polished buckle. Some of them have minute bells, which give a soft tinkle as Puss picks her way. When she skips and frolics they play a merry tune. The old story of the cat being belled is now a fact. For traveling there is a specially made bag. It looks like any ordinary bag, but when the conductor goes on by the owner reaches down and rolls up the end. Cross bars show, and from the inside Puss pushes her nose against the screen. This is to give her air. This bag costs from $11onward and upward.

A basket to ship Tabby when you don’t feel like carrying her may be bought. It has airholes, and an opening where food may be put in. It costs $6. You put your pet in, give her some food, and you need not worry about her, for, with the conveniences of the basket, she will have a safe and easy trip to her destination. A cat housed up must have exercise. For this purpose for people who do not send their animals to a regular cattery during the snowy days, a cat gymnasium may be bought. This is a little woolen affair that sets on four legs, and may be put up in the nursery or in any open room. The cat may climb the pole, thus sharpening its claws or strike at the swinging balls that hang in the middle. Across the top is a round perch, on which it is the delight of the average cat’s life to walk. It will try and try until it succeeds. When it grows tired it gets in the swinging basket and can rock itself by walking from one side to the other. A cat exercising outfit gives a cat health and contentment.

wicker cat bed

Wicker cat bed that belonged to Sara Roosevelt, mother of Franklin D. Roosevelt. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/-/rAGFVwloddJN6Q?childAssetId=gAEkRmepzQQaZQ

When night comes the cat is put to bed. But it is not by opening the door and putting her out. And here comes the nightgown. It has two little sleeves for the forelegs, and tucks and puckers and frills, to say nothing about the lace at the collar and the pink ribbons. Puss sticks her forefeet into it, it is drawn over her, then buttoned at the top. If you buy the gown downtown you pay $4 up. Generally up. Then you put Tabitha in her little sleeping basket. It is of wicker, and has one low side for her highness to crawl in over. In the bottom is some kind of skin, usually goat, making it as soft and downy as can be. The basket is shoved under a bed or a piece of furniture during the daytime. A cat used to sleeping in a basket will not sleep anywhere else. The sleeping basket wears a tag reading $3.

In the morning comes the manicuring. For there is a special manicure set, with two brushes, two combs, a box of nail paste, a buffer to make the claws glisten, a pair of nail clippers, and a toothbrush, Some of the boxes have a bit of chamois skin, which will give luster to a cat’s hair when rubbed over it. And again some of the ultra cats have nail files in their manicure sets; these files give the nails a delicate rounding off that must make a cat’s heart pound with joy. A manicure set with your monogram on the leather case will mean $25 at the very least. A cat of the blue ribbon class has to be manicured just the same as an heiress. A cat is the daintiest of animals but still she has to have her teeth brushed; and if the brush does not eradicate all the tartar she must be taken to a cat hospital.

cats in a scales 1873 St Nicholas

A cat of blood is watched over night and day, in sickness and in health. If she falls ill she is taken to a special cat hospital in an ambulance, where a white-suited doctor with the walls of his office hidden by degrees in Latin and penmanship flourishes feels her pulse, looks at her tongue, and taps her ribs. When he performs an operation on your kitty you couldn’t tell the bill from that of a private hospital. At the hospital cats are boarded, exercised, and groomed. Attendants do nothing else than wait on them. Every whim that floats through the cat’s mind is promptly attended to. If you wish to go out of town for the summer yon can leave your Napoleon Bonaparte, or Josephine, at the hospital, assured that every attention known to man will be given your pet.

cat headstone

Pet cat’s headstone, Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/93302

Finally, when your cat dies she may be buried in a cat cemetery, and have her own tombstone and flowers. A small fee keeps up the lot. There is such a cat cemetery at Yorktown Heights, N. Y., where the graves are laid out in neat, orderly rows, and stone headpieces richly carved rear themselves to the memory of departed Tabbies and gone-but-not-forgotten Toms.

Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 21 November 1909: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is that delightful holiday, “International Cat Day,” when our feline friends are celebrated. Cook has made some tempting dishes of chicken for all of the Hall cats and they have received an extra ration of catnip.

Like the “dandy dogs, the aristocrats of dogdom, the cat, too, has her day and her fashionable accoutrements.

victorian cat collar with bell

Cat collar with bells.

Fashionable cats are now ornamented with collar and bells, so that puss makes music wherever she goes. Weekly Chillicothe [MO] Crisis 13 November 1884: p. 1

And one would give much to see a chat chapeau created by a Parisian milliner. These portraits of “Monkey” and his hats are from the 1940s.

 

Cats’ Millinery Marks Parade of Parisiennes

Paris, Oct. 30. Cats have ousted dogs in the affections of French women. Whereas, in the past it was considered fashionable for a Parisienne to promenade with a dog dressed in a neat tight-fitting coat, today this Parisienne is out of date if she does not take with her a cat, often of priceless value. But cats do not wear coats. They wear specially-fitted and made hats.

Below the Sacre Coeur, up at Montmartre, there lives a hatter. In his shop window he has on exhibition the tiniest hats ever seen in France. At any hour of the day cars roll up outside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and engages in an earnest conversation with the hatter. She has come to have her pet angora tried for a hat. She prefers a bowler shaped hat as a change to the soft slouch hat. She also wants to purchase a small top hat for her pet for evening wear. The hatter’s recommendations of a soft velvet hat fall on deaf ears. The hatter says bowler hats fit the cats better than any other and he has large orders on hand. El Paso [TX] Herald 30 October 1920: p. 21

 

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.

Married in Black: 1919

mourning frock 1916

THE BLACK DRESS

Carlotta Thayer sat crumbling her unpalatable sandwich and forcing herself to eat it between sips of tea from a thick cup. She sold neckwear in the big department store around the corner and had been busy all day handing out jabots and collars and cuff sets to eager buyers. Her face was so pleasant above her own white collar that it attracted quite as much as her wares.

Some day Carlotta hoped to earn really living wages. In the meantime she made $6 a week answer for all her needs. She had resolved life into “making the best of all that comes and the least of all that goes.” Even a poor sandwich was better than none at all. She saw people every day who looked as though they would be glad of what she found so difficult to swallow. Sometimes Carlotta got her suppers in her room as she got her breakfast, but if the weather was pleasant, she was apt to run into the “White House” for her sandwich and tea and afterward stroll home at leisure.

She was only halfway through her sandwich when she turned her eyes just in time to catch the glance of a young man who was entering the door. He stopped, continued to look hard at her for an instant and then hurried down to the table where she sat alone.

“Why, Carlotta!” he exclaimed, bending over her and holding out his hand. “Isn’t it strange? I was thinking of you and then I saw you.”

“I’m awfully glad to see you, Will,” Carlotta said, letting her hand stay in his and looking up into his brown, clear, serious face. “You look like home to me.”

“I’ve just come from there.” He drew off his overcoat and sat down opposite her. “It’s just the same. But you don’t deserve to know about it, Carlotta. You haven’t thought enough of any of us to come back even for a week.”

“I’ve worked every minute since I left,” Carlotta explained. “You see, Will, it’s different here in the city from what it is at Otisville. If you once get behind you never catch up. Things move so fast. I’m working at Davern’s—selling neckwear. It’s real pleasant.”

“You don’t look as though it agreed with you. You’re getting scrawny,” he said conclusively. “Well, Carlotta, I’m hungry as a bear. I’m going to order some supper, but you must stay and help me eat it.”

“Oh, I’ve had mine, thank you,” Carlotta returned lightly. She flushed as she saw his glance fall upon the telltale morsel upon her plate, and again as she heard him ordering chicken and mashed potato and salad and apple cobbler—for two.

“And coffee. You still drink coffee, don’t you, Carlotta? I remember your Aunt Jane’s and how good it tasted, coming hot and fragrant out of that old tin pot. Coffee making is getting to be a lost art with these new contraptions called percolators. My sister’s got one. You know she and Ed had moved into their new house, didn’t you? That leaves the old home empty except for me. And I shan’t be there, for I’m going west.”

“Going—west?” Carlotta repeated. The news gave her a curiously sick feeling. She covered her cheeks with her hands to hide them.

“Yes, clear to San Francisco. The firm’s sending me. I start tonight. Don’t you envy me?”
“Yes, I do,” Carlotta said. “You’ll have a wonderful trip. Just__”

He interrupted, leaning toward her across the table. “Wouldn’t you like to go?”

Carlotta sighed. “I don’t dare think about it. Of course, I know, I never shall.”

The waiter put the food between them and departed. Carlotta lifted her fork and first mouthful took the taste of the sandwich out of her mouth forever. “Oh, it’s so good,” she murmured. “I believe I am hungry, after all. Will, this chicken is almost as good as Aunt Jane’s used to be, isn’t it?”

He shook his head, smiling: “Nothing could equal that. Do you remember how we used to save the wishbone to break when it was dry? And once we both wished for sleds and it flew all to pieces. But we got sleds just the same. Carlotta,” continued Will, earnestly, “don’t you think it a pity that all that old comradeship should be wasted? We never quarreled as children. We wouldn’t quarrel now. We’re in the same key, and that always makes for harmony. Carlotta, say, marry me and go west with me tonight.”

“Marry you!” Carlotta exclaimed. She dropped her fork. “Oh, Will!”

“Why not? What’s to hinder? Telephone to the store manager. Pack what you must have. We’ll get a license, find a ministers and—won’t you, Carlotta?”

“You’ve known me always. I’ve know you and–. Why, I love you, Carlotta. I can make you so happy. We’ll make our trip, then we’ll settle down in the old house. You know what that is. Don’t you see, Carlotta, I can’t go and leave you here in this place? Now that I’ve seen you I can’t possibly. You must come with me. The train leaves at 11:15. It’s 6:30 now. Plenty of time.”

Carlotta felt dazed. To marry Will Galt and go to California with him, and to live in the dear old house where she had played so much in her childhood! To be back in Otisville, loved, secure, at rest! Heaven scarcely offered more. She felt like throwing out her hands to him and crying: “Oh, Will, take me! I’ve always cared for you! I went away because I was too proud to stay when I thought you didn’t care for me. And it’s hard—hard for all my courage and resolve.” Instead she drew back. “I can’t,” she faltered.

Will’s face grew long and stern. “Some one else?”

“N-no, no, indeed!”

“What then?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you!” Tears came stingingly at the end of a hysterical little giggle.

In the glass beside them she saw herself, black frock, shabby black coat, still shabbier black hat, the last of her mourning for Aunt Jane. She had nothing else, not another thing that she could wear to be married in. And how could she be married in mourning? It made her shiver to think of it. And she could not tell Will. If she told him he would rush out to some place and buy her a dress, and she could not permit that. In the town where she had been brought up men did not buy frocks for their brides to be married in. She would rather wear the black dress than incur such a shame. And she could not wear the black dress.

If she had any money at all she could buy the dress for herself, but that morning she had paid her room rent, which left her exactly 87 cents to tide her over until her next pay envelope.

“It’s no use, I can’t.” She had gathered all her forces. “Don’t let’s talk about it any more, Will. Let’s be friends.” She drew on her gloves so nervously that the thinnest one split across the palm. She gazed awestruck at the disaster, then clenched her hand on it and stood up. She was about as white as her collar. And Will, on the other side of the table, was white, too.

“Well, I can’t kidnap you, that’s certain,” he said. “You’re old enough to know your own mind. But I think you’re making a mistake.

They did not speak again until they were on the street. Then he said rather brokenly: “If—if you should change your mind, Carlotta, you can ‘phone me at the Carlton. I’ll be there until my train leaves. Now, which car shall I put you on?”

When 15 minutes after she entered her own room Carlotta felt she had put aside her one chance for happiness and the great adventure because she could not be married in a black dress. She sank upon the bed and buried her face in the thin pillow For a few moments she had all the agony of tears without any tears at all. Then suddenly she became aware that some one else was crying near at hand, on the other side of the thin partition. She turned her head and listened. In that room lived a girl whom she did not think much of –a fussy little person who jingled and swished when she walked and left trails of scent behind her. She worked in the ten-cent store, Carlotta believed.

Carlotta had always avoided May Bagley like the plague, but now the sound of those sobs aroused her pity and made her forget her own trouble. Maybe she could do something for the poor little butterfly suffering so audibly from singed wings. A moment later she knocked at the other girl’s door. A piteous voice bade her enter and she walked in. May Bagley sat huddled in a chair and beside her on the floor was the letter which evidently had caused all her woe. She lifted her wretched face to Carlotta’s.

“Oh, it’s you, Miss Thayer!” she tearfully said. “I’m so glad. You’ll understand. I was afraid it was that horrid old Miss Dix that was never young or anything in her life. She’d tell me it served me right not to have a decent thing to wear to Uncle Nat’s funeral or any money to buy with. And—and I’ve got to go, for you see—“ She was sopping at her wet face with a little pink and white rag, which was still wetter. Carlotta silently held out to her one black-edged handkerchief. May looked at it. “That’s just what I need,” she said. “Oh, Miss Thayer, it’s—it’s awful. If I don’t go to Uncle Nat’s funeral dressed appropriately Aunt Hat will never speak to me again. And there’s money coming to me if I do. Oh, I wish I were dead!  What’ve I been thinking of all this time to buy pink and blue and green things that I can’t wear at all?”

As Carlotta looked down at her fluffy blond head she suddenly remembered herself and her own predicament and a thought came to her—a thought so scintillant and joyful and daring that she laughed out loud. She knelt beside May. “Listen!” she said. “We’re about the same size. You take my clothes and lend me some of yours.”

The girl looked up hopefully. “Honest? Do you mean it?” she cried.

“Yes. It will help me out. For while you want mourning” –here Carlotta smiled—“I need a colored dress and I haven’t one or any money. If I don’t have it—“

“You’ll lose some money, too?”

“No,” Carlotta replied: “I lose more than money. I lose the chance to marry the man I’ve wanted all my life.”

May Bagley leaped up and snatched Carlotta to her in a hug. “There’s a man in my story, too,” she said; “a home man. Now, let’s swap.”

From her closet she brought a pink dress and a taupe hat, with a pink rose and a corduroy coat edged with fur—cheap, showy garments, but the most beautiful to Carlotta at that moment of any she had ever seen. A few moments of deft movements and the transformation was complete.

And then the telephone! Just for a moment Carlotta lost her voice when she heard Will’s voice over the wire.

“You’ve changed your mind? God be thanked! I’ll be there in 15 minutes in a taxi, Carlotta. Oh, you darling girl!”

At 11:20 that night a radiant young pair sat holding hands on the west-bound limited. The girl had just told the story of the black dress. At that moment on the platform of a little country station another girl in shabby black was being folded in the arms of a stern faced old woman. But being an experienced little person she kept her story to herself.

Honolulu [HI] Star-Bulletin 4 December 1919: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wonders if working in a ten-cent store makes one a more experienced little person than working in cuffs and jabots. Perhaps the clientele consisted of Mashers and Dudes. Mrs Daffodil also wonders why the well-set-up Will was not off fighting the Hun in France.

There are several elements of lingering superstition in this story: Carlotta (and that is quite the exotic name for someone from Otisville with an Aunt Jane) may have also felt sick because Will’s phrase “going West,” was a common euphemism for dying. We may wonder at Carlotta’s hysteria about her black wardrobe, but readers would have remembered a well-known rhyme: “Married in black, you’ll wish yourself back,” which explains Carlotta’s refusal to be married in mourning. Mrs Daffodil cannot help but think that cheap, showy garments cannot be much luckier. “Married in tat, his love will fall flat” about sums it up.

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 Glitter and the Gold: Wedding & Engagement Rings: 1915-1923

1910 engagement ringA

Platinum and diamond engagement ring, 1910 http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22642/lot/129

Miss Rosebud: Why is it they put a diamond in the engagement ring and none in the wedding ring?

Old Cynic:  Because all the glitter ends with the marriage.

The Jewelers’ Circular 28 November 1894: p. 27

Buying Wedding Rings.

A shy young man went into a Broadway jeweler’s store, so says a local reporter, and looked at gentlemen’s rings, fingering them and asking questions about them, and yet appearing to take only a forced interest in them. The jeweler’s clerk whispered to a bystander, “By-and-by he will come around to the wedding or engagement rings. That is what he has come after.” Sure enough the young man presently pointed to a tray of flat gold band rings. “What are they for?” he inquired. The clerk said that they were merely fancy rings, worn by ladies and gentlemen, and that some folks bought them for wedding rings. The shy young man tried two or three on his little finger, and, finding one that would not quite go over his knuckle, said, “Give me this one. How much is it?”

“It’s five dollars,” said the clerk, “but if you want a wedding ring I would advise you not to buy it. Every now and then we sell them to people who insist upon having them, but as soon as they find out the fashion they come back and have them melted up and rolled up into this old-fashioned round form. The only wedding ring is the round ring, plain and simple.”

“Gimme a round one, then; same size as this.”

He got one and went away. The clerk laughed, and said he could tell when a young man wanted a wedding or engagement ring every time; though sometimes they ask to be shown clocks, bracelets, or anything rather than what they come for. Very many come right to the point, though they stammer and falter about it quite painfully. Others again ask frankly and boldly to see what they want. “There never has been a change in the fashion of wedding rings,” said the clerk; “the plain round gold ring has always been the only correct thing. Men sometimes choose other kinds, but women never make that mistake.”

“Do women choose their own wedding rings?”

“Oh, very often. Frequently they come in alone, fit a ring to the right finger and leave it for the prospective bridegroom to pay for. Sometimes they pay for it and take it away, and of course the young man reimburses them. Quite often, too, the brides come in with their mothers. Very serious and grave the mothers are, and show neither timidity nor sentiment. They ask for wedding rings, they look them over, buy one, and go away. Irish and German girls often bring their lovers as well as their mothers. There is not a funnier sight in the world than to see a clumsy fellow hanging behind and looking unutterably foolish while his sweetheart and her mother discuss the purchase. They pay no attention to him until they come to the final selection. Then they tell him how much is to be paid, and he pays it and they all go out. Irishmen are apt to be close buyers. They will scarcely ever buy anything without knocking something off the price, but no Irishman ever haggles over a wedding or engagement ring. It does not matter if the wedding ring he chooses comes as high as nine dollars. He pays the price without a murmur.”

“Many foreigners, particularly Germans, exchange wedding rings. The bride pays for the groom’s ring and vice versa. At the altar they exchange rings. They come in together to buy them.”

“What is the fashion in engagement rings?”

“Oh, there is no fashion in them particularly. Any pretty ring set with small stones does for the purpose. Turquoises and pearls are popular just now, and so are pearls by themselves. Diamonds are the rage with people who can afford them, and from that the precious stones range downward in price to amethysts. Engagement rings cost from $15 to $150; wedding rings from $5 to $15. Very many persons have initials, dates or mottoes engraved in their wedding rings. ‘Mizpah,’ or ‘Thine forever ‘ are favorites, but the commonest custom is to have merely the initials and date—’ J. S. to S. J., Nov. 11, 1883,’—cut in the inner surface of the ring. Nothing is engraved in engagement rings. The manner of wearing them has changed, however. They used to be worn on the index finger of the left hand, you know, but the ladies think that a little too much of an advertisement nowadays, and they wear them on the third finger of the right hand. That finger of the left hand is still the one on which wedding rings are worn.”

The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, Volume 15, 1923: p. 48-49

1897 mizpah ring

Gold Mizpah ring, 1897, Birmingham http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/13727/lot/81/

JUNE BRIDES’ WEDDING RINGS COST ALL THE WAY FROM $4 to $400

Bridegrooms Often Wear Them, Too.

How to Tell a Woman’s Character by the Ring She Selects

The wedding ring clerk wears one, not because it is his business or just because he happens to be married, but because it’s all the style.

Every man ought to, any way, the clerk says. It’s just as much his funeral—beg pardon. It’s just as much his wedding as it is hers.

At any rate, the wedding ring clerk is starting to get down to the store early these days and stay late, for what with doing double business on account of recent masculine leanings toward the little golden circlets, and what with the record season for marriages beginning, this overworked creature scarcely gets time to join his friends at the counter where it is their noon-day custom to gather round.

But it hasn’t made a cynic of him. Far from it. Instead the daily stream of wedding ring purchasers furnishes him with some entertaining bits of philosophy.

“You can always tell what kind of a wife a woman is going to make,” is one of the conclusions he has come to as the result of his 12 years of observation, “by the way she selects her wedding ring. If she wants a big and showy one and is proud to death of the new station in life that awaits her, she’s the real womanly woman. Her home is going to be her kingdom with her husband as monarch.

“On the other hand, if she wants a small inconspicuous and, one which she can wear around her neck without it becoming a dead weight, you can be pretty sure she has some notions in back of her head of continuing a career, or of ‘managing’ her husband.  She’ll pull the purse-strings and be the all-around boss.

“Another thing that you notice,” he continued, “when you’ve been in this business for some time, is that the older a man gets the more sentimental he gets and the less he minds showing the whole world how he regards his adored one.

“Only the other day a gray-haired man of about 50 came in with a sweet young thing clinging to his arm. The inscription that he had engraved on the ring was: ‘God knew I was lonely and he sent you to me. I thank Him.’”

“Mizpah,” according to the wedding ring clerk, is the inscription most frequently used. It is taken from the story of Jacob in the Bible and means: “The Lord watch between me and thee.” The initials of the man and woman are also commonly used.

But so often,” said the clerk, “they make the mistake of wanting to say ‘J.S. to M.S.’ The ‘to’ is absolutely wrong for a wedding ring, though it is all right for an engagement ring. The wedding ring should have the initials intertwined or they should be connected with the word ‘and.’ They are both being married and the ring is a sign of union.”

In many cases the queer hieroglyphics, which even the experienced clerk cannot decipher, are used as an inscription, and this usually indicates some cherished secret sentiment.

Wedding rings range in price from $4 to $400. The inexpensive ones are plain gold circlets, made of $18and 22 karat gold. Those in stock are virtually all the very narrow kind. The old-fashioned broad band, which could be seen 10 feet away, has become passé.

A novelty wedding ring which promises to become popular is called the alliance ring. It breaks in the center for the inscription and when it is put together again the cut does not show. In this way it is supposed a secret engraving could be kept more inviolate than most secrets ever are.

Platinum wedding rings range in price from $13.50 to $30. Some of them are carved.

Often the purchasers are amazed at the inexpensiveness of this tie that binds, and even though they want for sweet sentiment’s sake the plain old band, they cannot get it into their heads that a real gold ring can be had for $4.

It is on occasions like these that the clerk brings out the jeweled tray, just to show how much can be spent for a wedding ring.

Platinum bands carved and studded with diamonds cost from $95 to $400, unless the finger is unusually large and then more must be paid for the extra gem added.

The prices for men’s wedding rings, and they are being sold in goodly numbers, is slightly higher than those for women because of the extra metal needed, but the fashion, the plain gold circlet, is the same.

Evening Public Ledger [Philadelphia PA] 26 May 1915: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  There was a time when it was not mandated that gentlemen should wear wedding rings. “Benedicts” often wore signet rings on their right hands or omitted the ring altogether. It was a cause for comment  when the bridal couple held a “double-ring” ceremony.  But this changed after the First World War:

Sign of “Bondage” Is Reappearing on Left Hand of Man

They’re coming back! After an era of bare masculine fingers the sturdy fourth appendage of the sturdy left hand is now to be adorned with that long scorned sign of bondage—the wedding ring.

Milwaukee jewelers, questioned on this supposedly dead subject, replied that the last six months showed a long leap upward in the sales of men’s wedding rings.

“And in another six months I’m willing to predict, they’ll all be wearing them,” one jeweler declared.

Use Modern Patterns.

Not the conventional rolled gold band! No, indeed, they’re quite as out of date for men as they are for women. The modern bridegroom is buying the carved variety, engraved to match his bride’s ring in any of the popular patterns of orange blossom, bridal wreath, heart, forget-me-not or rose buds.

One jeweler, who has sold wedding rings to Milwaukee bridegrooms for the better part of a half century, declares that the present rush on wedding rings is a puzzle to him.

“The funny part of it is, you know, that the men want them,” he said. “They seem to want the world to know they’re tied. There was a time when we sold all sorts of special combinations—most frequently a signet ring arrangement, to conceal the wedding band.”

American-Born Responsible.

Asked whether the double ring custom was not peculiar to some nationalities, the reply was that, be such as it may, it is the American-born young man, reared according to American tradition, who are building up the new wedding ring fad.

And it isn’t only young men! The craze for engraved rings has reached even the husbands who have been “in” for ten or twenty years. They bring in their old rings to have them engraved in the newest designs.

Milwaukee[WI] Journal-Sentinel 31 July 1921: p. 18

 

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.

Buying a Bridal Trossy: 1877

trousseau

A French fashion doll with her trousseau.

BUYING A BRIDAL “TROSSY”

One day last week, a powerfully-built young man, to whose right arm was linked a tall, thin girl of eighteen, with a sharp nose, pale blue eyes, and hair like the color of an old knife handle, entered a Lake avenue store, with both eyes full of business. As the pair took seats a clerk intimated that he was ready to take bottom price on any goods in the store, from the finest silk to the glaziest calico.

“This is kinder delicate business for us,” replied the young man, casting sheep’s eyes at the girl.

“That is to say—that is—yes, ahem!” stammered the clerk.

“But I guess we’ll live through it, Molly, and so here goes. What we want is a trossy for this girl—a bridal trossy, I believe they call it.”

“That is exactly what they call it,” replied the clerk; “and tell me what articles you want, and I’ll give the lowest figure.”

The pair looked at each other in a half foolish way for a minute, and the girl hid her face behind a stack of goods.

“A little skeery, but she’ll git over it,” mused the lover. “The first thing I s’pose is a dress?”

“From one to sixteen dresses as you like. You’ll take a black silk, perhaps!”

“And perhaps I won’t. There’s no style about us, Mister. We marry for love, and we’ve got to make a little money go a long ways. Is calico purty low?”

“Oh, Zeke!” gasped the girl, suddenly showing her face.

“”Well, we’ll got a little better, then, though calico is my motto. Hand us down something about 20 cents per yard. Give us dove color, for doves are meek and lovely, and so is Molly.”

Twelve yards of dove  colored goods were cut off, and Zeke looked around and said: “Less see. I s’pose a back comb, two yards of blue ribbon, a bunch of hair pins and two or three collars ought to figure in somewhere.”

The clerk agreed and they were figured in.

“Less see. She’ll wear her sister’s hat to stand up in, and her sister’s shoes won’t show if she has a long dress on. I guess that’s about all, isn’t it, Molly!”

The girl blushed very red, beckoned him closer and, after a minute he turned to the clerk and said:
“It’s kinder throwin’ money away but she’s purty and gentle, and I don’t mind. She thinks she ought to have a fifty cent corset and two pairs of stockings.

The articles were brought, inspected and placed with the “trossy,” and after the lovers held another whispered conversation, Zeke observed:
“Well, that’s all. Figger up and there’s your cash. We’ve got to go and git some hair oil, and a dollar gold chain with a locket to it, and a pair of sleeve buttons and some shoe strings, and you see the outfit is going to squeeze me bad.”

“When does the marriage come off?” asked the clerk.

“In about ten days. She’s a good girl and loves me, and I am trying to do the fair thing by her. ‘Taint many young men who would put up seven dollars on a bridal trossy for his girl; but when I make up mind to marry any one I’m almost reckless of wealth. She didn’t need the corsets any more than I need suspenders, but she had a sister married with a corset on, and she didn’t want to be behind her.”

“I hope you’ll be happy.”

“We sh’ll be—can’t help it. This ‘ere girl can sling more enthusiasm into a mess of taters than any queen in Europe. I had to take her old dad by the collar and jerk his heels to the ceiling before he’d consent to this marriage. Well, good by.”

Rhode Island Press [Providence RI] 21 July 1877: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A well-meant, but highly-irregular proceeding! We have already blushed for the young man who sent his betrothed a night-gown, which was quickly identified by the recipient as a burial robe. No groom had any business buying collars, hair-ribbons or dove-coloured fabric before the wedding day. And the notion of a bridegroom discussing, not to mention, purchasing corsets and stockings is utterly beyond the pale. (At least in the respectable parts of the English-speaking world; the French handled things rather differently, as we see in this post about Madame Junot’s trousseau.)  It was entirely the responsibility of the bride or her family to sew or to purchase a trousseau, sometimes in a most lavish vein, as we see from this squib.

CHIT-CHAT—TROUSSEAU.


Once more we are called upon by the exigencies of the season to give some hints on this all-absorbing subject. We will suppose that the sea-side trip, or the visit to the Springs, has been successful. The young people are actually engaged, and the fair fiancée commences her consultations with milliners and dressmakers. She has shopped before expensively, but never with a carte blanche from papa. Now “the dear child must not be denied anything;” and as they will be her last bills— unless the fashionable precedent of speedy separation is followed— it is not best to be too particular. The bridal robe, the party dresses, the traveling dresses, and the wedding bonnet, are ordered. Fifty dollars go for a handkerchief to hide the expected tears and blushes; five hundred for the dress (of a truth; dear reader, it is no fabulous cost); one hundred and fifty for the veil— afterwards the scarf for dinner parties;—and so on to the end of some thousand dollars, spent exclusively in finery. There is no other name for it. 
Godey’s Lady’s Book September 1850

Mrs Daffodil has previously posted about the extravagant trousseau of an American bride, indiscreetly noted in the papers.

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.

Bargaining for a Bonnet: 1890

 

New York, Jan. 8. The woman with a genius for bargains is now in her element. All the shops have reduced their winter stock that they may be rid of it and bring in the spring one, and she who gazed longingly at a Virot bonnet, who sighed and went away, looked and longed, now may possess it and her soul in delight and at very little cost. In parentheses, I would like to say that the cost refers to her bonnet, as she is quite too nice a woman to have her soul on sale.

Some woman body says: “I have $10 that I may spend on a bonnet—I scorn any but a French one—therefore, I shall beard the lion in his den, go to the most chic of milliners and get what I want.” Does she go in her shabby clothes? Dear no; she would get nothing cheap if she did that. She wears her smartest get up, and she enters the shop as if she were a millionaire, instead of a daughter of toil, who gets her bonnets by her glibness of pen. The ideal bonnet is simple, but is chic, it is quiet and it comes from Virot. She looks and longs, but she realizes that now is her time to be diplomatic.

The smiling saleswoman is asked how much it is. “Thirty-five dollars,” she responds, “reduced from $50.” Then a request is made that madame will try it on. “Oh, no,” says she, “it is scarcely worth while; I do not intend to pay that much for a bonnet, and it will be only taking up your time.” However, after some persuasion, she yields. It is found becoming, and the milliner dilates upon its harmony, its beauty, and its cheapness. Madame quietly removes it, and says, “It is very cheap, but are you thinking or remembering that this is midwinter; that you have gotten probably 10 times the value of that bonnet in the copies you have made from it, and that in two weeks from now there will be absolutely no sale for it, as you will have to have your spring goods on exhibition?” This is practical common-sense that appeals to the milliner and a jump to $25 is made at once. The would-be buyer again comes out with a bit of truth. Says she, “I like the bonnet—I think it cheap, but I have just so much money to put into a bonnet, and not one more cent can I give.” The price then goes down to $15. By this time madam is arrayed in the bonnet in which she appeared and tells the milliner that she thanks her very much for her kindness and that as her things are all so pretty she will be certain to come in when she has her spring opening. Quickly she is asked, “How much will you give?” She says $10 in cash.” As a last straw the milliner suggests that she pay $8 and let $7 stand on account; but Madame is too old a shopper for this. Ten dollars or nothing. She has reached the door; she is almost out when she is stopped, and after all this diplomatic manoeuvring the milliner has $10, she has the bonnet, and both are satisfied. Cheat the milliner? Certainly not. What she said in the first place was absolutely true. Profit comes in the copying of the French bonnet and not in the sale of it, and this is perfectly well known both by good buyers and good milliners.

St. Louis [MO] Republic 11 January 1890: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil appends the above story as an inspiration to any lady who has not yet got her hat for Ascot or, if an American reader, for this week-end’s “Kentucky Derby.”

copies paris hats inter ocean 26 april 1903 p 15

From a 1903 Chicago newspaper.

The copying of French goods was, of course, common-place. In the press, one finds literally thousands of advertisements offering copied Parisian goods; a typical specimen of which is seen above. Milliners were also not above adding a French label to their “exclusive” models.  Neither were young ladies averse to basting a label pilfered from a designer hat into a “loving hands at home” creation, as in this story of an Easter bonnet. On the other hand, this young lady lost by her duplicity in adding a Parisian label.  Mrs Daffodil hopes that all of her hat-wearing readers may drive as stringent a bargain as the lady above, so that they may attend the races serene in the knowledge that their hat is the exclusive and genuine article.

 

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.