Category Archives: shopping

The Corset Bag: 1902-1926

What do you do with your corsets when you remove them at night? Oh-o-o-o-, I mean girdle, or whatever you wear to hold up your stockings—for no CHIC woman wears ‘em rolled today!

Well, if you are a very NICE little lady, you put them into a scented corset bag that hangs on the closet wall.

‘N if you ever have one, you will never again be able to bear seeing your girdle lying on a chair! So why not give a lovely corset bag to your girl friend? They may be made so easily, you know. But don’t do what we did, and keep it yourself after it is made, just because you like it so well!

corset bag pattern 1926

EXACTLY HOW TO MAKE ‘EM.

Notice the three top figures in the illustration: they show the way to make this corset bag. Purchase ribbon about 12 inches wide for the outer cover, another length of ribbon of a contrasting color for the lining, and a length of sheet wadding cotton that is about 14 inches wide.

Now make a “sandwich” of the outer covering, the cotton and the lining! Sprinkle the cotton lavishly with sachet, then baste the three pieces together. Now fold them up like Figure A, with the raw edges out, of course. Next bind them like Figure B, leaving loops at either side to hang the bag with. Figure C is the corset bag finished, with the same ribbon you use for the binding appliqued in a circle, and other applique or embroidery in its center. This bag should be about 25 inches long.

Nashville [TN] Banner 19 December 1926: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has been asked, “Why a corset bag? What is the necessity?”  This 1912 squib answers that question nicely:

Corset Bags for Christmas.

This holiday season many women are making corset bags as gifts, and the idea seems a very practical one. The pasteboard box in which the corset is sent home is always a clumsy affair to keep in a dresser drawer, yet one does not like to toss a handsome new satin corset into a drawer filled with other articles. The corset bag is a long, narrow case made of linen or silk, and in it the rolled up corset may be kept when not in use. Every corset should be tightly rolled when taken off, since this keeps it in better shape, and the corset bag will hold the rolled up corset firmly. Some of these bags are of heavy linen embroidered with dots in Dutch blue, old rose or some other pretty color. Evening Star [Washington DC] 8 December 1912: p. 74

The term “corset bag” seems to have made its first appearance beginning in about 1902. Prior to this sellers of corsets often furnished long, narrow boxes to contain the rolled corset. They would have seemed drab compared to the pretty articles described in the papers. And, to be fair, pasteboard is not the optimal material for storing textiles.

black satin corset bag

Embroidered black satin corset bag, beautifully finished and lined. https://www.etsy.com/il-en/listing/675829325/victorian-corset-bag-edwardian-lingerie

Speaking of underwear, there are the most exquisite bags into which to put one’s corsets in traveling, or one may have a bag for every pair if they are all best, and some fortunate women revel in the finest of the dainty things. One of the corset bags is of white silk, with a large cluster of lilies of the valley with their green leaves hand-painted on it. The bag is long and narrow, and is gathered with a silk cord or ribbon at the top.

The New York [NY] Times 25 March 1902: p. 7

The corset bag has become a part of one’s underwear. It isn’t really to wear, but all who wear corsets should know about it. This is a long, narrow bag of silk or muslin; it should be four inches longer than the corset and of exactly the same color. It is furnished inside with little scent bags suspended from narrow ribbons Into this bag the corset is put at night and the string is drawn up. This serves the double purpose of protecting the corset and perfuming it. More than that, it hides the corset, and in case it is laid away, one can tell at a glance the color of the corset that is inside.

Nashville [TN] Banner 25 October 1902: p. 13

 

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 anecdote

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 Flower Jewel-case: 1893

Faux-rose jewel box https://www.amazon.com/Noble-Blossom-Ceremony-Proposal-Engagement/dp/B0831SXS1Z

A PRECIOUS FLOWER.

The Danger of Fashion’s Latest Fad for Jewel Cases.

Every one has heard of Lucretia Borgia, the lady who when she wanted to destroy a hated rival was in the habit of sending a rose “with Lucretia’s compliments.” The unsuspecting victim, pleased by the attention, generally sniffed the poisoned flower, and was a corpse before having time to realize the situation.

Nowadays, every one who receives a flower with so-and-so’s compliments is herewith warned to take it up tenderly and treat it with care. It is not by that meant to imply that secret poisoning is stalking abroad, but there may be more in the gift than appears at first sight.

If the flower on examination proves to be an artificial one, so cunningly made, that it almost deceives you into thinking that, like Topsy, it “growed,” be warned in time, and examine it very carefully. Press the petals of the rose. They will very probably fly asunder and reveal a diamond ring or a pair of eardrops reposing on a tiny cushion of white velvet.

It is one of fashion’s latest fads to conceal small but valuable pieces of jewelry in artificial flowers or bunches of flowers, but the practice is a dangerous one where the recipient does not know the trick. Imagine your despair if you threw away a flower and learned afterward that it had contained a diamond!

The mechanical flowers themselves are expensive luxuries, for the cheapest costs $5. Jewelers, however, will give them away with very valuable rings

The San Francisco [CA] Call 17 August 1893: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil was disappointed that she could not find an illustration of this novel jewel casket. The best she could do was a faux-rose box from the “eBay” auction site. Not at all the same thing….

They must have been pretty trinkets. An 1879 groom gave something similar to his bride:

At a recent wedding the bride was the recipient of a novel gift from the groom—a “jewel box” made of Marechal Niel rose-buds, bound by a rim of tea rose buds, with a ring of violets for lid-lifter, lined with white satin, within which nestled two diamond ear drops.

Pittsburgh [PA] Post-Gazette 15 February 1879: p. 4

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

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.

She Wasn’t a Dummy: 1886

SHE WASN’T A DUMMY

Couldn’t Play Any Wooden Women on Him More Than Once.

Every old Sacramentan will remember the French millinery firm of Mme. Llanos & Co., and most of them–the ladies, especially–can recall with equal distinctness the smiling and imperturbable “clerk” of the fancy department of the madame’s establishment, Charley Dexter. A young fellow from some backwoods region of Michigan, having come to “Californy” to seek his fortune, called at Mme. Llanos’s to see his old school-mate, Charley Dexter. In those days it was the style in shops devoted to the sale of ladies’ apparel to have a number of waxen-faced lay figures all temptingly arrayed for the display of the latest novelties. It was a dull summer afternoon when Bill dropped in on his old acquaintance and found that young gentleman listlessly lolling over the counter, happily disengaged. In the course of a reminiscent conversation the country youth used some expression that apparently jarred on Charley’s fastidious ear, for he ejaculated, hurriedly, “Sh!” at the same time nodding mysteriously toward some object over Bill’s shoulder. The latter turned, and to his shocked amazement beheld a stately and fashionably dressed lady, who must have overheard his unlucky speech. Abashed and confused, he hurriedly whispered: “Great Scott! Charley, what shall do?”

“Do? Why, apologise at once!” was the peremptory response.

Clearing his throat, and with a tremendous effort, the awkward and blushing offender began “Madam, I beg–”

Here Charley deftly swung the figure around, and poor Bill saw that the joke was on him. Peace and conversation were soon renewed, and, unperceived by either, a lady quietly entered and began examining some article at the opposite counter. Just as the unconscious visitor had clinched some statement with another lapse into profanity, the horrified Charley glanced up and caught sight of the newcomer opposite. His “Sh!” and accompanying pantomime were genuine this time; but the truculent Bill was not to be sold twice by the same trick. Lifting his dust-covered “stogy,” he dealt a practiced, bucolic kick at the supposed milliner’s doll, at the same time shouting: “Can’t play any more of your ___ wooden women on me!”

Fancy can but feebly picture his horror when a lovely being fixed one terrified glance on the supposed madman, and then with a wild shriek fled into the inner sanctuary to seek protection among the pretty milliner girls and their presiding goddess. It was a question of who was most scared, for the unhappy Bill shot through the front door with equal celerity and a settled sorrow at his heart that nothing but the joker’s blood could assuage; the while Charley dropped under the counter, and rolled there In an agony of mingled mirth and remorse over an accident of which he was the innocent yet guilty cause.

Sunday Truth [Buffalo NY] 14 March 1886: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has previously told of  the waxen charms of The Dudes in the Shop Window.

When first introduced, the shop mannequin was a novelty. There were performers, not unlike to-day’s “living statues,” that posed in shop-windows, drawing crowds who debated their status as human or wax.

“That’s the most lifelike wax figure I ever saw,” said somebody in the crowd that had gathered in front of the display window. “It winks its eyes.”

“It has genuine eye-lashes, too,” said another.

“It’s hair is jute,” observed a third.

“Jute nothing! That’s real hair. But its mouth is too large and its cheeks are a little too red. They always overdo it when they attempt to imitate nature.”

“It’s a good imitation,” said an old gentleman, surveying the figure critically through his glasses; “the best I ever saw. But the movement of the eyes to too mechanical, and one of them is a trifle out of focus.

At this juncture the wax figure, after a brief preliminary paroxysm, sneezed violently, and the procession moved on.

Chicago [IL[ Tribune 29 April 1894: p. 38

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 anecdote

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

A Cure for the Grecian Bend: 1868

A Cure for Grecian Bend.

The Hamilton (Canada) Register, tells the following story, which should be a warning to fair smugglers and Grecian Benders particularly:

The Grecian bend was put to a novel use on the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway a few days since. In one of the first class cars sat a handsome young lady, dressed in the height of fashion. who appeared to be suffering under a rather painful attack of Grecian Bend. As is usual on the train’s arrival on the American side, the baggage of the passengers was examined by the United States Custom officer.

“Have you any baggage, Miss?” inquired the officer of the aforesaid young lady.

“Nothing except this,” replied she, producing a small valise.

The officer examined and returned it, at the same time scanning the person of the young lady, in a manner that almost amounted to rudeness.

“Will you follow me to the Custom Office, Miss? said the official. The corners of his mouth were almost drawn into a smile, and a mischievous twinkle was perceptible in his eyes as he led the way to the searching-room.

Arrived in the office, the lady’s face, which had previously been of marble whiteness, assumed a crimson hue.

“What is here, ma’am?” said the officer, passing his hand over the back of her dress. “That is my Grecian bend,” replied she, meekly casting down her eyes. “I did not know there was any duty to pay on it; if there is, tell me how much and I will pay it.”

“There is no duty to pay on it, but we must examine it,” replied the obstinate officer. A female searcher was procured and, after strong protest on the part of the lady, the mystery of the “Grecian Bend,” alias “the Montreal wiggle,” was unraveled, and found to contain twelve yards of black silk velvet, forty yards of rich lace, four white ostrich feathers, six pairs of French kid gloves, and a bottle of Gilbert’s Magic Hair Restorer.

The United States customs are now convinced of the reason why the Grecian bend has had such a rage, and they intended to give their particular attention to any cases of this infectious disease which may come under their notice for the future. All cases of Grecian bend will be immediately put under quarantine on their arrival across the border.

Washington [PA] Reporter 23 December 1868: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is always intrigued by the ingenuity of lady smugglers. Of course, contemporary fashions gave plenty of scope to exercise the larcenous imagination.

A very common Method of Smuggling practised by the Fair Sex, is by assuming the Appearance of far advanced Pregnancy; although the Bantling proves generally to be Silks and Laces. A Lady well known in the Circles of Fashion, practised this Trick with great Success for many Years, until being big with Child five Times in one Year, the Custom-House Officers began to be staggered by such prolific Powers, and kindly lent a Hand to deliver her of her Burthen.

The Derby [England] Mercury 15 July 1784: p. 1

The Dutch custom-house officers at Rosendael, a few days, seized a quantity of lace to the value of 1200 florins, which a lady coming by the railway from Antwerp had concealed under her crinoline. The anxiety depicted on her countenance is said to have betrayed her.

Liverpool [Merseyside England] Mercury 30 March 1858: p. 7

 

The Customers-officers at Haumont (Nord) last week arrested a lady’s maid who was attempting to cross the frontier with no less than twenty-nine kilogs. of Belgian tobacco concealed in her crinoline.

The Exeter [Devon England] Flying Post 23 September 1863: p. 6

Worth visitng dress 1875

Worth visiting dress, 1875 Kerry Taylor Auctions

One of the ladies had fully $5,000 worth of these laces in a bustle, and they served the purpose exceedingly well.

New York [NY] Daily Herald 18 September 1875: p. 11

A novel method of smuggling has been devised. A woman was discovered in Florida, coming into the United States with a large tin bustle filled with fine Cuban rum.

Lawrence [KS] Daily Journal 21 December 1886: p. 3

agrecian bend

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grecian_bend

 

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a clergyman turned smuggler by his naughty daughters, a charming widow and her baby, imposing on Her Majesty’s Customs agents, and a professional lace-runner who denounces an amateur lady smuggler.

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 anecdote

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.

That Paris Look: 1924

That Paris Look.

Chicago Dally News:

“I have just seen Mrs. Janes,” said Mrs. Simmons’ niece as she sank wearily into a chair. “She had a new dress on. I don’t think I’d like it a bit if people copied my clothes.”

“You are not very clear in your remarks,” laughed Mrs. Simmons. “But you remind me of an incident in my girlhood that was almost a tragedy. There was a dress I designed all by myself. It was a mighty pretty girlish gown. I wore it to some entertainment at school and when the girls admired it I told them I had designed it myself and I thought it was the prettiest dress in the world.”

“I’m sure it was lovely,” said her niece.

“Three weeks after I first appeared in it,” Mrs. Simmons continued, “one of the girls whom I liked least came to me with a sort of triumphant manner and said she thought I had been boasting that my brown dress was my own design and therefore the only one of its kind. I defended my statement and she finally believed me, but told me that she had seen a white-haired woman wearing a dress of the same style. I was heartbroken and tried to think she was mistaken, but when I asked our dressmaker about it she said the woman had seen my dress and had come in and offered her such a good price to make one like it that she had done so, hoping I would never know about it.”

“Oh, the poor child!” cried her niece. “I was just wondering about whether I’d better tell what Mrs. Janes said. But I don’t know that you would mind after all.”

“Mrs. Janes is a very pleasant woman,” declared Mrs. Simmons.

“It wasn’t much,” said her niece. “She had on a new dress and she very evidently expected me to notice it, so I obligingly admired it. It was really very pretty, so I could do so truthfully, but Mrs. Janes said it did not compare with one her sister had just had made. She said that her sister had met you somewhere or other in a lovely dress that she liked extremely. She said it was one of the dresses you got in Paris last summer and was therefore just at the height of style here now, so she had her dressmaker copy it from her description.”

“That is very flattering,” said Mrs. Simmons dubiously. “It Is nice to have people like your things but I’d a little rather they didn’t copy my Paris dresses. I don’t remember where I wore that gown that Mrs. Janes saw it. Did she describe it at all?”

“She said it is dark blue with a line of red near the neck, and it has some kind of drape on the hips. She says her sister copied it exactly and is telling everybody it is a model by somebody or other in Paris. Mrs. Janes always adds that it is a copy of the model, and her sister tells people that now and makes it sound as if it were really a better thing than the original gown.”

“I never said my dresses were anybody’s model,” protested Mrs. Simmons. “Some woman at the boarding house over there told me about an inexpensive dressmaker, and I went to her to have these two dresses made, that is all. They aren’t anything much, I just wanted to get something there. But I can’t think where either of those two women saw that dress, for I have worn it only twice, and to places where they don’t go. I’ve been saving them, as I said, to use this spring.”

“Mrs. Janes said she saw it when you had it on at a meeting of the guild,” said her niece. “But her sister saw it before that and asked her to notice particularly how the sleeves were made when she saw you next, as she had forgotten them when, she saw you at Mrs. Dunbar’s mah jong party.”

“But I didn’t wear that Paris dress to Mrs. Dunbar’s. Let me think—oh yes, I did wear that blue dress with red pipings. Well, well, so Mrs. Janes’ sister copied it did she?”

“Yes, she did!” cried her niece. “And I should think you’d be awfully sore at her for it, too—your new Paris gown!”

“Oh, no, I don’t mind a bit,” chuckled Mrs. Simmons. “You see, I gave that dress to the janitor’s wife only yesterday.”

“You didn’t! And you have worn it only twice'”

“Oh, I have worn it a great deal. I had made it over three months ago from an old thing I got just before the war and I hoped it would last, but I am getting too plump for it, not to say, fat. That dress never even heard of Paris! I wonder If I haven’t some more old clothes with the Paris look?”

The Nebraska State Journal [Lincoln NE] 23 March 1924: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have read in “The Lightning Adaptors of Fashion,” how Miss Billie Burke copyrighted her stage dresses so that they would not be copied. And the shockingly brazen methods of the copyists of French couture designs were exposed in “Fashion Pirates.” The practice was not confined to professionals as we see in the confessions in ‘Things I Steal,” and “The Very Worst Thing.”

Copying was, to many ladies, a harmless practice, particularly if they did not think too long or hard about the ethics of the thing. Yet there was a danger in adopting French fashions—one which was rarely mentioned in the press:

A bit of warning advice may be inserted here for the American woman shopper who believes that all French styles must needs be extreme. The absolutely sensational things now and then launched by the French dressmakers are nothing but advertisements, and they are never worn by French ladies, only by the conspicuous beauties of doubtful reputation, who are hired to display the novelties at some public function like the spring races at Auteuil or Longchamps. While it may be a temptation to copy a startling hat or gown, it is really the part of wisdom to select the quieter modes, which are just as artistic and more appropriate and which lead to no embarrassing ambiguity as to the social classification of a good-looking well-dressed American woman.

The French woman of accepted position is the model for the American woman to follow in copying French fashions. All American women intend to do this, but the majority of them make bad mistakes and innocently do themselves harm. But it is almost impossible to make the American woman realize this.

Pittsburgh [PA] Daily Post 5 July 1912: p. 8  

For what shall it profit a lady, if she shall gain an entire French wardrobe, and be mistaken for a conspicuous beauty of doubtful reputation?

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 anecdote

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.

 

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.

Gowns That Copy Flowers: 1901

 

les fleurs animees daisy 1847

The Daisies, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

GOWNS LIKE FLOWERS

Summer Girl’s Latest Fad Is to Copy Nature’s Blossoms

Flower gowns are the fad of this year’s summer girl. She is now busy collecting the gowns for the various resorts where she will be an enchanting figure, and as she may copy every flower that blows, provided the color combination is becoming, there is scarcely a limit to her ingenuity and gowns except the size of her purse. The idea is poetical enough to satisfy even the most romantic of maidens, and the, result may be achieved at small cost, particularly if the maiden be deft of finger. One of the simplest and prettiest of these frocks is the daisy gown. It is made, of sheer white goods, with a touch of yellow either, as a girdle, a knot at the throat, or, what is even more consistent, a single large chou on the front of the corsage. A violet gown copies the hue of this favorite flower and has a touch of green, while the orchid frock shows an artistic blending of purple and lilac, with a little dash of yellow.

les fleurs animee capuchine nasturtium

Nasturtium / Capuchine from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

The girl who is fond of red and has a weakness for daring combinations will not omit a nasturtium gown from her wardrobe. This is exceedingly Frenchy when well done, but takes the eye of an artist to gain the proper effect, for reds are treacherous colors and are apt to swear very loudly at each other if the greatest care is not used in their selection.

In this particular instance as many as four shades of red are introduced, ranging from a pink to a deep raspberry, and while almost all of the other flower frocks are most effective when made of thin goods that belong to the “wash” family, the nasturtium gown, to be really stunning, should be of some soft wool goods, or of silk, panne velvet or satin.

les fleurs animees bluet and poppy 1847

Cornflower and Poppy, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

Another charming thing in red follows the fashion set by the poppy, and is a vivid crimson, relieved with a bit of black. For a dainty little blonde there is nothing more charming than a forget-me-not gown of pale blue with a belt of soft yellow, while if a deeper blue is desired the cornflower may be copied.

The girl who likes pink catches her note from the carnation and appears in a pretty little pink affair relieved with a bit of green, while the dashing brunette who dares to don yellow has the daffodil as a model.

les fleurs animees pansy 1847

Pansy, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

One great charm of these novel frocks is their fluffiness and daintiness. They must be as fresh and pleasing in color as their flower prototypes, and while they may have all the ruffles, tucks, lace and hand work that distinguish this season’s gowns, they must not be too elaborate or gaudy. As a finishing touch, after each gown is completed it is laid away in a sachet of the flower it represents, so that if the observer is too dull to catch its meaning it tells the secret in its perfume as well as by its coloring. Orris root is used as the fragrance for the daisy gown.

The Minneapolis [MN] Journal 29 June 1901: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil often wonders if the novelties described in the fashion papers were meticulously copied by assiduous readers, or if they were merely aspirational. It is one thing to create a fanciful flower frock, but laying away each gown with a matching flower-scented sachet is a nicety usually only found in the sort of “Frenchy” novels written by Elinor Glyn, rather than at resorts frequented by poetical-minded Summer Girls.

One might carry the floral theme a bit further by hosting A Violet Luncheon and urging guests to dress as that flower. If one was more earthly in temperament, one might hold a Vegetable Fancy Dress party. For the floral fanatic, there were various Floral Fetes, combining fashion and flower-bedecked motor-cars. Mrs Daffodil also wonders if a cactus costume was ever created, to keep the summer-resort fortune-hunters at bay?

les fleurs animee cactus

Cactus, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

 

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 anecdote

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.

That Paris Look: 1924

That Paris Look.

Chicago Dally News:

“I have just seen Mrs. Janes,” said Mrs. Simmons’ niece as she sank wearily into a chair. “She had a new dress on. I don’t think I’d like it a bit if people copied my clothes.”

“You are not very clear in your remarks,” laughed Mrs. Simmons. “But you remind me of an incident in my girlhood that was almost a tragedy. There was a dress I designed all by myself. It was a mighty pretty girlish gown. I wore it to some entertainment at school and when the girls admired it I told them I had designed it myself and I thought it was the prettiest dress in the world.”

“I’m sure it was lovely,” said her niece.

“Three weeks after I first appeared in it,” Mrs. Simmons continued, “one of the girls whom I liked least came to me with a sort of triumphant manner and said she thought I had been boasting that my brown dress was my own design and therefore the only one of its kind. I defended my statement and she finally believed me, but told me that she had seen a white-haired woman wearing a dress of the same style. I was heartbroken and tried to think she was mistaken, but when I asked our dressmaker about it she said the woman had seen my dress and had come in and offered her such a good price to make one like it that she had done so, hoping I would never know about it.”

“Oh, the poor child!” cried her niece. “I was just wondering about whether I’d better tell what Mrs. Janes said. But I don’t know that you would mind after all.”

“Mrs. Janes is a very pleasant woman,” declared Mrs. Simmons.

“It wasn’t much,” said her niece. “She had on a new dress and she very evidently expected me to notice it, so I obligingly admired it. It was really very pretty, so I could do so truthfully, but Mrs. Janes said it did not compare with one her sister had just had made. She said that her sister had met you somewhere or other in a lovely dress that she liked extremely. She said it was one of the dresses you got in Paris last summer and was therefore just at the height of style here now, so she had her dressmaker copy it from her description.”

“That is very flattering,” said Mrs. Simmons dubiously. “It Is nice to have people like your things but I’d a little rather they didn’t copy my Paris dresses. I don’t remember where I wore that gown that Mrs. Janes saw it. Did she describe it at all?”

“She said it is dark blue with a line of red near the neck, and it has some kind of drape on the hips. She says her sister copied it exactly and is telling everybody it is a model by somebody or other in Paris. Mrs. Janes always adds that it is a copy of the model, and her sister tells people that now and makes it sound as if it were really a better thing than the original gown.”

“I never said my dresses were anybody’s model,” protested Mrs. Simmons. “Some woman at the boarding house over there told me about an inexpensive dressmaker, and I went to her to have these two dresses made, that is all. They aren’t anything much, I just wanted to get something there. But I can’t think where either of those two women saw that dress, for I have worn it only twice, and to places where they don’t go. I’ve been saving them, as I said, to use this spring.”

“Mrs. Janes said she saw it when you had it on at a meeting of the guild,” said her niece. “But her sister saw it before that and asked her to notice particularly how the sleeves were made when she saw you next, as she had forgotten them when, she saw you at Mrs. Dunbar’s mah jong party.”

“But I didn’t wear that Paris dress to Mrs. Dunbar’s. Let me think—oh yes, I did wear that blue dress with red pipings. Well, well, so Mrs. Janes’ sister copied it did she?”

“Yes, she did!” cried her niece. “And I should think you’d be awfully sore at her for it, too—your new Paris gown!”

“Oh, no, I don’t mind a bit,” chuckled Mrs. Simmons. “You see, I gave that dress to the janitor’s wife only yesterday.”

“You didn’t! And you have worn it only twice'”

“Oh, I have worn it a great deal. I had made it over three months ago from an old thing I got just before the war and I hoped it would last, but I am getting too plump for it, not to say, fat. That dress never even heard of Paris! I wonder If I haven’t some more old clothes with the Paris look?”

The Nebraska State Journal [Lincoln NE] 23 March 1924: p. 31

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have read in “The Lightning Adaptors of Fashion,” how Miss Billie Burke copyrighted her stage dresses so that they would not be copied. And the shockingly brazen methods of the copyists of French couture designs were exposed in “Fashion Pirates.” The practice was not confined to professionals as we see in the confessions in ‘Things I Steal,” and “The Very Worst Thing.”

Copying was, to many ladies, a harmless practice, particularly if they did not think too long or hard about the ethics of the thing. Yet there was a danger in adopting French fashions—one which was rarely mentioned in the press:

A bit of warning advice may be inserted here for the American woman shopper who believes that all French styles must needs be extreme. The absolutely sensational things now and then launched by the French dressmakers are nothing but advertisements, and they are never worn by French ladies, only by the conspicuous beauties of doubtful reputation, who are hired to display the novelties at some public function like the spring races at Auteuil or Longchamps. While it may be a temptation to copy a startling hat or gown, it is really the part of wisdom to select the quieter modes, which are just as artistic and more appropriate and which lead to no embarrassing ambiguity as to the social classification of a good-looking well-dressed American woman.

The French woman of accepted position is the model for the American woman to follow in copying French fashions. All American women intend to do this, but the majority of them make bad mistakes and innocently do themselves harm. But it is almost impossible to make the American woman realize this.

Pittsburgh [PA] Daily Post 5 July 1912: p. 8  

For what shall it profit a lady, if she shall gain an entire French wardrobe, and be mistaken for a conspicuous beauty of doubtful reputation?

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 anecdote

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.

 

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.