Category Archives: Textiles

An Imposter at the Concord Ball: 1875

Colonial Revival costumes in a portrayal of George and Martha Washington’s wedding, 1912

A Western Deceiver.

Nora Perry writes of the centennial celebration at Lexington and Concord in a letter to the Chicago Tribune. Of the Concord ball she writes: And oh! What a pretty sight, as everybody unanimously voted. Such brocades, smelling of cedar and camphor-wood, as would now and then appear, plaited and puckered in the very stitches of the old-time—not a fold altered nor a ruffle changed. But there were not many of them. Those fair ones who rejoiced in these veritable old heirlooms walked about with their pretty chins aloft, lifted up above common modern clay by the sublime consciousness of a fine Mayflower ancestry, which these credentials would place beyond dispute.

But a woman’s wit will sometimes get the better of the stoutest credentials; and so a saucy, mischievous little damsel managed to array herself in a brand new gown, which she so plaited and puckered and betrimmed with coffee-dipped lace and scented with camphor-gum, in the very pink and pattern of the Continental dames, that all the little Mayflowers lowered their chins on her approach and whispered audibly, in her delighted hearing, “That is the real thing! Wonder who she is?”

And the little deceiver, with “a smile that was child-like and bland,” went on her way rejoicing, happy as all human nature must be at such a signal triumph. Boston is much too well-bred to ask outright questions of identity, so my fair one kept her secret with these fine Mayflowers; but after the ball she is perfectly willing to reveal her cunning guilt, and to let a faithful correspondent say that it was one of Chicago’s nearest neighbors who thus proved herself more than a match for Boston.

Daily Graphic [New York, NY] 7 May 1875: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On this, the anniversary of the fateful day that the American Revolution began: the commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, it seems appropriate to record the sartorial conflict between the camphor-scented blue-bloods of the East and the parvenu of the West in her coffee-dipped lace.

1876 saw a revival of “Colonial” American costume, from antique lace ruffles at ladies’ elbows to daintily embroidered shoes to sack-back gowns of flowered brocades. Mrs Daffodil regrets to say that some enthusiasts actually remade historic 18th-century garments into fancy-dress costumes or pageant attire for “Lady Washington teas.”

Eighteenth-century costumes were proudly displayed as an emblem of pedigree by Americans who otherwise scorned England’s class system as un-democratic.  An aged American lady of impeccable lineage was distressed to part with her historic quilted petticoat. And this improbably aged relic was described at a celebration of The Geauga County Historical Society, 30 September, 1875:

In the exhibit, first, I bring to your attention, the singular and costly specimens of work presented by Mrs. Polly Norton, of Troy, Ohio, in 1873, a widow lady, seventy-seven years of age, and an early settler in that township. Her husband was a farmer, and died some years ago. First, the waist of a dress; second, a portion of the skirt to another dress; third, a window curtain—all made of linen, the waist being striped with blue, the other two pieces white, all worked in flowers, made of woolen floss. In this floss may be found, at this date, twenty-three different shades of color, and upon the waist are forty-seven different kinds of buds and flowers. Upon the skirt, which is supposed to be about one width, there are one hundred and sixty kinds, and it is estimated that upon the whole skirt there must have been no less than eight hundred buds and flowers worked. Upon the curtain there are one hundred and thirteen kinds, no two of which are considered to be alike. The flax was carded, spun and wove for the fabric of these relics, and the wool was carded and spun for the floss, and it was colored into all the various shades, and then worked into the almost countless flowers upon the fabric. Then the dresses were made, and the curtains stitched and worked, all this having been done by one and the same person, the great-great-grandmother of Mrs. Polly Norton, thus running back, on the line of descent, four generations, or more than six generations of the average life of men. These garments, so skillfully made, must have cost more than twelve months of work to perfect them, including the full set of curtains. The dresses look like the completion of a “sensation” toilet upon the charming person of this great-great-grandmother, as she moved in society more that two hundred years ago, in the colony of Massachusetts. Indeed, they take us back to the threshold of the days of the Pilgrims, and it would almost seem that this dress had brushed against the sword at the side of Miles Standish, or touched the gallant arm of a Governor Carver or Bradford. It was made in the old Bay State, far back beyond the days of cotton mills and whizzing spindles. Pioneer and General History of Geauga County [Ohio] 1880: pp. 42-3

Mrs Daffodil fears that this little story perpetuates the myth of pioneer ladies who made clothing entirely from “scratch,” although, both before and during the Revolution, there was an active trade smuggling the English textiles, laces, and luxury goods the Colonies desired.

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 Senators Discuss French Garters: 1894

Peacock garters with enamelled buckles http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/16306/lot/164/

OUT OF SIGHT

It Is Permissible to Present a Lady with Garters During Lent

Senators Want to Stop This

Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. George Gould and Others Have Received Garters as Presents.

Perhaps the difficulty arising out of the unclothed condition of Augustus St. Gauden’s emblematic young man [on a World’s Fair medal] has caused the action of a committee of the United States senate with reference to garters—women’s garters—to pass entirely untouched. It is not generally known that the Lenten season, in accordance with the dictates of French fashion, is recognized among people of fashion and wealth as the appropriate time for making a present of a pair of garters to a lady. This assertion, which is strictly accurate, can only excite surprise because most persons are too poor to afford to present a high priced pair of garters to anyone, and hence the class which feels interest in the style in garters is necessarily a small one. Thus very few are aware that Mrs. Paran Stevens, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. William Waldorf Astor and Mrs. Potter Palmer have not only received presents of jeweled garters, but are admitted authorities on the subject.

But it was only recently that the garter question came up for consideration among members of the senate. It seems that the committee on post officers and post roads, of which Senator Cameron is chairman, had its attention called to an announcement which has been appearing in the journals of the country and is but a specimen of many similar cards which the Lenten season renders timely.

The announcement called upon the lovelorn youths of the land to present their inamoratas with a pair of garters embellished with several different mottoes of which the purchaser could have his choice.

It was desired that steps be taken to make such announcements unlawful, as opposed to public morals. The garter men had their representatives before the committee, which includes Senators Hill, Vilas, Irby, Mills, Hunton, Mitchell, of Oregon, McMillan, Wolcott, Dixon and Washburn. The garter men declared that their industry gave employment to hundreds of work-people and that the most noted society women and men in the country purchased garters ranging in price from one dollar to five hundred dollars.

“But these mottoes,” said the chairman, “are they not suggestive?”

The garter men’s representative declared the high society women of the country wore garters on which mottoes appeared and that they were in many cases on the garters which men of fashion presented to women of fashion.

“Heavens,” exclaimed Senator Irby, “I’d like to see any man present my women folk with the things.” And in the midst of a loud laugh the matter went over.

French sable garter “Le Fuit La Liberte” http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/garter-122129

However, there is no danger that the traffic will be interfered with. The New York jewelers are the ones who thrive most upon the present Lenten traffic in these objects, and they are the recognized authorities on etiquette connected with the subject. Anyone who enters the great marts of the precious stone trade may see stacks of high priced and bejeweled garters, all mottoes and gems exposed for sale at prices which denote that only the wealthy can invest in them.

As noted, Mrs. Paran Stevens and the princess of Wales are mainly responsible for the garter fad among their respective countrywomen. It is not deemed proper for a married woman to receive a present of a pair of garters from anyone but her husband or a near relative. Similarly, an engaged girl may with propriety receive such a present only from her fiancé. Thus Frederick Gebhard gave a pair of pearl and golden garters to the young lady to whom he was engaged. Hobart Chatfield-Taylor bought for his wife the celebrated rajah’s garters seen at the world’s fair for which, it is said, he paid five hundred dollars. Cornelius Vanderbilt presented to his wife only a week ago a pair of diamond garters. It may be noted that it is not good taste to have a motto on garters which are jeweled. But in the absence of a gem of any kind the motto is imperative.

Why the Lenten season should be the chosen time for making presents of garters has never been satisfactorily explained. It is true that among the French, through whom the craze has assumed its present proportions, no man ever presents a pair of garters to a woman except in Lent. At any other time such a gift would be deemed an insult. Nor is it permissible for a man to present his gift in person. The garter should invariably be sent by mail or express with a note in the package in which the objects must be described as “clasps.” It would be in bad taste, for instance, for a woman to receive a pair of garters from her fiancé in propria persona. The gift should be acknowledged by letter—never verbally.

It is unfortunate that this whole subject of presenting garters should be considered ludicrously. It is vulgar to treat any such subject humorously even in print. For instance, such women as Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Seward Webb, Mrs. Coleman Drayton, Mrs. George Gould, and others, as noted, have received such gifts with no more concealment than would be striven for in the case of the presentation of a ring or brooch. In any large city, and more particularly in New York, men of position and influence step up to the jewelry counter and ask to see the garters with the utmost composure. Mr. Barton Willing, the brother of Mrs. John Jacob Astor, gave an impetus to the trade when he returned from France shortly before his sister’s wedding, and in Philadelphia there was a veritable garter rage that winter.

High priced garters are bought by men only. The present Lenten season has witnessed an extraordinary revival of the garter fad, for the reason , it is supposed, that the gifts made at Christmas were necessarily curtailed in quantity owing to the hard times.

Many of the creations which attract so much attention in the window are from France, a country which has long reigned supreme in this fad. Hence the prevalence of French mottoes on them.

As to the probability that the senate committee will feel called upon, in accordance with the appeal of a Comstockian society, to put a stop to the alleged free and easy style of garter advertising literature, that is not likely. There are too many influential interests. But if they did it would crush an industry which is already beginning to attain proportions. For instance, there is an American garter clasp in the market which is admittedly superior to anything of the kind yet produced and which is manufactured in silver and gold for shipment to France in quantities.

Young men who make Lenten presents of a garterian nature should be careful to see that the clasp is what is technically termed padded. Otherwise there is likely to be a compression of one of the most sensitive portions of a girl’s leg. The jewelers usually have circulars which give diagrams on the subject of garters. Very few young men are aware, for instance, that a certain patent claps which is excellently adapted to the conformation of a slender girl’s limb would be most inappropriate for the contour of a stout young woman’s adipose tissue. It is necessary to get the advice of some experienced person beforehand, if one is not versed in this matter.

When a girl gets such a present she should be careful not to wear the articles just above the knee. That is, a jeweled garter should be adjusted at least two inches above the knee joint, as there is otherwise danger of a compression of the ganglionic nerve. The ungraceful gait of many otherwise well-poised girls is due to carelessness in this respect. It was Berry Wall’s boast before his marriage that he could tell whether a girl was wearing her garters properly or not by the way she walked.

Morning Star [Rockford IL] 16 February 1894: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: If the senators did not like motto garters, they certainly would have disapproved of the “snake garter” There is very little in this world that shocks Mrs Daffodil, but a group of senators debating about such intimacies as garters decorated with French mottoes strikes Mrs Daffodil as somehow indecorous. One pictures those gentlemen rushing off to their jewellers to acquire a pair of those salacious articles to send to some young person of their acquaintance.  Honi soit qui mal y pense, indeed….

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.

 

Gentlemen in Borrowed Finery: 1886

Have you any second-hand clothes? No, never wear ‘em. Elderly Man Asking Young Man For Clothes, William Henry Hyde, 1888 https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-ea4a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Old-Clothes Man: Have you any second-hand clothes?
Algernon: No; never wear ‘em.
Elderly Man Asking Young Man For Clothes, William Henry Hyde, 1888 https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-ea4a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

OLD CLOTHES TRADE

MEN OF FASHION WHO APPEAR IN BORROWED FINERY

Secrets of the Business Disclosed

Common Clothes More Valuable Than Fine Fabrics

The “Change Act” and the Economy.

A reporter desirous of obtaining some information in regard to the old clothes trade in Brooklyn called on a local dealer. The reporter’s obliging informant was found surrounded by huge piles of clothing. He was intelligent and seemed to thoroughly understand his business. After making the reporter promise not to mention his name, he said:

“At certain seasons of the year the old clothes business is better than at others. More trade is done during April than in almost all the other months of the year put together. In April, gentlemen shed the clothes worn all winter and don spring attire. The clothing that has been worn in cold weather is, of course, unfit to wear during the heated term, and is usually pretty well used up. The prudent man, rather than put his winter clothes away, and in the fall take them out moth-eaten, sells them. I know men who can well afford a dozen suits, but who have none other but the one on their back. When they get a new one the old suit is sold or given away. It seems strange, but rough, common clothes are more valuable to dealers than fine fabrics. Fine broadcloth suits are not salable when they become a little worn. Much of our trade is done with poor people, who prefer rough to fine clothing.”

“Are the clothes bought by Brooklyn dealers all salable here again?”

“Oh, no; a big trade is, of course, done with residents, but a larger part of the old clothes purchased are sent south or to Ireland….In former years and during the famines, business with the Emerald Isle was brisk. Many strange and incredible scenes are often enacted in old clothes dealers’ shops. There is one branch of the business which I don’t think is done so much here as in New York. This is called the change act. Chatham street and the Bowery contain many dealers who make a specialty of the change trade.

THE “CHANGE ACT” EXPLAINED.

“The change act consists of changing a good suit of clothes for an inferior one, and in receiving a sum of money as an equivalent for the difference in value of the two suits. When a man is broke he will do anything to get money, and if he has a good suit and knows the ropes, he soon disposes of his own good clothes for some of inferior quality. For instance, if a man enters my place with a $40 suit of clothes on his back, and I trade him one worth $10, I can well afford to give him $5 or $8 cash to boot. Some fashionable gentlemen who are seen in a dozen different suits each month own but one.

“The manner in which they are enabled to cut a swell is as follows: Some old clothes dealers do a pawnbroking business in a mild way. If a man has a good suit he can, by paying a small sum, always exchange it for one of equal quality, and still not lose all ownership in his original suit. After he has worn the suit hired a few days he can, by paying a sum, wear still another suit. This arrangement can be continued indefinitely, and finally the lessee, if he desires, can have returned to him his original suit. I have one customer, an impecunious young man who is well known in society. If he is going out in the evening and wishes to appear in full dress, he comes here, leaves the suit of clothes he has been wearing and dons one of my dress suits. In the early morning the young man again appears, takes off the dress suit and puts on his own clothes. For the accommodation I charge only a small fee.”

Bismarck [ND] Tribune 28 August 1886: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has reported before on the “rag” trade, the “misfit clothiers,” as well as the second-hand market in ladies’ clothing, particularly patronised by actresses. Why should the gentlemen not take advantage of the old-clothes market to refresh their wardrobes? It sounds an easy and pleasant trade. Yet, something always comes along to spoil the fun; in this case, the Great War:

There is great mourning among the “hand-me-down” dealers. The marts where the impecunious were smartly endowed with West End “misfits” have closed down. “We cannot get the stuff,” is the cry of the beady-eyed salesman with the crisped hair who lurks mournfully behind a deserted counter. The war affects the second hand clothing trade because, you see, the young knut worn cast-off raiment was the mainstay of the business is now in khaki. He has not troubled his tailor in the matter of civilian clothing for many moons. Formerly a brisk trade was done in the morning coats and lounge suits discarded by young and fastidious officers. These were eagerly bought up by City clerks and others whose means were not equal to their taste in attire. Now, alas, they must dress as they can afford! Harper’s Bazaar February 1916

 

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 Crazy-Quilt Mania: 1883-1891

crazy-quilt-1884-pa

A crazy quilt made c. 1884 in Pennsylvania by Lucy Richards Brock http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/50455.html?mulR=478039240|1

CRAZY QUILTS

A Feminine Mania Which Has Many Sides.

“What’s all this talk about crazy quilts?” asked a Chronicle reporter of a young lady acquaintance.

“Is it possible that you have never seen one?” exclaimed the young lady, “when dozens of them have been exhibited and raffled right here in San Francisco. Why, I’ll show you mine. There,” said she triumphantly, after spreading before the attentive gaze of the reporter a dazzling army of bright-colored blocks, “that is a ‘crazy quilt,’ or will be when these blocks are all stitched together on the machine. You can judge of the effect by placing them together.”

“It’s a great deal of work, isn’t it?” asked the reporter.

“Well, that depends,” was the reply. “Mine is made on these squares with a piece of cloth for the foundation of every block; on each of which the silks and velvets and brocades are placed in erratic fashion, the more zigzag the pattern and the greater the contrast of colors the better. Some, though, put all their patches on one large foundation, which is a very bulky, clumsy way, for, as you see, each scrap must be worked all around its edges with a fancy stitch in bright silk or floss. The ordinary stitch is the featherstitch or else the old-fashioned ‘herring-bone.” But, of course, if one choses, the needlework may be very elaborate, illustrating all the stitches known to decorative art.”

“I should think that the silk for the ornamentation of the patches would an item of expense?”

“It was to me until I stopped buying it by the spool. I get waste silk now, all sorts of colors, for 25 cents an ounce.”

“Where did this idea of a ‘crazy quilt’ originate?” was the next question.

“Well, I’ve been told all sorts of versions, but I believe that the truth is this: The officers’ wives in a military post somewhere on the frontiers invented it. Of course it’s only a new variation of an old idea. Patchwork is as old as the hills. Silk patches are an innovation on the calico quilts of our grandmothers, who early in their tender years were initiated into the mysteries of ‘star quilt,’—that of the ‘rising sun,’ ‘fox and geese,’ ‘flowers’ and the ‘log cabin’—all the rage during the Presidential campaign of ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler too,’ as the old Whig war-cry had it.”

COLLECTING THE PATCHES

“Tell me why this particular style is called a ‘crazy quilt?’” persisted the reporter.

“Oh, for any number of reasons. Because the pattern is crooked, confused, confounded; because there’s an infatuation in the work itself; because to see one is to want to make one; because in our search for pieces we drive dressmakers, milliners and dry goods clerks crazy.”

“Why, is it so hard to make a collection of patches?”

“Awful!” exclaimed the young lady in a tone of desperation. Everybody wants them. Whenever two ladies meet greetings are hurriedly exchanged, and if they do not both speak at once, the one who can talk the fastest says: ‘Oh, my dear, I’ve been wanting to see you this long time to ask you for some silk scraps.’ ‘You’re not making a crazy quilt are you?’ the other one interrupts. ‘I was going to ask you for some scraps myself!’”

“”Why, do you know,” continued the young lady, “I’ve had people I was visiting want to cut off a piece of my bonnet string.”

“Indeed.”

“Yes. I’ve asked all my gentlemen friends for their cravats and hat linings; there’s always a clean piece, you know, underneath. Last week I went to my milliner for some pieces and she told me all their customers were coming for the same thing. I didn’t get any there. Then I went to my dressmaker, who does a rushing business. ‘Mrs. F.,’ said I, ‘have you any—‘ ‘Stop,’ said she, waving me off with her hand; ‘don’t say “crazy quilt” to me. I’m wild. I’ve just taken away my own shears from a lady who intended to snip off some pieces of the goods on my cutting table.’ Nothing there. It’s no use going for samples—they won’t cut them for us at the stores. But you’ll save me your cravats, won’t you?”

DEVICES OF THE MANIACS.

The reporter, after giving the required promise, took his leave. On his way he stopped at a dry goods store, and as a query said “Samples” to the clerk at the silk counter.

“Don’t give any after 10 A.M. Are you making a crazy quilt, too?” “No. But tell me, do you have many such requests?” “Guess we do! The ladies have no conscience at all; expect us to cut and hack away at our richest goods. We’ve had to shut down on the sample business. Why it took time and cost us something. But we’ve had our fun out of it, too. One day a little girl came in and asked for samples of light silks. I noticed that she looked queer when I gave them to her. Before she got out of the store she began to cry. Mr. S., the proprietor saw her and asked her if she’d lost anything. What do you suppose she said? ‘No, sir; but that man over there cut the samples in such long, thin strips, that they’re no good for the built.”

“What was too bad,” said the reporter.

“I can tell you a better one than that of Mrs. __,” mentioning a well-known name that the reporter was surprised to hear. “She came in to look at some brocades. I showed her our handsomest. She couldn’t make up her mind. Then she said: ‘I really don’t know which of these blues will match my silk, but if you will cut me a piece of each I can tell when I get home and send for the one I like best.’

‘Why, mamma, that’s what you said at all the stores,’ said her small boy.”

“Dead give-away, wasn’t it?” said the reporter.

“Guess so, for the youngster, for she took him out quick.”

San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 28 September 1883: p. 3

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905) Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877 American, Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905)
Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877
American,
Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905) Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877 American, Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Tamar Horton Harris North (1833–1905)
Quilt (or decorative throw), Crazy pattern, ca. 1877
American,
Silk, silk velvet, cotton, and cotton lace; 54 1/2 x 55 in. (138.4 x 139.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John S. Cooper, 1983 (1983.349)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/13907

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil hopes that none of her readers are sample fiends. Dry-goods stores resented the “sample nuisance” as a form of shop-lifting:

A manager of a dry goods firm, when asked about this petty form of shoplifting [candy], said that what the manager of the candy department said was as true in his case as in others. He further made the statement that this form of theft [for crazy quilts] was actually conducted by mail…

“Well, that is where we lose, principally. Persons in town and out of it—women mainly—write to us for a bunch of sample of some particular color. That is the last we hear of the samples or the supposedly prospective customer. And if we had any means of checking it we would probably find that the same women were procuring samples of other colors from other stores. These silk and satin samples cost money, and the loss occasioned by this deliberate theft amounts to something considerable in the year.

“Another form of petty larceny is of the same class, practically, but really more expensive to us when you know that the samples that go in this case are fine cloths, such as are used for trouserings and coats. These samples are those used in the making of fireside rugs.” Watertown [NY] Daily Times 23 February 1905: p. 6

A scheme to stop the sample fiends was invented by a Boston retailer:

Fair dames who have been wont, when paternal and fraternal neckties ran short, to replenish their crazy quilt materials by writing to large dry goods houses for samples of this or that silk or velvet, will be obliged to exert their ingenuity in some new direction, if a scheme to be put into operation by a big Sixth avenue concern is generally adopted. This firm is now having printed on large cards a figure something in the shape of a numerously spoked wheel. The figure is in black lines, and the triangular spaces between the lines are filled on each side with a different shade of color. Above is a space on which is to be pasted a small piece of silk or velvet goods. This will show the quality of the material. The triangular spots, each of which has a number printed on it, stand for the colors. The fair applicant for samples “from which to order a new dress” will hereafter instead of a package of 15 or 20 scraps from as many different pieces of goods, receive a few of these cards and will read beneath

The Gay Wheel

A printed request that she will order her dress fomo the one the quality of the sample which suits her best, and according as to colors, to the numbers. The firm that is about to try this plan claims that is loss from its “sample” nuisance amounts to thousands of dollars annually, and that any attempt to refuse outright the demands of the ladies results in a severe loss of trade. Boston [MA] Herald 20 June 1886: p. 8

“Crazy-quilt fiends” would stop at nothing to get fabric, even importuning celebrities:

The “crazy quilt people,” we are assured, are worse than all. They apply by the hundreds to Mrs Harrison for scraps of her dress. Scores of them send her bits of silk, on which she is requested to write her name, the autograph being intended to form the centre-piece of a crazy quilt. If she does not immediately comply with their demands, they write and beg of her to hurry up. Wanganui Chronicle 12 September 1890: p. 3

The crazy quilt fiend has again tackled the Governor. This time the request is not for a piece of one his discarded neckties, but for a block of silk bearing his autograph and the date. Verily, some of the prevailing fads are peculiar. Idaho Statesman [Boise ID] 17 May 1891: p. 1

This narrator suggested that the styles of gents’ neckwear had been altered by the craze:

The crazy quilt rage goes on in as intense a fashion as that of roller skating, and Lent has not subdued but rather emphasized the rush for “pieces” of the most gaudy hues. Men growl that their neckties are not safe, the dry goods houses are getting niggardly about samples, and gradually masculinity is arraying itself against another woman’s right. Have you noticed the tendency toward sobriety in color in men’s neckties? It is a growing one and only the result of a plot between men and brothers against women and sisters. And I don’t wonder at it. Neither will you, when you lose a brilliant-hued scarf for days and have almost forgotten it, when it suddenly appears to you in the form of a center piece in a crazy quilt. I have gone necktieless, suffered and cursed, and am therefore a rabid adherent of the new movement in neckties, even if it, in the end, leads us to black and sober solid colors. There are more ways of crossing a river beside jumping it. Therefore a change of style in mankind’s wear that will cripple the crazy quilt mania will be in the nature of an elevation of the dynamiter with his own mechanical can. Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 25 March 1885: 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 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.

 

How She Found the Time: 1856

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

HOW SHE FOUND THE TIME.

“Ah,” said Mr. Nelson, as drawing his chair to the centre table his eye rested on one of the popular novels of the day, “so you have a new book to read, Sarah. Where did you get it?”

“I borrowed it of Mrs. Merton, or rather she lent it to me — insisted upon my taking it, because, she said, she knew it would interest me, fascinate me; indeed, I told her it wasn’t much use to take it, for I should never find time to read it.”

“But she had found time — hadn’t she?” asked her husband, a little roguishly.

“Of course she had. She always finds time to do any thing she wants to; I never saw such a woman in my life.”

“And yet she has four children, and keeps but one girl?”

“And I have only two children, and as many girls, I suppose you would like to add — would you not?” responded the wife, just a very little bit out of humor.

“I must confess you have guessed aright, my dear. But I would not have said it in a fault-finding way, but simply from a desire to find out, if we can, why you have so little time to devote to reading — why you always have so much to do. Does Mrs. Merton do up every thing as neatly as yourself? Her parlors, I know, always seem the perfection of order and comfort, her husband’s and children’s clothes are always tidy, and she herself, in appearance, the personification of neatness and taste. But after all, perhaps there may be some oversight that is kept out of view.”

“You are mistaken,” said Mrs. Nelson, emphatically. “She is one of the most thorough housekeepers I ever knew. I have been sent there when she had been taken suddenly ill, and so violently, too, as to be unable to give a single direction; and yet every thing needed was always found without the least trouble; every drawer and closet was in order, and the whole house would have borne the rigid scrutiny of the most prim member of the Quaker sisterhood. And yet she never is in a hurry, and though always doing something, never complains of being wearied. She does all her own and children’s sewing, even to cutting dresses, and coats and pants; embroiders all her collars, and sleeves, and little girls’ ruffles; writes more letters every year than I have done since my marriage, and reads more than any other woman not purely literary that I ever knew. But how she does it is a mystery.”

“Why don’t you ask her to solve it?”

“I have thought of doing so ; but — but — well, to own the truth, I am ashamed to. It would be a tacit confession that I am in the wrong somehow.”

“But do you think you are?”

“Sometimes I do; and then again I think my failures to do what I would so dearly love to, are the result of the circumstances which I cannot control. For instance, yesterday afternoon I meant to have emptied my mending basket entirely, — I could have done so easily, and then one worry of the week would have been over, — but Mrs. Lawrence and her friend from Boston came in quite early, and, as you know, passed the afternoon. I could not blame them for coming when they did, for I had told them to come any afternoon this week; and I was glad to see them, and enjoyed the visit. Yet it upset my plans about mending entirely, for of course it would never have done to have littered the parlor with that. The afternoon was lost as far as work was concerned.”

“But was there nothing you could do?”

“Yes, if I had only had it. There were the handkerchiefs and cravats you want to take with you next week, which I might have hemmed if I had only had them. But you see, I had designed them for this afternoon, and so did not go out to buy them till to-day. And now I suppose the mending must lie over till next week, and then there- will be two baskets full. And so it goes. I wish sometimes the days were forty-eight, instead of twenty-four hours long.”

“Well, I don’t, I’m sure,” said her husband, good humoredly; “for I get tired enough now, and I doubt, Sarah, if either you or I would find any more time than we do now.”

“Well, one thing is certain — I shall never find time, as the days are now, to do what I want to do.”

“But you say Mrs. Merton does.”

“Yes, but she is an exception to all the rest of my acquaintances.”

“An honorable one.”

“Yes, an honorable one. I wish there were more with her faculty.”

“Perhaps there would be, were her example followed.”

“I understand you, and perhaps some day will heed the hint.” But here her further reply was prevented by a request from his head clerk to see her husband alone on urgent business.

All this time, while Mrs. Nelson had been bewailing the want of time, she had sat with her hands lying idly in her lap. To be sure, she was waiting for Bridget to bring the baby to be undressed; but she might easily have finished hemming the last cravat in those precious moments, and there it lay on her workstand, and her thimble and thread both with it. But she never thought of taking it — not she. She never thought it worth while to attempt doing any thing while waiting to do some other duty that must soon have to be performed. And thus, in losing those moments, she lost the evening chance to finish the hem; for when the baby did come, he was cross and squally, and would not let her lay him in the crib until nine o’clock, and then she was so tired and nervous, she couldn’t, she said, set a stitch to save her life.

It happened one day in the following week, after a morning of rather more flurry and worry than usual, that she went to the centre table to hunt for a misplaced memorandum. In her search for it her glance casually fell upon the borrowed novel, and with that glance the foregoing conversation rushed forcibly over her memory.

“I declare,” said she, “I have half a mind to run over to Mrs. Merton’s this afternoon, and cross-question her, till I learn her secret. Such a life as I am living is unbearable. I can’t stand it any longer. If she can find time, I know I can, if I only knew how.”

And true to her resolution, for though seemingly hasty, it had been for some time maturing in her mind, almost unwittingly she found herself at an early hour at her friend’s parlor, her bonnet and shawl thrown aside, and herself, work-bag in hand, snugly ensconced in a low rocker beside her little work-stand.

“You have not finished your collar, then?” she observed to Mrs. Merton, after a while, by way of leading the conversation in the desired channel.

“O, yes, indeed,” answered the hostess, tossing her head to one side, gayly, with a pretty affectation of pride. “Didn’t you notice how becoming it was?”

“And commencing another so soon?”

“Only basting on the pattern, so as to have it ready for some odd moment.”

“But how do you bear to spend so much time in embroidery? Why not purchase it at once; it is so much cheaper in the end?”

“For the wealthy it is, I grant, and for those not very wealthy, if their eyesight is poor, or if lacking in taste and needle skill. But I find it cheaper to do it myself. My husband’s salary does not allow us many luxuries, and the small sum we can spend for them I prefer should go towards purchasing what my own fingers cannot make. I can embroider collars and sleeves not as perfectly, it is true, as they do in foreign climes, but handsomely enough to suit my own and husband’s eyes; but I cannot write books, magazines, reviews, and newspapers, and they are luxuries more essential to my happiness than these articles of dress; so I do my own needlework, and with the money thus saved we purchase something that will never go out of fashion — an intellectual heritage for our little ones as well as a perpetual feast for us.”

“But how do you find time to do so much work? I cannot conceive how or where.”

“Well I hardly know myself,” said Mrs. Merton laughingly. “My husband sometimes tells me he believes the fairies help me. I seldom sit down to it in earnest, but I catch it up at odd moments, and before I am aware of it myself, it is done.”

“O, dear,” and Mrs. Nelson sighed. “I wish I had your faculty. Do, pray, Mrs. Merton, tell us the secret of your success in every thing. How do you always find time for every thing?”

“Do you question me seriously, or only mockingly, to remind me how much I leave undone?”

“Seriously? Yes, very seriously. To own the truth, it was to learn this I came over here to-day. There are a thousand things I long to do, because they would not only increase my own joys, but those of my husband and household ; but I cannot find the time. Yet you do them, and you have more cares and duties than I. If you tell me your secret, believe me, I shall feel under the deepest obligations to you.”

Her friend hesitated a moment. She was not wont to speak very much of herself, believing that character should reveal itself by actions mostly, and conscious that it will, too, whether it be a perfect or faulty one. Yet there was such an urgency, at length it conquered the scruples of modesty.

“I am afraid I shall remind you of ‘great I,’ if I undertake it,” she said, with a blush; “yet I can hardly give you my experience without subjecting myself to the charge of egotism. Yet, as we are alone, and as you seem to think I have avoided some of the besetting evils of this life, why, I will reveal to you what you call my secret.

“My mother early instilled into my mind and heart, by precept and example, a few rules of action, that I have sedulously endeavored to follow, and which, I believe, almost more than any thing else have contributed to my domestic peace and happiness.

“One of them is, always to have a time for every ordinary duty; to have that time at such a day or hour of the day as is best adapted to its perfect fulfilment, and always, extraordinary cases excepted, to perform the duty at that time.

“For instance, my general sweeping day is on Friday, because to my mind it is the most suitable one of the week. And the best portion of the day to do it in is very early in the morning, for then I can throw open my doors and windows to the freshest, purest breezes we get at all; and I am not disturbed by the din of travel, nor annoyed by the dust; and then, by postponing my bath and breakfast toilet, merely throwing on a wrapper and cap to sweep in till the house is clean, why I am tidy for the rest of the day.

“Whereas, if I wait till after breakfast, I must spend time to take another bath, and make another change of dress. Now, I confess, it is hard sometimes to keep this rule. When my sleep has been broken by the restlessness of baby, or when something has kept me up later than usual the previous evening, I feel strongly inclined to lie in bed and let the sweeping hour go by. But the dreadful consequences always stare me in the face so ruefully, that sleepy and weary though I may be, I struggle out of bed, — for it is verily a struggle, — and tying down my hair, and buttoning on my wrapper, and drawing on my gloves, as my old aunt used to say, I ‘make business fly.’ And I assure you I always find myself enough happier to compensate me for my efforts, hard though they seemed.

“And then, for a second rule, I always have a place for every thing, and always put it in its place, and thus waste no time in looking after things. For example, perhaps you will laugh at it, but I always make it a rule to put my thimble in my sewing-box, when I leave my work, no matter how great the hurry; and you can have no idea, until you have tried it, how much time is thus saved. Why, I have one friend who says she lost so much time by looking up her thimble, that she has bought herself three, so that when one is mislaid, she needn’t wait to hunt it up. Yet this rule, which soon would become a habit, would have saved her time and money.

“The third and last rule necessary to specify is this: to be always busy, or perhaps I ought to say employed, for with housekeepers, generally, to be busy is to be in a worry over too much work.”

“But you don’t mean to say you never rest — that you never get tired?”

“By no means; I both rest and get tired, and many times each day. But rest does not always imply cessation from labor. Sometimes it does, I grant; and when, after any unusual fatigue, I find myself inclined to lie down and sleep, I always indulge the feeling. It is one of Nature’s promptings, which, to insure health and joy, should be heeded. And I do not feel that I ever lose any time that way, for the half or even hour’s sleep so invigorates me, that I can work with twice the ability, afterwards, that I could if I had striven on with weary limbs and fretted nerves. But many times a change of employment or occupation will rest one as much, nay, more, than idleness. You know yourself, after a busy forenoon on your feet, that it rests you to sit down in your rocker, and busy yourself with your sewing. And sometimes, when I have been handling heavy clothes, such as coats and pantaloons for my boys, till my arms and fingers ache, I rest them by taking up some light garment for my little girl. Or when my limbs ache severely, from some arduous duty, and yet I have no inclination to sleep, as is frequently the case after rocking a worrisome child to sleep, I lie down on my old-fashioned lounge, and rest myself in body by that course; while I soothe, and gladden, and improve my mind by reading, always being careful, though, to put by the book just as soon as I feel that I am enough recruited.”

“But suppose you get behindhand with your work from sickness or company, or some other cause; what do you do then?”

“I never allow myself to get behindhand from the latter cause — visitors. I never allow them to interrupt my domestic affairs. I never invite company except on those days of the week that have the lighter duties. And if casual visitors come along, they will not disturb or hinder you, if the rules I have given you are implicitly followed. You are always ready for chance company. And with these rules, even sickness, unless long continued, will not vary the domestic economy. But if I do get behindhand, I make it up as quick as possible. I rise an hour earlier every morning, and deny myself the luxury of visiting till the accumulated work is performed.”

“Excuse me, but I most ask you one more question. What do you mean by odd times? You said you should work your collar at odd moments.”

“I can answer you but by some examples. Yesterday afternoon I was going to cut and baste a dress for myself. But unexpectedly a friend from the country came in to take tea with me. Now, I did not want to litter the parlor with my pieces; so I went to my basket and took out a pretty little sack for Harry, and spent my time on sewing that. I always keep something in my basket suitable for such odd times; and when I have nothing really necessary, I take up my embroidery. And then, you know, we wives are frequently obliged to wait till a considerable time has elapsed for the appearance of our husbands at the table, and these odd moments, usually so irksome to women, are precious to me. I always mean to have the meals ready at the hour: if Mr. Merton is not here then, — and, being head clerk, scarcely a day passes but some meal must wait, — instead of watching the clock or thrumming on the windows, I read the newspapers and magazines. I assure you I never take any other time to read them, and yet I am never behindhand with them.

And when I have none of them on hand, I catch up some story that I want to read, and yet don’t want to give that time which I usually devote to solid reading. The volume I lent you ” — Mrs. Nelson blushed; she had had it a week, and read only the first chapter — “I read in four days in this way. And when I have no reading that I am anxious to do, I spend the moments in writing. Most of my letters are penned while waiting for the tea bell to ring. And hark, there it is now; a pleasant sound for your ears, too, I guess, after the homily I have just given you. Please,” and she rose gracefully, “let ‘great I’ usher ‘dear you’ to the dining room.”

“With pleasure; yet I wish the bell had not rung so early. I have not heard half enough.”

“Have you never observed, my dear friend, that many sermons lose half their effectiveness by undue length? The benediction at such a time is noted as a relief, not a blessing. Some other time I will preach the rest.”

“I pray Heaven I may have resolution enough to practice what you have already taught. Sure I am, if I so do, my life, what is left of it, will be like yours — a perpetual sermon; and my daily benediction like yours also — the blessings of my children and the praise of my husband.”

Sweet Home: Or, Friendship’s Golden Altar, Frances E. Percival, 1856

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Admirable though the lady’s principles of organization may be, Mrs Daffodil, whose chosen profession is bringing order out of chaos, cannot but feel that Mrs Merton is sister to those organised, yet odious persons who follow lofty doctrines  of folding socks, colour-coding tinned goods, and keeping nothing in the house that does not “bring joy.”  We respect, but do not necessarily emulate them. Besides, Mrs Daffodil can think of a great many things that do not bring joy, such as HM Revenue & Customs forms, cod-liver oil, and certain footmen, but she is not at liberty to chuck them out.

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

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

 

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

underwear-department-1890-1

DRESSING ON $50 TO $200 A YEAR

By Emma M. Hooper

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

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

DRESSING ON FIFTY DOLLARS A YEAR

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

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

ECONOMY IN SMALL BELONGINGS OF DRESS

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

WHEN BUYING DRESSES, SKIRTS AND BODICES

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

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

WITH LESS THAN FIFTY DOLLARS

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

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

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

DRESSING ON A HUNDRED DOLLARS

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

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

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

JUDGMENT IN BUYING DRESSES AND SKIRTS

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

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

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

WITH TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS

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

SELECTING THE IMPORTANT ITEMS OF DRESS

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

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

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

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

SELECTING THE MINOR ARTICLES OF DRESS

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

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

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

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

The Ladies’ Home Journal, Issue 1, 1898

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Bold Crape Buyer: 1817

Oil painting on canvas, The Apotheosis of Princess Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales (1796-1817) by Henry Howard RA (London 1769 ¿ Oxford 1847), 1818.The princess, holding her still-born baby, rises to the sky attended by two angels. Below is a lady with upraised hands and another is prostrate. Princess Charlotte (1796-1817), only child of George IV (1762-1830) and Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821), married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1816. She died in childbirth the following year and the national grief caused by her death may have encouraged Howerd to paint this subject. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/486162

Oil painting on canvas, The Apotheosis of Princess Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales (1796-1817) by Henry Howard RA (London 1769 ¿ Oxford 1847), 1818.The princess, holding her still-born baby, rises to the sky attended by two angels. Below is a lady with upraised hands and another is prostrate. Princess Charlotte (1796-1817), only child of George IV (1762-1830) and Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821), married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1816. She died in childbirth the following year and the national grief caused by her death may have encouraged Howerd to paint this subject. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/486162

Among linen-drapers’ assistants who have risen from the ranks and become eminently successful the following is a remarkable instance:—

A lout of a lad came up from Norfolk, and somehow contrived to obtain employment about an establishment in the city, at that time of little note. He began humbly, as a kind of porter, his work at the outset being to carry parcels, and assist in taking down and putting up the heavy shutters on the windows mornings and evenings. He was a raw, uncouth fellow—tall, thin, and ungainly from rapid growth—his drab corduroys scarcely reaching to his ankles. But he had a clear head on his shoulders, and he had willing hands; and the coarse ill-cultured hobbledehoy wrought his way on perseveringly till he was placed by his observant master among the salesmen. This vantage ground once gained, his greatest difficulty was surmounted, and he took his place among his fellows and maintained it; and, having acquitted himself to the satisfaction of his employer, he was, after a time, occasionally trusted to make a run down to the manufacturing districts to buy. This had been the height of his ambition. To be a buyer! To attain this lofty eminence was the culminating point of his earthly desires; and, when he attained it, his satisfaction was without bounds—it was supreme.

He started by coach from the Swan with Two Necks, Lad Lane, one morning in the beginning of November in the year 1817 to make some purchases. On arriving at the place of his destination late in the evening, he found some other buyers from the city in the hotel; but being little known to them, he kept as much as possible apart. He had his reasons for wishing to avoid coming in contact with them. From information which he had received previous to starting on his journey, and which he had thought carefully over on his way down, he had a game to play, and he meant to play it well, thoroughly, out and out. It is said that he was secretly, but busily engaged all the following day, among the manufacturers, buying up right and left, but keeping down all suspicion of his motives as much as possible, the entire stock in the market of one article. News did not then travel so rapidly as they do now by rail and telegraph, and it was not till the coaches arrived that night or next morning, that the astounding intelligence was brought of the unexpected death of the Princess Charlotte. The London buyers of goods were instantly agog for the interest of their respective employers; but, to their extreme mortification, they found that, except trifling morsels, every packet of mourning crape in the town and neighbourhood had been bought up. Our Norfolk youth, now metamorphosed into a buyer, had secured it all.

Having done his work, he set off home, and communicated to his master what he had done. The master was a plain-sailing man; he had saved his money rather than made it, and he was uneasy. It was a speculation beyond the range of his ideas to buy up the whole of any commodity whatever, and, most of all, of the whole manufactured black crape in the country. He did not like it. The longer he thought over the transaction, the more the temerity of his buyer alarmed him. And, when van after van began to arrive at the warehouse, setting down absolute mountains of the rather bulky commodity, the poor man wrung his hands—he was in despair. Every corner of the warehouse was filled with crape; every hole and cranny was stuffed with it; pile upon pile rose in vast pyramids before the eyes of the bewildered man, shutting out of sight the other portions of the stock, and making a passage through the premises nearly impracticable. Crape, crape, nothing but crape was visible on floor, and shelf, and counter; the horrid article was everywhere, to the exclusion of everything else, above or below.

The unfortunate linen-draper in the anguish of his heart cursed the Norfolk lad, bitterly lamenting the hour in which he had unluckily permitted his imprudent assistant to go out unrestricted as to the extent of his purchases. Ruin was manifestly staring him in the face, and he insensibly began to calculate how much might be saved from the wreck wherewith to compound with his creditors. Not so the worker of all the mischief. He had faith in himself. He did his best to console and soothe his employer by assuring him of what he felt confident would turn out to be the fact—that the whole retail trade of the United Kingdom would require to come to them for their supplies, and that they would obtain any prices they pleased.

The lamentation for the death of the Princess Charlotte was so sincere and so universal, that the mourning worn at her decease, out of sympathy for her untimely end, was much more general than is usual on the demise of members of the royal family, and, consequently, the demand for black crape for mourning was in proportion unprecedented. The vast stock rapidly disappeared, and the general trade of the concern was thereby greatly improved; the foundation of a princely fortune was laid, and in due time a partnership, and after that, the hand of his master’s daughter, rewarded the services of the bold crape buyer.

MacMillan’s Magazine, Vol. 7, David Masson, editor, 1863, p. 35-36

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The mourning for the death of Princess Charlotte was quite unprecedented. The British public had hoped to put the madness of King George III and the mad extravagances and follies of the Regent behind them with this romping girl. But, alas, it was not to be: she died giving birth to a still-born son 6 November, 1817, setting off the Great Marriage Stakes among the sons of George III, all of whom had large families with their mistresses.

Much as we may applaud the winning form of the Norfolk lad, mourning for the late Princess went far beyond crape. Many mourning artifacts survive, such as this pendant.

And this ring.

And images of her tomb in wax, prints of her funeral, and an image of her apotheosis, complete with royal infant ascending to the Heavens.

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.