Category Archives: Textiles

The Grey Plaid: 1870s

“In the farm-house of T—, where I spent my youth, there lived an old woman named Elspeth M’Kinnon, who was accounted famous for the gift of second sight. Now this old crone was the object of my greatest aversion. Not only was she in the highest degree witchlike in her appearance, being dwarfish in stature, bent almost double, small-eyed, wide-mouthed, and having a sharp chin fringed with a beard, but she was always sitting away in odd nooks and corners peering out at one with eyes glaring and cat-like in their expression, and muttering to herself in a language wholly unintelligible to other ears than her own.  “Had I been permitted to have my own way I am afraid old Elspeth would never have been allowed to pass the remainder of her days at T—, but fortunately for her those in authority did not regard her in the same unpleasing light that I did. They considered her to be a poor helpless creature who had a claim on their kindness owing to her having been for many years a servant in my father’s family, and they reverenced her as a seer.

It is, perhaps, needless to tell you that Elspeth prided herself on her reputed gift, which it seems she inherited from her mother; and nothing enraged her so much as when any one doubted, or feigned to doubt, her prophetic powers.

“Boy-like, I loved to tease her upon this point, pretending that I was similarly endowed like herself; that whilst wandering amongst the mountains I had seen singular visions, and I would ask her with a mocking laugh what she thought they portended. Elspeth’s sole answer when thus pressed would be a torrent of reproaches, coupled with warnings of hideous evils which would assuredly overtake me for my wicked unbelief and ridicule of her powers.

“One autumn morning, as I was standing in a barn looking on while some men were grinding corn, a servant girl came in with the intelligence that Elspeth had just told her to stand on one side of the road, as she saw a ‘gathering’ with a corpse on a bier passing by. And that on her saying she did not believe in such things, Elspeth told her that the funeral would soon take place, and that her mother and several others (naming them) would follow the bier. She also described the tartan of the plaid which lay over the corpse.

“Running out of the barn I came upon Elspeth cowering under a hedge, moaning and muttering to herself in her usual strange fashion, when, to make use of her own words, ‘she was under the power of the sight.’ ‘Ha! ha! Elspeth,’ I shouted in derision, ‘and so you have just seen a vision—a bier covered over with a plaid—and what like was the plaid, Elspeth?’

“‘It was red,’ shrieked the beldame, glaring at me with the look of a tigress; ‘red, checkered with green and blue. But grey will be the one just over you, when, in company with another prettier than yourself, you are brought down cold and stiff from the heights of Scuir-na-Gillean!’ [“The hill of the young men.”] ‘Thank you, Elspeth; I am glad you have promised me such a comfortable wrap.’

“This mocking rejoinder drew down upon me a fresh torrent of abuse, which I did not tarry to listen to.

“Those among you who believe in ‘second sight’ will not be surprised when I tell you that Elspeth’s prophecy in regard to the ‘gathering’ that was to be was fulfilled to the very letter, and that within a week after she had given utterance to it. It chanced that a young man residing in a neighbouring cottage was accidentally drowned, and being known to all the residenters in the vicinity of T—, he was followed to the grave by the very people named by Elspeth, and his bier was covered with a plaid checkered as she described.

“Still this strange coincidence by no means cured me of my scepticism. What more likely, I thought, than that when the poor fellow was drowned, his friends, recalling to mind Elspeth’s prophecy, should contrive to aid its fulfilment by appointing these persons she named to follow the bier! And every cottage containing one or more plaids it would be easy to procure one similar in pattern to that described by Elspeth.

“Perfectly satisfied in my own mind that such was a correct explanation of the affair, I only laughed at the more than reverential awe with which Elspeth was now regarded by those credulous enough to place faith in her predictions.

“Shortly after this I went south for a few weeks. On my return I was accompanied by a young Englishman named Vernon, who was desirous of learning something of sheep farming under my father’s instructions. A stranger to mountain scenery, the weird grandeur of the Coolins so delighted him that he was never weary of gazing on their rugged summits when dimly seen through the driving clouds or rose-coloured mists of evening.

“Of a bold adventurous disposition, young Vernon frequently expressed the wish that together we should ascend their giddy heights ere a snowstorm rendered such a feat impracticable. Equally desirous myself of achieving such an undertaking which, as you are well aware, is accounted rather a hazardous one from the frequent avalanches of gigantic stones which crash in every direction, thereby imperilling life and limb, one fine October morning we started on our expedition, which, as agreed upon between us, was carried out sub rosa. We had a mile of hard climbing to encounter ere we reached the mountains; and to us unskilled mountaineers this was by far the most fatiguing part of the undertaking. Our breath came short and thick, and so great was the oppression on our chests that we felt as though we must succumb. Gradually, however, this unpleasant feeling wore off, and by the time we arrived at the foot of the Coolins it had entirely disappeared.

“‘Now for the tug of war,’ said Vernon at sight of the grim barren-looking mountains towering up from our very feet, their wild and savage appearance rendered still more perceptible at our near approach. Nothing daunted, however, onwards we went, and now it was climbing in good earnest. Our progress might not unfrequently be described as that of one step forward and two backward: the loose shingle yielding beneath our feet occasioned this rather unsatisfactory mode of progression. The higher we ascended the greater the difficulties we had to encounter; and in many instances the peril became extreme when the narrow pathway by which we advanced led us to the brink of some giddy precipice where one false step would have precipitated us down into an unfathomable abyss.

“When near the top of the mountain I observed a solitary peak rising up behind the others, and evidently a good deal higher than those surrounding it. Pointing it out to Vernon, I said, ‘Once on that pinnacle we have achieved something to be proud of.’ He smiled assent, and we pushed onward, determined to do or die. After two hours and a half’s incessant clambering we stood upon the summit, panting and breathless, yet esteeming ourselves amply rewarded for our arduous ascent. The mighty Coolins, naked, lofty, and precipitous, surrounded on all sides this strange-looking peak, which we found to our great disappointment unscalable. Taglioni herself would have hesitated to execute a pas seul on the giddy pinnacle, whose point seemed to us fine as that of a needle, It towered up from the centre of the Coolins, solitary in its height and obelisk-like appearance, whilst its sides were polished as those of marble. The surrounding scenery was sublime. Lochs and mountains in endless variety met our gaze. Wherever we turned there was something to admire or wonder at in the freaks of nature.

“Whilst intensely enjoying the beauties surrounding us, imagine our horror at beholding a dense mass of cloud advancing towards us with rapid strides. There was something terrific in its appearance as it sped over the sea, enveloping the sun in its dusky folds, which, now of a fierce lurid red, seemed like an incensed magician glaring at us in anger for having invaded his dominions. In an instant, as it seemed, everything was hidden from view. Mountains, loch, glens, all had disappeared, and we were thoroughly wet, as though we had been submerged in one of the lochs we were so recently admiring.

“The cold on the top of the mountain had now become so intense that our faces were quite excoriated, and there being no further inducement for us to remain, we prepared to descend. Some large flakes of snow were now in the air. We quickened our steps in alarm, for one of us at least was but too familiar with the horrors of a Highland snow-storm.

“Not far from the summit we met two shepherds who had come up in quest of their fleecy charge, many of which lay dead around. In our eagerness to accomplish the descent in safety, we only tarried to make some inquiries respecting the path by which to descend, and to ask the name of the moun­tain on which we stood. At mention of Scuir-na-Gillean I could not restrain a cry of surprise. Old Elspeth’s prophecy flashed across my mind, and now it seemed about to be accomplished. Was I not on the heights of Scuir-na-Gillean, in company with a friend, and surrounded on all sides with indications of a coming snow-storm, which, unless we were enabled to accomplish the descent in less than half the time it took to ascend, might yet prove our winding-sheet!

“Through the glimmer of the fast-darkening day I seemed to see old Elspeth’s skinny hand pointed at me in scorn, and to hear her mocking laugh rise and mingle with the storm now moaning at a distance amongst the wild glens and rocks. As the concluding words of her prediction rose to my recollection, I grasped Vernon by the wrist with a vice-like grasp and plunged madly down the mountain.

***

“Some three or four hours afterwards we were discovered by other shepherds lying underneath the shelter of a huge beetling crag, whither we had crept for safety, not dead, but with the life in us frozen. And the shepherds fold us tenderly in their plaids and bear us in safety to our home, for their feet are familiar with the windings of each giddy path, and their dogs, in their wondrous instinct, are guides that err not.

“Ever after that memorable day I permitted old Elspeth to predict as many deaths and marriages as she pleased without further molestation from me—for had not her prophecy in respect to myself been literally fulfilled?

“Grey was the colour of the plaid which covered me when, in company with another prettier than myself, I was brought down cold and stiff from the heights of Scuir-na-Gillean.”

The Psychological Review, August, 1882: pp. 118-122

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  To be Relentlessly Informative, the mountain is Sgùrr nan Gillean in the Cuillin range on the Isle of Skye. The reality of Second Sight is a fact of life for many on the Isle and throughout Scotland and, like the unnamed young idiot of the tale above, one defies it at one’s peril. He was singularly fortunate in the ambiguity of Elspeth’s Second Sight prophecy and one hopes that he was grovellingly courteous to that lady afterwards. But “I permitted old Elspeth” does not suggest that he took any lesson whatever from his near-death experience.

The “Phantom Funeral” is a particularly common Sight. This footnote to the story gives details:

That invisible funerals—that is, invisible to all save those gifted with the “second sight”—always precede real ones, is a favourite belief with the lower class of Highlanders in the islands of Tiree, Mull, and Skye. The writer of this paper was once solemnly assured by an inhabitant of Mull that a friend of hers was repeatedly knocked down one evening while coming along a road then occupied by a train of spiritual mourners.

That funereal-minded person over at Haunted Ohio has written several posts that tell of phantom funerals: Phantom Funerals and Tokens of Death. A most unsettling and unpleasant thing to meet in the road…

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.

$35,000 a Year to Dress a “Deb”: 1924

 

$35,000 a Year to Dress a “Deb”!

Dressmakers to the “400” Tell How the Modern Society Girl Wears Annually 30 Evening Gowns, 250 Pairs of Stockings, 25 Pairs of Shoes, 30 Hats, 2 Dozen Negligees, 1 Dozen Evening Wraps, and a $25,000 Coat!

When one of New York’s smartest dressmakers announced the other day that nobody could dress on less than $35,000 in a year, a lot of people clutched their pocketbook with one hand and held up the other hand in horror.

But not the debutante. Not, either, the debutante’s mother in the his year of grace 1924. Nor, indeed, the debutante’s father. They knew that the dressmaker’s estimate was conservative. “I only hope my daughter will cut her wardrobe expenses down to $35,000!” was the sincere groan of many a plutocratic parent.

Of course when the dressmaker said nobody could dress on less than $35,000 a year, she referred to anybody feminine who was “anybody” in New York City. Even in Manhattan there are girls who spend less than $500 a year for clothes. But they are not the girls who get their names into the society column.

To the innocent bystander, however, whose name never gets near the society column than the death notices, advertisements and “marriage licenses issued today,” that $35,000 remark was a smash between the eyes. “How,” said the innocent bystander, fingering his last $1 bill, “can any woman not only not get along on less than $35,000 for clothes and incidentals alone—but how, on clothes and incidentals alone, can she spend so much?”

The easiest answer is: “Easily.” But after all, that doesn’t tell the innocent bystander much about what it’s all for, so this innocent bystander galumphed up to the source of the hair-raising remark and asked how come, with specifications, explanations and itemized particulars.

Fay Lewisohn

Miss Fay Lewisohn

She’s a surprisingly young and girlish person, this Fay Lewisohn who made the statement which has ever since been causing squawk of dismay. Perhaps it is worth noting that the squawks come from people—like oneself, for example—who haven’t anything like $35,000 to spend on anything, let alone on clothes. Her establishment is in the most fashionable-dressmaker section of West Fifty-seventh street, which as the initiate know is at present the ultra fashionable district for the modistes whose clientele is truly exclusive.

“How can a woman spend $35,000 a year on dress?” is the question directed at the slim, attractive young woman who announces herself as proprietor of the place.

The slim, attractive young woman shrugged. “How can she help it?” is her answer.

“Well, but after all—”

The modiste smiled. “Oh, I’m talking about the woman of wealth and social position. Naturally, every one who comes to my shop for an occasional gown doesn’t spend that much on clothes; perhaps not in a lifetime. I myself don’t spend that much on clothes in a year.

“But perhaps you don’t realize that there are dozens of women in New York today to whom $35,000 as an annual outlay for dress, cosmetics and so on, is not an extravagance. I know one woman who has a yearly contract with a modiste for $50,000 worth of clothes. There are society women who easily spend that much. Just as there are people who spend $50 a month for a house and others who pay $15,000 a year for an apartment. The thing is relative, you know.”

The modiste, it seemed, got a fair profit and no more. “It is possible that by some lucky chance a woman might find a cheap dressmaker who would turn her out, as well as one whose prices were higher. That is an unlikely chance; but it might happen. However, what the society woman wants is a quiet, attractive place in which to inspect gowns. She wants to see those gowns displayed by refined, high-class models. Naturally, both these requisites mean high rent and good salaries.”

Your murmur about the overhead expense brought an emphatic nod.

“Moreover, the very materials in the clothes themselves are expensive even before the scissors and needle touch the goods. Brocades at, say, around $100 a yard, send the price of a gown up, rather.”

Rather!

“There is an East Indian, for example, who brings me marvelously embroidered silks straight from India. He drapes them around the models and they really need, oftentimes, very little cutting or sewing. But the materials themselves are almost museum pieces. Some are antiques. And, of course, they are very valuable.

“Another big item in sending up the price of a frock is the actual labor upon it. Labor I these days and in this city, especially skilled needlework, is high. On a first-class gown which has many yards of an intricately beaded pattern, each bead must be sewn on with care so that it won’t pull off. These patterns often are works of art and it requires almost artists to bead them. Do you know that the beading on one gown, when properly done, may take several weeks?”

These were matters worthy of consideration. But how many of these gowns would a sure-enough social leader need in the course of a year? And how much would such a gown cost?

It depended, naturally, on the taste of the patron and the amount of beading.

“A gown of this type, beautifully done, might run into many hundreds of dollars. It might be five hundred dollars, six hundred—the material itself would, of course, be a determining factor. I am speaking, by the way, of a gown on which the modiste would make a legitimate profit; not of a gown for which the modiste would charge every dollar she thought she could extort.

“A debutante may easily spend $35,000 a year for clothes and really get her money’s worth. Without being cheated by the modiste.”

You began to see how this was so.

“Now, for instance,” the modiste continued, “a girl who moves in what is known as high society needs about thirty evening gowns. She doesn’t plan to wear any costume more than two or three times; some of them only once. It is not too much to say that thirty evening gowns would cost her $9000.

“She would require 250 pairs of stockings. These would cost on a average, perhaps $9 a pair; an item of $2250 for hosiery alone. Of course, some stockings would cost much more than $9 a pair.”

As a matter of fact, a shop in the vicinity of Fifth avenue and Forty-second street has had on display within the year a pair of stockings priced at $500. Not $500 each, you understand; but $500 for the pair, or $250 each. They were perfectly simple black silk hose, with a large medallion of lace on the front.

The same shop had another pair of quite good-looking silk and lace stockings for $250.

But the modiste was going on with her itemized bill of wardrobe expenses. Shoes, she agreed, could cost anything you want to spend on them, but $2000 wasn’t too much for some women. A lady who wanted her feet to look really chic would require, at the least twenty-five pairs of shoes, and this was a low estimate.

Hats? Of course, you could get a good little hat for $35. Or you could get a stunning little thing for $100. Anyway, the lady would need at least thirty hats and she could easily spend from $1200 to $2100 before she got out of the millinery department.

By this time you begin to see that milady has run up quite a sizable bill. But the end is by no means yet. How about lingerie? How about lounging robes for the boudoir? How about the perfumes and powders, the creams and other cosmetics with which the boudoir dressing table is stacked?

Of course, a negligee is whatever you please. It is, so to speak, an elastic garment. It may be a cotton wrapper or a thing exquisite as sunshine on the sea. The negligee of the social leader is of this latter type. And you’d be surprised at how expensive it is to put the sunshine on the sea into figured silk and chiffon.

“A dozen negligees are not too many” –it is the voice of authority which speaks; “many women have many more than a dozen. They might easily cost a little more than $200 apiece, or $2500 for the dozen.

“As for lingerie—I have just finished a set of lingerie, for a bride, which is valued at $10,000. I have made other sets for $15,000; that is to say, a dozen of each garment. The set which I have just finished was of hand-made filet lace and Italian silk of special quality. The wedding gown, priced at $600, was intricately beaded with crystal. One could get a really lovely wedding gown, as a matter of fact for around $300. But, of course, this is without the veil. The veil may cost as much as one is willing to pay—

“It may be a few almost priceless yards of antique lace, made in some convent of the Middle Ages.

“The more usual lingerie, of finest linen or silks and exquisite laces, would cost about $3600 for two dozen sets.

 

“A dozen evening wraps would be part of the society woman’s wardrobe. It is difficult to put a price on them. They might cost several hundred dollars each, depending on what fur was used for the collars and other decorations.

“There are such things as fans, too, which vary tremendously in price. These would mount at least into the hundreds. Corsets, too, are expensive when well made and made to order. The materials are costly, also. Seventy dollars is the price of one corset which makes no pretense to embroidery or other ornamentation. The price is for the best quality of brocade and of silk elastic and for the model itself.

“You understand, further that a social leader could not possibly buy her furs within that $35,000 which I have allowed her for a wardrobe. Furs would have to be extra. For a handsome coat $15,000 is not an unusual price and $25,00 would more likely be the figure.

“This leaves what are known as incidentals. They include hairdressing and all that goes with this art; beauty treatments, with cosmetics, perfumes at—say–$30 an ounce—and things of the sort. Cigarettes, too, may be put with the incidentals. Many society women smoke the brands that come in fifteen or twenty cent packages, but you may, if you wish, have the sort that has a monogram, a special blend of tobacco and a little dab of cotton inside the cork tip to absorb the nicotine and keep it from touching the lips. Without the monogram these can be obtained for around eleven cents each.

“No, not each packet. Each cigarette.

“For incidentals we may safety estimate that a society woman spends $5000 yearly.”

The modiste drew a long breath. So did you.

“Well, you see,” she said.

You did, indeed.

New Britain [CT] Herald 7 October 1924: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil, who has previously shared information on the account-books of the very rich (The Cost of a Fine Lady, What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe, Where that $10,000 a Year Dress Allowance Goes, and The Cost of a Curtsey), wonders if these articles are a form of what she has heard called “humble-bragging,” or if they are meant to be inspiration for the ten-shillings-a-week shop-girl to set her sights on an elderly peer or millionaire?

Although she inexplicably omits essentials such as hand-bags, vanity cases, and jewels, Miss Lewisohn knew a thing or two about the sartorial needs of the society woman. She was the heiress to the Randolph Guggenheim millions. She was often in the news: Her engagement to one William Burton (of a Park Avenue address) was announced 23 February 1919; the engagement was reported as broken on 2 April, 1919, with her mother saying that the couple was “Too young to know their own hearts.” In 1921 she had to issue a statement denying that she was marrying a Russian prince; while in 1922, she announced the opening of her dressmaking establishment, in partnership with Mrs. Basil Soldatenkov, wife of the former Russian envoy under the Czar. She also married Jack Rothstone, brother of Broadway gambler Arnold Rothstein in 1928; divorcing him in 1934.

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 Lace-Smuggler’s Narrative: 1858

A SMUGGLER’S NARRATIVE.

“We shall be, my dear madam,” said I to a fellow passenger in the Dieppe boat, taking out my watch, but keeping my eye steadily upon her, “we shall be in less than ten minutes at the custom house.” A spasm—a flicker from the guilt within—glanced over her countenance.

“You look very good-natured, sir,” stammered she.

I bowed, and looked considerably more so, in order to invite her confidence.

“If I was to tell you a secret, which I find is too much to keep to myself, oh, would you keep it inviolable?”

“I know it, my dear madam—I know it already,” said I, smiling; it is lace, is it not?”

She uttered a little shriek, and, yes, she had got it there among the crinoline. She thought it had been sticking out, you see, unknown to her.

“Oh, sir,” cried she, “it is only ten pounds’ worth; please to forgive me, and I’ll never do it again. As it is I think I shall expire.”

“My dear madam,” replied I, sternly but kindly, “here is the pier, and the officer has fixed his eye upon us. I must do my duty.” I rushed up the ladder like a lamplighter; I pointed that woman out to a legitimate authority; I accompanied her upon her way, in custody, to the searching house. I did not see her searched, but I saw what was found upon her, and I saw her fined and dismissed with ignominy. Then, having generously given up my emoluments as informer to the subordinate officials, I hurried off in search of the betrayed woman to her hotel.

I gave her lace twice the value of that she had lost. I paid her fine, and then I explained. “You, madam, had ten pounds’ worth of smuggled goods about your person; I had nearly 50 times that amount. I turned informer, madam, let me convince you, for the sake of us both. You have too expressive a countenance, believe me, and the officer would have found you out at all events, even as I did myself. Are you satisfied, my dear madam? If you still feel aggrieved or injured by me in any manner, pray take more lace; here is lots of it.”

We parted the best of friends.

Liverpool [Merseyside, England] Mercury 28 September 1858: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a very thoughtful gentleman-smuggler!  Too many in this world think only of themselves. The narrator restores our faith in humanity!

The smuggling of lace and other luxury goods was not only a highly-lucrative profession, it was something of a sport for young ladies, as we have seen in a previous post where the unrepentant culprits told their father, “But every woman on the ship is smuggling, and it is such fun.’.

Some smugglers felt that ladies had a better chance of evading detection, such as the youth who impersonated a widow, complete with a sham infant built on a bottle of dutiable brandy and stuffed with laces.

And fashionable garments provided many useful hiding places. Crinoline, for example:

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

or the bustle:

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

This lady’s maid must have been quite a strapping young woman to carry this contraband:

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. [63.9 lbs!] of Belgian tobacco concealed in her crinoline.

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

This lady, who cleverly took advantage of the normal cycles of life to bypass the customs officers, did not know when to stop:

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

 

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.

 

An Undine with a Soul: 1892

green and pink gown

Green and pink gown by the House of Worth, 1897, Chertsey Museum

AN UNDINE WITH A SOUL.
How a Clever New York Maiden Saved Her Social Fortunes.

Special Correspondence Sunday Post-Dispatch.

New York. Gift making is over and all the world is duly thankful, a large part of it that the holiday pother is well ended, here and there an individual for what has not been received. This is notably the case with a young woman much addicted to artistic yearning and full of a fine feeling for color. Though the best circles here receive her with open arms, it is wholly because of her personal charm, backed with substantial expectations. Her family is good enough, not distinguished, and only comfortably endowed with this world’s goods. Her father claims a cross of Knickerbocker blood. Her mother comes of thrifty trader-folk, clean and honest, but wholly unaesthetic. There is a childless rich aunt, the mother’s sister, widow of a retired grocer, for whose garmenting gorgeous is a poor pale word. Fair, fat and fifty; she revels in big hats all over sky blue feathers, in velvet gowns of green and scarlet aflaunt with white lace; in brocades that would do admirably as wall tapestries; in tea-gowns calculated to make a self-respecting rainbow go out of business; in bracelets and lockets and chatelaines, distinctly audible as far as eye can reach. In fact the good lady lives to be clothed. Style is her fetish, and she offers to it a perpetual oblation of good, hard cash, expended for “all the latest things.”

Notwithstanding she shows the family thrift otherwise. The beauty, as her namesake and prospective heiress, has a reasonable claim upon her generosity. It is one, though, that the young woman most willingly waives. All her life particularly at Christmas times she has been endowed with things that her aunt bought, wore and laid aside the season before, and woe to the recipient if she dares to leave them unworn. Since she came out. two winters back, they have been the nightmare of her existence. Between tears and laughter she told me of her struggles with one particularly flamboyant gown, a grass-green silk all betagged and befrilled with vulgarly deep pink, and aglitter with crystal passementeries in the bargain. It was as rich and costly as it was ugly and to the donor’s mind exactly the thing the girl needed to wear at a swell dinner party with dancing after it, two weeks in prospect. The victim of it thought otherwise. The invitation was the first that had come to her from the really swagger set. If she did not do credit to it it would be also the last. To go in that impossible gown was to foredoom herself to social failure. What could she be but a dumb fright under the oppression of that rainbow horror? Yet not to wear it might cost her eventually a solid quarter million. It was a case of her face or her fortune, and she did not care to sacrifice either. There was nothing for it but diplomacy. Taking her courage in both hands, she stripped off every vestige of the pink, and with it ornamented a loose white cashmere house-robe, where the effect was not half so bad. This she sent to her aunt as a birthday gift, intimating that only the elder lady’s magnificent complexion could bear such rich color. Then the green remnant was veiled and swathed in clouds of pink and white tulle, layer upon layer, with crystal drops here and there and trails of water grass and lilies on the corsage and about the waist. Thus gowned, with an emerald pendant on her bare white throat, green slippers, green stockings, a white and green fan, the young woman was voted an Undine with a soul and her social success assured. But it was a narrow escape–a harrowing experience–one, too, that she feared was to be indefinitely repeated. There were three brocades in her aunt’s wardrobe that it seemed certain the Christmas just past would precipitate on her devoted head. A line in a fashion letter saved her. It read, ‘”Old brocades are more stylish than new, now that the texture is again in fashion.” By consequence, at the eleventh hour the aunt bought for her niece a bonbonniere as big as your two hands, all over gilt and flowers, and sent for her modiste to see what were the possibilities of the gowns she could not bring herself to part with.

blue and gold velvet dress 1895

1895 velvet and brocade gown. ttps://artsandculture.google.com/asset/dress/cQEsM1SnLWPe2g

So here is a new use for the fashion letter. Certainly womankind should be grateful to it for it brings much of sweetness and light into the chaos of feminine costume. The sentence quoted is frozen fact. The happiest, she is the one who had a grand aunt or mother considerate enough to leave her a chest full or even one gown of the rich old-fashioned taffeta brocade. One that I saw resurrected the other day was as freshly beautiful as though it had not come out of Paris 120 years ago. The ground was a rich chocolate brown satin brocaded with a cluster of cherries and their leaves in natural tints, alternating with poppy clusters in shaded red and yellow. It was made with a very long waist pointed and opening quite to the bottom over a stomacher of yellow lace. The same yellow lace made a tucker in the low square neck and triple ruffles for the elbow sleeves. The skirt opened in front and was looped away from a petticoat of plain brown satin short enough to show the high heeled red shoes with big bows and silver buckles and even a tiny bit of the red clocked stockings. Behind the brocade swept out into a train full three yards long, lined throughout with yellow brown paduasoy. Its first wearer was a colonial dame of renown—a vice regal lady whose stately beauty is the most cherished tradition of her descendants. This costume, which figured at more than one historic ball, has been kept intact even to fan and gloves, which by the way are as long as the longest of our period. It was brought to light with some faint idea of remodeling it into a ball-gown for a great-great granddaughter. In the end it was decided to leave it alone. There are hints, though, of a colonial costume ball for the benefit of the Mary Washington Monument association. If they take form and substance it is safe to say the brown brocade will appear and ruffle with the best.

 

 

Failing old brocade you may buy new ones twice as beautiful in all the delicate evening shades—blues like a dream of heaven or the shimmering summer sea, pale tea-rose pinks, shot stuff, opalescent as the tints of dawn or as full of changing hues as a pigeon’s purple neck; cream amber, Indian red, jonquil yellow, pearl, dead white, black, gray, crimson, all in the most lustrous weaves, with a pattern of lace festoons or true love knots, or stars or spots or crescents in self-tones running all over them. Other sorts have delicate flowers or bouquets colored to the life; still others sheaves of wheat in gold or silver, or suns or moons or intricate arabesque tracery in the same precious metals. In making up the brocade forms either a coat bodice in front with a velvet train, or else a trained skirt with bodice of fine cloth, or may be a court train and sleeves to a princess gown the color of its ground.

The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY] 27 December 1891: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  We must applaud the very diplomatic young woman, even if she is much addicted to artistic yearning.  Few, if any of us, could so deftly steer between the Scylla of social ruin and the Charybdis of an aunt having a quarter million in her gift.  The Undine gown sounds enchanting. And the pink-trimmed cashmere house-robe and its attendant compliment to the aunt’s complexion was a sheer stroke of genius.

The House of Worth was noted for its exquisite brocades, often woven à la disposition or with metallic threads. The descriptions above could have come from a vendeuse tempting the Undine’s aunt at Maison Worth.

 

As a side-light, Mrs Daffodil was full of anxiety over the fate of the yellow-brown “paduasoy,” for fear that it had been remodeled, i.e. vandalised, into a ball gown for some heedless debutante. It was with a feeling of profound relief that she heard that it was left alone, although there was still the threat of the colonial costume ball. We have previously read of the historic costumes worn on such occasions in An Imposter at the Concord Ball. It is a dress-historian’s worst nightmare.

 

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 Nation that Shops: 1906

 

Christmas Holiday Shopping Begins

THE NATION THAT SHOPS

By Mrs. John Van Vorst

Some distinguished Englishman, after visiting the United States, remarked that Americans “would be a great people if they didn’t shop so much.”

Shopping is, it must be admitted, the national American occupation.

The city of New York, built on a long and very narrow island, suggests the tube of a thermometer, and the population can well be likened to mercury: they fluctuate in a mass, now up, now down, moved by the impelling atmosphere of the shopping centres. Apart from the business men, who, on their way to and from their offices, crowd the subways and elevated roads in the morning and evening hours, there is a compact body composed chiefly of women and girls in the surface cars at given moments of the day. Towards 9 a.m. they are transported to the shopping district centred about Broadway and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, between Eighth and Fifty-ninth Streets. They shop assiduously until hunger calls them, reluctant, homeward; but, having lunched, they return for a further fray, which lasts until five or six o’clock in the afternoon.

Pouring into town from another direction, are the suburbanites, whose exile from the island-city compels them to take a ferry in order to reach the field of chosen activities. With tender consideration, the needs of these “out-of-town shoppers” have been met by the stores, which provide cheap lunch-rooms or restaurants situated in the upper regions of the lofty store buildings. Given such facility for eating, away from home, the serious bargain hunter can continue throughout the day, uninterrupted, her work.

Where do they all come from, you ask? Who are they, these women with nothing to do but shop?

America, it should always be remembered in judging it, came into existence definitely at about the same time with the so-called “labour-saving” machine. There is no country in the world, doubtless, where in all classes womanly pursuits have been so wholly abandoned, and the “ready-made” so generally substituted for the “home-made” in the household organism. A single instance is striking enough to give some idea, at least, of what the American woman doesn’t do.

Wishing to buy a gold thimble when in New York not long ago, I went to the most fashionable jeweller’s, and was somewhat surprised when the clerk drew from the depths of a drawer a tray with three thimbles on it.

“Are these all you have?” I asked.

He answered rather peremptorily: “We can make you a gold thimble to order. We don’t carry any assortment. There’s no sale for them nowadays.”

So here, to begin with, is one category of shopper: the woman who never sews, but who buys ready-made her own and her children’s clothes and underclothes. She chooses the cheapest confections, gets what wear she can out of them, and discards them when they begin to give way, arguing that it “doesn’t pay” to mend. This convenient logic, together with a very conscientious scanning of the advertised bargain lists, leads her to consider shopping in the light of an economy, a domestic necessity, and herself as a diligent housewife.

“But when she has children,” you very justly exclaim, “what does she do with them?”

If they are too young to go to school, she brings them with her into the overheated, dusty rooms of the crowded stores. When they are babies in arms, she trundles them in the perambulator to the threshold of the inward whirlpool, and there, in the company of other scions, she abandons them temporarily. At a popular shop I have seen a side vestibule crowded with little carriages. Now and then, as the wail of some one infant rose, heart-rending, above the others, an anxious and busy mother, having recognised from within the call of her young, rushed out, readjusted conditions for the immediate comfort of the baby concerned, and returned to the more alluring considerations of a bargain counter.

It is perhaps for such domestic reasons, perhaps for causes which affect more generally the evolution of retail shop keeping, that trade of every sort is concentrated more and more under the single roof of the so-called department store in America. As in London, so in New York, everything from the proverbial elephant to the ordinary toothpick may be bought at the stores….

Aside from the primary category of women who shop with the idea of domestic economy, there is another class who likewise no doubt exist only in the United States.

Talking not long ago with a rising young lawyer about the American habit of “living up to one’s income,” I was interested in what he told me, for it represents the situation of a large class of American business and professional men.

“They often reproach us Americans,” he said, “for our thriftlessness. They don’t realise how many expenses are forced involuntarily upon us. I, for example, was recently given charge of an important case with the condition specified that part of the large fee I received was to be immediately re-expended in making more of an outlay, generally. My offices were considered too modest for the counsel of a great financial company. I was obliged to move. I had also to rent a larger house in the country, to have more servants, and the rest. Materially, so to speak, I represent my clients, and if they keep on increasing in importance I shall be obliged to buy property and to own a motor car!”

All these enforced expenditures entail a multitude of minor extravagances which devolve upon the wife, who becomes, in consequence, an assiduous shopper. She shops, not because she has any especial needs, nor because she entertains, or has even any social life whatever, but because her husband is making money, which must be spent as a testimony to the world of his flourishing position. This category of shopper buys the finest linen for her vacant house, the most costly silver and china; she chooses diamonds which are to glitter unseen unless she wears them in the street—which, it has been observed, she very often does. She buys laces and furs, and what she has is “of the best, the very best.”

How does she educate her taste, we ask? For her taste is remarkably good, and bears even a high reputation among the Parisian dressmakers with whom she soon begins to deal.

She is imitative, she is adaptable, she seems to have no ingrained vulgarity, no radical commonness which, given the proper example to follow, she cannot shake off.

And where, in the matter of shopping, does she find this example?

In the newspapers, in the reports of what is being purchased from day to day by the élite circle who have devoted their lives to the cultivating of their tastes.

The owner of one of the largest stores in New York said to me: “In France they have periodical sales, which are advertised by the different shops a year in advance. Such a thing is impossible here. If you go any day to one of the big dress stores in Paris, you will see exactly the same pattern that you saw there ten years before: there is a whole class of people who, no matter what the passing fashion may be, dress about alike. Here”—he threw up his hands and laughed—“everybody wants to be dressed like the leaders of Society. If they see in the paper that one of them has worn some new thing at a ball, there are five thousand of them the next day who want that thing, and who are going to have it, whether they ran afford it or not.”

“So you give it to them? ”

“That’s our business—watching every caprice of the buying public. We can’t plan for any sales, we can only every now and then take advantage of a chance we may have to get cheap something the public is after. Then we can offer them a bargain.”

This lightning communication of the fashion news among shoppers extends to the smallest towns. One of the “queens” of society having appeared at the races last spring in a plum-coloured Paris gown, a ripple of “plum colour” ran over America, sounding in the ears of the manufacturers, ever on the alert. One of them said to me: “There’s nothing pretty in that plum colour, but our mills have had to put everything aside and run the looms on plum colour for five solid weeks.”

When it comes to these worldly “queens” who set the fashion, shopping in New York takes formidable proportions. We have here the estimate of the amount spent on dress per year by many a rich American woman. The items were given by the “fournisseurs” themselves.

shopping in New York annual expenditure.JPG

The number of women in New York who spend fifteen thousand dollars a year on clothes is estimated at two thousand! It is not surprising, is it, that the New York shops should have the air of existing for women only? There are a few men’s furnishers and tobacco dealers who have made a name for themselves, but one finds them in the basement entrance of mansions whose facades are gay with the hats and gowns and laces that form such a gigantic item in the New York woman’s daily expenses…

The fact that two thousand women, without arousing even passing comment, should each of them spend annually on her clothes so important a sum as fifteen thousand dollars, sufficiently proves how exorbitantly expensive every trifling luxury becomes when it has been produced in or imported to the United States.

The Empress Eugenie, deploring the faux luxe of to-day, and recalling, no doubt, certain reflections made, at an unhappy moment, upon her own extravagance, wrote recently in a letter: “During all the time I was Empress I had only three dresses which cost each as much as a thousand francs: one for my wedding, one for the christening of the Prince Imperial, one for the Exposition of 1858.”

This thousand francs, which clad an Empress in such gowns as will long be remembered, is the price paid by the ordinarily successful New York broker’s wife for her ordinary little toilettes. But, while it is difficult for her to obtain a walking frock for less than two hundred dollars, her poor sister of the tenement district finds American machine-made clothes cheaper even than they are in Europe. And so it goes through all the category of articles to be found in the New York stores: the very rich and the very poor find what they are looking for. Those who have “moderate incomes” are constantly embarrassed between wanting the nice things they can’t afford and having to buy the nasty productions they don’t want.

The result is just this: everything that is fashionable is hastily copied in cheap qualities. If you are looking in a New York shop for solid, sober dress-goods, for example, to offer to a family retainer, you will be given, unless you are very explicit, the flimsy, low-grade copy of some stuff you have just seen on the backs of the rich.

This system has its advantages: in the matter of boots and shoes the cheapest ready-made dealer provides his clients with foot-covering copied in form at least from the best models procurable. And his customer, whatever may be his rank in life, car conductor or country store clerk, wears good-looking boots of which he is very evidently proud!…

In all the large department stores, and in the first-class boutiques generally, the credit system is in vogue. Doubtless this is a whet to the reckless spirit of the assiduous shopper. We read of a certain lady belonging to this category, who died quite recently in Brooklyn, New York. It was found that her “mania for shopping” was such that, during four years’ time, she had had charged to her account at the stores two hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of things for which she had no use whatever! Her spacious home was filled with unopened parcels! One room, it was found, contained nothing, from floor to ceiling, but handkerchiefs. Shopping at this rate, it will be seen, becomes something in the nature of a passion, and perhaps it could not reach this degree of intensity without the facility for “charging.”

If the American shopkeeper be lenient, and very cunningly so, in trusting his customers, he is uncompromising about taking back things that have once been delivered. “No goods exchanged” is the warning which stands in glaring evidence at the threshold of the different departments. Exceptions, of course, are made for customers of long enduring reputation.

As for advertising, it suffices to scan a Sunday newspaper, or to lift one of the American magazines with its hundred and fifty pages of advertisements, to realise how keenly alive to shopping suggestion is the American woman. It is commonly understood, in fact, that the “wash day” in the middle-class American family has been changed from the traditional Monday to Tuesday, so that the housewives can take advantage of the “bargains” set forth in alluring type among the folios of the Sunday journals.

In a recent book on “Modern Advertising,” We learn that preparing the réclames for a large department store is almost as complicated an affair as compiling a daily paper. What the influence of these announcements is, is proved by a single resulting fact. For years there was a prejudice in America against doing anything—even shopping-on a Friday. So gradually, in order to attract shoppers on that ill-fated day, the storekeepers adopted the habit of proclaiming special Friday bargains and sales. Next to Monday there is no day now when the shops are so thronged as on Friday!…

The “strenuousness” of the shopper’s life is indicated by the presence in all large stores of an emergency hospital, a physician and a trained nurse to take care of the “women who faint” or collapse on their busy rounds…

The usual traditional empressé manner of clerks is debarred in American shops. Urging and coaxing, proposing, suggesting, are the salesman’s trump cards in France. They act only as an irritant with the Westerner, whose psychology, as we have seen, is somewhat peculiar. At one of the large New York stores frequent complaints were preferred, by the customers, regarding the “eagerness” of the clerks. “They only annoy us,” the fair shoppers explained, “by their politeness. We can choose for ourselves, I guess—that’s just what we go shopping for!”

The Pall Mall Magazine, Volume 37 1906: pp. 744-748

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The hurly-burly of the so-called “Black Friday” is celebrated in legend and song in the United States. Every year, it seems to Mrs Daffodil, there are more casualties in the “Run for the Large-Screen Television Sets;” the “Dash for the Very Latest Video Game,” or “The Race for the Last Must-Have Toy.”  It is always a matter of wonder that there are so few fatalities.

 

 

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 Fin-de-siècle Bow: 1896

It Flaunts From the Bonnet and Adorns the Lapdog.

THE NEW MARLBOROUGH KNOT.

The Bow and the Bloomer Not Harmonious—A Knot That Means Death to the Big Sleeve.

The bow is fashion’s fad. It has burst into bloom everywhere. It is omnipresent. The old, the young, the rich, the poor, every class and condition of femininity has yielded to its magnetic influence and it has become fashion’s crest for 1895. How long it will reign in the feminine heart remains to be seen. Time only can prove that. Gentle woman has cast her own fair form before its shrine and her lingerie, her hosiery, her garters, her shoes, her gowns, her millinery, her neckwear, her fans, flowers, bon bons, her muff, her parasol, every accessory within and every accessory without–everything seen and everything unseen–all, all are decorated with this recent fad of fashion and the power behind fashion’s throne dares not predict where it may end.

Gentle woman has had other fads. She embroidered her gowns with sunflowers and cat tails at one time and in her hand she carried sunflowers and cat tails; later she worshipped at the shrine of the rose, and still more recently she smiled with favor upon the violet. She bowed before Napoleon and Trilby, but her subjection has never in any instance—no, not in all instances put together—been as complete in its nature as in this reign of the bow.

She has gathered the bow from the bric-a-brac and from the piano legs and tied it about her own anatomy—her neck, her knees, her elbows, her waist; she has perched it upon her shoulders and upon her head, and she has encouraged it in every locality to flaunt and obtrude and intrude and protrude, and in all fabrics, and all hues and combinations of hues, solitary and in flocks. It has fluttered; or it has taken root and simply grown and blossomed, and we submit; we are even reconciled. It is absolute femininity; it is in contrast to the new woman and her bloomers. The bow is stationed at the dividing line of sentiment, and while the fin-de-siècle woman bombards our intelligence with her ideas about advancement there is another kind of woman who sews true, old-time feminine sentiment into bows, and with the latter the she bombards the camp of the enemy.

fin de siecle bows asserts itself in millinery

It is impossible to state whether the bow belongs to us on account of its credentials handed down from the period of the empire; whether its popularity is of Japanese origin, or whether it is simply the result of evolution and a final reaction from the English mode that has been in favor for several years. It is with millinery perhaps that the bow takes the greatest liberties. This winter my lady’s bonnet may be simply a bow, and be-spangled or not, just as she likes. It may be built on a wire foundation worn at the front of her head or at the back, and with an aigrette or a jeweled hat pin to stand sponsors for its claim to being a bonnet. It may dart out in front, or flare at the sides, windmill fashion; it may flare at the side of the hat like a great wing, or it may settle over the hat like a pair of wings. It may be as conspicuous as a weather vane or it may nestle back of a bird whose pinions are spread; it may flare at the back of the hat like a bat shaped bulletin, or it may spread its loops to the four points of the compass. It may be even tied in “a true lover’s knot under the chin.” The Priscilla-like maiden is not now much in evidence. The winter-of-’95 maiden is nothing if not smart in her get-up. One of the most striking features in the Vanderbilt trousseau was a Virot bonnet with nodding plumes and wide strings of French flowered ribbon tied under the chin in this same lover’s knot.

fin de siecle bows windmill2

The Marlborough bow, now worn at the back of the neck, is named in honor of this new American duchess. Every dark gown must be lighted up by the Marlborough bow and in most daring colors, too, is this startling neck adornment perpetrated. Deep crimson, magenta, rose pink, apple green, yellow, and all flowered, striped brocaded, and combined with every tint in silk, satin or velvet stripes. It is seen in whatever design in four-inch ribbon the manufacturer can produce. Nothing is too gorgeous for the season’s belle or debutante to utilize in the Marlborough collar and bow. She pins the broad ribbon to place in front, and then winds it about her throat and thoroughly effective is the result produced by the startling and assertive bow she ties at the back of her neck. About the folds of this bow cluster little curls of fluffy hair and the shades in the ribbon blend into her fair pink skin. Woe to her, indeed, when the colors do not harmonize with her complexion and repeat their prevailing tone in her eyes!

fin de siecle bows shoulder

The bow does not flock as much as it did. On last season’s gown it spread itself like a cluster of butterflies about the dress skirt. It now confines itself more to unexpected places, and it perches where you are not looking for it. At a bridesmaid’s dinner given last week in New York one of the most fetching toilettes was made of lavender crepon, and on one shoulder rose in perpendicular lines the loops and ends of an assertive bow made of watermelon-pink velvet. The fan carried by the same person wore also the same sort of a bow.

fin de siecle bows louis XIV sleeve

The Louis XIV. bow is absolutely the latest, and, by the way, it is this bow that is to liberate us from the thraldom of the huge sleeve. Already that feature in attire is beginning to lower its flag of supremacy. The sleeve begins to droop, its shirring is now falling down around the curve of the shoulder; later it will enjoy its final inflation in the huge puff at the elbow and last the bow on the elbow, as illustrated here, will supersede it. This will be some time hence, but it will come. Who could have predicted four years ago the sleeve as we now behold it?

The florist and the confectioner estimate the value of the bow to enhance the attractiveness of their goods. Even the modern modish funeral does not escape, and a large bunch of white chrysanthemums may be tied with six-inch white satin ribbon and hung on to the middle handle of the casket.

fin de siecle bows lingerie

However important are all these conspicuous bows, the true sentiment of the bow never penetrated deeply into the feminine-heart until fair woman applied it to the decoration of her underwear. Every week after she has trimmed her freshly laundered underwear she is as attractive as lace, dimity, dainty ribbon and the half-hidden curves in all their classic outline can make her.  While the bow adorns her underwear, it will stem the tide that tends toward bloomers. My lady ties her robe de nuit with ribbon bows at the neck and wrists and ties a blossom in with the loops. She sews loops of ribbon in among the flounces of her petticoats; she adorns her garters with huge sachet rosettes of ribbon. She runs a tiny ribbon about the neck of her chemise and she perks bows at the shoulders of that same garment. She loops up her nether garments in festoons with bows that duplicate those on the shoulders and she ties her petticoats and her corset covers to place in the same fascinating manner. ‘Tis safe to assert that while she chooses to wield the sceptre of a ribbon bow, as she does now, the world will continue to submit to feminine rule.

HARYOT HOLT CAHOON.

Star Tribune [Minneapolis MN] 24 November 1895: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Most interesting. Mrs Daffodil had no notion that bows would stem the riding tide of bloomerism.  Bloomers, whether on or off the wheel, have always been suspect to certain upright members of society.  In 1891, the Rt. Rev. Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, condemned women bicycle-riders, tactlessly stating that they resembled witches on broomsticks. He also objected to what he believed to be the indecorous posture of ladies on the wheel.

Speaking of Bishop Coxe’s objection to women on bicycles, the Boston Herald says: “The Bishop does not appear to understand that the bicycle is not equipped with a side saddle, and that riding astride is the only way to promulgate this interesting vehicle.” We ought not to be surprised, perhaps, if the Boston woman rides astride [or man-fashion as it was called]  a bicycle, but if so she is lonely among her sex in that accomplishment. The women’s bicycles we have seen are provided simply with a seat, and they are no more required to ride astride than sit astride on an ordinary chair. If the good Bishop thinks that women straddle a bicycle as men do theirs he should request some fair Buffalonian to explain to him the difference. Rochester HeraldThe Gogebic Advocate [Ironwood, MI] 11 July 1891: p. 2

What the Right Reverend Arthur Cleveland Coxe failed to understand is that there is no surer way to arouse public interest in the novel or indecorous than to denounce it from the pulpit. Bows and Bishops will never ban the bloomer or the bicycle.

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 Pine Tree Perfume Cure: 1906

pine needle pillow

PINE TREE PERFUME CURE.

SWEET SCENTS A RESTORER OF TIRED NERVES.

The Odor of the Pines the Perfume That Women Rely on Most Just Now to Drive Away the Blues

Perfumed Sea Salt for Bath

Scented Moth Barriers.

Pine needle and sweet perfumes are used to soothe the nerves of the New York woman. It has been discovered that you need not be out of sorts unless you want to be, and in addition that you can cure your troublesome nerves with nice sweet odors instead of resorting to unpleasant drugs.

The first and most particular rule is that the sweet odors must be natural ones. There must be no made-up perfumes. The scents must be those that grow in the parks and spring up in the woods, that come to life with the budding of the flowers and die down when the flowers fade.

Those who are trying the perfume cure are giving their attention just now to pine scents mostly. If you want to get the genuine pine odor, take a pine pillow no matter how old and lay it near the fire.

In a little while it will begin to warm up and to give out sweet scents. You will be treated to the original odor of the pine.

There is a very nervous and very sensitive woman in New York who treats herself every day to the pine needle cure. When she was away last summer she gathered material for many pillows of pine needles.

When she is tired she takes a pillow and warms it and presently it begins to give out a sweet smell of pines. Then she puts the pillow behind her head and in a little while she feels refreshed.

On days when she is very tired In deed and needs a quick freshing she takes a dozen pillows and heats them very quickly. With these she furnishes her couch. She heaps it high with pillows and then she lies down and breathes the sweet scent. In 15 minutes she feels all right again.

There is an extra nervous woman in town who has a comfortable stuffed with pine needles. She gathered the needles this fall, and then she put them in the comfortable and quilted it just as though she were quilting feathers.

Pretty soon she had a thick, sweet, beautiful covering. It was heavy, but so delicious that she did not mind the weight.

Some nights when she is very weary she sleeps with this heavy pine comfortable over her. Again she heats it and puts it underneath her. It is refreshing, no matter how she uses it.

If you like sweet scents and want to try the perfume cure you can get them by utilizing odds and ends about the house. You will be surprised to find how many you can turn into perfume.

Take apple peelings and dry them and some day when the house seems muggy take a handful and throw them on the stove. Take off the peelings before they begin to burn, but leave them on just long enough to get the delicious fumes they will give out, the fumes that are so delightful when they come out of the oven as baked apples are cooking. Some women keep a chafing dish always handy for the making of sweet scents. Into the chafing dish they can put a little cologne, which when heated will send its fragrance through the room, or they can add a pinch of cinnamon or half a drop of oil of cloves, or even a tiny bit of apple peeling. It takes very little to make a pleasant smell in the room.

The influence of odors upon the spirits can hardly be overestimated. If you will go in a pine forest you are greeted with a smell which is invigorating, in its curious buoyancy.

If you go into a clover field you get an odor which is just as pleasant but altogether different, and this odor can be brought into the house in winter by taking clover heads, drying them and stuffing pillows with them. On some muggy, gloomy day the pillow can be warmed up and you have a perfume which is delightful.

If you want something particularly pleasant take some sea salt and put it in a wide mouthed bottle and pour in a few drops of violet perfume. Close the bottle tight, let it stand a while, then open, and you get the curious smell of salt sea, with a slight tinge of violet, which is always found in salt air.

If you want to take a bath in some thing that is very sweet smelling prepare some sea salt after this fashion: Buy the salt at the drug store; take a big handful of it, lay it in a bottle and add some violet perfume. Let it stand three days and it is ready for the bath.

Another plan is to add to the sea salt a grain of musk, a little essence of violet and finally about a teaspoonful of alcohol. Set the bottle away for three days, turning it twice a day.

When you are ready to take your bath, throw a handful of the sea salt into the water. It will perfume the water without making it too salty. Take a jug of salt, and into a gallon jug pour half an ounce of rose geranium oil and a cup of alcohol. Turn your jug upside down. Let it stand a day or so, and so on until you have worked with it three weeks. The result will be a very nice jug of sweet smells.

There come squares of a preparation of ammonia which can be made into very nice bath vinegar. Take a dozen or more of these solid pieces and add just enough violet perfume to cover them.

Then add spirits of cologne until you have a pint bottle nicely filled. This makes a delicious bath vinegar, which can be used every day for two weeks, for it takes very little to perfume the water.

If you like your hands to smell sweet, and to some people there is something positively intoxicating about a pair of sweet hands, you can make a hand wash by taking a quart of spirits of cologne, put it in a half gallon jug, add an ounce of oil of rose geranium and two grains of musk. Let it stand a week; then fill up with spirits of cologne. At the end of another week you will have as fine a gallon of perfume as you will want. When you are ready to wash your hands, with this sweet mixture take a bowl of warm water and add to it a pinch of powdered borax. Into this put half a wine glass of perfume.

Use no soap, but keep this water for rinsing. It will impart a lasting fragrance which will remain upon your hands from morning until night.

Have you ever tried putting up your winter furs in perfumery? Make some sachets and scatter them through the storage chest, thus using sachet powders instead of camphor. You will find that the moths stay away just as well and the furs come out in the fall smelling sweet. And the same thing with clothes those which you are putting away until spring. Many of them are of cashmere and light wool and you don’t want the moths to get into them. Put them away between layers of sachets and you will find that you will have never a moth.

There is a story told of a woman who spent the summer upon the Jersey coast where mosquitoes are thick. Not wanting to be eaten alive she sprinkled her bedroom with sachet powder until the whole room was filled with the perfume. All night long she slept in peace.

Animals do not as a rule like strong odors, and disease germs are particularly averse to them. A strong odor of rose will drive away many of the contagious diseases, so some scientists affirm, and you can actually keep yourself well by having nice smells around you.

Attar of rose is very effective, but unfortunately it is expensive. Oil of rose geranium is very effective and there are other extracts which can be bought and used to good advantage.

In old fashioned German households the custom prevails of buying a certain amount of good perfume every year. This perfume is bought not to be bottled and preserved, but to be used, and when it disappears more is purchased.

The fad for a distinctive odor is dying away, and women are inclined to scent themselves like an English garden. An English garden is one in which all the common flowers grow, and when you take a sniff of it you do not know whether you are smelling violets or mignonette, geraniums or roses, delicate pansies or strong heliotrope. Thus it is fashionable to mingle your perfumes.

The pine tree scent is the odor of the moment, and wise women are making little bags of pine and heaping them up, so that they and their apartments may smell like a pine tree. New York Sun.

Pointe Coupee Banner [New Roads, LA] 24 March 1906: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The modern “aroma-therapy” industry is nothing new.  So many of the suggestions in this article are still current: persons selling homes are urged to bake an apple pie or boil apple peels and cinnamon to create a “welcome-home” atmosphere. Scented bath-salts and candles are a popular hostess gift. And in this scientific age, when we are supposed to have moved beyond the whimsical theory that germs are animals that will flee at the scent of roses, we find aggressively scented “anti-bacterial” sprays. One can also buy “pine scent” to give the artificial Christmas tree a whiff of holidays past without the necessity of cleaning up pine needles for months afterwards.

One physician claimed that pine-needles were a handy specific for influenza, although Mrs Daffodil is pursing her lips dubiously at the method of delivery:

Pine-Needle Cigar and Cigarettes in Influenza.—As an item of interest, the quickest relief from Influenza which my patients obtain, is through the use of pine-needle cigars and cigarettes. I find that they will act as a preventative, and once the disease has instituted proceedings they act like magic. Any one can make the cigarettes. I have no hesitancy in recommending their use, as nothing is used in their manufacture but the fresh pine needle and the best of tobacco a non-smoker can inhale with no unpleasant effects.—Harry Neafle, M. D., in the Medical News.

The Medical Age Vol. 8, 1890: p. 20

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.