Category Archives: Textiles

The Cunning Tricks of Skillful Fingers: 1874

white rabbit egg dye The Pharmaceutical Era 1887

WHAT A WOMAN SAW.

I thought I should die a-laughing, and yet I | didn’t dare let the pucker out of my lips. There were four of them, Mary, Martha, Maria and Margaret, all at home with their mother, and she a widow. Mehitable, the youngest girl, was married, and lived just “’cross lots.” Her two little boys nicknamed Mink and Monkey, were at grandma’s every day. They were so happy—that family away in Southern Ohio, where I was visiting. My cousins said I must visit there before I went home, because none of those girls had ever seen a live authoress, and they didn’t know but people who “writ for the papers” went on all fours, like quadrupeds.

These girls’ ages were all the way between thirty-five and forty-five. They were not handsome; they were dark, and stout, and had strongly-marked features, and bold, bright, courageous eyes, and their dear old hands were hard, and stained, and horny, and very, very handy at all kinds of work, from plowing down to all the pretty devices which make a woman’s nature so sweet, and tender, and womanly. Ah! how this pretty work, the cunning tricks of skillful fingers, so fascinating to the mind of woman, does stamp her as lovable and sensitive, and sweet souled. It is like the delicate vine of embroidery about a dainty garment.

This was three years ago. As soon as I sat down in the great rocking-chair, which gave me such a soft and gracious welcome, my eyes fell upon the carpet, which was of home manufacture. The colors were red, brown, green and purple, graduated shades, with a singular, little ribbony stripe of black, orange and pink, twisted together in a way that made the colors intermingle beautifully.

Practical working woman as I am, I did not long stand on ceremony, I can assure you. I was so taken with the carpet that I began asking questions right away, for in the two hundred and fifty yards which I had made, not one yard of it could compare with that rare and pretty piece.

The dear old girls! they all talked at once; they fired up with an enthusiasm, that really made them handsome. They told me it was all made at home, the warp spun and dyed, and the rags cut, sewed, colored and woven by themselves. Such colors! I took out my note-book to jot down the different names of the dyes, which I had never yet heard of; all bought in one package, and called Leamon’s Aniline Dyes, twelve kinds in one box, to be bought of any whole. sale druggist in the United States. The directions go with the dyes in full, so that any child can use them successfully.

Nature lets nothing in the world remain useless; she makes everything serve a purpose, live again, and do good in some form or other. Just so with these managing, planning, contriving girls, they let nothing go to loss, they turned everything to good account.

My note-book has a page well packed with items, picked up that day, which I am glad to give to the sisterhood. One of the prettiest things I saw, was a what-not made of wood, covered with a thin layer of putty, into which had been worked some of Leamon’s | Brown Aniline Dye until it was the shade of black walnut; this was permitted to dry well, then putties of different colors, dyed with red, green, purple, gray, and any shade required for vines, leaves, berries, grapes, etc., were made, and put on as nature and fancy dictated; this was likewise set aside to dry, and then varnished. It was marvelously beautiful, and these what-nots had sold readily for twenty and twenty-five dollars.

A cornucopia made after this style was elegant. They can be varied by coloring the groundwork putty different shades, and any girl, at all ingenious and tasteful, can make them. They were filled with grasses and mosses, dyed green, oats and nodding swamp-grasses were dyed red, and blue, and purple, and yellow; while flowers of the amaranth were intermingled. All kinds of parlor ornaments and winter bouquets were made this way.

I think handsome rugs adorn and make cozy one’s sitting-rooms, but these girls had made them too pretty to step on. I felt afraid of crushing some of the half-opened buds, and the fresh, crisp-looking, leaves. They had spun yarn out of lamb’s wool, dyed it with the Aniline Dyes, and worked them over a pattern taken out of a magazine. The chair and sofa-tidies wrought on black canvas, were perfect. The second-best rugs were made out of old white woolen stocking: legs, dyed bright colors, the strip, cut narrow, round and round, thus turning to a good and life-long account what some women would use for moth-feed.

But the table-mats! I tee-hee’d right out! I promised the dear old gals that I would not let it get into the papers ‘long-side of the felicitous names of Mary, Martha, “Marier and Marg’et;” nor will I. No one knows whether the last name is Smith or Jones. Those delectable mats were made out of old worn-out felt hats, such as the neighbor boys used to fight bumble-bees with! The girls washed them clean in hot soap-suds, dyed them dark slate, and peachy drab, and rich wine color, stretched them well, tacked them on a board to dry, out in the sunshine, and when ready, cut them in circular shape and bound with crimson braid, or maroon, or any color that contrasted pleasantly. Then in the centre of each they stitched with bright yarn the words “meat,” “coffee,” “potatoes”

Now many a woman situate like these were, would have mourned because she could not find her “sphere,” she would have sighed for a “mission” in this world. These four sisters had missions. They filled positions that women, gifted with wealth, and beauty, and intellect, never could have filled so gracefully, and so excellently and well. Opportunity was theirs for a wide usefulness, they could bless, and help, and teach, and cheer their unskillful sisters, and could develop the latent resources of theirs most admirably.

I was amused and delighted at one of them telling about selecting her sister’s wedding-dress.

“I got dark gray cashmere,” she said; “for I told Hitty it could be dyed into half a dozen new dresses before it was wore out. When she was tired of gray, she could take some of the Aniline Dye and make it slate color, then afterwhile a light brown, then dark brown, then plum, then navy blue, and finally she could turn it the third time and end with Leamon’s immaculate black.”

Now there is more sound truth in this than fun, and if a dress is honest goods, and all wool, Mary was correct; the wedding-dress would do to wear to all the births, and baptisms, and weddings, and funerals, and finally make a very respectable and no doubt comfortable burial robe. I respect the woman who is rich in resources, who can see her way out of a dungeon or over a wall, or through a hole.

They dyed a pink wool delaine dress a dark crimson for one of the neighbor’s girls—never a spot in it. They wet it thoroughly in warm soap-suds first, and then for a mordant used alum-water. For another they dyed a white zephyr shawl a deep scarlet to match the fringe; while ties, ribbons, sashes and all such things just bloomed out into new beauty, and usefulness, and renewed freshness.

Plumes of exceeding loveliness were made of white chicken-feathers, dyed all shades of pink, from deep rose down to pale blush and all colors of blue from graduated shades, fading away to the palest, daintiest int of a hue. In making the plumes, the under side of the feather was scraped away with a knife, and it was left pliant and flexible. Another way they made beautiful, long, waving plumes, was by dyeing the tips of feathers brown, or black, and sewing them on fine cap-wire, overlapping so that only the fine tips showed. These sold for four and five dollars. Any girl can make her own. Bird-wings they colored, and the girls said they could not be told from “boughten wings.”

They made old veils into new ones, stiffened by a weak solution of gum-arabic. With these magic dyes they colored blue ones green by dipping into yellow dye, drab and gray they dyed brown, and brown black, and dingy black ones culminated into jetty black.

Old dresses were made into any color desirable, care being taken to wet the goods well first; steep slowly, and set the color with a mordant of alumwater; dilute sugar of lead and water, or saleratus-water. Then drain instead of wring, and press under a paper while damp, until dry.

In the hands of these wonderful girls dyed turkey feathers made nice fans.

An old knit sacque, faded and dingy, they raveled out, dyed brown and crocheted into a new and modern one by following a paper pattern laid in the lap; for an edge or border some fine, soft yarn of an old nubia, [a knitted head-scarf] raveled and dyed maroon and royal purple, and the sacque was a marvel and a beauty, and will last a lifetime. The old sacque was sleeveless; the new one has sleeves knit seamless, and is so warm, and snug, and pretty. I tried it on, and it fit like the truth.

Something pretty, I don’t know what it was called, made out of snail-shells dyed different colors, stood on a wide window-shelf—looked like a mound somewhat, only it was irregular in form. Then I saw something else rare and new out on the cool, breezy porch. They had taken some large clam-shells, boiled them in lye, and all the rough, gray exterior had come off and left them white and fine; these had been boiled in dyes of three or four different colors, and they were beautiful. I never knew this kind of shells could be cleaned and made good for anything, and I asked how they learned it. Mary looked over at her sister affectionately, and said: “Oh, Marg’et thought of it herself!”

They had likewise taken a couple of old nubias— one they left white and the other they dyed a delicate salmon—ripped them apart, and they were left nearly square. Now you wouldn’t guess what they made of ’em. Nobody would. I told you they made everything live anew, and I should have said that often the second life was the better and more useful one. Why, they spread them over soft, white batting, with a white lining, and made wee baby cradle-spreads of them. The white one they knotted with blue, and the blue one with white, and bound the edges with ribbon to match. You can guess how sweet a baby would look with such a fleecy covering.

They said the Aniline blue made nice bluing for washing-day; and the black, with the directions given with the package of dyes, makes the best black ink they ever saw.

Coral baskets and pretty nicknacks were made out of raisin-stems by adding some of the red dye, while melting, to the white wax and bees wax. These girls made brackets of them, too, bright and glistening, and even prettier than the real coral or those of sealing-wax.

Burlap rugs, made with a rug-hook out of soft old coats, and trousers, and ladies’ cloth, they finished with a bright edge of fine old flannel or opera-cloth, dyed those shades that would harmonize or work in unison. Sometimes, you know, colors don’t agree, and will mutually swear at each other.

An old, dingy, merino shawl they colored a deep black with Leamon’s black dye for their pastor’s wife, then cut it over into a dolman, trimmed it with fringe that had been on their mother’s parasol, and finished with bias bands of black silk which had once been their grandmother’s “quarterly meetin’ apron.” Truly, I never saw such generalship since the days of the man who was willing to “fight it out on that line,” etc. I wish I could tell you all I learned that day, but space will not permit.

Last October I was visiting in that neighborhood again. The week before I went there, Marg’et was married to a widower, a merchant who lived in the village. Of course she sent for me to come and see her, and—who ever heard of the like!-Leamon’s Aniline Dyes had gotten that old gal a husband

He told her, and she told me, how it came about. He said she sat in range of his roving, searching eye one Sabbath, at church, and that she did look so sweet, and peaceful, and modest in her quiet brown dress, and little brown hat with its tossy, tilting feathers, and the rose-pink bow in her hair and on her bosom, that before he knew it he had elected her the queen of his heart, the gem he would wear henceforth–if he could get her. And he vowed he’d get her if he could. He watched her all the time, and bowed and smiled at the door, and walked down the lane as far as the big white hawthorn, and in the evening he called awhile, and kept on calling and calling, until he called her his wife, and bore her away to his own dear little home-nest among the cedars and the climbing-roses. She further told me that the dress he admired was a soft, drab-y cashmere, sun-faded, and she had dyed it a dark, rich, nutty brown, taking special pains with it. The hat she had worn for years, an old white one; but she colored, stiffened, pressed and trimmed it with a bit of seal-brown and a nodding bunch of the ends of bronze cock-feathers, pink face-trimming, never thinking her close economy was weaving a snare to catch the heart and hand of a lone, lorn “widdy man.”

The kind, mellow, married woman! she had saved me a generous slice of the wedding-cake. It was that delicious kind called watermelon-cake. I ate it that evening as we sat at tea, the willow trailing its lithe branches to and fro across the dining-room windows that opened out upon the prettiest, shadiest lawn and orchard I ever looked upon. Such cake! It really did resemble a cool, crisp slice of melon with the seeds in it. I will give you the recipe in its proper place sometime; will only say now that the red core of the melon-cake is made by adding a grain or two of red aniline to a few drops of cinnamon essence.

Among the wedding gifts that delighted me most was a pompous white rooster and a hen to match, the gifts of the little nephews, Mink and Monkey. Their tails had been dyed dark red with Aniline Dyes, and they did look too cute!. It was such a roguish present.

We went into the parlor to see some of the bridal gifts: they were nearly all the handiwork of the beloved sisters, Mary, Martha and Maria. One, I remember was a lovely picture-frame; and another was a beautiful lamb-skin mat, dyed light brown, very fine, and velvety, and exquisitely finished with a cardinal border. A flossy little Maltese kitten slipped into the parlor behind us, and nestled itself in the dazzling centre of the pretty rug. Before Marg’et closed the door, she called it out into the sitting-room, with a gentle “Come, Leamon ‘”

PIPSEY POTTS.

Arthur’s Illustrated Home Magazine, Volume 46, 1878: pp. 394-

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:   It sounds a perfect hell of fancy-work!  And incidentally a puff-piece for Leamon Aniline Dyes…

We have met with the art of economy in dress–a dreary and thankless task–but these ladies seem to have been truly inspired to create articles they found beautiful and useful, and–happy accident!—a snare to catch the heart and hand of a lone, lorn “widdy man.”

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

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

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The Fashion Demonstrator: 1898

worth eau de nil 2

SPRY MODELS NOWADAYS

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

Variety of the Goods Sold by Women

Elaborate Procedure of Foreign Dressmakers.

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

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

wedding corset 1898

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

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

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

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

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

irish crochet summer dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Nice Equipments of a Dainty Person: 1839

The Luxuries of Commerce An extract.

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

The Knickerbocker, July 1839: p. 5

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

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

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

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

The Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Waist: 1906

peekaboo waist

Midsummer Follies in Dress

How the Unblushing Peek-a-Boo Shirt Waist Has Grown Worse and Worse Until It Has Gotten Into the Courts.

From the New York American.

The well-recognized innate tendency of woman to carry fashions to outrageous extremes receives a startling illustration this year in the garment popularly known as “the peek-a-boo waist.” It has now reached a phase of disclosure entirely beyond anything dreamed of in civilized countries; since the pagan fashions of drapery yielded to the advance of modesty.

The peek-a-boo waist heads the list of all the follies which woman is committing this summer in the name of fashion. Philosophers, be it noted, have observed that woman is especially prone to commit follies in summer. Associated with the peek-a-boo waist in prevalence and in provocative character is the open-work or peek-a-boo stocking.

The question of the peek-a-boo waist is a serious one for the American people. Leading clergymen have thundered denunciations of it from the pulpit. It has given rise to cases in police courts. In the opinion of clergymen, magistrates and other high authorities, it is the cause of wickedness, strife and widespread demoralization in social and business life.

The New York Telephone company has been forced to issue orders that its women employees shall not wear peek-a-boo waists.

It was found that the men employees were so distracted by the new developments and vagaries of the peek-a-boo, as exhibited by their near neighbors in the Office, that they were practically unable to attend to business, thereby causing great annoyance to the public. A leading bank president called to have his house telephone disconnected for the summer, and addressed his instructions in vain to an assistant manager, whose eyes were busy exploring the mysteries of a peek-a-boo waist.

Even a Parisian leader of fashion has declared that the peek-a-boo waist is immodest. The Countess de Noailles has declared that any woman who wears a shirt waist exposing her bare shoulders is deficient in good breeding. The decollete gown may be excused on the ground that it is worn in the company of friends and intimates, but the peek-a-boo unveils the wearer to the populace. The denunciation from a Parisienne is as significant in its way as that of religious leaders.

In one case the waist led to a violent altercation between persons of good social position and a subsequent appearance in the police court. Upon a recent evening Mrs. Mary Linck and her husband, of No. 835 Cherry street, Philadelphia, were returning home from the theater. They were in a crowded street car and were both standing up. Behind them stood Mr. Joseph Bruce, of No. 4541 North Twentieth street. Mrs. Linck was wearing a peek-a-boo waist of unusually provocative design. The demon of perversity was aroused in Mr. Bruce by the sight of this garment just under his nose. He happened to have an instrument of mischief at hand in the shape of a straw. This he passed through the interstices of Mrs. Linck’s waist and proceeded to tickle her. Thinking it was a mosquito Mrs. Linck slapped at the place on her back, and Mr. Bruce quickly withdrew the straw. He chuckled deeply at the joke, and began it again as soon as she took away her hand. There were actually a great many mosquitos in the air. She slapped and slapped and told her husband how maddening the mosquitos were. Suddenly she turned round and caught Mr. Bruce in the act of tickling. She angrily denounced the offender and grappled with him. Mr. Linck then had the car stopped and gave Mr. Bruce into the custody of a policeman.

Bruce was arraigned at the Central police court before Magistrate Kochersperger, who decided that the act of tickling constituted a technical assault and battery, and held Bruce in $600 bail for trial. It is considered by many that the peek-a-boo waist should be regarded as a justification of this offense, or at least, a greatly extenuating circumstance.

Dr. Jacques Schnier, a dentist, of No. 604 Lexington avenue, New York, appeared before Magistrate Whitman in the Yorkville police court and made a complaint against Miss Adelina Weissman, who lives in the same house. Miss Weissman is pretty and plump, with flashing black eyes and abundant hair. The doctor complained that she wore “an awfully tantalizing peek-a-boo waist,” and that wearing this she came and looked at him while he was engaged in the delicate art of filling teeth and distracted his attention. The magistrate did not find a cause for criminal proceedings, but warned Miss Weissman not to disturb Dr. Schnier unnecessarily.

By the church the peek-a-boo waist is generally condemned. Mgr. McNamee, of St. Theresa’s church, Brooklyn, looked over his congregation and was shocked that most of the young and attractive women in it were wearing peek-a-boo waists, and in many cases very short sleeves.

“It is disgraceful the way some of the women come to the altar to receive communion,” said Mgr. McNamee. “I have been pained to see them coming to the sacrament with these transparent waists, and, worse yet, with sleeveless waists, with hideous looking gloves as substitutes for sleeves. I hope I will not be obliged to say any more on this question.”

The Rev. Dr. MacFarland, on behalf of the Ministerial association, of Iowa, denounced the peek-a-boo. “Our mothers would have thrown up their hands in holy horror if they had been asked to wear the kind of waists the girls now wear,” he said….

A few Sundays ago the pastor of St. Cecelia’s church, in Rochester, Pa., Rev. Father Schoerner, on rising to preach saw before him in the congregation two young women wearing especially flagrant examples of the up-to-date, open-work, sleeveless shirtwaist.

“Go home!” he thundered at them. “Take off those bathing suits; this is a church of God, not a bathing resort.”

Father Schoener’s only mistake was the injustice he did to the bathing suit. At no known resort would bathing suits modeled on such a design be permitted…

Women are showing a fondness this summer for several garments which seem fitting accompaniments of the peek-a-boo waist. One of these is the thin white bathing suit. At Lake Hopatcong. N. J., a young woman gave a fine imitation of Venus rising from the sea. She wore a costume that seemed too beautiful to wet. It was of white brilliantine, trimmed with blue polka dot silk. The blouse was sleeveless, the neck was low, the skirt was short. A white silk cap was perched on Venus’s head. Long, very long, extremely long pink silk stockings encased her limbs.

When this bather emerged from the water and took a sun bath on the pavilion 600 persons surrounded her, but their stares did not disconcert her. When finally she went to the bathhouse a crowd followed her. The manager of the bathhouse ordered her to leave by the rear door and warned her to wear a different bathing suit the next time she bathes there.

The Rev. Mr. Johnson has been preaching against young women, and young men, too, “who go about the bathing grounds with their chests bared and their arms exposed.”

It is interesting to recall briefly the evolution of the peek-a-boo waist. Like other outrageous fashions, such as the crinoline and the eel-tight skirt, it had a comparatively innocent beginning. That was in the year 1900. It was at first confined to a simple little yoke, outlining a pretty girl’s neck and giving fleeting glimpses of the interior decorations. It was graceful, coquettish, piquant. It was a tantalizing hint, not a bare-faced revelation.

By 1902 the peek-a-boo shirt waist had reached another stage in its evolution. The open-work yoke had extended its limits and began to frankly disclose features which garments were supposed to veil.

In 1904 the extent of open-work territory claimed by the shirt waist was increased by spacious Vs descending in front and in the rear to points beyond the limits that mere men had expected fair woman to fix.

In 1905 “panels” of various shapes came to the aid of the V’s in adding space, variety, interest and intricacy to the area of exposure. In the present season the shirt waist, it is believed, has got as near to the Trilbyan “altogether” as it may dare to go.

And fitting companions in disclosure and exposure of the peek-a-boo, apt aiders and abettors in allurement of the casual eye are the open-work stockings. Like the peek-a-boo, they, too, began their career in most modest guise.

Mere pinpricks traced in varied designs that flashed faint, fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. But today they also have advanced to a point where the word “open-work” possesses hardly strength sufficient to be adequately descriptive.

The Topeka [KS] Daily Capital 19 August 1906: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil, who is always annoyed by the gentlemen who have so much to say about the modesty of women’s dress, wonders if these depraved peek-a-boo wearers were also sans corsets, chemises, or corset-covers? Even in summer underthings, the amount of flesh exposed in the sheerest tulle or lawn waist would be negligible, stimulating only to those of powerful imaginations who focused their attentions (or a straw) on fleeting visions of pink-white points of flesh. In short, Peeping Toms.

There is an antiquated argument that goes like this: ladies who leave their homes in a state of immodest dress somehow deserve to be tickled by straws or worse. To which Mrs Daffodil crisply replies, Rubbish. A gentleman may enjoy the view, if he is able to do so discreetly and without giving offence,  but he is not then allowed to denounce it from the pulpit.

 

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.

In Lieu of Champagne: Mrs Daffodil’s One-Thousandth Post

 

Mrs Daffodil is pleased to report that to-day marks an anniversary of sorts: the one-thousandth post on this site. Mrs Daffodil should enjoy breaking out the champagne for a toast, or at the very least, passing around a box of chocolate cremes, but, alas, this is impracticable, since her readers are scattered all around the globe.

In lieu of champagne, Mrs Daffodil will share her reader’s best-loved posts and some of her own favourites, interspersed with some cuttings from her fashion scrap-books.

gold sequins sun king fan

“Sun King” fan with tinted mother-of-pearl sticks and guards and shaded copper and gold spangles, c. 1880-1910 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/fan/xAG2xDgj6hb8LA

Although it is difficult to choose from posts so numerous and wide-ranging, three of the most popular posts shared by Mrs Daffodil were

How to Make Stage Lightning and Thunder: 1829-1900

Men Who Wear Corsets: 1889 and 1903

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands

A guest post by the subfusc author of The Victorian Book of the Dead on Bad Taste in Funeral Flowers: 1895-1914, also made the top of the charts.

Posts about the contemporary costs of fashion were quite popular.

The Cost of a Curtsey: Court Presentation Expenses: 1907

Where That $10,000-a-year Dress Allowance Goes: 1903

What Gilded Youth Spends on Its Wardrobe: 1907

The Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

As were stories of how to dress nicely on a budget:

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

How To Be a Well-dressed Young Man on a Budget: 1890

spring green Callot orientalist

1923 Callot Soeurs orientalist dress http://kerrytaylorauctions.com

Some of Mrs Daffodil’s personal favourites include

How to Dress (or Undress) Like a Mermaid: 1868 to 1921

A Children’s Christmas Cottage: 1850s

How to Entertain with Impromptu Fruit Sculpture: 1906

A Bashful Bridegroom: 1831

 

The Dress Doctor: An Ingenious Lady’s Profession: 1894

A Ghost Orders a Hat: 1900

The Angel of Gettysburg: Elizabeth Thorn: 1863

A Shakespearean Contretemps: 1830s 

stumpwork casket with garden

Stumpwork casket with a garden on the lid, c. 1660-1690 http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/39240/stumpwork-casket

Mrs Daffodil thanks all of her readers for their kind attention and she would very much enjoy hearing about their favourite posts on this site in the comments.

 

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

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

Buying a Bridal Trossy: 1877

trousseau

A French fashion doll with her trousseau.

BUYING A BRIDAL “TROSSY”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The clerk agreed and they were figured in.

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

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

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

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

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

“I hope you’ll be happy.”

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

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

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

CHIT-CHAT—TROUSSEAU.


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

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

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

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

Royal Wedding Superstitions: 1886-1922

heather and a good luck horse shoe for a bride 1935

Heather and a lucky horse-shoe for a bride, 1935 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1364613.11

Europe Has Its Royal Wedding Superstitions

Written for Universal Service By a Retired Member of the Royal Household.

London, Jan. 21. In the English royal family there are current a number of superstitions concerning weddings.

For example, the writer is quite sure that the Princess Mary could not be persuaded to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding had taken place. It is one of the oldest superstitions in the English royal family that for a princess of it to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding would be a most unlucky thing for her to do.

On the morning of the wedding of the present queen of Norway, which took place at Buckingham Palace, it became urgently necessary for the then Princess Maud to put her signature to a legal document in connection with her private affairs. It was essential that the document should be signed by her in her maiden name. She meant to have signed it the day before her wedding, but forgot to do so. She absolutely refused to sign it on the day of her wedding until after her marriage, and thereby put herself to a great deal of trouble and legal expense over the signing of the document.

Another wedding superstition prevailing in the royal family is that it is lucky for the royal bride to be able to see the sky on waking on the morning of her wedding day. It is extremely unlikely that the Princess Mary will sleep on the eve of her wedding day with the curtains in her bedroom drawn. Her royal highness will be sure to draw them back so that on waking she may behold the sky. This superstition also prevails in the Spanish royal family and it is customary for members of it the night before their wedding to sleep in the open if the weather permits.

It would be regarded as an unlucky thing by the Princess Mary for her to see her father before she sees her mother on her wedding day. What will happen on the morning of the princess’ wedding will be that her mother will come to her room ere she rises, will kiss her on both cheeks and wish her all prosperity and happiness in her future married life.

It has always been regarded as unlucky in the English royal family to make use of a wedding present before the wedding. All the princess’ presents will be kept in a room at St. James’ palace together with the presents sent to Lord Lascelles, until after the wedding.

There is an old saying current in the royal family concerning a royal bride. It runs:

“With the loss of the shoes, gloves or veil of her wedding day,

The luck of the bride will soon pass away.”

The shoes, gloves and veil worn by Queen Victoria at her wedding are still preserved at Windsor. The shoes, gloves and veils worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary on their wedding days are still carefully preserved by each of their majesties and the Princess Mary will be equally careful not to lose these reminders of her wedding day.

The Austin [TX] American 22 January 1922: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must gently correct the Austin American: Queen Victoria was buried in her wedding veil, so the veil “still preserved at Windsor,” was probably the lace from her gown, which, although quite fragile, still exists.

Orange blossom, white heather, and myrtle were essentials to bring luck to a Royal bride.

Princess Beatrice and Mr William Black between them have done much to render white heather popular. At most of the fashionable weddings which have taken place in London since May the brides have worn white heather It is, in fact, so indispensable just now that the artificial flower-makers produce it in specially large quantities for the marriage market, whilst at weddings at which expense is no object sprigs of the real plant are purposely fetched from the Highlands, At a wedding the other day the bride had real white heather in her bouquet, and there were sprigs of it, mixed with myrtle, on her train as well. Otago [NZ] Witness 12 November 1886: p. 32

All royal brides who are related to the Queen have a sprig of myrtle on their wedding day that is cut from a particular tree. This tree was grown from a slip sent from Germany for the bridal bouquet of the Princess Royal, and the tree it was cut from dates back to the time of the Crusaders. Otago [NZ] Witness, 30 December 1897: p. 43

As per the rhyme about veils and luck, Royal wedding veils received particular attention: the Royal Collection is full of photographs of the veils of the Princesses. Even the continental Royals were punctilious about their preservation:

The wreath and veil form the most important part of a German bride’s wedding dress, and in great families the wedding wreath and veil are carefully preserved among the family heirlooms.

In this connection I was told a rather strange story about the wreath and veil of the German Empress, which the Empress lost some few years after her marriage.

The Empress discovered the loss when she went to show them to a friend, and ascertained that they were not in the box where they were usually kept. The Kaiserin’s wardrobe-room was thoroughly searched, but without bringing to light the precious wreath and veil.

The suspicion of having taken the wreath and veil might have fastened on the Empress’s dresser, only for the fact that she had been for years with the Empress, and was so well known to her that the idea of her having taken them was out of the question. Indeed, the dresser was almost as much distressed at the loss of the articles as her Royal mistress.

The Empress was in a terrible state over her loss, and inquiries were everywhere instituted as to where the wreath and veil could have disappeared to. Ultimately, a year or so later, the missing articles turned up in a box in a lumber-room at the residence of the Grand Duke of Baden, where the Empress had been staying some few years after her marriage, and where apparently she had left her wreath and veil, which she carried about with her for some years after her marriage wherever she went. Seven Years at the Prussian Court, Edith Keen, 1917

Viscount_Lascelles and Mary Princess Royal wedding

Viscount Lascelles and Mary, the Princess Royal, on their wedding day, 1922

While most journalists burbled blissfully along about Royal wedding gifts, articles of the Royal trousseau, and the incomparable charms of the bride-to-be, this article about the wedding veil of Mary, the Princess Royal, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, was uncharacteristically negative in tone. Given the rumours that the marital life of the Princess proved to be less than happy, one might almost call it prophetic.

Wedding Veil to Be Worn by Princess Is of Tragical Origin.

London, Jan. 28. Dire tragedy is associated with the fine old Irish point lace which will adorn Princess Mary’s bridal robe when she marries Viscount Lascelles next month.
It originated from the failure of the Irish potato crop in 1846. The famine which followed was terrible. The peasants lived on the product of their soil and the fruitfulness of the soil, and when misfortune robbed them their desolation was all the more poignant on account of their helplessness.

To a holy abbess in the convent of Youghal in the County Cork, falls the distinction of conceiving this future industry for Ireland. There came into her possession a piece of Milan de Point. She carefully studied the piece of lace and untraveled the threads one by one and finally, after the exhausting research, mastered all the wonderful intricacies of the lacemakers of old Milan.

She then realized its great possibilities as an industry for the starving Irish children. The children cleverest at needlework were the first selected, and she taught them separately what she had learned. They were apt pupils, and the industry spread from Youghal. It spread over the whole of the southern and western counties of Ireland.

Queen Mary has ever been a devotee of needlework, and as Irish point is made entirely with the needle the queen has naturally taken more than a passing interest in this work; for a complete dress of it was made for her at her coronation.

But the vagaries of feminine fashion have interfered with its sale for some months, and it is devoutly trusted in the southern parts of Ireland that the queen’s choice for her daughter’s wedding dress will revive such a demand for Irish lace that will be unaffected by the petty dictates of the mandarins of the Rue de la Paix and Hanover square.

The Anaconda [MT] Standard 29 January 1922: p. 22

 

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.