Category Archives: Textiles

The Dress-Maker’s Lover: 1879

The Dress-Maker’s Lover.

Cupid is at work again in our community, and this time he has rammed an arrow right through the swain, but it seems has only tickled the gay young dress-maker a little with the feathered end of his dart. The following poem written by the victim tells the whole story:

Only this one dear boon I ask,

That you will give me your a dress,

That in your smiles I yet may basque,

And gain new life at each caress.

 

The blushes mantle on your cheeks;

Deny me not, it’s dread foulard;

I’ve pressed my suit for days and weeks,

And sent you letters by the yard

 

Oft at your feet I’ve knelt and braid,

But you have cut me short and square;

It lace with you, but I’m a frayed

You will not make up to me fair.

 

It’s sashy pale has grown my face,

Though all things look most navy blue;

I’ll collar mine, or I will face

Whatever evils may ecru.

The State Rights Democrat [Albany, OR] 19 September 1879: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  A Valentine’s effusion of the most cutting pattern…. It is obvious that the speaker considers himself incom-pleat without his be-stitching companion. Mrs Daffodil feels that he is waist-ing his time. A man who took such liberties with the language would be ill-suited to matrimony and without stay-ing power. He might wish to so-lace himself with Mr Hugh Rowley’s jokes:

Why is love like Irish poplin?

Because it’s half stuff.

Why is a deceptive woman like a seamstress?

Because she is not what she seams!

Puniana, Hugh Rowley, 1867: p. 213-4

Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the happiness of loving and being loved on this Valentine’s Day.

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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London Mourns for Queen Victoria: 1901

in memoriam queen victoria mourning handkerchief

Mourning handkerchief for the late Queen Victoria 1901 https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18730001/

MISS COLONIA IN LONDON

CONFIDENCES TO HER COUSINS ACROSS THE SEA.

February 1. My Dear Cousins,—Many, many years ago the Great White Queen on one of her first public appearances was shown to her subjects by candle light. During a Royal visit to Leamington, when she was still a child, a great crowd gathered at night outside the Regent Hotel, where the Duchess of Kent and her daughter were staying, and to satisfy the people the Duchess of Kent held the little Princess at the window while Sir John Conroy stood behind with two wax candles.

THE CHAPELLE ARDENTE.

Once again the soft glow of tapers falls on the faces of her subjects, but oh! how changed the scene. The little Princess, having wielded England’s sceptre longer and better than any predecessor, lies at rest in her island home, while her subjects, sorrowful and silent, file slowly by the coffin. From the peaceful death-chamber six stalwart bluejackets bore the Mistress of the Seas to the dining room where Princess Alice was married, now transformed into a Chapelle Ardente with some of the pomp that befits a mighty monarch. The room in which the now closed coffin rests overlooks the terrace, with Whippingham Church half a mile away, set in a charming picture of woods, and meadows, and hills. It is no grisly, gloomy chamber that the late Queen’s tenants and servants, her Osborne visitors, the. officers of her army and navy, the mayors of the island, and the Press representatives have been privileged to enter. On the scarlet dais in the centre of the chamber is the Royal Standard in silk. The coffin rests on the banner, but it cannot be seen, being covered by a- great pall of white satin, on which lie the dead Sovereign’s robes of the Order of the Garter, crimson velvet outside and ermine within. Her crown stands on the head of the coffin, its diamonds flashing in the flood of illumination. Small electric lights line the walls, and in each of the four corners are two candelabras, the tapers in which are artificial, with electric lights. The coffin is flanked by three tall silver candlesticks; at its foot is an altar in front of the French window, which is concealed by rich tapestry. The sacred table is covered with cloth of crimson and gold, on which appears the letters I.H.S. A large Greek cross stands on the table, flanked by candlesticks in which arc lighted tapers, while two other candlesticks rise from the altar steps. Above hangs a sacred picture, and over the mantelpiece opposite is another of Christ and His mother. All round the room arc palms and wreaths of flowers, tokens of love and sorrow. In one corner a silken Union Jack hangs from floor to ceiling, caught with an immense wreath of arums and laurels from the Royal gardens at Frogmore and but with this exception and that of the tapestry the chamber is entirely draped with crimson. But for the black spots on the ermine lining of the Royal cloak there would not be a sombre note in the picture. At each comer of the coffin stand Grenadier Guardsmen, with heads bowed and rifles reversed, while the Queen’s faithful Scotch and Indian personal, attendants and her equerry still continue with her in the hour of death.

THE ROYAL COFFIN.

The body rests in a beautiful shell of cedar wood made at Osborne. Outside this there will be placed a leaden case, hermetically sealed, and the whole will be covered by a panelled oak coffin highly polished. The coffin is being made by a firm in London who have made the coffins of the Kings and Queens and Royal Princes since George I.’s reign. It will exactly follow the lines of the coffin made for the late Duchess of Teck. The furniture is of plain brass, with square handles. There will be eleven panels, three on either side, three above, and one at each end. In the upper of the three panels above will lie an Imperial crown in brass, and under this a recital of Her Majesty’s titles, her age, length of reign, and general escutcheon. The coffin is made to fit the sarcophagus in Frogmore. There, is, I think, a general feeling of relief at the announcement that there is to be no formal lying in state. The funeral is to be simple and stately, and the Queen is to be borne through the Empire’s capital, so that her subjects, through whom she has so often passed amidst acclamation, may do her reverence on her last journey. What a contrast it will be to that magnificent, jubilee pageant, three years ago! Then national rejoicings, now

NATIONAL MOURNING.

That legend one reads in all the drapers’ shops. How superfluous the announcement seems, as superfluous as the Lord Chamberlain’s order that, “all persons do put themselves into the deepest mourning. This said mourning to begin upon Monday, the 28th day of this instant January.” All people had already done so as soon as ever they heard the sad news with a. unanimous spontaneity that proved the genuineness of their grief. I saw the mourning for the Duke of Clarence, but that was but a passing slight shadow of black compared to the present aspect of our streets. Everyone, be he lord or laborer, has garbed himself in black. The navvy wraps a black cloth round his neck, the barrister wears a deep band on his hat and a black tie. Even the laundry girl, who loves to garb herself in hues that stagger humanity, has managed to don a black hat and a black bow. We women are attired in black from head to foot, unbroken save perhaps by a touch of white. Look up a crowded street and you will see one long line of unrelieved black on each pavement. I was in a picture gallery to-day, and all the women present were as much in mourning as if each had lost a member of her own family. The very few people who still retain bright color in their hats or consider violent violet or proud purple suitable hues for complimentary mourning are so rare that their bright tints in the midst of the array of black strikes the eye with a shock of incongruity. And yet the effect does not seem so dismal as you would imagine, my dears. Black has a wonderfully refining influence and becomes us all, as you must have often noted in the case of maids and shopgirls. The crowd seems chastened, the vulgarity subdued, the bad taste blotted out, plain women look pretty, pretty women beautiful. A period of national mourning will prove, too, a useful corrective to our growing tendency towards show and garishness. An Englishwoman used to be noted for the simplicity of her costume; last summer you saw her shopping or strolling in lace and lingerie more suitable for the theatre or the ball room than for a simple walking dress. But I mustn’t begin to moralise. That is the sole function of the editor of your ‘Women’s World.’

bank of toronto in mourning for Queen Victoria 1901

The Bank of Toronto, Montreal, draped in mourning for the late Queen, 1901 http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/large.php?Lang=1&accessnumber=MP-1977.76.108&idImage=153855

So far, and remember that I am writing at the beginning of the week, the mourning on our buildings has not yet assumed what I call a grisly shape, in which loyal grief is supposed to be in direct proportion to the extent of gloom that hangs over the shop front. At Windsor, at all events, there is to be no gruesomeness, no sombreness. The way to the altar in St. George’s Chapel will be carpeted with grey drugget, and there will be no sable drapery in the Chapel, hangings of royal purple taking its place. The Queen’s pew is even now draped with purple. It is to be hoped that the Royal example will be followed by the loyal Londoners. There are signs, however, that dismal draperies will be much more in evidence as the week draws to its close. In Fleet street one large furniture shop has already overshadowed itself by two huge sable curtains, caught up with white. Other establishments have hung from their balconies dark black cloth, fringed with white cord. Opposite our house an artistic potter has hung out a black banner bearing a silver crown and “V.” and violet letters” “R.I.P.” In one window the Queen’s portrait bordered by white heathery sprays is lit by two candles, while from the top of the building depends a black canopy, in the centre of which appears a shield with inscription: “We mourn our Queen and Mother.” Most shops content themselves with mourning shutters, a black plank placed perpendicularly in the centre of each window, and with flying the Royal Standard and Union Jack half-mast high, thus introducing a touch of color into the scene. With violets, purple and white, as well as black; available for the decoration of shop windows, you would have expected some simple and yet harmonious effective arrangement of the mourning goods displayed. I made a little tour of the fashionable dressmakers and drapers yesterday, but was disappointed in the lack of system—the absence of any dominant idea scheme in the windows. Black hats and toques and bonnets succeeded each other in unorganised monotony, black gowns and blouses were mixed with white in aimless array: and rolls of black cloth lay side by side with the uniformity of soldiers on parade. Occasionally someone, more enterprising than the rest, festooned the windows with black and white and violet muslin. In this respect the men’s shops made a more effective show than ours. With white shirts, white handkerchiefs, and black ties and scarves they contrived some striking combinations. One man hung alternately long full black scarves and white cambric handkerchiefs, over the top of which fell narrow black ties, such as men tie in bows. Another had arrayed his shirts in rows, with a wide black band diagonally across each shirt.

Prince of Wales feathers at Queen Victoria's funeral flowers

The florists made little difference in their usual display, giving perhaps more prominence to violets and white flowers than to brighter-colored ones. One Regent street shop displayed a Royal Crown in gold mimosa on a cushion of purple violets. Others showed wreaths of laurels or palms tied with white ribbon. Fuller’s confectionery windows were filled with puffed violet nun’s veiling, in which nestled dark chocolates. A stationer’s was full of black-edged and grey writing paper, and menu cards and ice case’s ornamented with sprays of violets. The hairdressers’ models were robed in black bodices. Everywhere are displayed portraits of the Queen draped in black, and these the people throng to buy. In the way of mourning jewellery there is little to be seen. No one has yet produced a cheap medallion or other memorial of the Queen that can be universally worn as were the buttons of the various generals at the war. The people would eagerly wear a simple, artistic memorial and treasure it in remembrance of their good Queen. One industry has received a strong impetus —that of Whitby jet, the demand for which had much declined. Jet is a fossil substance found in beds of lignite or brown coal, and there are large veins of it near Whitby, which port, in anticipation of a revival of the trade, had stored a large quantity of the best local jet, Many hundred pounds’ worth have already been despatched to London and the big provincial towns. In the jewellers’ windows here you see jet muff chains and hair combs. Whitby jet brooches and French jet waist buckles, jet aigrettes, jet and beaded bags, purses, safety pins and hat pins, jet necklaces and cut jet collarettes, initial safety pin mourning ‘brooches, jet necklets with pendant hearts of jet. Gun metal, too. is being utilised for mourning card cases, studs and sleeve links, and purses. Oxydised brooches of heart’s-ease or four-leaved clover, set with two or three diamonds or pearls, are also fashionable. Diamonds and .pearls, of course, are mourning wear, and the trade in these jewels will not suffer substantially. Those who like those bead necklaces and chains so fashionable now will no doubt be able to get them in amethysts and crystals, such as Miss Cockerell sent Princess Henry of Battenberg. The late Queen herself ordered some of jet and onyx for her own wear, so I daresay a good many people will be seen with similar necklaces in remembrance of her.

It. is at present hard to estimate the effect of the nation’s mourning upon trade in general. For the moment, there has, of course, been widespread loss in many directions, making the blow all the harder after the period of depression caused by the war. Entertainments, banquets, and other public functions have been abandoned. The value of thousands of pounds’ worth of flowers for table decorations has been lost, singers and society entertainers find their vocation for the present gone, and the decision of the managers of the principal theatres to close until after the funeral will cause distress to thousands who at this time of year depend on the pantomimes for their livelihood. Home managers, to prevent their employes being suddenly reduced to starvation, are keeping open their theatres every night save on that of the funeral. It is one thing to keep open a theatre and another to get the people just now to come to be amused, so that in all probability the opening of the theatres will simply mean that the employes, who only get paid for the nights they perform, will benefit at the cost of their managers.

While the drapery establishments for the time being will be largely drawn upon for mourning materials, it is evident that their general business will largely decrease. In the first place, black lasts so much longer than lighter colors, and many little fancy fal-lals that we should purchase for our adornment, at other times will be dispensed with. Again, a large proportion of the middle class still make their old things do for the occasion, and content themselves with cheap black blouses and scarves, and retrim the black hats that have been so fashionable of late.

Although the Court is directed to go into mourning for a whole year it is unlikely that the people will go garbed in solemn suits of black for so long, nor will crape be at all generally worn except by those in close connection with the Court.  In all probability, after a couple of months, as the winter draws to a close, (and, en passant, it is evident, that at no other season could the loss caused by the sudden transformation have been less), the black will be relieved by touches of white, and as the summer approaches subdued shades will gradually come, into wear—greys, lavenders, violets, purples. mauves–brightening steadily until Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra establish their Court definitely in the metropolis. The re-establishment of Court gaieties and functions in London in 1902 should lead to a, great revival of trade, that will more than compensate for the present year’s gloom. The King and Queen will appear more often among their subjects, Drawing Rooms will be held at night instead of in the afternoons—in fact, there will be some Court life and brilliancy such as has been practically lacking ever since the Prince, Consort’s death.

Tales of her sympathy and reminiscences of her kindly acts are legion….Prince Albert had just died, and when the bereaved Queen reached Balmoral, a few weeks after his death, she found the blinds of one of her cottages drawn. The master of the home had gone where prince and peasant are equal, and in his cottage the Queen sat with his widow. Together they wept, all earthly distinctions lost in their common sorrow. “I cried and the Queen cried,” said the cottager; “and when I begged her to pardon me for crying so bitterly, she said to me: ‘I am so glad to have someone to cry with who knows just how I feel.'”

And how are we to keep her memory green in our hearts? Someone suggests that we should retain her portrait on some of her stamps, another that we should ever improve the morality of the nation, and follow the example set us by her own virtuous We; a third— that we should have an annual holiday, a “Victoria Day,” in her memory. May 24 here is not celebrated as a public holiday, and, it is said, is too close to the Whitsun festival. In the colonies, however. “Queen’s Birthday” has become an institution, and will surely remain so in remembrance of one who at all events to all of us out of our teens, will always be referred to as the Queen.

Evening Star 11 March 1901: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To-day is the anniversary of the State Funeral for Queen Victoria, held in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. The letter above was written by a New Zealand correspondent resident in London and gives an evocative look at mourning in the Capital for the beloved Queen.  The descriptions of shop windows and florist displays are particularly interesting, describing as they do, the long-lost ephemera of national mourning.  While no doubt the window-dresser at Fuller’s confectionery had the best of intentions,  Mrs Daffodil must challenge the assumption that dark chocolates are suitable for mourning.

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 Ghost in Yellow Calico: c. 1903

17th c memento mori rosary bead

THE GHOST IN YELLOW CALICO

The Rev. Elwyn Thomas, 35, Park Village East, N. W., London, has published a very remarkable experience of his own. It is as follows:

“Twelve years ago,” says the doctor, “I was the second minister of the Bryn Mawr Welsh Wesleyan Circuit, in the South Wales District. It was a beautiful evening in June when, after conducting the service at Llanyndir, I told the gentlemen with whom I generally stayed when preaching there, that three young friends had come to meet me from Crickhowell, and that I meant to accompany them back for about half a mile on their return journey, so would not be home before nine o’clock.

“When I wished good-night to my friends it was about twenty minutes to nine but still light enough to see a good distance. The subject of our conversation all the way from the chapel until we parted was of a certain eccentric old character who then belonged to the Crickhowell church. I walked a little further down the road than I intended in order to hear the end of a very amusing story about him. Our conversation had no reference whatever to ghosts. Personally I was a strong disbeliever in ghosts and invariably ridiculed anyone whom I thought superstitious enough to believe in them.

“When I had walked about a hundred yards away from my friends, after parting from them, I saw on the bank of the canal, what I thought at the moment was an old beggar. I couldn’t help asking myself where this old man had come from. I had not seen him in going down the road. I turned round quite unconcernedly to have another look at him, and had no sooner done so than I saw, within half a yard of me one of the most remarkable and startling sights I hope it will ever be my lot to see. Almost on a level with my own face, I saw that of an old man, over every feature of which the putty colored skin was drawn tightly, except the forehead which was lined with deep wrinkles. The lips were extremely thin and appeared perfectly bloodless. The toothless mouth stood half open. The cheeks were hollow and sunken like those of a corpse, and the eyes which seemed far back in the middle of the head, were unnaturally luminous and piercing. The terrible object was wrapped in two bands of old yellow calico, one of which was drawn under the chin, and over the cheeks and tied at the top of the head, the other was drawn round the top of the wrinkled forehead and fastened at the back of the head.

So deep and indelible an impression it made on my mind, that, were I an artist, I could paint that face to-day.

“What I have thus tried to describe in many words, I saw at a glance. Acting on the impulse of the moment, I turned my face toward the village and ran away from the horrible vision with all my might for about sixty yards. I then stopped and turned around to see how far I had distanced it, and to my unspeakable horror, there it was still face to face with me as if I had not moved an inch. I grasped my umbrella and raised it to strike him, and you can imagine my feelings when I could see nothing between the face and the ground, except an irregular column of intense darkness, through which my umbrella passed as a stick goes through water!

“I am sorry to say that I took to my heels with increasing speed. A little further than the space of this second encounter, the road which led to my host’s house branched off the main road. Having gone two or three yards down this branch road, I turned around again. He had not followed me after I left the main road, but I could see the horribly fascinating face quite as plainly as when it was close by. It stood for a few minutes looking intently at me from the center of the main road. I then realized fully that it was not a human being in flesh and blood; and, with every vestige of fear gone, I quickly walked toward it to put my questions. But I was disappointed, for, no sooner had I made toward it, than it began to move slowly down the road keeping the same distance above it until it reached the churchyard wall; it then crossed the road and disappeared near where the yew tree stood inside. The moment it disappeared, I became unconscious. Two hours later I came to myself and I made my way slowly to my home. I could not say a word to explain what had happened, though I tried several times. It was five o’clock in the morning when I regained my power of speech. The whole of the following week I was laid up with a nervous prostration.

“My host, after questioning me closely, told me that fifteen years before that time an old recluse of eccentric character, answering in every detail to my description (yellow calicoes, bands, and all) lived in a house whose ruins still stand close by where I saw the face disappear.”

True Ghost Stories, Hereward Carrington, 1915: pp 116-119

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Recently that funereal person over at Haunted Ohio has been assiduously studying shrouds for some presentation or other and Mrs Daffodil has been hearing a great deal too much about the subject….

However, it occurs to Mrs Daffodil that the calico bands around the disembodied head bear all the hallmarks of burial attire, much like the cloth tied around the ghostly Jacob Marley’s jaws. So unless the living recluse was known to stalk around the neighbourhood wearing a shroud and bands, one expects that this was just another example of ghosts who appear in their grave-clothes.  A reprehensible habit, to be sure, and most unhygienic—we have seen the warnings from the medical establishment about the unwholesome trade in used shrouds and grave goods.

One wonders if the Rev. Thomas was prostrated merely by the horror of the thing or by some obscure contagion from the grave.  Mrs Daffodil suggests that the local authorities should have responded to the disruptive revenant swiftly and decisively, either by compelling the creature to remain in its tomb via iron or exorcism, or by supplying it with a change of shroud in the newest and neatest pattern.

 

 

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 Slop Shop Trade: 1887

1841 skeleton tailors in sweatshop

CHEAP CLOTHING

LIVES OF WOMEN WORN OUT ON READY MADE SUITS.

What It Costs to Put “Bargain” Price Marks on Wearing Apparel

Dangers of the “Slop Shop” Trade

Business Needing Ventilation

The slop shop is the biggest thing in the cheap clothing trade, and the slop shop keepers are the hardest taskmasters of the poor slaves of the metropolis. Competition in the retail clothing business has brought this condition of things about. Besides, the whole system on which the manufacture of cheap clothing is carried on is as bad as it can be, and its continuance is a menace to public health and a danger to the general welfare of the community beside which the much talked-of tenement house manufacture of cigars is nothing.

There are comparatively few clothing factories in New York. Most of what are called such are simply shops where the cloth is cut. It then goes, each sort of garment separately, to the “tailors,” so-called, who have their shops all over the city, but chiefly in the most densely populated tenement house districts and in the very slums. One tailor will take out hundreds or thousands of pairs of pantaloons in a week, another carries off the coats, and the vests go somewhere else. If these men or women have any shops at all they are simply their living rooms in the tenements where they hire girls to come for from nothing to a few dollars a week and work at sewing machines making up the garments. In many instances men instead of girls are hired, especially on heavy work, but in either case the people are crowded as closely as the machine can be put together, often four or five in one small room where all the household lives and all the domestic work is carried on. In these places, reeking with all the vile odors of the tenements, with dirty children crawling over the filthy floors, playing among them by day and sleeping upon them at night, in an atmosphere, in short, of dirt, disease and death, the garments are finally made up.

They may be “finished” —that is, have the buttons put on and the other hand sewing done—in the same place, or this work may be farmed out to still more abject slaves than those who toil over the machines—to women who are prevented by invalid husbands, young children, or other reasons from leaving their homes, and who are therefore obliged to take up for their work whatever pittance the slop shop barons will dole out to them, and trust to charity for enough more to stave off starvation.

In the barren rooms of these lowest of slaves the garments have a change to get a new variety of odors and disease germs. Then they go, most likely, to the button hole factory, where they touch shoulders with similar lots from dozens of other tenement house shops, and when their own odors and germs have thus been amalgamated with the odors and germs of all the tenements for half a mile around, they go back to the original slop shop, and thence in the course of time to the alleged manufacturer, who sells them to a wholesaler, maybe, from whom they go to the retailer, and after all these different hands have taken their toll the general public is invited to come in and look at the wonderful bargains in clothing.

Often they are wonderful bargains, indeed, in spite of the numerous profits that have been made off of them; but if they are cheap it is because women have turned their sinews into thread and their blood into sewing machine oil in the making of them. They are aired and fumigated, and cleansed, maybe, before they are sold, but a man in the business says; “If people knew where those clothes have been they would never buy them.”

Philip Leidesdorff has been in business for eighteen years. His brother is with him now, and they have a buttonhole factory. They take the work after those who get it from the manufactures have made it up and put in the buttonholes for so much a hundred.

“This tenement house work,’” he says, “is the ruin of the clothing business, and worse yet, it’s the ruin of those that work at it. Someday people will wake up to what this cheap clothing business means. Go into some of these tenements and you’ll find in some of the little rooms a whole family living, and three or four girls working at machines all day. They take the goods from the tailor’s and make them up in the rooms where they cook and sleep. Why they use the clothes for bedding, even. If people could see once the vile holes in which the clothing is made up they’d never buy any of it. I wish they could see some of it when it comes here to have the buttonholes put in. It gets aired and cleaned before it is put up for sale.

“The way these people do is to get young girls to come and learn the business. They make them work six weeks for nothing, or, maybe $2 a week for their work, and they pack just as many of them as they can get into one room, along with the children and the cooking and all the rest. That way they make a little money for themselves at the expense of the girls, but it don’t do them much good, for pretty quick the manufacturer grinds down the price another peg, and the more they grind the girls the more the manufacturer grinds them, until nobody is making more than a bare living. The people that take the work out in the country to do are pretty near as bad as the tenement house people for prices, but, of course, they’re cleaner. If it wasn’t for them prices would be a good deal higher in the city. New York is the worst city in the country for sewing women. In Philadelphia, even, they pay them a good deal better. It’s all on account of this tenement house work, and it’ll never be any better till they pass laws making it illegal for more than one machine to be put in an ordinary living room.”

“There’s another thing,” said David Leidesdorff, a brother, “and if cholera or any such disease ever gets a start in this city people will find it out mighty quick. These tenement house factories would spread the disease through the whole country. I’ve always said that if cholera ever got a start in New York I’d drop this business and get out right away, and I’d do it, too. They have a board of health and laws enough here, but I’ve never been in a city yet, and I’ve been all over the world, where they allowed such things as they do here. Only last winter, at a place in a street right near here, the children in a family were sick of small pox in the same room where the clothing was being made up and sent out every day. These people don’t have any more regard for the laws or for other people’s health than they do for their own health, and if you have ever been in any of the holes where they live and work you know how little that is. This whole business of the manufacturer of cheap clothing needs a showing up.” New York Sun

Canton [OH] Repository 28 December 1887: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil is fascinated by how the buttonhole factory brothers are well aware of the dire conditions in sweatshops and condemn sweated labour—while benefiting from it. Of course, to-day New York is one of the leading fashion capitals of the world, yet cheap clothes are more prevalent than ever, manufactured  under conditions their purchasers can only guess at.  Enslaved persons toiling in “sweat-shops” may be found, even in many of the world’s most affluent countries. Tragically, plus ça change…

Contagion from textiles has been a consistent theme in world history: Mrs Daffodil cites the plague begun in Eyam by flea-infested fabric from London; a fatal shawl, said to be behind a Russian plague outbreak in 1878, remonstrances about disease in hired mourning clothes, and the ghastly traffic in clothing stolen from corpses. A good deal of the pressure to unionise garment workers arose from fashionable ladies’ fears of contagion in sweated clothing.

To be Relentlessly Informative, “slop shop” comes from “slops,” the full breeches worn by sailors. They could be purchased ready-made and the term came to be attached to establishments selling any  cheap article of clothing.

 

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 Cost of a Fine Lady: 1857

 

 

The Cost of a Fine Lady

The Groans of Husbands.

If any one doubts that we live in the Age of Toys—at an epoch when taste runs more than ever before in the way of articles of embellishment and luxury—he must entertain that doubt at a distance from this metropolis. Indeed, we know not exactly where he will be able to “lay the flattering unction to his soul,” since even the small villages and incipient settlements in the country take their air from New York, and follow as nearly as possible in the footsteps of those who follow the Parisian setters of fashion. The taste or fancy obeys, too, the law of all propensities and habits, of being stimulated by gratification to larger demands. We have been growing steadily in this respect for a dozen years, and now reach a stature in extravagance that enables us to look over the heads of most of our transatlantic neighbors, and take to ourselves the proud consciousness of outdoing them in almost everything.

Look at the dresses of our ladies; observe them in the ball-room or at the opera; or at a simple home reception. That opera shawl is worn by a poor man’s wife; it is merely an imitation of ermine, with chenille [sic] fringe of pink, white or blue, yet it costs twenty-eight dollars. Observe the dress of the lady in the private box, of blue chene silk, with uncut velvet flounces, painted with rich clusters of flowers, and fringed with silk; she paid, last week, $120 for the dress material, besides $20 to her mantua-maker. The India cashmere shawl she has thrown off so carelessly, cost fifteen hundred dollars. The lady near her wears one with a scarlet centre, for which her husband, who has since advertised his goods as “selling off under cost,” paid $1200 to the importer. Her dress is of brown silk with fringed velvet flounces in a tartan plaid pattern; she purchased it some time since for ninety dollars, and it was thought a bargain. She and her friend are going to a party after the opera. Their head-dresses are “very simple,” –one has a head-piece composed of imitation pearls and delicate white ostrich plumes, mixed with bows of scarlet velvet ribbon looped with pearls, and chenille; there is a fall of white blonde lace upon it; the bandeau across the back of the head is also of mock pearls, and the ends of the ribbon are about half a yard in length. The price was only twelve dollars. The other has a bandeau of black velvet, wound with gold cord, and a fall of guipure lace; a bunch of golden grapes and leaves at the sides is mixed with red velvet flowers, and the streamers are of black crimson velvet ribbon.

fall colored headdress and bouquet red velvet leaves gilt mid 19th c

If you go to the morning reception of one of the ladies, you will probably find her attired in a blue chene silk, with flounces of “dead velvet” flowers; its price unmade was $110. At a party given by one to her fashionable friends, she would wear a dress of white Montante silk, with a border a yard deep of brilliant flowers, wrought in velvet or satin, with the rich tints of their summer bloom—the waist and sleeves trimmed to correspond; this “love of a dress” was got for one hundred dollars unmade, and was a Christmas present from a relative. A friend of hers, who wears a white silk, brocaded with gold in waving figures, and paid for the material $150, feels some self-complacency in her evident superiority.

brussels lace mantilla2

The bride, who is receiving the compliments of her visits, wears a scarf of Point d’Alencon that cost her father $1,500. The Valenciennes flouncing, a quarter of a yard deep, on the dress of one of her friends, is worth $100 a yard. Her mother wears a cape of Point d’Aiguille without ground, for which Stewart charged her $160; and her sister a collar and sleeves of Point d’Alencon, of which the price was $150. The elderly lady, who is giving her a word of advice about her future life ,wears a collar of flat point lace, with raised flowers, wrought in the most delicate needle work, for which she gave forty dollars, and thought it a bargain. Another young lady sports flounces of Point d’Aiguille at $70 the yard; and dangles from her gloved fingers a point d’Alencon handkerchief exquisitely worked in buttonhole stitch, with a centre piece of a few square inches of linen cambric, for which her papa gave a check for $200.

venetian lace handkerchief

Her aunt has one in French work, richly and heavily embroidered, that was only ninety dollars. Her cousin wears a white taffety silk dress with three flounces ornamented with broad wreaths in satin or gorgeous flowers—cost $85. Or would you study the tastes of our ladies on a fine day in Broadway! You will see, perchance, a cape of Russian sable from Genin’s at sixteen hundred dollars; or one of Hudson Bay sable at half that sum, or down through several gradations to $200, with victorines and cuffs to match from $85 to $200, in addition. In the evening again, you may see the latest importation of luxury in a Turkish scarf of muslin, embroidered with a gold and pink silk, worth $100, with dress to match, bought for $150, spangled with stars of gold, and having a wreath of delicate embroidery at the bottom. The handkerchief that matches this costume is wrought in a heavy pattern of silver and gold, representing birds of paradise and flowers, with a centre of linen cambric, and was “thrown away” at twenty dollars.. The head dress, which cost the same, is a barb, embroidered with silver, gold and colored silk. The fan is of white chene silk, painted with wreaths of flowers, and finished with heavy silk fringe. This was only fifteen dollars, and is so recently imported that it is not yet in the market. Its peculiarity is that it can be slipped up to the end of the handle, and expanded in a parasol at the owner’s pleasure.

carved conch parure tiara and bracelet

If you have a fancy for jewelry you may easily count up a fortune on the persons of our belles. That set of diamonds, consisting of necklace, bracelet, brooch and ear-rings, is worth $8,500. The pearl set which adorns the maiden of sixteen, cost $1,845. The sprigs represent the buds of the cotton plant. The gold and diamond bracelet pap bought at $1,800; it is superbly set in black enamel and gold—now the favorite setting. The one with the stone cameo representing a Grace holding a delicate wreath over her head, is worth $1200. But the prettiest device is one mama selected on Broadway the other day; quite new! It is a massive gold rattlesnake with glistening scales of diamonds, sparkling like imprisoned sunshine. It may be worn as a girdle, or a necklace, or in five folds around the wrist as a bracelet. On the top of the head is a cluster of large diamonds; the eyes are brilliant rubies, and the sharp teeth are of gold. The price of this captivating creature was but $800. You may see a superb necklace of eighty-seven diamonds in gold festoons, that cost $1,300; and that fashionable bracelet of broad green enamel, bordered with diamonds, representing bows of ribbon confined with braided bands, studded with brilliant gems, was bought at $1500. The set of large sapphires, with diamonds clustering around them, confined by a rope of chased gold, was $2,140. The diamond ring which sparkles on that lady’s finger, of five and a half carats, is worth $1500; and the ear-rings set in black enamel, $1600 the pair. You may see, also, a new style of necklace, formed of a network of black enamel and diamonds, with pendant shafts of gold headed with gems; the price of this, with a corresponding brooch, was $1300 The set of larger diamonds are worth fifteen thousand dollars. The prevailing fancy this winter has been for coral sets, exquisitely wrought. Look at that magnificent rose colored set, representing Cupid embedded in flowers, and birds in the ear-rings hovering over the rich clusters of blossoms. Its price was $550.

carved conch parure necklace and earrings and brooch

You have perhaps seen B.’s gold tea set—consisting of tea urn, tea and coffee pots, sugar bowl and cream pitcher, with twelve cups, saucers, and spoons—for $15,000. Or the gold dinner set, with fish, crumb and pie knives, preserve spoons, fruit basket, grape scissors, sugar tongs, and eighteen knives and forks for only $1,000. We do not yet use gold very generally, but if you take tea with Mrs. A__, she will show you a new tea set of six pieces worth $800—which was hung on her Christmas tree, and point you to a silver epergne with four branches, for the centre of her table, that cost $600; you will have water or lemonade handed you in a tankard and goblet of richly chased silver, on a slaver to match, of the finest workmanship, representing vintage scenes—price $335; and before you leave, the lady will ask your admiration for her last present of two paintings on porcelain—one representing Rubens’ Children, the other by Corfalis—a Festival of Artists—for which the connoisseur is to pay $325.

silver gilt epergne

Smaller articles of luxury are on the same scale. The fish knife and fork used at a dinner, with full length figures of bacchantes on the handles, were not purchased under $85; the crumb-knife with a chased horn-of-plenty for the handle—for $45. The plum cake at the wedding party you attended last week—weighing 75 pounds—with its frost work ornaments six feet high, cost $100; the pyramid, 3 ½ feet high, with classic figures supporting the roof of a temple crowned with wreaths of flowers, $50; meringues in baskets and other attractive forms, $15 each, the boned turkey in jelly, pedestal and all, $15. Your imagination will supply the innumerable articles that must accompany and keep in countenance these elegant trifles.

It will thus be seen that fashion and society in our city, require expensive aids, and embellishments. Ladies are beginning to complain of the enormous taxes levied on “position and advantageous connection;” their husbands have groaned long under the burden. One tells us she is compelled to forego parties though she loves them dearly, and is well fitted to adorn and enjoy them; she really cannot afford to spend two hundred dollars on a dress and its accompaniments, and must, therefore, give up the pleasure. Another who has lightened her purse and oppressed he heart to be splendid, is half sick with chagrin, because another has eclipsed her in extravagance. Many who really have no wish to cramp their means and beggar their children for such empty triumphs, complain that their friends will drop them if they are not magnificent, and that cold shoulders are turned on any thing in the way of a shawl and dress under $500, or an inferior set of sables. There is certainly no doubt that profuse expenditure in dress, furniture and living, is made the test of respectability and the passport to society in our city. The veriest booby or the silliest woman, who can shine in what money can purchase, may command respect denied to worth, excellence and talent, when allied to moderate means.

This is not as it should be. We do not object to the toy mania when it does not break the limits prescribed by nature and reason. Let the rich spend their wealth in luxuries, trifles and in superb decorations, and let others admire the gewgaws if they choose; but let not the better riches of mind and heart be less prized—infinitely superior as they are. Let such of our dames as can afford to indulge their tastes be magnificent; but let the “public opinion” that would exclude from society those who can not afford more than simple elegance, be crushed out of existence. It is unworthy of republicans—unworthy of Christians—unworthy of intelligent beings.

N.Y. Express.

Alexandria [VA] Gazette 21 January 1857: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Strong words, indeed, when everybody knows that the whims of the upper classes give employment to the poor even though the rich may be a trifle careless in paying their bills to impoverished seamstresses. The expensive caprices of the aristocracy also give those less fortunate something to read in the papers on wet afternoons. This article, for example, on “The Cost of a Curtsey,” telling of the expenses attendant on being present at Court, and this one, on “Where that $10,000-a-Year Dress Allowance Goes” must have inspired much amusement and a hearty thankfulness among the working classes that they had not the worries and cares of the wealthy.

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 Lost Property Department: 1883

lost property office Waterlood Station 1936 lost umbrellas

Hundreds of umbrellas in the Lost Property Office of Waterloo Station, 1936

ABODE OF THE LOST

SOME OF THE ARTICLES THAT ARE FOUND ON THE TRAINS.

Several days ago the following advertisement appeared in one of the morning papers.

FOUND-TWENTY-THIRD STREET ELEVATED station, a roll of money. Owner can receive it by proving the number of bills, at No. 17 West 120th street.

“There is an immense number of miscellaneous articles of every description left or dropped in the cars of the company,” said General Manager Hain, of the “L” roads, when his attention was called to this advertisement. “When found by the conductor, or handed to them, the rules of the company direct that they shall be handed to the ‘Despatchers,’ as the men who send out the trains are called. If the loss occurs on an uptown train the despatcher at 155th street is given the article, and if it is on a downtown trip the dispatcher at the Battery receives it. They in turn deliver the article to the property clerk, who gives them a descriptive receipt for it, which ends the despatcher’s obligation in the matter. All persons are obliged to go there and give a full description of their lost property before the money, article, or whatever it is is returned to them.”

The room for lost property is located at No. 4 Front street. A dingy sign, on which is inscribed, “Lost property,” is tacked to the wall on the lower floor, and a hand points the way to a narrow staircase, which winds up to the third floor, where the property clerk holds high court. In a room adjoining his office the lost property is stored, and this apartment looks like a cross between a pawnbroker’s vault and a West street junk shop. In it every manner of article is heaped.

The property clerk was found at the desk, polite to the last degree. In answer to one of the first inquiries as to the amount of property lost, he said that since January 4, 1882, to January 9, 1883, 4,500 articles had been turned over to his care, a surprisingly small number considering that nearly ninety millions of people travel over the road during the same period of time, even after admitting that a large number of articles are picked up by dishonest persons in the cars and never turned over to the company.”

“Is there much money found on the road?” was asked.

“Yes,” considerable,” answered the P.DE., “but the amounts are usually small and seldom exceed $100. Once 200 silver dollars were found in a package, which were at once returned to the owner. The money is brought in sometimes in a loose roll of bills or in bags or pocketbooks. Then, besides, we find bankbooks, checks and drafts.”

“Are you troubled by many bogus claimants?”

“No; that class of persons seldom call, and if they do we can easily detect hem after a few minutes’ conversation.”

“What percentage of all the articles found are redeemed?” “I should say about 50 percent. All the valuable articles are generally reclaimed at once. We have now on hand over one thousand articles, but not one of them is worth over $5.”

“What disposition is made of the articles that are left unclaimed?” the reported then asked.

“After keeping them for about twelve months they are sold at private sale. Many articles are so worthless that even the owners do not care to call for them, and few persons care to buy them.”

“Articles of every imaginable kind are found, of course?” “Yes, I should say so. Ladies leave their furs, muff, circulars, dolmans, cloaks and shawls. Gentlemen, forget their coats. We find pantaloons now and then, but they are always the contents of bundles. Boys and girls leave their lunch boxes and school books. We found a statuette of Christopher Columbus the other day. Some time ago some one left a small sole leather trunk. Imagine a man forgetting his luggage. Bundles have been brought in as large as myself. (The property clerk stands about five feet nine inches and weighs over one hundred and forty pounds.). Clothing of every description is left in the cars. Umbrellas, however, have the call; there are more umbrellas picked up than any other one article. We have epidemics of certain things—umbrellas and overshoes in wet weather, vails and green spectacles in dry; fans and parasols in the summer season, skates and gloves in the winter; fruit and vegetables in the autumn, flower and garden seeds in the spring.”

“Yes, and—“

“Letters are found—many of them touchingly sweet. I never knew how much ‘taffy’ could be laid out in black and white until I occupied this position. We find poetry, too, from young ladies to their beaux, but as a general thing the spelling is fearfully wild,” said the P.C., “and the verses don’t go to any tune I ever heard.”

“Every class and trade, then, contributes its mite?”

“Certainly. A plumber left a cast ion sink frame; it was certainly too large to lose, but he forgot it. Sportsmen leave their guns, doctors their surgical instruments, invalids their bottles of medicine, and, would you believe it, one lame man skipped off without his crutch. Old gentlemen sometimes get off and leave their wives behind, but none are ever turned in.”

While this conversation was progressing, several persons called to inquire about their lost property. As a rule they were an anxious lot, and many seemed to have just awakened after a long nap. At last a very pretty young lady tripped into the office, with a face radiant with smiles and blushes. She said:

“I have lost a package.” “Indeed,” said the P.C. “Of what?”

“Must I tell?”

“We must get some idea of what is lost, you know.” “Well, it was underwear—ladies’ underwear,” said the pretty one, looking blushingly down.

“Describe, Miss, if you please,” said the P.C., beginning to look a little weary.

“There were six handkerchiefs and__”

“Yes.”

“And six pair—pair—of—stockings—new ones,” she added. “Ah@” said the P.C., with a start, as if he had never heard of such things before.

“And a—oh, dear, must I tell! Oh, a pair –a pair of—cor—cors-e-t-s,” breathed the fair one in a voice so low and sweet that even the reported began to feel as though he had better leave the office, while the P.C. wriggled in wretched silence and suddenly became interested in the mucilage bottle on the desk. At last he muttered, because it was his duty to:

“Was that all?”

“Oh!” was the reply, “oh, there was,” and she blushed the color of a Marshal Ney rose, but she did not bloom alone, for the P.C.’s face was a red as a boiled lobster, “there was—a—pa—oh! I think I’ll go—n-e-v-e-r mind the things—there was a pa—pa—ir—a pair of—“

“Oh, take the bundle,” exclaimed the P.C., as he handed out a neatly tied package.

There was a rustle of a silk dress and the door banged behind the beauty—she was gone.

“Oh, Lord! Wasn’t that dreadful?” said the P.C. N.Y. Herald

Jersey Journal [Jersey City, NJ] 17 January 1883: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The P.C. protested too much, in Mrs Daffodil’s severe opinion. The handkerchiefs and stockings alone should have been enough to identify the parcel, but this Fiend in Human Shape was obviously enjoying the spectacle of a modest young woman exposing her innermost wardrobe secrets. Mrs Daffodil, whose mind naturally runs to plots, suggests that the P.C. hoped to embarrass the young woman into abandoning the parcel, whereupon he could purchase it at the unclaimed property auction and take it home to his wife. If such an excrescence has a wife…

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.

 

Second-hand Silks: 1900

ONE WOMAN’S WAY

A Livelihood Gained from the Feminine Sense of Jumping at a Good Thing.

“I met a woman not long ago on the road,” remarked a New York drummer, “who gave me a point or two on how a bright woman can make her way in the world. She was a widow, with two children to support, and was housekeeper of an Indianapolis hotel until her health failed. She had to give it up at last, though she tried to hold on, for that was all she knew how to do, and she retired with only $100 or so to go on. Not knowing exactly whither to turn, she went to New York city and just wandered around for a while, looking at things. One day she saw the women crowding the life out of one another at a bargain sale of skirts, and a thought struck her. She let it develop for a day or two, and then spent all the money she had for silk skirts that were destined for the bargain counter. They were rumpled and looked jaded and tired, but she took them as they were at small figures, and carried them to her rooms. There she ironed and pressed them out till they looked like new, and then went out into the suburban towns to sell them. She found ready purchasers at good prices, and came back for more. These she made as good as new and had no trouble in disposing of her stock.

purple flower petticoat 1900

Flowered silk petticoat, early 1900s, from a trousseau. Observe the pinked edges of the flounces. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/86380?rpp=30&pg=3&ao=on&ft=petticoat&pos=73

She added shirt waists next and then began getting shop-worn silks, remnants and that kind of stock, and gradually increased her territory, hiring somebody to do the renovating while she was attending to the buying and selling. She has been at it three or four years, and in that time has built up a trade that is paying her this year between $500 and $600 a month. She has her children at good schools; has a nice little home in one of the suburban towns, which she owns, and is about the thriftiest and most business-like woman I ever saw. No training either to begin with, just the woman’s sense of jumping at a good thing and getting it.”

The Mantiowoc [WI] Pilot 8 March 1900: p. 1

pale pink frou frou petticoat

Pale pink silk petticoat, amply endowed with “frou frou,” http://art.famsf.org/petticoat-544761a-b

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To the practised nineteenth-century feminine eye, a worn silk garment spoke of genteel poverty and dreary domestic economy. Normally a lady would be advised to pick the gown apart and make into something for one’s little daughter, although if a silk dress was not absolutely falling to bits, it might be veiled with chiffon or other fabrics to hide the wear. There were also suggestions for refurbishing worn silks (particularly expensive mourning crapes) involving various receipts, such as water in which potatoes had been boiled or the following shuddersome hell-brew:

The following method is said to be an excellent one for the renovation of old, half-worn silks. Boil into a pulp three or four old kid gloves, using a bright, new pan, and putting the gloves into cold water. Strain this pulpy mass, adding a little hot water, and a teaspoonful of ammonia. Wash the silk thoroughly in this, putting into the rinsing water some borax and spirits of camphor. When cleansing black silks use gloves of any color, but when cleaning light silks use light-colored gloves. Good Health, Vol. 24, 1889: p. 317

Mrs Daffodil has previously written on the rag trade and on successful lady drummers.

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.