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Whistling Girls: 1885-1891

Mrs Bertha Stockwell with students at her whistling school, c. 1949 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/-/IgEkF26a62c2ag

WHISTLING GIRLS VASSAR COLLEGE STUDENTS WHO PRACTICE IN CONCERT

What a Professor of Anatomy has to Say

The Proper Method of Producing the Vibrations

Whistling Out of Tune

[New York Letter]

“The best whistlers I know,” said a fashionable doctor, “are young ladies. It is like the warbling of a mocking bird. They can whistle much higher notes than a man, and in a very clear and bell-like tone. I know a young lady who whistles and accompanies herself on a guitar. The effect is really very pretty, and her friends often beg her to favour them with an air. I met her down at Nantucket last summer, and it was her habit to sit on the beach in the evening and whistle plaintive negro melodies. When we went out sailing she was very welcome for the same reason. I think she whistled her way into the affections of a very desirable young man, and I hear they are engaged.”

WHISTLING CONCERTS.

A New York girl was quite indignant when asked why girls couldn’t whistle. “Can’t whistle?” she said. “Why, they can whistle! All the girls I know whistle. Up at Vassar we had whistling concerts. We used to practice at night in the dormitories when the matron was gone and the lights were out, and if you weren’t very sleepy it was fun to lie in bed and hear ten girls whistling ‘In the Gloaming’ all together. We had one girl who could whistle through her fingers like a boy, but then she was a regular tomboy. She could run, play ball, climb trees, and box better than any other girl in the college. There was another girl who could only whistle by drawing in her breath, but that was better than not whistling at all.”

A professor of anatomy said: “The mouth has more muscle than any other portion of the body—the number varies from nineteen to twenty-one. The chief muscle is the orbicularis oris or sphincter muscle. The muscle is in two parts, the upper extending from the nose to the mouth. The two parts are interwoven at the corners of the mouth so that they act as one muscle. Their minor circumference circumscribes the opening of the mouth. This muscle, by modifying the state of the expired air produces in it vibrations of a peculiar character, and this is whistling.

THE PROPER METHOD

“In whistling the lips are pursed up so that only a small aperture remains. The air is driven from the lungs into the mouth, where it distends the buccinators muscles of the cheeks, and these muscles contracting aid in forcing out the air through the lips. The tongue compresses the volume of air in the mouth, and so adds to the sharpness of the whistle. The benefit of the tongue is readily seen when an attempt is made to whistle sharply with an indrawn breath. Women have the same muscles of the mouth as men, and are generally as well able to use them. There is no reason at all why everybody should not whistle.

“Some try to whistle by blowing through their pouting lips, but that is not the idea at all. The mucous membrane of the lips must be drawn tense, so that it will vibrate by the current of air passing over it. These vibrations are communicated to the air column, and hence the tone, varying with the tension of the lips and air. It is exactly on the same principle that the vocal cords work. The lips adjust themselves voluntarily according to the musical ear of the whistler, as it is impossible for him to distinguish the different positions of the lips in sounding the various tones. People with no ear for music will invariably whistle very much out of tune, while people with a cultivated ear will whistle very finely. As women are, as a rule, more musical than men, they can whistle better when they set about it. However, it is greatly a matter of practice.”

Bismarck [ND] Tribune 20 October 1885: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The learned professor of anatomy seems determined to drain every suggestion of pleasure out of the thing. Mrs Daffodil will not offer the obvious allusion to “Whistling women and cackling hens…”

Nineteenth-century whistling was viewed very seriously as one of the musical arts. Contests and concerts were held to showcase the tuneful lips, as in this account of dueling whistlers.

Eminent Whistlers Meet

Mrs. Alice J. Shaw, the whistling prima donna, and her company appeared at the opera house before a good audience. An additional number was furnished by Thomas F. Brown, the local whistler, who, by the way, Maj. Pond, Mrs. Shaw’s manager, asserted would be “knocked out.” Nothing of the kind happened, however, and Mr. Browne’s peculiar style of whistling compared very favourably with Mrs. Shaw’s.

Mrs. Shaw rendered Arditi’s familiar “Il Bacio,” and was warmly encored, to which she gracefully responded. Mr. Browne received an ovation when he appeared. He whistled “The Forest Fairy,” and responded to an encore with a medley of operatic selections, and on being recalled gave “Kathleen Mavourneen.” Mrs. Shaw’s volume of tone is somewhat superior to Mr. Browne’s. Her notes are peculiarly sweet and birdlike, and at the same time are quite penetrating. Her trills and runs were all good, and the expression and execution were excellent. She has one advantage over Mr. Browne, and that is her musical training, but he latter overcomes that by his natural ability. In the lower register Mr. Browne excels Mrs. Shaw, particularly in the flute or piccolo intonation. His range is about three octaves, and his execution of the high notes was brilliant. He possesses one strong feature which Mrs. Shaw lacks, and that is his peculiar double tonguing.  Arizona Champion [Flagstaff, AT] 14 March 1891: p. 1

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

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

 

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A Matter of Three Inches on a Bathing Suit: 1902

The immodestly short bathing-costume.

 

HER FIANCE WANTED PRIVATE VIEWS ONLY

A matter of three inches on a bathing suit that really would not be voluminous if it had thirteen inches added to it, has been the cause of a broken engagement.

The insidious suit, which steeled the heart of a man and put a proud girl on her mettle, is owned by Miss Sallie Kerstris of Upper Roxborough, N.Y., who is visiting in this city. The suit is made of red, green and blue cloth, and from the description would be an admirable thing for flagging trains.

A few nights ago, Miss Kerstris and Wesley Kinlamb, her affianced husband, attended a small reception at the home of a mutual friend in Denver. Miss Kerstris and her friend had ordered bathing suits together, and they were looking them over in the women’s wrap room. Some one dared Miss Kerstris to don her suit and ask Kinlamb in to inspect it. It was no sooner said than done, but when Kinlamb learned the nature of the summons, he refused to go.

Thereupon Miss Kerstris and her friends repaired to the room where the lover was. One glance was enough to tell him that the skirt was too conspicuous. He turned away blushing. Everybody else in the room seemed to be delighted with the garb.

“How do you like it, Wesley?” asked Miss Kerstris.

“It’s awful,” he replied ungallantly. “You can’t wear that thing at Glenwood Springs.”

“Well, I intend to wear it,” said Miss Kerstris, with an angry stamp of her foot.

You are not going to Glenwood Springs with me unless you have that skirt made at least three inches longer.”

“Then I won’t go to Glenwood Springs with you. I won’t speak to you.”

“Very Well. Good night,” and Kinlamb left the house.

Some of Kinlamb’s friends said he was right, but most of the guests sided with Miss Kerstris and the bathing suit. The party broke up and Miss Kerstris went home in a tearful mood, declaring that she would “never marry him, never!”

As she stepped on to the trolley car she carried the bathing suit done up in a neat little package in her hand.

Denver [CO] Post 17 August 1902: p. 29

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Proper bathing attire for ladies and gentlemen has been the subject of public debate since mixed bathing became general. Was a skirt necessary for modesty? Were stockings essential to keep the gentlemen from Impure Thoughts?  What about one piece suits? Bloomer suits? Rubber suits? With every passing year, bathing costumes became more abbreviated, arousing howls of protest from the Mrs Grundies of the world.

Less usually did these howls arise from “Mr Grundy.” Mr Wesley Kinlamb (a Dickensian name if ever there was one) seems to have been an exceptionally modest and disagreeable fellow, refusing a summons to inspect the bathing costume and then blushing and blustering at his fiancée when she (to his mind) shamelessly flaunted it before him.

Mrs Daffodil considers that the lady was well-rid of such an ungallant suitor, although she has not been able to verify that the couple did not later reconcile. One hopes not. Mrs Daffodil could imagine the lurid testimony in divorce court:  recriminations about a fashionable peek-a-boo waist, a too-seductive hat, and vile accusations of being too attentive to some gentleman at a party. It is a sordid picture.

There were some husbands who wished to dictate what their wives ought to wear; they were invariably ridiculed in the press.

Another view of the fatal bathing suit.

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.

 

“What Can I Do With Birch Bark?” Nature Crafts: 1890

 

A birch bark notebook painted with strawberries, given to HRH Prince Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, on his 1860 trip to Canada. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/84321/notebook

FOR MOUNTAIN LAKE AND SEASHORE

Novel and Artistic Uses for Summer Spoils

What May Be Done with Birch Bark and Corn Stalks

Shell Portiere

Mermaid Scarf

“What can I do with birch bark?” writes a correspondent. “I spent last summer in the lake regions of Maine, and gathered quantities of beautiful pieces, some of them very large.”

There are so many beautiful uses to which birch bark can be put that I scarcely know where to begin. A piece 7 by 9 or of any desired size makes a nice cover for a blotter. Paint or draw with India ink some little sketch, and fasten to the blotters like a book by punching holes in the corners and running a ribbon through, with a bow at either end. Dark red makes a pretty contrast with the gray brown of the bark.

It will cover an old frame most artistically. Use pieces of any size, fastening them on with very small tacks and letting edges and corners curl up here and there. A bit of gnarled twig, a pine cone or a pretty piece of lichen can be placed at each corner. This would frame a woodland etching delightfully. Brackets and wall pockets may be covered with the bark alone, or with bark and lichens. Mounted on wide, handsome ribbon it makes the daintiest sort of souvenir menu cads. Write the menu on the bark with India or brown ink in quaint, irregular letters and tack the pieces on ribbon a very little wider, and two inches longer on each end than the bark. Fringe out one inch of this. They may be mounted on white, pale green, pale or dull gold, light blue, dark red or golden brown.

AN ARTIST’S FANCY.

In the country home of an artist on the borders of Lake George is a room in which birch bark has perhaps found its artistic limit. As in most country houses the room is a low one. About two and a half feet from the baseboard a narrow moulding of plain wood runs around the room, and the ceiling is of beams stained to represent old oak. A dado is formed of golden corn stalks cut into regular lengths and nailed to the baseboard at the bottom and the moulding two and a half feet above. The top is finished by running lengths of stalks horizontally, thus hiding completely the strip of moulding. A sharp, small saw must be used to cut the stalks into equal lengths, and as straight, firm and even stalks selected as possible. The side walls are covered with a greenish gray or grayish green cartridge paper. The frieze, ether or ten inches wide, is formed of irregular pieces of birch bark nailed to the wall with small brads. The joinings are hidden or emphasized by trailing bits of Florida moss or pieces of beautifully colored lichens form tree trunk and fence rail. It is finished top and bottom with a moulding of corn stalks. Long, slender brads are used to nail the stalks that form the dado.

You may make a pretty card receiver for the hall or for a corner of the parlor. Take three long, strong cat tails and cross them as in the illustration, fastening in your last season’s seaside hat, of which you have covered the brim and crown with birch bark, with a rim of lichens or Florida moss. Tie a huge bow of golden brown ribbons were the stalks meet. Laundry lists, card cases, and many such articles can be covered with birch bark, as well as glove and handkerchief boxes.

FOUR SEASONS’S TABLE COVER

Ladies who are making read for a summer in the mountains or by the seashore may be glad of the following idea for fancy work from “M.U.S.:”

“This table cover is made of one yard each of olive and light blue felt. Taking the latter for the centre, I cut the former into four equilateral triangles, couching the same onto the blue centre with a thick strand of pale yellow filoselle.

“After painting in oil with a good deal of spirits of turpentine the appropriate designs on the corners—viz., dogwood bloom for spring, wild rose for summer, oak and maples leaves in red, bronze and yellow for autumn, and holly and mistletoe for winter, I drew with a white chalk pencil a line two inches from the edge of the tablecloth as the depth of the fringe, into which the felt was to be cut after everything as finished. Above this was embroidered a heading for the fringe using two shades of gold colored silk, the darkest a burnet sienna, and the lightest of the same shade as that used for uniting the two tints of felt as already described. Do not attempt to cut the felt for the fringe until the painting and embroidery are done, as it gets unnecessarily beaten about in pinning the felt to the stretcher and would make the embroiderer frantic by catching into her silks.

“Of the embroidery, by the way, although it looks like a bona fide netted heading to a fringe, it is only one of the simple ‘crazy’ stitches—just a line of ‘cat stitch,’ then in the subsequent line each stitch is taken loosely linked to the bottom of the upper stitch—not through the felt, save at the bottom of the stitch.

“This table cover looks exceedingly artistic and expensive, which latter it is not—that is, if you can do the painting yourself.”

If you cannot do the painting you can at least embroider the designs in outline or long and short Kensington stitch with very good effect, almost equal to painting, in fact, if the Kensington embroider is used.

SEASIDE OCCUPATION

“An ingenious girl of my acquaintance,” writes “Bo-Peep,” “has added to her cosey parlor at a trifling expense two artistic and novel specimens of her handiwork. When I describe them to you and tell you the actual cost I am sure all of you who go to the seashore this summer will have next winger a ‘shell portiere’ and a ‘mermaid scarf.’ Do you remember the thin, yellow, almost flat shells which are so abundant on all beaches? Of course you do, but when you saw them by hundreds in the white sand I am sure you never imagined what a beautiful portiere could be made from them. Yet to this use have they been put by my young friend. She pierced each shell with a hot wire, and then with a delicate wire fastened the narrow end of one to the wide end of the next until a string sufficiently long to reach form the curtain pole to the floor was made. Enough of these were fashioned for the entire portiere. At the top they are held in place by a narrow strip of cloth of the same color as the shells. The effect is something like the Japanese portieres, but the coloring being Nature’s own is prettier, and then the cost—twenty cents, the price of the wire, and twelve cents for the strip of cloth.

“For a scarf dainty enough to grace the home of a sea nymph, buy a yard of Nile green India silk. Sew the shells on either end in artistic confusion, putting here and there a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed. Make a fringe of the shells in the same manner as you made the portiere, only join them with Nile green embroidery silk instead of the wire. The scarf shows to particular advantage thrown over a highly polished antique oak frame enclosing a delightful water color of Maine’s wild coast.”

New York [NY] Herald 18 May 1890: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil feels that the correct answer to the question “What can I do with birch bark?” is “It makes excellent tinder for lighting the fire or stove.”

Behind stories like this is the notion that the “ingenious girl” must do something with every scrap of birch-bark and sea-weed  picked up in an idle moment. Ladies’ magazines are chock-a-block with ideas for making sea-weed pictures, shell ornaments, and all manner of natural fancy-work. Even on holiday, ladies were not permitted to be idle:

If women staying at seashore resorts will spend part of their idle time in collecting a variety of shells, they may utilize them in the fall for a unique door drapery. Fasten the shells thickly on fish netting, then drape of the netting over a door casing and let it hang down at the sides. The shell trimmed netting also makes an attractive portiere by lining it with a light shade of sea green silk finished material. The Ypsilanti [MI] Commercial 12 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil has nothing against shells, but suggests that there is no such thing as “a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed” in a domestic interior.  And the very idea of birch-bark friezes, lichen trimmings, and corn-stalk dadoes would make any self-respecting parlour-maid shudder at their potential for collecting dust and harbouring insect life.

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.

 

A Wealthy Widow Weds a Ghost: 1894

 

 

 

MARRIED TO A SPOOK

WEALTHY WIDOW BECOMES A GHOST’S BRIDE

UNCANNY STORY FROM THE ONSET SPIRITUALISTS

The Bangs Sisters, May and Lizzie, Continue to Startle the Peaceful Residents of a Massachusetts Town—

The Spirit Bridegroom.

Onset, Mass., Special to Inter-Ocean.

May Bangs, one of the Bangs sisters, materializing mediums and slate writers of Chicago, now at Onset Bay, declares positively and without any provisos that a person in flesh and blood in this life could be married to a materialized spirit. She declares that a woman from the west, a woman of wealth, had been married to her spirit lover in the very room in which she sat.

Charming May Bangs and her sister, the great spiritualists, who, when at home, reside in Chicago, have lately startled the natives of Onset, Mass., This statement means more than might appear on the surface when it is added that the little town is almost wholly made up of spiritualists. Thither the Bangs sisters hied themselves some weeks ago to take part in the summer assembly of the eastern societies. They made their headquarters at Happy Home cottage, where they were daily visited by pilgrims in search of friends and relatives long since in the “other world.” Among those visitors was a rich widow from the far west, who wanted to see her lover, how had been a captain in the United States army. The captain, who came from Maryland, died on the eve of his marriage to the rich widow. For a year she has worn widow’s weeds and longed for even a visit from the spirit of her departed lover. Miss Bangs informed her that she could not only produce the captain’s spirit, but that the marriage ceremony that had been cut off by death would be performed in Happy Home cottage. A few days ago an item was given out for publication to the effect that the ceremony had been effectually performed some days before. In speaking of it, May Bangs said:

“I materialized the form,” she said, “and the lover came out of the cabinet attired in the uniform of an army officer. The premises had been previously examined to prove that there was no mortal about. The materialized spirit asked that the curtains be drawn for a while to shut off the front parlor. The bride wanted him to put on her slippers and he did.

“Only a faint light shone through the room where the minister and others were waiting. He kissed her numerous times. The bride was in a new wedding dress. Then the materialized spirit lover requested that the marriage ceremony be performed and the request was granted. He placed a ring on her finger. They were together a long time that evening.” The reporter who investigated the spiritual marriage had heard from other sources of such a matrimonial event and from two different persons he had heard that the woman in the case was from the west, that she was wealthy, well-educated and a woman of refinement. She is said to be a firm believer in spiritualism and has long know the Bangs sisters, Lizzie and May. She is about 35, short in stature, plump in form and dresses elegantly. Another account of the wedding from the lips of one who claims to have possession of facts, is this:

“On the night of Aug. 8, which was Wednesday, everything was ready for this strange ceremony, and the wedding party, consisting of about half a dozen persons, was within the walls of ‘Happy Home’ cottage, which is but a few rods distant from the grove where all the big spiritualistic meetings are held. Miss ___, who was to be married to one who had passed away, had purchased flowers and with her own hands had decorated the rooms. Curtains covered the windows just as at a séance. A single dim light was burning in the parlor, just a candle in a box, the tiny flame being subdued by blue glass.

“Lizzie Bangs and the minister were to be seen in this room next to the street, surrounded by the floral display of ferns and lilies. A cheese cloth had been hung across the double doorway which led into the cabinet-room behind.

“May Bangs came tripping down the stairs and entered the dark little apartment where the spirits first made their appearance. She was followed by the bride, who took a seat in the cabinet-room and awaited the appearance of the sprit who was to become her husband. May Bangs materialized the form of a late captain of the army, who in life hailed from Maryland.

“An ordained minister then went through the marriage service, and at the close declared the couple to be husband and wife. When the minister, who is a woman, at present in Vermont, finished, she was heard to say that she hoped it was really a materialized spirit that was married, for if it was a man in earth life he was married sure enough.”

It is rumored that when the Bangs sisters start for Chicago on Monday two young men will go with them. one of these young men, who struck Onset with only $2 in his pocket, has been spending money lavishly of late.

“I’ve stuck a snap,” he said to a reporter. “I am going to Chicago with May Bangs, but I’m going to get $20 in my fist before I start, or I don’t go. I’ve had a promise of $15 and week and my board bill. Have you heard of the spirit marriage? It took place all right. The spirit groom was George—Capt. George__. They wanted me to put on a uniform and represent the groom, but I was out with May once, and Miss__ bobbed up suddenly and May had to introduce me to her, so the girl knew who I was.”

The strange marriage has been the talk of Onset for some time, but as most of those there are deep-dyed spiritualists they think it nothing unusual.

RECALLS PREVIOUS NUPTIALS.

New York, Aug. 26. [This case] The Onset Bay spook wedding recalls with a difference the famous marriage in the family of the late George D. Carroll, once of Dempsey & Carroll, stationers, who wasted much of his substance on a medium named Fanny Stryker. Carroll has lost a young son, and, though the medium never materialized the youth for him, she did act as priestess in a “spirit marriage” between the boy and “Bright Eyes,” a ghost with no family name. Elaborately engraved invitations for the ceremony were sent out and the priestess officiated in white uncut velvet. The elder Carroll died recently in comparative poverty and the medium buried him.

Dallas [TX] Morning News 9 September 1894: p. 5 and The Fort Wayne [IN] Sentinel 10 September 1894: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Such “spirit marriages” were a regrettable and venal feature of Victorian spiritualism; they usually ended in tears, lawsuits, or an asylum. Lawyers would have difficulty in untangling the legal status of the young man who played the dead Captain George, although the lady parson, wittingly or unwittingly, seems to have voiced an obvious truth. There was still the question of who signed the wedding licence and, in the United States, unlike France and China, marriages between the living and the dead are not sanctioned.

That person wearing orange blossoms over at the Haunted Ohio blog has written about a gentleman who married his late sweetheart in Cincinnati and a rather stingy bridegroom who foolishly thought that he could save on household expenses by marrying a spirit bride.

 

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

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

 

 

Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898

underwear-department-1890-1

DRESSING ON $50 TO $200 A YEAR

By Emma M. Hooper

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

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

DRESSING ON FIFTY DOLLARS A YEAR

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

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

ECONOMY IN SMALL BELONGINGS OF DRESS

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

WHEN BUYING DRESSES, SKIRTS AND BODICES

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

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

WITH LESS THAN FIFTY DOLLARS

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

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

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

DRESSING ON A HUNDRED DOLLARS

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

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

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

JUDGMENT IN BUYING DRESSES AND SKIRTS

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

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

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

WITH TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS

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

SELECTING THE IMPORTANT ITEMS OF DRESS

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

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

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

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

SELECTING THE MINOR ARTICLES OF DRESS

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

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

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

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

The Ladies’ Home Journal, Issue 1, 1898

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Blind man’s bluff is little better than an insurrection:” Christmas Games: 1900

christmas-games

Why people should celebrate Christmas by playing games, is at first sight by no means plain. What possible connection is there between the Christmas anniversary and the noise, confusion, and laughter of Christmas games? When the Queen’s birthday arrives we do not feel it to be necessary to have our hair cut, or to sit on our top-hats and smash them. The recurrence of Whit Sunday does not bring with it an irresistible desire to break the household crockery or to kill the cat. Yet it would be quite as rational to do these things on the anniversaries just mentioned as it is to play games at Christmas. What, then, is the explanation of our universal custom of celebrating Christmas with games?

It will be noted that an invariable characteristic of Christmas games is their noisiness. The game with which the mistletoe is associated is necessarily noisy; Sir Roger de Coverley involves more or less uproar of an alleged musical character; and blind man’s bluff is little better than an insurrection. A quiet Christmas game is apparently never played. We thus see that noise is an essential feature of Christmas games, and this fact will probably give us a clue to their origin.

The savage has but two ways of celebrating any important event—either he over-eats himself, or he makes a horrible noise. If he can do both, so much the better. When Christmas arrives we imitate the savage with disgraceful fidelity. We gorge ourselves with roast goose or roast turkey, and we play the noisiest games that can be played outside of the football ground. Of course, we are unconscious that we are imitating savages; our conduct is simply the result of heredity. Thousands of years ago our remote ancestor, the cave man, celebrated his chief holiday— say the anniversary of the day on which he killed and ate his worst enemy—by feasting on boiled leg of rhinoceros, and by subsequently drumming as loudly as possible on the upturned and empty kettle. In these days we are not cannibals, but at Christmas we approach as closely as possible to cannibalism by eating too much roast goose. We no longer take pleasure in beating on the bottom of a copper kettle, but we feel instinctively that our greatest festival must be celebrated with noise. Thus we can explain, by the theory of heredity, the origin of our two chief Christmas customs. And the explanation is doubtless right, for, as we all know, heredity is now the correct scientific explanation of everything—from the shape of our skulls to the way in which we lie in our beds.

While we can thus account for the noise of Christmas games, we have not yet accounted for the games themselves. Why, when there are so many ways of producing noise, do we select games as the appropriate method of producing a satisfactory Christmas uproar?

What are the conditions necessary to Christmas games? They are—first, the presence of a large number of persons of both sexes, and second, their desire to endure one another with decency. Take twenty people of assorted sexes and shut them up in the drawing room on Christmas night, and each one feels that he must do something to enable him to live through the evening. To sit still and reflect that the quiet and secluded corner, which the safe digestion of the Christmas dinner so imperiously demands, is unattainable, and that the evening must be spent in conversing with uninteresting people upon tiresome themes, is something that no man will willingly do if there is a possible alternative. Games are intended to supply this alternative, and to enable the Christmas sufferer temporarily to forget his sorrows. Probably they accomplish this end to some extent, but it may be fairly questioned whether the remedy is not worse than the disease.

The supposition that there can be any pleasure derived from playing Christmas games cannot be for a moment entertained. We all know that it is not true. Take the ceremonies of the mistletoe — ceremonies which have no real title to the name of game, although they are arbitrarily classed under that head. Can there be any pleasure in kissing the wrong girl under the mistletoe? Of course, it will be said that you may kiss the right girl, but if she is only one among a dozen girls, the proportion of undesirable kisses to the one desired kiss is preposterously large. Then, can a man take any pleasure in seeing the girl of his heart kissed by other men? No matter how heavily he may have drugged himself with roast goose, the spectacle is one which fills him with secret and inexpressible rage.

There may be a sort of mild pleasure in seeing a man whom you cordially detest groping around the room with a bandage over his eyes, and occasionally abrading himself against the sharp corners of the furniture, but it is a pleasure wholly unworthy of a Christian man. The game of blindman’s bluff is exhausting, undignified, and certain to involve one in difficulties with the girls whose dresses are torn by the unconscious feet of the blindfolded man. It is true that there are redeeming points, even in blindman’s bluff; for is there not a case on record of a man who, while blindfolded, caught the family cat, and in his excitement mistook the cat’s fur for the back hair of his maiden aunt? His triumphant proclamation that he had caught Aunt Jane induced the latter to change her will the very next day, thereby depriving the blindfolded nephew of a comfortable legacy to which he had looked forward for years. Still, poetic justice seldom overtakes the man who consents to be blindfolded, and those occasions when a Christmas guest finds it possible to extract even the feeblest pleasure from blindman’s-buff are extremely rare.

Mr Fezziwig's Ball, British Library

Mr Fezziwig’s Ball, British Library

Sir Roger is simply an athletic exercise, falsely called a game. It is as tiresome as golf, and nearly as exhausting as cycling. And yet even middle-aged men who have within an hour or two eaten a Christmas dinner, are made to engage in the violent inanities of Sir Roger on Christmas evening. On the following day, when in the agonies of abdominal remorse, a man is ready to take a solemn oath never again to meddle with that fatal sport, but as sure as the next Christmas sees him still alive, he will end Christmas evening with the inevitable Sir Roger.

It may be unhesitatingly asserted that no one enjoys Christmas games who is more than ten years of age. It need hardly be said that children of that age should be in bed on Christmas evening instead of being permitted to infest the drawing-room. Their enjoyment of Christmas  games is, therefore, no excuse for the latter. We might as well excuse bull baiting on the ground that it gives pleasure to the dogs. We play Christmas games solely because an hereditary custom compels us so to do. Nobody who has arrived at years of discretion enjoys them, and ninety-nine people in a hundred detest them.

When we think of the quiet, comfortable games with which Christmas might be celebrated, the objectionable character of our present Christmas games becomes the more apparent. There is the delightful game known as ” Two in the Conservatory.” It is played by a young man and a young woman. The two retire to a quiet corner in the conservatory where they are concealed from view by flowers and vines, and there discuss in a low tone such pleasing themes as the Best Route to the North Pole, or the Kinetic Theory of Gases. Any number of young men and young women can play at this simple but charming game provided a sufficient number of quiet corners can be found in the conservatory. It can even be played on the stairs almost as well as in the conservatory, and the same young man, if he is a sufficiently accomplished player, can play a half a dozen sets with half a dozen different young women in the course of a single evening. The enormous superiority of this game to anything that is done under the mistletoe must be apparent even to the most careless observer. It involves none of the publicity, the romping, and the other disagreeable features of the latter game, though it must be confessed that, in some instances, the loser has had good cause to regret that he ever attempted to play it.

Then there is the pipe game. This is played only by men, but, perhaps, that is one of the advantages of it. The player withdraws to some quiet place, either within or without the house. Having seated himself he fills an ordinary brier-wood pipe with good tobacco, and lights the tobacco with a match. Almost any match may be used, but as a rule the wooden match is used by the best players.

The player can either finish his game in one innings with the pipe, or he can refill it and enjoy another innings. Men who habitually play this game assert that it is peculiarly adapted for Christmas evening, especially if the Christmas dinner has been a good one.

That it is vastly preferable to blindman’s-buff, or Sir Roger, is admitted by nearly all medical men; except, of course, young practitioners, who are anxious to add to the number of their patients, and look upon the usual Christmas games, with their subsequent harvest of sufferers from dyspepsia, as something especially designed for the good of the medical faculty.

I may mention one more admirable Christmas game. It is called Bedfordshire, and is one of the earliest games with which we make acquaintance in our childhood. The player retires from the drawing-room about an hour after dinner is over, and just before the orthodox Christmas games begin. When he reaches his room he removes the greater part of his clothing, puts on his night-gown, and after extinguishing the light, gets into bed. There he remains until half an hour before breakfast time on the following morning. This game ought to be a great favourite, and when a man has once learned to play it on Christmas evening, he can never be induced to play any other.

I have suffered much from Christmas games. I have played blindman’s-buff and caught the corner of a particularly hard pianoforte with my forehead. I have undergone the toil of Sir Roger, and caught pneumonia in consequence of being overheated. I have been compelled to kiss girls under the mistletoe who, I am certain, did not want to be kissed by me, and whom I certainly did not want to kiss. On the other hand, I have the memory of one delightful Christmas Eve which I spent in a rational manner. I was nearly seven hundred miles distant from my home, and I went to dine with a bachelor uncle who warned me that he detested the practice of giving Christmas presents, and uniformly refused to accept any. There was no one at the dinner-table except my uncle and myself, and about eight o’clock that excellent man said to me, “Now, nephew, I’m going to bed. There is the port, and there are the cigars, and you’ll find plenty of books in the library. Good-night!” The port and the cigars were admirable, and in the library I found a volume of Guy De Maupassant which I had never previously seen. I went to bed at ten o’clock, and I have ever since considered that my excellent uncle’s idea of entertaining Christmas guests was worthy of universal imitation.

Cassell’s Magazine, Volume 20 1900: pp 68-71

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Sir Roger de Coverley is one of the oldest and most popular country-dances. Two lines of dancers face one other and when the music starts, dash into the centre aisle, twirling their partners round about, and then dashing back to their places. Depending on the tempo which the musicians set, it can devolve into a rout. The Mistletoe Game (which has, Mrs Daffodil believes, an American cousin called “Spin the Bottle”) is equally fraught with danger.

Mrs Daffodil thoroughly approves of the game of Bedfordshire and wishes that she could play it more often in the busy holiday season. She also applauds the Liberty Hall philosophy of the narrator’s bachelor uncle, although she does not mind receiving Christmas presents—in a rational manner, of course.

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.

 

Christmas Omens: 1896

HCandlelight, 1920s American, Commercial process; Sheet: 5 1/16 × 5 13/16 in. (12.8 × 14.8 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.1) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/636167

HCandlelight, 1920s
American,
Commercial process; Sheet: 5 1/16 × 5 13/16 in. (12.8 × 14.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.1)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/636167

CHRISTMAS OMENS,

Being a Few of the Superstitions That Prevail at This Season

It is considered very unseemly to look a gift father in the mouth.

To give a friend a present which cost you $7 and get in return a silk handkerchief worth 28 cents is a sign that you will eventually make a frantic effort to present yourself with a series of swift kicks.

It is considered a very evil omen to permit your wife to present you with a box of cigars on Christmas morning. If you let the stove smoke them the evil may possibly be averted, but if you attempt to smoke them yourself—well, you’ve been warned in time, that’s all.

It is considered most unlucky to have 14 relatives drop in on you for dinner Christmas Day, just when you wife has cooked according to one of those eighty-seven-cent newspaper menus.

If you see a small, bright light in your room when you return just before daybreak from a Christmas Eve gin rickey festival, it is a sure sign that your wife is awaiting you with outstretched arms, &c., &c., ad lib. If, however, you see 34 small, bright lights, it is an omen that you’ll have trouble in locating the keyhole, and that you don’t care a tinker’s epithet how many hours your wife has waited for you.

If you find a large piece of molasses candy in your hair it is a token that your little boy was the recipient of more Christmas taffy than he knew just what to do with.

It is considered very bad luck to make $25 presents on a $15 salary.

It is a sign of impending misfortune if you forget to give the cook a handsome present.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 27 December 1896: p. 27

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:

There were, to be sure, many Christmas superstitions and omens that were taken very seriously. For example:

The holly used for decorations, both the church and house, should be taken down on Candlemas eve, or misfortune will come on parish or people. In taking down holly in some parts of England it is thought unlucky to prick the finger if blood comes, but if a leaf stick to dress or coat it is a good omen. In old days a branch of holly picked on Christmas eve was an efficacious as the rowan, or mountain ash, in protecting from witches and warlocks or evil spells

In some parts of Yorkshire, curiously enough, to this day it is believed that if more ivy than holly is used in the Christmas decorations the wife will “wear the breeches” for the ensuing year. An old farmer was once seen pulling down the ivy with which the kitchen was decorated. “I’ll ha’ noan o’ this,” he whispered to his squire.   The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia PA] 21 December 1899

Mrs Daffodil would add that it is very bad luck for a popular gentleman to leave jewellers’ receipts lying about where they can be seen by visiting ladies. Such receipts often contain painful details: the lady who was the recipient of a pair of slippers will inevitably feel slighted to find that another lady received a diamond bracelet.  A contretemps of this order can bring down a rain of curses upon the head of the careless gentleman.

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.