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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.

 

Frivolous Gaby and her Jewels: 1920

gaby-deslys-1910

Why Frivolous Gaby Left Her $1,000,000 Gems to the Poor

The Strange Fear That Made Her Recklessly Extravagant, Penurious, Caused Her Untimely Death, and Forced Her to Give Her Most Precious Possessions to the Destitute.

The sale of poor Gaby Deslys’s jewels for the benefit of the poor of Marseilles is one of the strangest, most puzzling freaks of human behavior of our day.

That a woman who was universally noted for her frivolity, her extravagance, her worldliness in short, should perform the utterly unworldly act of selling all her jewels for the unknown poor seems inexplicable. These jewels were the greatest pride, the greatest joy of her life of insensate extravagance, and yet she willed away the magnificent collection to help a lot of wretched, squalid, hopeless paupers. The act is entirely contrary to what one would expect In a person of her spectacular career.

The explanation of Gaby’s strange will has been furnished to your correspondent by one of her intimate friends. Her action can only be understood when one knows the peculiar state of mind, almost a pathological condition, which had dominated her for years.

“Gaby had an almost insane fear of poverty,” said your correspondent’s informant. “Poverty was to her like a personal devil, always watching her and waiting to grasp her in his cruel clutches. Her most extravagant acts were committed as a form of defiance to this demon–poverty. The final act of her life, willing her jewels to the poor, was intended to be her supreme blow at the demon.”

This revelation of the famous dancer’s state of mind also clears up some of the mystery surrounding the last romance of her life, her affair with the young Duke de Crussol, member of France’s most ancient noble family. The Duke, who accompanied the dancer to New York about a year ago, was so profoundly devoted to her that his family came to the conclusion he was planning to marry her and was dreadfully worried at the prospect.

The truth was that the pretty dancer had confided to the young Duke her dream of leaving all her wealth to the poor and that with the enthusiasm of youth he was completely carried away by her idealism. That is why he treated her with a reverence not usually paid by young dukes to frivolous dancers. That also explains his profound emotion at her death, why he I broke into tears, wrung his hands in anguish, and could scarcely control himself:

“She had such a beautiful soul.” said the Duke, evidently under the influence of knowledge that was not within the reach of ordinary persons. “She was good, she was noble, she lived for others. Nobody can understand yet how good she was.”

The Duke, it should be recalled, distinguished himself as an aviator during the War, and threw away his chance of the Legion of Honor in order to visit Gaby Deslys when she was ill.

The value of the jewels left by Gaby to the poor is enormous, and is not fully indicated by the sale at auction already held. The market is a bad one at present, and the prices obtained were disappointing in view of the remarkable beauty and rarity of the pieces, and besides that there are many that have not yet been sold. Few stage-favorites have ever accumulated so great an aggregation of wealth.

Her entire collection was conservatively estimated at 5,300,000 francs, which at a normal rate of exchange would be about $1,060,000.

It would require a volume to catalogue all her jewels. Among those sold for the benefit of the poor of Marseilles may be signalled:

The necklace of forty-nine graduated pearls given to Gaby by Manuel II of Portugal, $105,000

Gaby’s famous necklace of fifty-seven pearls, with three great pearls pendant,

the central pearl black, $100,000.

A string of sixty-nine pearls, $47,600.

A string of one hundred and fifty pearls, $56,000.

Two platinum and diamond necklaces, $51,000

A splendid diamond pendant, $11,300.

An emerald pendant, set in diamonds, $19,440.

The gems were of many kinds, but pearls predominated. All the stones were of an extraordinary degree of beauty and purity–there was nothing second rate in the collection. A superb gold and platinum handbag, an antique Chinese ivory bracelet, and a beautiful sapphire and diamond armlet were among the curiosities of the display.

To her dancing partner, Harry Pilcer, she left $50,000, and income of $3,600 a year and many other gifts, while she made other benefactions to the poor besides the one mentioned.

Gaby’s fear and hatred of poverty was a sentiment which had arisen in early youth in an extraordinary ambition, vital and luxury loving temperament, and grew there until it had become a devouring passion, almost a mania. At one time, when she was at the height of her success, her concentration upon this idea became so great that her reason was endangered and she was forced to consult an eminent neurologist—Dr. Henri Mesurier, of the Salpetriere Hospital.

He gave her a long course of treatment with the object of reducing the frantic torrent of her ideas to a normal channel. Fully recognizing that it would be useless and foolish to uproot the deepest sentiment of her nature, the doctor contented himself with directing it toward a goal that would not bring ruin or madness upon her. Thus it came to be agreed between them that she should find a life-long satisfaction of her passion by accumulating treasures and leaving her accumulated wealth after death to strike the hardest possible blow against poverty. In this way she was protected to some extent from the danger of ruining herself by her extravagances in her lifetime.

The existence of Gaby Deslys was one long triumph over the demon Poverty, a fantastic deriding of his powers and terrors, a battle which she always won, but a battle so furious that her reason was often endangered.

Gaby was brought up by parents who suffered the lowest depth of poverty in the famous old city of Marseilles, on the Mediterranean. In no city of the civilized world perhaps is poverty so prevalent and so appalling as in Marseilles. Its slums have been accumulating misery since the days of the ancient Phoenicians, who founded the city and for more than two thousand years they have put their blight upon unnumbered victims.

At thirteen years of age Gaby understood to the full what poverty meant in its worst and most degrading sense. She determined to conquer it and never fall under its power again. This determination became the dominant passion of her life and the cause of her early death.

The rapidity of her success as a public artist was amazing. She chose to be a dancer and quickly became a star performer without any training, but that which she gave herself while dancing to an organ in a Marseilles slum or doing a turn in a third class café.

Her beauty, her vitality, her daring poses, her astonishing way of wearing astonishing clothes captivated the public but her skill as a dancer was even by her own admission not equal to that of many other performers.

Always she wanted money, but it was not merely for the sake of money but for the purpose of celebrating her triumph over her childhood enemy—poverty. Her skill in business transactions was amazing, and she was able by her audacity and cleverness to obtain $100,000 for a tour where a woman of greater artistic accomplishments would not, perhaps , have received $5,000.

In the course of a few years Gaby was able to accumulate a great fortune in money and other possessions the most valuable collection of jewels, bibelots and art treasures owned by any actress in Paris, a palace in London and an estate in America which has not yet been appraised.

Nobody, perhaps, will ever know the true story of her relations with ex-King Manuel of Portugal. People will always believe that Manuel’s infatuation for her, the gifts which he showered upon her, brought about the revolution that cost him his throne. According to this view the gorgeous pearl necklace which Manuel gave the fair dancer, was the last act of recklessness that goaded his infuriated people to expel him.

Whatever the historical facts may be concerning Gaby’s relations with the King, it is certain that following the revelation of this romance, she enjoyed an unusual increase of wealth and valuable jewels. And on this as on all other occasions she displayed the faculty of turning whatever happened to her Into money. But she did not seek money for the miserly purpose of hoarding, but simply to jest at the monster poverty.

Gaby frankly set out to make all the money she possibly could, and she did not conceal this purpose from anyone—not even from romantic young kings and noblemen who paid then court to her. She made no pretence of following art for art’s sake–she followed art for money’s sake.

There was hardly anything she would not do for money. For several seasons she demanded $500 from everyone who enjoyed the privilege of taking supper with her. She had noticed that many nouveaux riches and would-be sports were eager to be seen supping or dining with her or with any of the popular actresses of the moment.

She knew that such men had no real regard for her. They sought her society mainly for the glory or notoriety which it reflected on them. Why should they not pay for that which they so selfishly sought? Why should they enjoy it merely by paying for a meal? Therefore Gaby took all the money she could obtain from such persons in the most baldly commercial spirit. But with all who were poor, all who had been her true friends in any way she was generous to an extreme degree.

She frankly recognized that her beautiful body was her capital. It was through that alone that she was able to earn her great fortune. Anything that injured her body diminished her capital and her wealth and the mere idea of such a diminution, such a submission to the monster poverty, filled her with horror and she was ready to die rather than yield an inch to the arch enemy. It was indeed this sentiment that eventually brought about Gaby s untimely death.

She had suffered from an attack of influenza and pleurisy. As an after effect they left several abscesses in the respiratory tract which prostrated her after she had struggled valiantly to carry on her work for several weeks.

The surgeons informed her that the abscesses could be emptied safely and quickly through one or more incisions in her neck and that she would make a rapid recovery from her illness. But the incisions would have made a permanent scar on her neck, would have injured that beauty on which her income depended, would, in short, have seriously diminished her capital and wealth. She absolutely refused to permit them to operate.

The surgeons brought their tools and endeavored to overcome her opposition. Even in her weakened condition her will proved absolutely insurmountable. The method of treating the abscesses through the mouth proved ineffective to relieve the system of the poison and she died from the septic poisoning at the height of her fame and beauty.

“I will die laughing at poverty,” she gasped In her last moments as she lay in her luxurious apartment surrounded by every comfort that wealth could procure to lessen her sufferings.

This singular, passionate fear of poverty gives the answer to the great enigma of her life–her mingled sordidness, generosity, charity, avarice and recklessness.

A few months ago, as she sat robed in glorious pearls and costly fabrics, surrounded by the art treasures of the ages, she exclaimed to a group of intimate friends: “Ah! j’ai tellement peur de la misere!” “Ah! I have such fear of poverty!”

She then described her conception of the monster, her early struggles with him, her triumph over him with a dramatic force that far exceeded anything she had ever displayed on the stage and that held her hearers thrilled.

On her beautiful body she then wore jewels that were worth not less than $300,000. In an adjoining room was the exquisite bed that had belonged to the celebrated Duchess de Fontanges—one of several beds of equal historical value which Gaby used in rotation.

In cabinets about her were Limoges enamels that had been the joy of the great King Francis I. On the walls were paintings by Botticelli and other early Italian masters. On the book shelves were priceless volumes printed by Elzevir and Aldus Manutius.

“And I, the little poverty-stricken brat of Marseilles, enjoy all this and more,” shrieked Gaby. “I laugh at poverty! I fear Him no more! I defy him!”

Her house on Kensington Gore, London, near the old palace where Queen Victoria was born, was described by Englishmen as so stately, so luxurious that it was fit only for royalty. Her lingerie and her silk-stockings which were the most costly that the manufacturers of the world could produce, were discarded after she had worn them two or three times at the most.

Her motor cars were the most luxurious and costly obtainable, and she abandoned them after using them for a few months. One of her recent purchases was an eighty-horsepower touring car, containing an exquisite boudoir where she could dress and make up in comfort. This she sold after three months use, because she did not like the exact tone of the upholstery.

All these extravagances, these insensate luxuries, were a gratification of her peculiar mental bias and a way of hurling defiance at old poverty. She wanted to feel that she could command every luxury that misery denied to its slaves. She wanted to feel that she had such command of these luxuries that she could throw them away if she pleased—could flaunt them or flout them as she saw fit.

But such was her passion for luxuries that she Instinctively sought those that were rarest and so, unconsciously perhaps, she accumulated things that had great intrinsic value. Very often they increased in value and so she grow richer and richer. When she bought absolutely flawless pearls, the largest and finest in the market, she picked the only kind that would sell again for as much or more than their purchase price.

All the time that she was hilariously and triumphantly defying poverty she was hugging to herself and a very few intimates the secret of the supreme blow she meant to aim at the monster. She thought with deep joy of her great plan of leaving her choicest treasures to fight poverty in that squalid old city where he held his most hopeless victims. This was the course in which she had been encouraged by the great neurologist in order to maintain her mental balance and keep her from ruining herself by her extravagances.

The Pittsburgh [PA] Press 18 July 1920: p. 77

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Gaby was, by all accounts, a fascinating personality, captivating, as mentioned above, aristocrats and a King. While one cannot fault a person born into poverty for wishing to make as much money as possible, this article suggests that the entertainer was a trifle unbalanced on the subject. The overwrought tone of the article implies to Mrs Daffodil’s mind that the author is  not altogether impartial in his assessment of Mlle Deslys.

It was widely remarked at the time that the fabled jewel collection “under-performed,” as auction aficionados say:

It is said that a certain gloom pervaded the atmosphere when the jewels of Gaby Deslys were sold by auction in a public gallery in Paris. Perhaps it was only the fancy of an impressionable correspondent, but the Parisians are a sentimental people, and the gulf between anything so personal as jewelry and a public auction room is wide and obvious. Every glittering trinket there must have had its history in emotion, in the joy of purchase or gift, in the ecstasy of possession. Every one must have been fragrant with romance and with a voiceless eloquence of boudoir and footlights. If only they could tell their stories, but perhaps it is as well that they can not. There is hardly an antique jewel in the world, without its record of blood and crime as well as of love, hardly one without its guilt of greed and murder.

But what an astonishing mass of jewelry was owned by Gaby Deslys. One wonders where it all came from, but that is one of the things that we are never likely to be told. No matter how large her earnings as a dancer she could hardly have bought a half of it. The most wonderful thing there was a platinum collar carrying an enormous diamond and four splendid pearls. In the centre was a great black pearl weighing 140 grammes flanked by two white pearls nearly as large. It had been valued at 500,000 francs, but the auctioneer was unable to raise the bids above 402,000 francs, and it went to some unknown person who was supposed to be acting for a wealthy client. Doubtless we shall hear more about this resplendent collar, and it is fairly safe to assume that the news will come from somewhere in America.

Gaby Deslys was a lover of pearls and there was much curiosity to see her collection. A chain of 154 pearls was sold for 280,000 francs, and three pearl necklaces brought a total of 1,054,000 francs. A platinum net bag studded with diamonds and pearls were sold for 39,000 francs, which was said to be much less than its value. But the most curious of all the articles offered for sale was a belt made of American gold coins, including seventeen twenty-dollar pieces. This brought 4100 francs, a curiously low price, seeing that the coins alone were worth more than that amount. Presumably the belt was the gift of some American admirer, and it may be that the donors themselves were in some cases among the bidders. It would be strange if it were not so, for who would wish to see his gift to a lady fall into strange hands and amid the prosaic associations of an auction room?

The Argonaut 10 July 1920: p. 28

Here is a link to some images of the lovely Mlle Deslys, accompanied by a recording of her singing several songs, c. 1910.

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 Skeleton Costume: 1896

 x-ray-masquerade-skeleton-costume

A SKELETON COSTUME.

A Very Up-to-Date and Striking Fancy Carnival Ball Dress.

The designing of fancy dresses for carnival balls is an art in Munich and Paris and the political event of the hour, the social fad or the latest scientific discovery is promptly exploited by the costumers. The Roentgen discovery of the uses of the cathode ray was not two weeks old when one of the reigning beauties of the Bavarian capital appeared at a court ball in the unique and somewhat startling costume here reproduced.

Beneath a fluffy cloud of gauze drapery the fair masquerader wore a watered silk skirt and close-fitting basque, upon which had been deftly painted the principal bones of the human frame. The ribs, collar bones, arms, thigh bones and spine were outlined in black upon the white background. The idea was not carried above the neck, nor below the knees, and a pair of roguish eyes peeped through a satin mask. The whole thing was dainty in its conception and execution.

Owyhee Avalanche [Silver City, ID] 19 June 1896: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have seen how the Roentgen rays were used at an “x-ray spook party.” This seems a good deal safer, if still a bit macabre and unsavoury.  One feels there is a horrid and unspoken subtext: “Does this flesh-and-blood make me look fat?”

There was an equivalent costume for the gentlemen:

pierrette-and-skeleton-fancy-dress

Skeleton Close-fitting tunic and trousers of black velvet, painted down the front to represent a skeleton. This can be done with Judson’s luminous paint, or with Judson’s glitterine paint. Another way is to cut the shapes in white satin and shade them up with crayons. High boots, Large cavalier cloak and hat

Skeleton Close-fitting tunic and trousers of black velvet, painted down the front to represent a skeleton. This can be done with Judson’s luminous paint, or with Judson’s glitterine paint. Another way is to cut the shapes in white satin and shade them up with crayons. High boots, Large cavalier cloak and hat

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 Temporary Editor: 1901

the-temporary-editor

The Temporary Editor

by Ellis Parker Butler [Author of “Pigs is Pigs.]

The editor of the Hartsock News lay flat on his back in bed, as crazy as a loon, and jabbering like a perpetual motion phonograph. He was only temporary crazy, the grippe having bowled him over. As a rule he was as sane as could be expected, considering that he had chosen Hartsock as a promising field for journalism. But today he was certainly flighty. No sane gentleman will look upon his mother as a spotted cow nor laugh joyously because she walks upright. Neither will he send his grandmother to get out the regular weekly edition of a newspaper. It is an evidence of temporary derangement.

When Granma Huff paused, panting, at the head of the stairs, and pushed open the door of the News office, Jimmie, the office boy, was sitting in the editorial chair studying his Sunday school lesson. The editor never spoke of Jimmie as the “devil,” although that is the customary title. He called him the “angel,” Jimmie was such a good boy. Goodness stood out on him like freckles. Every time he washed his hands and face he washed off enough goodness to supply a dozen boys, and he had signed so many temperance pledges that if he had started in to drink steadily for the balance of his life he would have wound up with some of the pledges still unbroken. Later in life he tried it. But he was a good boy. Granma Huff looked over the rims of her two pair of spectacles and smiled.

“Jimmie,” she said, “my gran’son’s sick, so I’ve come down to git out the News this week, and I want you to hurry ’round and help me all you can.”

“Yes’m,” said Jimmie, meekly.

“Well, now,” said Granma Huff, seating herself in the editorial chair and rubbing her knees with the palms of her hands, “I can’t move ’round much, bein’ as I’ve got the rheumatiz so bad, but I reckon you kin do most thet’s to be did. Gran’son says you’re a right good boy.”

“Yes’m,” said Jimmie, modestly.

“Kin you work the printin’ machine?” enquired Granma, nodding toward the old Washington press.

“Yes’m, I allus does,” said Jimmie.

“Well, then,” said Granma, “I guess you’d better go right on an’ print some papers. I reckon you know ’bout how many’s needed, don’t you?”

Jimmie explained that there were a few things to do first. There must be some news gathered, the forms made ready.

“Do tell!” exclaimed Granma, “I’sposed gran’son ‘ud hev all that ready. Ain’t you got any at all?”

“No’m,” said Jimmie.

“Well, I can’t fix the types, but I guess you know how,” she said, “an I can’t see to write, but you kin take down. First, say, gran’son’s sick with the grippe, but doc says he’ll git along all right soon’s the fever goes down some. Then say Marthy Clemen’s baby’s sick with the measles. I knowed Marthy’s ma before Marthy was born. Her an’ me come from York county, Pennsylvania, together.”

“How d’you spell Pennsylvany?”

“Pen-syl-va-ny,” spelled Granma. “Her ma an’ me was second cousins, she bein a Bell, an’ me a Murdock, an old man Murdock bein’ first cousin o’ Randy Bell. We come down the Ohio on a flat an up the Mississippi by steamer. But I told Marthy that child ‘ud get the measles ef she took it out to Joe Nayadley’s. Got that down?” “Yes’m,” said Jimmie. “Well, I don’t think o’ any more news just now, do you?” she queried.

“No’m,” said Jimmie.

“Will that be enough?” asked Granma.

“No’m, that ain’t more’n two sticks,” said Jimmie.

“Well, what does gran’son do when he hasn’t enough news to fill up?”

“He uses patent insides. This what comes in chunks from Chicago,” said Jimmie; “but we ain’t got none but what we’ve used. He was goin’ to order some when he was took sick.”

“We’ve got to use some over again,” said Granma, decidedly. “What is there?” “Sermons,” said Jimmie, grinning. “We ain’t got nothin’ but Talmage sermons, but we got lots o’ them.”

“Well, I don’t know nothin’ better for people than sermons,” said Granma. “I guess we’ll use them sermons. ‘Twon’t hurt nobody to read ’em over twice. Reckon you’ve got enough of ’em?”

“Yes’m,” said Jimmie.

“All right then, you go ahead an’ fix up the paper like you always do. Mebby you kin git some nice little boy to help. I’m goin’ home, my rheumatiz hurts me so, an I can’t do nothin’ more. Jist be sure to have the paper out on time.” Jimmie promised, and Granma went home. She had done her duty.

Jimmie did his. There were forty-two local and patent medicine advertisements that were always scattered through the reading. He knew this, and as the sermons were long and solid, he cut each sermon into small pieces, laying the electrotypes across the chair and sawing them into chunks with the office saw. Then he made up his forms, sticking in a piece of sermon, then a local, then another bit of sermon, then a patent medicine “ad,” then more sermon. He did not miss a department. He had “Local News,” “Country Correspondence,” “From Our Exchanges” and “A Little Nonsense,” each in its appointed place, but each composed of short reading advertisements and small sections of sermon. The sermons were rather mixed. In sawing them up he had failed to preserve their consecutive form. There were fifteen columns of disjointed sermon, sandwiched with “Perkins Plasters” and “Get Your Canned Tomatoes at Wray’s.” Jimmie persuaded Bob Hochstetler to help him run the press, and the paper came out on time. The editor was sleeping nicely when Jimmie delivered the News at the door. The editor was out of his fever. When he awoke Granma proudly handed him the News. As a rule, I have said, the editor was as sane as could be expected. He looked through the paper, and gasped. It was two days later before the two strong men who were called in to hold him in bed were permitted to release him. Then he thanked Granma, put on his clothes and went down to his office and discharged Jimmie three times. The third time he raised his wages.

The next week the editorial page contained the following notice, double-leaded, at the head of the first column:

“Ahead Again.”

“The News, always the foremost paper of the State, again outstripped its rivals last week by inaugurating a new and highly moral prize competition. As we never do things by half, we devoted our entire paper to this newest and most attractive feature. Scattered over pages one, four, five and eight were five complete sermons. To the party sending the first correct arrangement of all the sermons we will send the News free for five years; for any one sermon correctly arranged, the News for one year. Address: Sermon Editor, this office. Thus once more the News distances those reeking sheets, the Jimtown Blade and the Richmond Gust!”

Current Opinion, Volume 30, Edward Jewitt Wheeler, Frank Crane, editors, 1901

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: La Grippe was  believed to make some of its victims temporarily insane. The scrambled sermon contest is not as eccentric an idea as one might expect; the highly competitive newspapers of the past were always looking for novel prize contests to attract readership. “Talmage” was Dr Thomas DeWitt Talmage, one of the most popular divines and preachers in the United States. He ministered to the depraved people of New York with sermons attacking every species of vice, but when three successive “Tabernacles” burnt to the ground, he felt unappreciated. He abandoned New York to the Evil One, went on tour and wrote sermonizing articles and books. His oratory was colourful and full of striking imagery. Here is a particularly trenchant excerpt:

As to the physical ruin wrought by the dissipations of social life, there can be no doubt. What may we expect of people who work all day and dance all night? After awhile they will be thrown on society, nervous, exhausted imbeciles. These people who indulge in the suppers and the midnight revels and then go home in the cold unwrapped in limbs, will after awhile be found to have been written down in God’s eternal records as suicides, as much suicides as if they had taken their life with a pistol, or a knife, or strychnine.

How many people in America have stepped from the ballroom into the graveyard! Consumptions and swift neuralgias are close on their track. Amid many of the glittering scenes of social life in America, diseases stand right and left, and balance and chain. The breath of the sepulchre floats up through the perfume, and the froth of Death’s lip bubbles up in the champagne.

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.

 

Cross-word Clothes: 1925

cross-word-dress-and-hat

Once the Cross-Word Puzzle was something you worked out in the newspaper. Now it is something Dame Fashion works out in women’s clothes!

When Arthur Wynne of Mountain Lakes, N.J., a modest and retiring newspaper man, invented the brain-teasing vertical and horizontal combination, he planned to amuse his children and their playmates. But it wasn’t long before everybody in the Jersey town was lugging a dictionary and a copy of Wynne’s latest acrostic. Then the fad was taken up by New York and points West.

However, it was when the new season brought out the latest things in feminine toggery that everybody discovered Fashion has become an addict to the little black and white squares. Sometimes she goes so far as to letter them, working out clever words and phrases down the fronts of gowns or stockings!

One such gown was brought into America by a debutante who had been visiting Paris—proving that the French capital is solving ‘em, too!

Then there was the cross-word frock that electrified Palm Beach the other day, with the little white blocks all waiting for somebody’s pencil and a few key letters scattered here and there.

There is the cross-word coat, a dashing sports garment of soft wool with the checks somewhat larger than they appear in the silks of dresses.

cross-word-buckles

The slipper with the cross-word buckle is one of the least bizarre innovations of the fad. But the puzzle stockings, guaranteed to make women look shorter and men look longer, offer plenty of opportunity for mental exercise.

cross-word-hat

The cross-word hat now rules the millinery world. And the smartest thing of the moment for masquerades is a cross-word costume. San Francisco [CA] Chronicle March 1925: p. 1

As for the novelties in shoes, the “cross-word” pump is probably the outstanding footwear of the season. It is shown in checked satin with a cross-word block pattern in black and white, and while no words are designed to fit into the squares, no doubt some bright mind will think of some.

Cross-Word Frock

So if a maiden is seen with her eyes modestly cast down, don’t conclude that she is shy; she’s probably trying to think of a word of four letters to fit in the space across the vamp of her cross-word pump.

Indeed it’s going to be a disturbing season for the cross-word fans for if no cross-word pumps are in sight, there’s almost sure to be a cross-word silk frock, and think of all the words to be fitted into a dress pattern, even a short as the present ones!

These cross-word prints come in three color combinations, most attractive in themselves, but the opportunities they offer for mental exercise was dazzling. Think of a quiet afternoon spent with a girl so arrayed; a modern Omar [Khayyam] might indeed write:

“A cross-word frock, a loaf of bread, and thou, oh, wilderness were paradise enow.” Tampa [FL] Tribune 3 March 1925: p. 18

On the other hand, some were less than sanguine about the fashionable fad:

cross-word-frock cross-word-frock2

 

CROSS-WORD PUZZLES

POPULAR CRAZE GRIPS ENGLAND.

LONDON, January 10. The first cross-word frock appeared on Bond street yesterday, indicating Britain’s final surrender to the cross-word puzzle craze. The familiar black-and-white squares, arranged in fantastic groupings, adorned the frock, the ends of the scarf, the front of the small felt hat, and the sides of the new fashionable envelope-shaped handbag. Cross-word “jumpers” are also appearing daily. Otago [NZ] Daily Times 16 January 1925: p. 8

cross-word-stockings

Cross-Word Stockings American Fad in Paris

Paris, Jan. 2. The “cross-word puzzle” stocking is the latest novelty among Paris hosiery makers.

When the first really cold days of Winter came, silk stockings of gossamer texture were gradually discarded and many women adopted fine hand-made Angora wool stockings.

This is the material of which the “cross-word puzzle” stockings are made. A shopkeeper got the idea from a puzzle design which he saw two American women working over while waiting to be served. A few days later he displayed in his windows a stocking of checker-board design with the squares in black and white, about the same size and distributed haphazard in the manner which has become familiar to lovers of cross-word puzzles.

The novelty has found good customers among American women, but French women call it hideous. The cross-word fad itself has not reached France as yet. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 2 January 1925: p. 2

cross-word-sweater

The girls themselves are using the verticals and horizontals to enhance their charm. The squares in picturesque arrangement now appear as borders on scarfs, trimming on hats, sweaters, dresses, not only in black and white, but in every shade of the spectrum.

There is now cross-word jewelry, rings, bracelets and brooches; cross-word stockings, with a key-letter at the top of the first column, and cross-word lingerie, of black and white chiffon. And fashionable hostesses are likewise serving cross-word muffins at their tea tables—cakes made of brown bread and white! San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 26 April 1925: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The cross-word craze raged across the States in the 1920s creating a generation of feverish enthusiasts. Librarians complained that “legitimate users” of dictionaries were being thrust aside by puzzle-fiends, while newspapers such as The New York Times (now known for its difficult cross-words) sniffed at the fad and predicted its demise within months.

Mrs Daffodil was amused by the “cross-word stockings.” If worked in pencil, one is apt to poke holes in the gossamer fabric; if the solver is one of those insufferable persons who works cross-words in ink, there is hell to pay in the bath. The young lady wearing the “cross-word hat,” looks rather desperate, as if the chapeau was one of those mitres worn by heretics at the stake. One notes two damning words filling her puzzle squares: “hot,” as in le jazz hot and “nut,” which was the male equivalent of a “flapper.”

Mrs Daffodil sought in vain for extant examples of these ephemeral garments. One wonders if this tennis dress was an echo of the cross-work frock?

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.