Tag Archives: antique lace

Hallowe’en Supper Frocks: 1894



The Picturesque Frocks a Brunette, Chatain and Blonde Will Wear to a Hallowmass Party.

Halloween, perhaps, more than any other fete, supplies possibilities for picturesque and effective gowns, and the end-of-the-century girl is not the one to let them slip by.

A very fashionable wardrobe now owns, along with other dainty evening toilets, a Halloween supper frock, which may be made in any mode, but which, to be just the thing, should suggest, in some way, night itself. Tints vague and intangible, hinting of darkness or the white cool moon, are preferred over glaring dark colors.

As to ornament, there may be some curious jeweled night fly fastened somewhere, perhaps spangled in the hair; and if flowers are used, they too, must propitiate the powers of night in wanes and thick perfume.

The dread witches, who on All Halloween have the threads of fate in their keeping, are said to be difficult ladies to please, but somehow one hopes they will smile on the wearers of the three charming gowns here shown, and provide them suitable husbands. The originals of these dainty costumes, which were suggested by three famous French pictures, were all made by a nimble-fingered New York girl for a Halloween supper. They are to be worn by herself and two sisters, three distinct types; and along with their exceeding effectiveness, they have the merit of having involved comparatively little expense, being all fashioned from materials at hand, some lengths of a marvelous Chinese drapery, a few yards of thick liberty satin bought in better days, and a thin, scant, old tambour muslin slip, relic of a long dead great-mamma and tea cup times.


The first dress shown was for the dark, handsome elder sister of the little Cinderella dressmaker—the type that goes with stiffness and stateliness and rustling textures. It was of the liberty satin in a dim luminous tint, too blue for gray and too gray for blue, and that will show off the wearer’s rich skin to perfection. The girdle drapery of graduating ribbon lengths and bows was of a faint dead sea rose color. This subtle and delightful tint, together with black, repeats itself in the simple but decorative embroidery at the bottom of the wide skirt. The tiny chemise gamp is of white muslin, and the short balloon sleeves are stiffened with tarlatan. To be worn with the dress, as well as the next one, both of which were entirely uncrinolined, were petticoats of hair cloth, with tucks of large round organ pipe plaits, to hold the skirt out in the present approved fashion.


The second gown, though perhaps not quite so enchanting as the first, was more suggestive of the witcheries of Halloween. It was of the Chinese silk drapery, in the copper red, and with a fantastic patterning of black bats. The girdle and low neck decoration are of black velvet, and square jet buckles fasten the latter down at intervals.

The very daintiest feature of this paniered gown, however, which in style recalls somewhat little beflowered Dolly Varden, is the undersleeves, made to show off a rounded young arm and drive envy to the soul of womankind. For every woman who is a real woman has a weakness for lace, and these adorable undersleeves were made of the charming old net lace embroidery in back stitch of the long ago.

It came, like the tambour muslin, from grandmamma’s garret, where, when Halloween is over, it is to be hoped, it will be carefully put back.


The third and last dress, a tiny hint of the Directoire period, is the tambour muslin slip itself, sinfully modernized. Once white, it is now evenly mellowed to a soft caressing yellow, which is further accented by a puffing of pure white chiffon about the neck and skirt bottom. The sleeves are of a rich heavy brocade in black and white, and the belt and crescent ornaments are of silver.

This costume is to be worn to the supper by the little dressmaker herself, and its scant picture lines are sure to become her slim, shortwaisted young figure.

And may the ghost of sweet dead grandmamma not come back to reproach her for desecration.

Nina Fitch.

The Salt Lake [UT] Herald 28 October 1894: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Desecration, indeed….  One frequently sees examples of ancient garments re-made into fancy dress or some “amusing” pastiche; a practice which makes Mrs Daffodil’s blood alternately boil and run cold (something that takes rather a bit of doing, given her line of work.) We can only fervently hope that the antique lace and tambour muslin were, indeed, “put back” or, if not, that Grandmamma haunted the offender mercilessly.

While questioning the appalling statement that only “real women” have a “weakness” for lace, Mrs Daffodil will also adjudge the addition of antique lace to an otherwise standard Bat Queen or Empress of the Night fancy-dress costume to be utterly unnecessary.

“Night” was a popular figure in fancy dress. We see an interpretation of that character at the head of this post. An illustration and description of another version follows. Whimsical though the idea is in principal, in real life, wearing a stuffed owl must be a trifle cumbersome:

By way of preparation for it we present for our readers’ inspection a costume representing Night.

It is satin, in two shades of purple. The lighter used for lower skirt has beaded surface. The plain falls over in a plaited back and draped front; wide panel ornamented with stars, butterflies [moths?] and a very demure owl; smoke-colored vail, dotted with stars, covers the crown of hat, held by a crescent and owl; this draping over the right arm and breast, is thrown over the left shoulder and arm. Willkes-Barre [PA] Evening News 6 January 1886: p. 3

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 Tear Drop’s Stain: The Story of a Wedding Veil: 1896

Habsburg wedding veil of Brussels lace.

Habsburg wedding veil of Brussels lace.


The Strange Romance of an Old and Precious Heirloom

[Chicago Chronicle] On the North Side there is a wedding veil that has done trousseau service for exactly 12 brides and a half, and now is owned by a man. But he soon will adorn his bride with it, and thereby hangs a tale. The veil is a web of misty Brussels lace, and it is so old that orange blossoms in the pattern have turned the color of the fruit. The first wearer of the dainty veil was the three times great-grandmother of a Washington girl, who will probably be the next bride whose head it will adorn. Last winter this girl’s mother lost her money in the epidemic of bank failures, leaving the two almost as pathetically helpless as that pair of babes in the woods. Quite by chance, when the mother was sick and the daughter unhappy, and both as poor as church mice, the girl read a newspaper account of the difficulty a certain New York woman was having in matching a pattern of lace. The description tallied with the orange border on the family veil. So she sketched a bit of the design and, inclosing it with the heirloom’s pedigree, sent them to the New York lace hunter, who caught at the bargain at once.

Now this veil was to be worn by the daughter of the lace hunter at her bridal, and in great triumph she showed it to an uncle of hers from Chicago, who had come to the wedding. He read the Washington girls’ letter. He compared the veil with the etching, and then he made a discovery. It was a tear. It had raised a welt on the paper, and he vowed by the dismal little splash that he would buy that Brussels veil if it took every dollar he was worth. He was worth a great many dollars, but his niece owned an equal amount of will. He—and only he—had seen her trying on that veil, and had said she was simply divine. Under such circumstances a woman becomes a human Gibraltar, and no one knew better than the rich uncle that Gibraltar is not to be moved. When the wedding night came, however, the bride was gowned, veiled and blossom crowned, she dismayed her attendants by commanding somebody—everybody to help her off with that veil. She said that splash seemed to dampen every pleasure the hour brought. She could defy her rich uncle, but she could not fight a tear.

It will be worn the next time in the spring by one of the prettiest girls in Washington, but the North Side man will not say how he got her promise to wear the veil of her ancestors.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 25 January 1896: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Brussels lace was highly desirable and very costly. The flax for this lace was grown in Rebecq-Rognon, Belgium, and might cost $2,500 per pound (in 1901). It was processed in dark, moist cellars by women who spent their lives spinning underground so that the threads did not separate. The lacemaking was also done in rooms with limited light. Hundreds of bobbins and multiple lacemakers were employed on a single piece.

The Brussels lace veil pictured above was commissioned for the wedding of Princess Stéphanie of Belgium for her ill-starred wedding to Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, perhaps best remembered for being found dead in bed with his lover at the hunting lodge of Mayerling.  Princess Stéphanie sold the veil and other items when she fell into financial difficulties. The Habsburg veil was purchased for her daughter Adelaide’s wedding by Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1925. Mrs. Post was also the possessor of a tiara and necklace given by Napoleon to Empress Marie Louise, earrings worn by Marie Antoinette, and jewelry which was formerly the property of Emperor Maximillian of Mexico.

Mrs Daffodil understands the impulse of wealthy Americans to purchase some sort of pedigree.  She was once lady’s maid to what is popularly called a “Dollar Princess.”  One’s gentle attempts to correct the young woman’s notion that all people have their price and that anything, including breeding and honour, could be bought, were met with scorn. The heedless creature came to an unfortunate end; what was believed to be her body was found in the Thames in such a shocking state of decomposition that she was only identified by her diamonds.*

Mrs Post’s attempt to purchase the glamour of the crowned heads of Europe for a beloved child was no doubt well-meant, but the Imperial marriage was scarcely one a mother would wish her daughter to emulate. The superstitious might note that Adelaide’s first and second marriages ended in divorce. Perhaps the story of the Chicago man and the Washington girl had a happier ending.

*The story is “Mrs Daffodil and the Dollar Princess,” (2014).