Tag Archives: Edwardian fashion

New Uses for the Cashmere Shawl: 1910

Paisley shawl remade into a dress, coat and bag, 1889 Museum at FIT

The Cashmere Shawl.

A new use for the pine-patterned cashmere shawls that have been handed down from the great-grandmother to the modern woman is now found in covering handbags and the numerous variety of the vanity bag with this fascinating Indian fabric. The subdued richness of the coloring has a fascinating effect, and to bring the scheme of the contrasting hues into harmony with the rest of the dress it is modish to introduce perhaps a belt, covered with the patterned fabric or revers and cuffs of the like material on the coat.

To complete the bag very long handles or knotted silk cord are used, finished with corded fringe, and by way of variety some women are introducing here and there a touch of a glittering cabochon in barbaric colors.

The antique pine-patterned shawls that show signs of wear in one or two places can be thus used for a variety of purposes in the fashioning of accessories for the autumn toilet. The borders may be cut off and applied on the skirt of a cloth gown, or a short waistcoat may be introduced between the shawl like revers of an autumn coat of velvet.

Use for Paisley.

So popular was the old-time Paisley shawl last winter, in its various adaptations, that it seems quite impossible to conceive of any new ways of using the garment of our grandmother’s day. However, those who know predict the vogue of the Paisley muff as well as of the Paisley bag this winter.

Norwich [CT] Bulletin 13 October 1910: p. 4

House of Lanvin (French, founded 1889) Evening bag, 1925–35 French, silk, metal Silk, metallic; 14 in. (35.6 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the executors of the estate of Clara M. Blum in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Blum, 1966 (2009.300.2543) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/157382

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The exotic patterns of the cashmere shawl have had many lives. Although Mrs Daffodil flinches at the very idea, one finds the massive shawls of the 1860s cut into mantles, visites, and even gowns, in the 1870s and 1880s.

Paisley shawl remade into a mantle, early 1870s, The John Bright Collection

1910 was a particularly good year for the paisley-revival.

Old Paisley Shawls Are Valuable.

The Paisley shawl is coming back into its own. In the old days the Paisley was one of the necessary units of every stylish outlay. After two generations the shawl’s vogue is returning. At present there is a decided fad for both cashmere and Paisley. It must be admitted, however, that it is the fabric and not the shawl itself which attracts. Paisley is now being substituted for leather in women’s handbags, card cases, belts and other novelties. The belts are especially popular. They are edged with patent leather and demand a good price at the stores which make a specialty of women’s wear. Even folding slippers are being made of Paisley. They are well adapted to travelers and very comfortable, although, as in the case of the belts, they are an expensive luxury.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, 20 October 1910

Although Mrs Daffodil has not found an image of the historic shawl in this next article, she is grateful that Mr Thanhouser recognized its value before his mother chopped it into handbags or belts or it was sold to the rag collector.


A Rare Paisley Shawl Worn at Victoria’s Coronation Found by Accident.

From the Milwaukee Sentinel.

A shawl valued at over $1,000 and worn by the great grandmother of Edwin Thanhouser, manager of the Academy theater at the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, was found the other morning by Mrs. Julia Thanhouser, the manager’s mother, in one of her old trunks which she had not rummaged in years. Mr. Thanhouser happened to be in the house when the garment was brought to light and knew at once that the piece of goods was of more than ordinary value.

This prize among shawls was made in Paisley, Scotland, and bought by Mrs. Bertha Emmonds, great grandmother of Mr. Thanhouser, in London, while attending the coronation of Queen Victoria, for which purpose she came from her home in Germany. At her death the shawl passed into the possession of Mr. Thanhouser’s grandmother, and fifteen years ago while his mother, the present owner, was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., it was given to her. Mr. Thanhouser had often heard his mother speak of the shawl, but it was not until he saw it that he realized what a valuable piece of goods it was.

Threads almost as fine as it is possible to spin them are the material of which the shawl is made, and there are so many colors and shades of colors that it is almost impossible to count them. The design is exceedingly intricate and was undoubtedly the result of considerable hard study. The shawl measures about 10 by 5 feet.

The Kansas City [MO[ Star 14 June 1902: p. 5

There was also a brief vogue for the fabric in the 1920s, and again, in the psychedelic ’60s. In 1964, a Norwich shawl gave its life for this lounge suit with a fashionable Nehru jacket.

Paisley “Nehru jacket” 1964 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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 anecdote

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.

Why the Bride Wobbled: 1904

wedding garters 1912

1912 wedding garters. “Something blue.” http://www.charlestonmuseum.org


A New Wedding Fad Comes to Light in North Dakota.

It has been thought that the chief product of the Dakotas was divorces, but a gentleman who recently visited that section is responsible for the following. He says a new wedding fad has been unearthed, and this is how it came about:

At a wedding in Mankato the bride hobbled awfully, so that the audience, as she went down the pike to the altar, thought the poor thing was either scared, hip-shot or afflicted with soft corns, but she accidentally fainted, and then it was discovered that her legs were a mass of garters about forty on each leg–and as she was about to be taken for shop lifting, those in the secret had to tell that each one of her young lady friends had furnished her a garter to wear to her wedding to be taken off by the groom after the ceremony and given by the bride back to the owner, to be placed under the pillow of said owner, in place of the old time wedding cake which was likely to grow stale and draw rats and mice and throw the patients into fits, which a garter would not do, and could be perfumed with rose water and violet essence. You will dream of your next husband if you have a garter under your pillow that has been clawed off the under limbs of a bride, which is a fact and a custom that can’t be sneezed at. At any rate, if you do not see your future hubby in your dream it wont be the garter’s fault. But no bride should tackle over eighty garters, unless she has legs like a centipede.

The Streator [IL] Free Press 25 August 1904: p. 9

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: From this revealing little anecdote, we may deduce that the bride had quite an extensive circle of friends eager to dream of their “next” husband. Before the unhappily wed flocked to Reno, one could easily get a “Dakota Divorce,” described thus:

In 1866, the Dakota Territory legislature passed a divorce law that allowed an an applicant for divorce to begin action immediately upon arrival in the territory. The territorial code was amended in 1877 to require three months for residency for a divorce. U.S. citizenship was not required. While establishing the “residency” required for divorce, soon-to-be divorcees stayed in elegant hotels, attended the opera and symphony, and ate at fine restaurants. People seeking divorces often registered at a hotel for the required three months, left town, and returned several months later when their “residency” had been established. At that time the Northern Pacific train stopped in Fargo at noon for 10 minutes for lunch. So many people used that 10 minutes to check into a hotel, leave a bag, and return to the train that it came to be known as the “Ten Minute Divorce.”

The Divorce Capital of the West.

One has always heard that young ladies were at a premium “out West,” but perhaps these ladies had been through the “divorce mill” more than once and were still looking for that next husband. The bridegroom must have become quite impatient waiting for his new bride to return eighty garters to their owners. One would not have blamed him had he simply hurled the garters into the air and let the young ladies scramble for them.

Although touted as a novelty, the custom was not an entirely new one.

New Wedding Fad.

A Scotch custom as old as Walter Scott’s Novels, has been again made fashionable by the division of Princess Margaret’s garter among her bride-maids after the marriage ceremony a few weeks ago. The original notion was that the bride wore quite a number of pretty ribbons as well as the ordinary garter, and these were in due course distributed among the masculine friends of the bridegroom, while in Scotland the piper invariably had one to tie around his bagpipe. The conferring the of the gift brought good luck, and in olden times the bride was often used quite roughly in the effort to take away her garter.

The Daily Republican [Monongahela PA] 28 February 1893: p. 4

Garters for Brides.

The latest bride garter is of white elastic. Running over the surface of the elastic is a delicate tracery in blue in the pattern of a tiny flower. Here and there knots of very narrow white ribbon. Bordering the elastic is a ruffle of white lace of fine pattern. As elegant a little piece of lace as may be found can be placed upon the garter, for the bridal garter is to be put away as one of the mementoes of the day.

Lewiston [ID] Daily Teller 29 October 1897: p. 6


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 anecdote

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.

Lure of the Silk Stocking: 1903

pink stockings with butterfly lace

Pink silk stockings with butterfly lace inserts, Paris, c. 1875-1910 http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/pair-of-womens-stockings-121138

Lure of the Silk Stocking,

Filled and Unfilled, It Has Manifold Attractions for Mankind

Beautiful Specimens Seen in the Stores

So sheer a thing is a silken stocking that when empty it may be passed through a finger ring, and yet when it is filled it takes a goodly circlet–sign of a king’s gallantry and a knightly order–to encompass it.

In itself, a silk stocking is something to admire merely for the delicacy of its fabric. A Frenchman once wrote a musical comedy based on the misadventure of a girl who fell out of a tree and displayed a dainty stocking, but nobody has ever written yet the tragedies–some greater, some less–of the lure of the silk stocking. For of all things that attract rather by what they reveal than what they conceal, the silk stocking takes the palm.

Much as women like them, men like them the more. A man’s first cigar, his first love, his first sunrise at sea–these are timeworn themes. But of a man’s experience when buying his first pair of silk stockings! His first experience in pawning his watch is mild excitement compared to it.

A girl at one of the counters where these things are sold can tell at glance whether a man has ever committed this crime before. After the first plunge it is never quite so difficult again, and the habit grows on a man like any other. The average man who has the silk stocking habit acquires it long before he marries, so that when he takes a wife to himself that only means more silk stockings to be bought.

A man went into hosiery shop here the other day and picked out a dozen pairs of costly and varied patterns and then ordered a dozen pairs of perfectly plain ones that were not so costly. “For heaven’s sake!” he implored the shopkeeper, “don’t mix them up. One dozen is for my wife.”

The shopkeeper, with a philosophical eye, had no difficulty in determining which dozen was for his wife.

Of course there is a type of youth who cannot at first face the ordeal; and so, when it becomes absolutely necessary for him to buy a pair of silk stockings he takes refuge behind a letter to the girl he knows best in his own set and gets her to do it for him. She should not execute this commission, but, sad to state, she always does, and usually buys much prettier ones than he would have done. And then she will take the trouble to do them up in tissue paper and colored ribbons–just like a man would! Yet it is a fair bet that if the silk stocking habit gets a grip on that same youth within a year he will examine “opera-length stockings at the most crowded counter and will indulge in pleasantries with the young woman attendant about the possibilities of her showing him how they looked by trying them on.

A boy of this type came into the dining room of a Broadway hotel one day last week while the silk stocking reporter was trying to find the cheapest thing on the bill of fare. He was accompanied by a young man and a young woman, and the trio sat down at the next table to that at which the reporter was trying to figure out how a sixty-cent dish could go into a fifty-cent piece and leave anything for a tip and carfare to the office. It was clear that the youth and the young man had been engaged in an alcoholic contest at catch weights, and that the young woman was cross. The first thing she said to the young man was: “Did you get those silk stockings?” and her voice and her question attracted the attention of every one at that end of the room. The young man declared he hadn’t, and that he had no money, at which she began to upbraid him for his neglect to obey her commands. After this had been going on for ten or fifteen minutes the youth leaned across the table, and, putting his hand on the young woman’s arm, said with drunken solemnity: “Don’t you mind him, Minnie. I bought a pair for you.”‘ And then he pulled a package out of his pocket, opened it carefully and held up to the gaze of all the persons in the room a pair of stockings that probably cost nineteen cents and were fearfully and wonderfully ringed with stripes of black and red and yellow.

The silk stocking habit is rather an expensive one, as minor habits go, for they cost anywhere from $5 to $50 pair. For $3 one may buy a pair that will easily slip through a man’s finger ring. And for $50 anyone who has the price and cares for Her that much may send Her a creation of silk and lace that no mere man can appreciate unless it, is in active use.

Of course these fine ones have the disadvantage of being rather plain compared to the cheaper grades at $7 or $8 a pair. No loud designs in. blue or red or yellow appear on the fronts of the costliest ones nor climb up the clocks. Long snakes with forked prongs, all a-glitter of green and white cut glass beads, do not twine themselves over the instep and up the leg. The highest priced ones are beautiful in a quiet way, while the cheaper ones are produced in bizarre designs, often made to order, as in the case of one dozen turned out by a local dealer, which showed a design of red flames, leaping upward, on a black ground. A dozen pairs of silk stockings at $50 is not an unusual sale in one of the department stores, while the highwater mark of a sale of this kind in one shop was $100.

The Narka [KS] News 16 January 1903: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The author is right to reference “the tragedies–some greater, some less–of the lure of the silk stocking.” The dainty accessory is fraught with peril. Mrs Daffodil has written before about the domestic trouble that ensued when a shop-keeper inquired of the wrong lady about silk stockings in “His Little Valentine,” while a telegram about a pair of stockings to be sent to a “blonde darling” nearly caused a divorce in a Minnesota household.

And one shudders to think what mischief could be gotten up to with “Cross-Word stockings.”

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


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 anecdote

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 Suffragette Costume: 1910

A lady's mannish Tyrol hat, c. 1901 http://collections.lacma.org/node/232927

A lady’s mannish Tyrol hat, c. 1901 http://collections.lacma.org/node/232927


The suffragette costume will be a novelty of the winter fashions—the derniere cri—the United Ladies’ Tailor Association of America say, and they ought to know.

The suffragette gown should meet the requirements of the most advanced suffragist. The skirt is made in two parts, like men’s trousers, but the deft tailor has been able to make it appear as if it were a diminutive straight lined tailor skirt, when the suffragette is not in action. On a manikin the skirt doesn’t in the least suggest trousers. It is made with hip pockets, so that if the suffragette wants to make a campaign speech she can keep her hands in her pockets man fashion.

The tailor who designed it explains that the coat is a short, slightly fitted box affair with regulation men’s pockets, revers and lapel button hole.

“Of course, you don’t have to be a suffragette to wear this comfortable new suit,” the tailor says, “for it is fine for any woman, especially if she is fond of walking. It is splendid for skating, and for golf or tennis or any athletic sports or for shopping, as the division does not impede the leg action as the ordinary skirt does. It ought to be called the Flatiron skirt, but I thought I’d recognize the fast increasing body of women who want the ballot.”

Another new corner in the world of fashion is the busy woman’s coat. A woman can start out at 6 o’clock in the morning wearing an evening gown and nobody will be the wiser, as this clever coat will conceal the fact. It is made with an envelope pocket in the back, where the train can be concealed, and it buttons up the back to hide the low neck gown. There are eight buttons on the coat. At noontime if the lady wants to lunch she can unbutton two buttons and change her coat into a smart tailor suit. At 3 o’clock, if she wants to motor, two more buttons are unfastened, a cape slipped up, and she has an entire change for autoing. At 5 o’clock, if she wants to take tea in her aeroplane, she can unfasten two more buttons, and she is ready to fly. At 6 o’clock she can undo two more and be dressed for a restaurant and at 9 o’clock she can check her coat and be ready to dance the rest of the night.

Duluth [MN] News-Tribune 28 September 1910: p. 4

Constance Wilde in a divided skirt. On 6 November 1888, Constance Wilde delivered a speech 'Clothed in Our Right Minds' to the Rational Dress Society defending 'divided skirts.' [Thanks to Eleanor Fitz for posting this on Twitter.]

Constance Wilde in a divided skirt. On 6 November 1888, Constance Wilde delivered a speech ‘Clothed in Our Right Minds’ to the Rational Dress Society defending ‘divided skirts.’ [Thanks to Eleanor Fitz for posting this on Twitter.]


Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has never understood why a suffragette’s costume was required to mimic that of the gentlemen. Who would be tormented by a high-starched collar or a stiff-bosomed shirt? Why the unalloyed fascination with bifurcated garments? Mrs Daffodil has never had any trouble performing the most arduous duties in a skirt. A skirt will swing and fall freely, whereas divided skirts have a troubling tendency to bunch. They seem double the bother of skirts.

Then there is the question of pockets. Pockets are not the exclusive property of pantaloon-wearers. If a lady needs pockets, they may easily be added to her suit or gown. The dressmaker may raise her eyebrows, but you are the one paying the bill.

And that bill might be shockingly high–not unlike the premium ladies still pay for quality clothing and for maintaining that clothing, such as dry-cleaners’ bills, which are higher for cleaning women’s articles than for comparable ones for men.

mrs o h p belmont's suffragette costume 1910

Mrs. O.H. P. Belmont’s Suffragette Costume, 1910

Suffragette Costumes, Only $225.

From New York comes the new of another model suffragette costume and it cost only $225, too!

To Mrs. Alma Webster Powell of Brooklyn belongs the honor of designing it. She wore it for the first time at a suffrage meeting Thursday night. She says women are bound to adopt it.

“It consists,” says the dispatch, “of a pair of black serge bloomers, fastened to a piece of goods that fits smoothly over the hips, a long, easy-fitting black serge coat, with black satin buttons down the front, and shining black boots that extend half way to the knees. The bloomers are full and are plaited upon the smooth hip covering.”

What could be more fascinatingly masculine? But the critical mind is compelled to note an interesting distinction. The suffragette costume tends, in respect to form, more and more to the masculine ideal. But in other respects, particularly as to price, they show no evidences of approach.

To judge from Mrs. Powell’s $225 suffragette costume–and she has another for evening wear that cost only $375–and from the fact that the model female voter togs exhibited at the show of the New York Tailors association cost $175, they can never take the place of trousers.

Trousers are accustomed to appear in show windows with such enticing legends as “This Nobby Pair Only $6”; or “Take Me Home for $5.75; or “Was $7. Now $4.35.” That is one of the most familiar commercial aspects under which trousers appear to the world at large.

Imagine a typical suffragette suit, as they are being made and reported, attempting a similar show window role! “Very Nobby–Only $375!” “Special Sale Today–$225!” “Trousers Without Suffragette Coat–This Week Only $150!” The very idea is ridiculous.

Who has not seen, at some time or other, an attractive sign “Mercury $3 Pants”–borne about town in a wagonful of brass band? Could the trousering, as expounded at present, expect to figure in a similar connection? Well, hardly! It would simply be a waste of money to hire a wagon and a brass baud to exploit a sign reading “Venus $375 Suffragette Suits.” or something to that effect.

It may also be confidently stated that there would be something absolutely ridiculous in the sight of a kite flying above Chicago, bearing a long streamer exalting, not somebody’s $16 men’s suits, but the Carrie Chapman Catt, or the M rs. O. H. P. Belmont, or the Alma Webster Powell “$225 Suffragette Quick Sellers.”

Why suffragette trousers should cost more than pants can ever hope to cost is not wholly clear. We only know they do. No suffragette costume yet reported sells for less than $175. That fact emphasizes the distinction between the gorgeous trousering and the simple, democratic trouser or common, plebeian pants.

The Inter Ocean [Chicago IL] 6 November 1910: p. 6

The Suffragette Suit designed by American Tailors Asssociation November 1910

The Suffragette Trouser Suit, as designed by a group of New York tailors, 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.


Dressing on $50 to $200 a Year: 1898



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Accidental Fashions: 1870s-1905

Princesse de Lamballe, Anton Hickel, 1788, Lichtenstein Museum, Vienna

Princesse de Lamballe, Anton Hickel, 1788, Lichtenstein Museum, Vienna

Princess Alexandra in a porkpie hat, 1860s

Princess Alexandra in a porkpie hat, 1860s


By Grace Aspinwall

Feminine fashions are strange things. They come and go fitfully. and are freakish and unreasonable and mysterious: some of them are deliberately planned by fashion-makers, who earn their bread and butter by beautifying or making ridiculous the women of the age; but in many cases fashions are established by mere accident and the history of these accidents reads like a romance.

Every one remembers how the snood of ribbon wound carelessly about the coiffure became the fashion when that exquisite and unfortunate beauty, the Princesse de Lamballe, having lost her hat while hunting. took her long blue silk garter and bound it closely about her flying locks, tying it with a bow at the side.

She looked so exceedingly lovely when the hunt was over that all the other envious women straightway tied blue ribbons about their coiffures, and the fashion was started which to this day has prevailed at intervals. But the sweet, modern girls who bind up their locks so fetchingly with ribbons never in the least suspect that they are following an accidental mode that originated a century and a quarter ago with a garter.

Another fashion in hair-dressing which started purely by accident was that of the bang. or fringe, as it is always called in England. The Princess of Wales. who is now Queen Alexandra of England, was the unwitting originator of the bang.

It was created in the late seventies when coiffures were exceedingly elaborate and a great deal of “frizzed” hair was worn. The exquisite princess was in the full prime of her loveliness, and, as she always delighted in elaborate coiffures, she used to have a great deal of “frizzing” done.

Her maid was dressing her in a hurry one day for some occasion for which she was in danger of being late. The maid in her haste used much too hot an iron and burned off a great mass of the princess’s front hair. It was directly in front, and left the hair about two inches long.

The maid was terror-stricken; but the princess, true to her birth and breeding. merely bit her lip a little, and then, smiling gaily said: “Trim it into an even fringe and I will wear it that way. There is nothing else to do, and it really does not look badly so.”

The maid trimmed the burned locks evenly with the shears. and the princess went forth with an entirely new arrangement of hair, one that was without precedent in all history. She looked so distractingly lovely with her queer little straight fringe of hair on her forehead that within a few hours hundreds of women in court circles had slashed off their locks, and lo! the bang was an established fashion that has prevailed with more or less continuity straight down to the present day, and at the beginning of its vogue had a popularity no other mode has ever known.

This same charming princess set the fashion of wearing close-fitting jerseys, which was such a rage in the eighties. She used to be very fond of fishing. and while in the country unexpectedly went on a fishing expedition. Not having suitable clothing for the occasion, the princess sent her maid to a little shop to buy some sort of coat to take the place of her tight gown. The maid brought back a man’s small, closely knitted jersey, very long and shapeless.

Queen Alexandra, when Princess of Wales, wearing a nautical costume.

Queen Alexandra, when Princess of Wales, wearing a nautical costume.

First Aid to a Good Figure.

Any one but the ingenious princess would have thought the garment impossible: but not so this stylish. adaptable woman who had a genius for dress. She held up the long, shapeless garment, which was about six inches wide, and laughed merrily over it. and when she appeared ready for the fishing she looked like a sylph. The tight jersey, stretched over her truly beautiful figure, revealed all its bewildering loveliness —arms and graceful bust and slender waist all showing oft’ to amazing advantage.

She wore it over a short silk petticoat. and it gave her an idea which on her return to London she immediately had carried out. and the whole fashionable world responded to the charm of the fashion that she thus created. The tight-fitting jersey, revealing with complete frankness every line and curve of the figure, enjoyed popularity for a period of ten years, and was “the rage” for over six years. Like the bang. it was utterly different from anything else ever seen in the history of fashion.

Princess Alexandra in a porkpie hat, 1860s

Princess Alexandra in a porkpie hat, 1860s

The little scrap of a hat which came into being in the late sixties. which the English later named quite appropriately the pork-pie hat, was made fashionable accidentally by that singularly beautiful woman. the Comtesse de Castiglione, who was said to be the loveliest of all the lovely women of the Second Empire.

The countess had been out in the country near St. Cloud, on a sort of court picnic in the forest there. Everybody in the party had been very gay, and the gayest of all was the countess.

She had her little dog with her, a young King Charles spaniel; and. while the countess was amusing herself, the puppy amused himself by chewing off the wide brim of her leghorn hat. He left only the little flat crown, with its trimming of roses.

The countess treated the accident with the utmost gaiety, and declared she would wear the hat back to Paris just as it was; and, true to her word, she perched it at a rakish angle on the front of her elaborate coiffure and entered Paris so.

All who saw the beautiful woman of title immediately fancied that a new fashion in hats had arisen. and they straightway ordered just such tiny chapeaux to be made. No one was more amazed than the countess herself when she saw the result of her escapade, and she was reluctantly forced to wear a style which she did not care for at all, but for which she was involuntarily responsible. The Empress Eugenie, who was always jealous of her, refused to wear the tiny hats; but they had a great vogue in spite of this, and in England they were the rage for over two years.

Not Empress Eugenie, but a reasonable likeness of the Garibaldi

Not Empress Eugenie, but a reasonable likeness of the Garibaldi

The Empress Eugenie was responsible for more fashions probably than any other woman in history, but she planned them deliberately and made them the mode. There were a few things, however, that she created accidentally, with no idea of sending forth styles for the world.

One of the most famous of these accidents was that of the “Garibaldi.” which was a vivid orange-scarlet flannel jacket. which became suddenly the fashion. and was worn with great favor in England and America.

The empress was one day in the royal nursery, playing with the prince imperial. She became greatly absorbed, as this was the only time for perfect freedom that the empress ever had, and she used to “let herself go.” and, for a time, forget her cares and troubles, and the pomp and circumstances of court life.

The two got into a regular romp at playing soldier, and the empress playfully declared that she was a British soldier, and. seizing a piece of scarlet flannel that lay on one of the royal nurses‘ sewing-baskets, threw it about her shoulders, tucked it under her arms to resemble sleeves, and thus simulated a British redcoat.

Soiled Gown Set a New Style.

One of her intimate ladies in waiting came in during the affair, and, seeing the empress flushed and exquisitely beautiful, and wearing what she thought was a brilliant scarlet morning jacket. went immediately and had one made, and told all her friends to do likewise. The fashion took like wildfire, and, as Garibaldi was just then the European hero and always wore a red flannel shirt, it was straightway named for the Italian patriot, and the empress herself afterward greatly favored the fashion and wore over her cambric morning gowns a scarlet Garibaldi.

Empress Eugenie and Her Ladies, Winterhalter, 1856

Empress Eugenie and Her Ladies, Winterhalter, 1856

Another of the empress‘s famous “accidents” was that of decorating ball frocks with roses or other flowers, caught carelessly here and there about the skirt. She had just received from the imperial dressmaker an exquisite robe of the sheerest stiff white gauze, trimmed with lace. Some state affair was to take place at the Tuileries that evening.

The gown was an exquisite creation with lace frills and many flounces. As her women were dressing her before the mirror, the empress upset a large bottle of dark-colored perfumery on the dressing-table. It splashed in great blotches over the dainty, gauzy skirt, and left marks in several places. For a moment she was in despair. When she had planned a certain gown for an occasion she could never be reconciled to the wearing of any other. It looked as if the gown was hopelessly ruined, and it was one that had particularly pleased her, as it set off her singular loveliness to perfection.

Quick as a flash, an idea came to her, and from a vase of roses on the table she seized a number of the blossoms and, stripping the stems and leaves from them, directed her maids to loop up the soiled flounces and lace, and over each looping to pin a beautiful great rose. They were thus scattered here and there about the skirt in a charmingly careless fashion that was very beautiful. The empress was delighted; she went to the ball in a kind of gown that was immediately copied, and scattered roses and festooned flounces became the mode.

A Jersey Lily; Lily Langtry as painted by John Everett Milais, Jersey Heritage; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-jersey-lily-137280

A Jersey Lily; Lily Langtry as painted by John Everett Milais, Jersey Heritage; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-jersey-lily-137280

Mrs. Langtry, years ago. unconsciously set a fashion which has become an established form for arranging the necks of evening gowns—the V-shaped décolletage. It was when she first went up to London from the island of Jersey as a young bride. She was very poor and had but one black gown. Her beauty was so compelling and wonderful that some English society women took her up. They invited her to dinner, but she had no evening gown. She said nothing, however, but with the scissors clipped out the sleeves of her one black gown, slit down the bodice back and front, and turned it away in a deep V, thus revealing the most beautiful back and the most beautiful throat and arms that the world has ever seen. The display was generous and her beauty was dazzling. She created a great sensation and no one dreamed that her gown was not a professional creation.

The next evening she was invited again to a great reception, at which the then Prince of Wales was present. He was instantly charmed, and so eager were people to see the new beauty that they stood on chairs and pulled each other’s clothes in their utter forgetfulness of propriety, From that moment the V-shaped décolletage became the mode, and the island beauty was named the Jersey Lily.

The Scrap Book, Volume 9, May, 1910: pp. 702-704

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Modern royalty avails itself of “stylists,” and this sort of happy accident is rare. Popular singers and denizens of “reality television” are more apt to set the style, albeit generally a vulgar one. Still, royalty has its imitators: the tabloid press breathlessly reports on where the Duchess of Cambridge purchased a particular frock and how much was paid for it, as well as where Prince George’s sailor-themed jumper may be had. It all has rather a commercial flavour, like what is called “product placement” in the advertising profession.

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.


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


Designers Get a Large Price for Their Work and “Copyrighted Hats” Are a Fad—Cost of Being in the Swim.

Ten thousand dollars a year for gowns alone is a bagatelle to the London society woman.

Some women can “just manage” on a paltry five thousand for the season—the three months of May, June and July—but they are apologetic over so modest an amount. To many persons the phrase “London Season” is more or less meaningless. Not so to the fathers and husbands who have to foot dressmaking and bonnet bills.

With the London society woman to see a gown is to possess it. Especially if its design be original. She will pay any kind of price for the creation to be exclusive—that is, to be made for none else but her ladyship. The purchase of the copyright in a hat is now quite the thing, and it makes the dainty confection—the dream—come rather high. There is a popular belief that women’s clothes do not cost so much in England as they do in America. In a measure, this is true. But this means ordinarily fine or pretty clothes. Not those worn by the best dressed London women.

Everything depends on whether or not the purchaser of London clothing “belongs to society”—that is, goes to everything that’s worth while, and never misses a chance to be in the “little exclusives” that take place in the inner sanctums of gilt-edged sociability.

So many different dresses are required during the London season for the various kinds of functions and amusements that only an adept could keep track of them. New York demands little from its social votary compared to the requirements of London or Paris. Besides the usual court functions in London—which call for the most expensive kinds of clothes—there are hundreds of private affairs that run the cost of dress into big money. There are little and big dinners, balls, concerts, theaters, the opera—garden parties, “race meetings,” morning walks, afternoon drives, teas, luncheons and no end of other “socials” which occur mostly during the months of May, June and July. Each of these functions requires the fit dress, and the dress that fits, to go with it.

When August comes, though the London season is over, the society woman enters upon the “outdoor “ season, which means yachting at Cowes, winding up in a trip on the continent to Homburg or St. Moritz—the Saratoga of Europe. Yachting and watering places require certain costumes, and the fashions in these things are as inexorable as fate. To wear the wrong hat, shoe or dress for any occasion stamps the wearer with rusticity—the one unforgiveable social crime.

During the month of September the social dame who wishes to be strictly “in the swim” must go to Scotland for fishing. Later on, there comes the racing season at Newport, and then another trip abroad—this time to Paris, to see “what’s going” in new fashions for the winter. Country “house parties” come along in November, and then the shooting season is on. So many society women now shoot that it is considered extremely exceptional when one admits that she cannot handle firearms.

After the shooting season society flocks back to London, and there takes up bridge, whist, and the theaters. A few weeks at this, and “they’re off” again to enjoy the mild climate of southern France, and recuperate their wasted energy lolling under blue skies or languidly looked out over bluer water. All of these busy engagements, beginning from May, right through the winter months, require no end of special clothes. As each outfit is but for a year (it would “never do” to be seen two seasons in the same gowns), the London society woman or her husband is in for a pretty neat sum of money for attire.

Taking up the cost of these gowns, it might be mentioned that the least price paid for a really good dinner or ball dress is $250. This sum will only provide the ordinary dress made up of silk, trimmed in hand-embroidered stuff, or with hand-painted chiffon. Many dresses are trimmed with real old lace, which makes them cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000, or even more. For ordinary small functions there is worn what is known as a “little gown,” and it costs about $200. It is more natty in appearance than the dinner gown, and is used at restaurants and gatherings of minor importance.

A woman in London society must have two or three of these “little gowns” and at least half a dozen handsome ones. As two “little gowns” cost together $400, and six fine ones average each $400, we have $2,400 for the fine ones, with an additional $400, which makes $2,80 as a mere starter. As the winter draws on a gown of warm material is required. This is usually of velvet, and never costs less than $300, especially if Paris made—which is usually the case.

For court presentations or other court functions, a “drawing room gown” is required, and this, with its train, never costs less than $500. That is the minimum price. Some court gowns cost $2,000. For afternoon teas special gowns are required. An average pretty tea gown, made up of lace and crepe, runs into something like $130. Shooting jackets and billiard coats for such occasions cost about $75 and $100.

Special gowns are also required for Ascot races, and a fairly attractive “race” gown cannot be obtained from a fashionable dressmaker for less than $200. In summer, a crepe de chine gown, trimmed with lace of fair quality, costs $160 and a summer foulard runs into $100 to $130. Two morning frocks for the summer and two for the winter are among the essentials. Each of these costs not less than $100. An ordinary blue serge dress costs the society woman $120, and a summer homespun $95. An alpaca for summer wear costs about $80 to $100, and a simple muslin, trimmed with lace, runs into $75.

Dress for country life, and Scottish hunting or fishing costs about $40 each and a woman cannot go with less than four and have a decent variety. Very often bicycle and motoring costumes are necessary. One good motoring suit costs about $150, and a bicycle suit about $50; whereas golf and fishing suits cost about $100 each; and the same price is paid for yachting costumes, of which a woman should have three.

As to hats, of course each dress requires its particular head decoration. No decent hat can be bought in Paris or London for less than $20. A hat costing $50 is not at all an exception. The hat bill of the woman with an allowance of $10,000 a year for dress will easily run something like $2,000, whereas shoes during the year will cost another $100.

London women seldom pay less than $15 per pair for footwear. As with the hats, each gown requires its special shoes. In some of the shoes worn with the evening gowns, it is customary to wear diamonds, which decorate the buckles. To spend $50 for the shoes to go with a swell evening gown is nothing to the smart woman. Gloves cost the London woman about $150 a year. Of the cost of the mysterious things which masquerade under the title or “lingerie” there is scarcely any computation. An ordinary silk petticoat costs from $50 to $75, and the underclothing usually runs into something like $1,000 per annum for the mere necessities.

Most women regard the item of furs as matters for separate allowance. Cloaks and wraps seldom cost less than $5,000 a year, and sometimes a woman will give half this amount for some particular piece of fur material made up in a way that strikes her fancy. Sable jackets often cost $250 each, and chinchilla and Russian sables equal amounts.

Hairdressing and manicuring costs each society woman about $500 a year. When all these things are considered, it is easy to see where the $10,000 allowance which many London women get goes to. Sensible women will wonder why it is that London and Paris dresses command such high prices. The reason is because each dress is a species of artistic creation, to produce which the very highest kind of talent is engaged.

The Courier [Evansville, IN] 30 August 1903: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil, with her extensive career among the titled and wealthy, is only surprised that the $10,000 figure is not higher. And where was the additional sum for jewels, which might amount to three to five times the dress allowance?

Mrs Daffodil has written before about Mr Vincent, a “fashion artist” and designer of exclusive fashions here. Also about designers Lucile and Poiret, who had very different views of fashion. On the subject of exclusive designs, Mrs Daffodil shares a story that would be amusing, were it not so tragic for the lady involved, about a widow’s “coming-out-of-mourning” gown. One may find out the cost of being presented at Court, here.

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 Table-Cloth Dress: 1900-1923


Irish Linen Being Made Up Into Very Unique Toilettes

Several New York women, famed more for originality than taste in dress, have ordered what they call “table cloth” gowns. The idea of the table cloth gown no doubt has its origin in the pretty handkerchief waists which attained a sudden popularity during the winter and which, when properly made, were most becoming garments. The new table cloth gowns are unique, and I have seen one or two that were rather smart. They are made of Irish linen cloths, and are either striped or checked in gay colors. A tan linen cloth of a coarse weave checked with orange was made into an effective gown, the corners of the cloth being used for a jaunty bolero finished with fringe and coarse linen lace. It takes three tablecloths to make one of these gowns, and as the cloths cost from $8 to $15 apiece the material is not a small sum. With the table cloth gown coarse straw hats trimmed with fruit and coarse tan lace will be worn. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 28 May 1900: p. 11

Such a gown was this, designed for Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, a Philadelphia society lady:

A Society Woman’s Tablecloth Gown

One of the weird new tablecloth gowns is being worn by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney. Her experiment is in deep red linen damask and must have required three cloths at a considerable number of dollars per cloth. It is made with a tucked skirt, over which appear straggling navy blue scrolls, with a deep navy blue and red checked border at the bottom. The fanciful corners of the cloth have been made into a bolero of red and blue, which is edged with coarse linen lace with tassels of linen. Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 2 June 1900: p. 11

The Tablecloth Gown

All sorts of oddities have been sprung by fickle fashion upon unsuspecting femininity this spring. We have sallied forth with acorns, raisins and even tomatoes on our hats, but one of the latest fads of all is the tablecloth gown.

Of course the tablecloths are colored and have handsome fancy borders. Some of these linen damask tablecloths come in deep rich red, with navy blue scrolls, checks, stripes and spots. Others are a deep tan linen, with orange and navy blue and white in the border.

Still another combination of colors is steel gray with the border of red.

The favorite waist effect is some sort of a bolero. The corners frequently make the bolero, and they may be edged with coarse linen lace. The skirt is, of course, cut to show the contrast of plain material and fancy border to the best advantage.

Tablecloth gowns will be found in some of the most fashionable women’s wardrobes this summer. They are by no means cheap, for three cloths are usually required, and $10 is sometimes paid for each by the fashionable devotee of this very latest wrinkle in gowning. Evening Tribune [Hornell, NY] 11 June 1900: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil wishes that she could have found an illustration of one of these novel frocks. The closest she came was the modern gown at the head of this post and this amusing Christmas table-cloth gown.  Given the “busy-ness” of some coloured damasks, Mrs Daffodil fears that the gowns they inspired were simply hideous, despite the expense.

Red Irish damask cloth

Red Irish damask cloth

The notion of table-cloth dresses seems to have recurred once a decade, from 1900 onward. While the damask table-cloth dresses were costly, this lady found a cheaper substitute while on holiday.

Following the “Tut” dress comes the Mexican table cloth dress introduced in this country by Mrs. George Barnett. Mrs. Barnett made the trip to California via the Panama Canal last winter and she and the other women on the ship experienced discomfort on account of their winter clothes when they reached the canal zone. As the ship stopped at a port on the picturesque canal Mrs. Barnett went ashore and purchased two Mexican table cloths figured all over with fascinating Aztec designs. These she fashioned into a one piece gown, binding it with black satin ribbon and wearing a wide black satin belt. She wore this in the afternoon and was the envy of all of the women on board. In San Francisco she wore her Mexican dresses and soon they became the vogue. Thus are styles made, often through the necessity of invention. Corsicana [TX] Daily Sun 14 July 1923: p. 13

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 White-Hair Fad: 1904

Portrait of a young lady, Gustave Jacquet, [1846-1909]

Portrait of a young lady, Gustave Jacquet, [1846-1909]

It was supposed at first that London society’s sudden fondness for white hair was only a revolt against colored wigs and dyes, and that it would result in giving Nature a chance at last, ushering in an era of less paint, powder and enamel and maybe a little less artificiality and deception generally. But what really has happened is a manifestation of feminine human nature queer enough to be worthy of the attention of future historians. No sooner was it known among the elect that white hair had become fashionable than young women whose hair scarcely had begun to turn gray got on the track of a Paris chemist who had discovered the trick of making the hair white artificially, and now that chemist is in a fair way of becoming a millionaire.

It was the genuine attractiveness of the “gray-hair” fashion—the fashion led by the smartest American women in London society—that brought about this “white-hair” fad. With their gray hair artistically dressed the beauty of handsome society women well on in the 40’s was much enhanced. Under the influence of softly powdered hair suggestions of wrinkles or little lines about the eyes faded away, leaving the face smooth and round and soft. Mrs. George Cornwallis West (Lady Randolph Churchill), Mrs Jack Leslie and Mrs Moreton Frewen, well known as the three Jerome sisters, and now greater favorites even than when their mother first brought them over from New York, are all in the swim of the latest fashion. Their hair is beautifully and naturally white. Lady Coleridge, widow of the lord chief justice, is another of the white-haired sisterhood. Though not more than 30, Mrs. Hall Walker also wears her hair white ad looks like one of the beautiful marquises painted by Jacquet. So many others in the ultra-smart set followed the fashion that when it began to be known that hair could be whitened artificially there was a rush for the treatment.

The Infernal Machine for blanching the hair.

The Infernal Machine for blanching the hair.

Not in London, but in Paris, is the fashionable blanching done, and at the cost of $50 a time. Arriving in the French capital, the woman of fashion must go to the salon of the coiffeur-chemist and there spend the greater part of a day. First her tresses are unfastened, well brushed, cut and singed. Then they are washed with egg julep so that no other chemical preparation shall clash with the fumes which come later. The hair is slowly dried by fanning and the client then passes into a small boudoir, dons a long wrap which covers up her gown and takes a seat in a large arm chair. The coiffeur-chemist places on her head a large bag made of india-rubber, which fits closely around the nape of the neck, up over the ears and across the forehead. This bag is fitted with a thermometer, which the coiffeur watches carefully, as it registers the heat of the fumes which enter the bag by means of a long india-rubber pipe from a wonderful apparatus that contains the chemicals. For exactly one hour and a half is the fair client under this treatment, the chemist busy all the time regulating the fumes and testing results. When the bag is at last taken off the hair that was dark and rich with coloring is found to be as white as snow.

But the patient is not yet free. In another room she reclines upon a couch with her hair spread out like a huge fan upon a table at the head of the couch. In this position she is required to drink milk and to rest for two hours, with her maid in constant attendance At the end of that time her hair is dressed and her maid is instructed how to put on the white paste at the roots when coloring again begins to make its appearance in the growing hair. Warnings are given as to the disastrous effect of using heated curling tongs or wavers on the newly blanched hair, and the superiority of soft white tissue curl papers is impressed on her before the client leaves the salon. What the ultimate effect of this hair-blanching may be time alone will prove. For the present it is considered dainty, chic, extremely smart and becoming, and that to the fashionable woman is more than sufficient.

The Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 13 March 1904: p. 36

An Elegant Lady in a Black Hat, Gustave Jacquet. Her hair is probably powdered

An Elegant Lady in a Black Hat, Gustave Jacquet. Her hair is probably powdered

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil believes that we may lay the blame for this extraordinary fad squarely at the feet of the late French Queen, Marie Antoinette. The Gilded Age was enamoured of gilded Louis Quatorze furniture, panellings and paintings looted from French chateaus and installed in Newport villas, as well as rather loose versions of “18th century fashions,” a la Dresden Shepherdess fancy dress. Bals poudre were a popular entertainment where participants powdered their hair to aristocratic whiteness and it seems probable that this influence suggested the white-hair fad.

Truly there is nothing new under the fashionable sun, Mrs Daffodil noted articles last year proclaiming that grey hair is “hot” and discussing a fad among the young for dyeing the hair grey or white. For example, there is an entertainer, “Lady Ga Ga,” (who, Mrs Daffodil can confidently assert, does not appear in Debrett’s) who bleached her dark hair to a “sparkly white blond” and posted step-by-step instructions to her followers who wished to imitate her. 

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.


Boudoir Coffee: A French Fad: 1903


“It is too bad about Clarissa,” a sweet old lady observed, after a visit to a city relation. “She is so poorly she has to have her breakfast in bed every morning.”

“More likely its pure laziness,” snapped her less charitable sister.

It may happen that the city cousin, if she be up to date, is neither the one nor the other. There is no longer either surmise of a suspicion of laziness attached to the woman who takes the first meal of the day, if not in bed, at least in her own room. Each day may have for her an infinity of duties to be performed. She husbands her forces for the fray by eating before she dresses, and over her solitary coffee cup quietly lays the plans for her campaign.

The boudoir breakfast is undoubtedly an importation from the French, and as such will meet with little favour from many American husbands and fathers. With them the term French is synonymous with unpronounceable and unintelligible menus and inordinately large bills.

No French folderols for me,” fumed one crusty old gentleman. “I want my family to come down to breakfast like Christians and have something solid and comforting like ham and eggs.” If he had been a New Englander he would probably have added to his bill of fare a doughnut, indigestible buckwheat cakes, or a piece of pie.

It is small wonder if milady holds up her hands in horror at the thought. Modern hygiene tells her that in a majority of cases the simple foreign breakfast of coffee and rolls is far more healthful than one that over-loads the stomach. If she be a woman of leisure who exercises little, a heavy breakfast will induce headache. Above all, it creates fat, and the woman of middle age who has any desires in the direction of figure must avoid it as a deadly enemy.

The business woman, who expects a morning of hard brain work, will find that the simple breakfast is the best for keeping her head clear. As one successful woman said when asked about her breakfast: “I never dare take anything but some cocoa and a roll or two. Anything else makes me dull and heavy, and unfit for my day’s work.” Some women go a step further and taboo breakfasts altogether, though this practice cannot be recommended as an example for general following.

But the French woman does not cling to her simple boudoir breakfast for hygienic reasons only. Far from it. The French woman is a marvel at preserving appearances. She is taught from childhood to bend all her energies to the feat of being charming under all circumstances. She must always be beautiful—or appear so.

Very few women are charming before breakfast. As one frankly remarked: “I am always bad tempered before I have my coffee, and bad temper makes me hideous.” The French woman has long recognized this truth, and her American sisters are beginning to see her wisdom.

The shaded light of the boudoir conceals much that is unpleasant.  The rose-colored hangings and carefully chosen color effects reflect colors in pale cheeks, and cheat madame into forgetting that the night has made her twelve hours older. So she clings to her boudoir till the reviving moment of breakfast is past.

Another reason for the boudoir breakfast is found in the universal feminine delight in silky, lace negligees and dressing sacques. Some women have a dozen of them, embroidered, sweet with sachet, and rivalling the colors of the butterfly. There are strange exotic creations, heavy with embroidery and breathing sandalwood from China and Japan. There are exquisite creations from the hands of the best known French modistes. And yet all this loveliness is for boudoir wear only. Unless the meal is strictly en famille, they are decidedly out of place in the breakfast room. Small wonder, then, that madame makes every excuse to linger in her boudoir and luxuriate. The boudoir breakfast is one of these excuses.

A dainty kimono for the guest room or for milady's boudoir. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-dressing-gown-439859

A dainty kimono for the guest room or for milady’s boudoir. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-dressing-gown-439859

Every well-ordered guest chamber now has its dainty kimono and slippers ready for the guest to don. They are there for the boudoir breakfast, and the last remark of the hostess at night will be “And what time shall I order your coffee sent to your room” If the guest is an old friend, she may be admitted to a share in the breakfast of her hostess, and then plans are laid and confidences exchanged. Over the teacups is not nearly so delightful as over the coffee cups at a boudoir breakfast.

These coffee cups are a joy in themselves. They are no longer drawn from the ordinary china dinner set. The fad for boudoir breakfasts has created special daintiness of patterns. They include every dish which might possibly be needed. These individual services come with a large tray of papier mache, both light and strong. Its color usually matches the ground-work of the china, though, as it is more often hidden by a fringed napkin, this might seem a useless precaution.

The different individual services vary slightly. Some are larger than others, so as to accommodate something besides the simple breakfast of coffee and rolls. One of the fullest sets contains both a coffee and chocolate pot, a covered dish which will hold toast or a breakfast portion of bacon and eggs, a deep saucer for cereal, and egg cup, a plate, a cup and a saucer.

One of these dainty sets would make an acceptable present for almost any woman, since they are convenient in case of illness. The price might be a bar to some pocketbooks, however. The woman who can afford a maid to serve her in her own room can usually afford china, so there is nothing cheap about these individual sets.

The newest designs in these services and fruit decorations in natural size and colorings. The same fruit—rosy peaches, purple grapes, or golden pears—appear on all the pieces of one set.

If madame has quieter tastes there are delicate traceries and Oriental bands in subdued colorings. Rose patterns are always to be found. Indeed the less expensive sets are in French china in dainty floral designs. About all of these individual sets there is the charm which belongs to individual possession of every kind. Madame looks upon her boudoir breakfast set with a sigh of satisfaction as she says: “The dinner china I buy to suit my husband and my guests, but this is for myself alone.” Augusta [GA] Chronicle 11 October 1903: p. 21

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ladies of the maid-possessing classes seemed to lead their lives nearly entirely apart from the male of the species. Husbands and wives had separate spheres of influence and often separate bedchambers. Their lives might touch perhaps at dinner, or at a party, and on the occasions for the begetting of heirs.  Dainty French china and negligees from Lucile were paid for, but not necessarily enjoyed, by the head of the household, unless he was purchasing similar luxury goods for some other lady, in which case he might revel in coffee and rolls in a bijoux residence in St John’s Wood. Mistresses are always charming before breakfast.

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.