Tag Archives: Edwardian fashions

Gowns That Copy Flowers: 1901


les fleurs animees daisy 1847

The Daisies, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847


Summer Girl’s Latest Fad Is to Copy Nature’s Blossoms

Flower gowns are the fad of this year’s summer girl. She is now busy collecting the gowns for the various resorts where she will be an enchanting figure, and as she may copy every flower that blows, provided the color combination is becoming, there is scarcely a limit to her ingenuity and gowns except the size of her purse. The idea is poetical enough to satisfy even the most romantic of maidens, and the, result may be achieved at small cost, particularly if the maiden be deft of finger. One of the simplest and prettiest of these frocks is the daisy gown. It is made, of sheer white goods, with a touch of yellow either, as a girdle, a knot at the throat, or, what is even more consistent, a single large chou on the front of the corsage. A violet gown copies the hue of this favorite flower and has a touch of green, while the orchid frock shows an artistic blending of purple and lilac, with a little dash of yellow.

les fleurs animee capuchine nasturtium

Nasturtium / Capuchine from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

The girl who is fond of red and has a weakness for daring combinations will not omit a nasturtium gown from her wardrobe. This is exceedingly Frenchy when well done, but takes the eye of an artist to gain the proper effect, for reds are treacherous colors and are apt to swear very loudly at each other if the greatest care is not used in their selection.

In this particular instance as many as four shades of red are introduced, ranging from a pink to a deep raspberry, and while almost all of the other flower frocks are most effective when made of thin goods that belong to the “wash” family, the nasturtium gown, to be really stunning, should be of some soft wool goods, or of silk, panne velvet or satin.

les fleurs animees bluet and poppy 1847

Cornflower and Poppy, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

Another charming thing in red follows the fashion set by the poppy, and is a vivid crimson, relieved with a bit of black. For a dainty little blonde there is nothing more charming than a forget-me-not gown of pale blue with a belt of soft yellow, while if a deeper blue is desired the cornflower may be copied.

The girl who likes pink catches her note from the carnation and appears in a pretty little pink affair relieved with a bit of green, while the dashing brunette who dares to don yellow has the daffodil as a model.

les fleurs animees pansy 1847

Pansy, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847

One great charm of these novel frocks is their fluffiness and daintiness. They must be as fresh and pleasing in color as their flower prototypes, and while they may have all the ruffles, tucks, lace and hand work that distinguish this season’s gowns, they must not be too elaborate or gaudy. As a finishing touch, after each gown is completed it is laid away in a sachet of the flower it represents, so that if the observer is too dull to catch its meaning it tells the secret in its perfume as well as by its coloring. Orris root is used as the fragrance for the daisy gown.

The Minneapolis [MN] Journal 29 June 1901: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil often wonders if the novelties described in the fashion papers were meticulously copied by assiduous readers, or if they were merely aspirational. It is one thing to create a fanciful flower frock, but laying away each gown with a matching flower-scented sachet is a nicety usually only found in the sort of “Frenchy” novels written by Elinor Glyn, rather than at resorts frequented by poetical-minded Summer Girls.

One might carry the floral theme a bit further by hosting A Violet Luncheon and urging guests to dress as that flower. If one was more earthly in temperament, one might hold a Vegetable Fancy Dress party. For the floral fanatic, there were various Floral Fetes, combining fashion and flower-bedecked motor-cars. Mrs Daffodil also wonders if a cactus costume was ever created, to keep the summer-resort fortune-hunters at bay?

les fleurs animee cactus

Cactus, from Les Fleurs Animées, J.J. Grandville, 1847


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.

Snake-skins in Fashion: 1882-1912



This autumn will bring the snake-skin dress into fashion. Mr. Gerrett, the originator of this development, informed a newspaper representative recently that its advantages are more manifold than would appear at the first glance.

“Marvels can be achieved by the python’s skin, in the hands of a clever designer,” he said, “for this skin never pulls or gives. It is both waterproof and pliable, and it can, by skilful manipulation of its wonderful scale marking, bring into prominence a pretty point or hide a defect.

“By using the python’s skin for footwear a foot can be made smaller, or it can be given breadth or tapered to a point.

“Then why should not an entire figure be modelled on these lines–breadth here, a slim line there, attention called to a pretty waist, or angular hips transformed into beautifully rounded ones by the magic aid of the python’s skin?

“Not only will women benefit by this idea, but the python’s skin should make men’s golf shoes impervious to weather, furnish lapels and, cuffs to motor-coats, and make elaborate waistcoats which will not wrinkle and which will disguise rotundity.

“I have already many orders for python shoes and many exquisite shoes, this autumn will be made in grey lizard, but for absolute smartness nothing will approach the gorgeous skin of the python.”

New Zealand Herald, 6 August 1910: p. 2

Yes, python embraces every curve….


For once fashion has taken a direction which promises to be of general benefit to humanity. Women, or at least such as have access to the longest purses, shortly are to use snakeskin for garments for quite everyday wear, says a London dispatch to the Chicago Inter Ocean. One can scarcely imagine a more poetic revenge by the daughters of Eve on their old enemy, the serpent tempter.

Whether the new robes will prove as artistic as is expected remains to be seen. They will certainly lend themselves in skilful hands to the emphasizing of whatever graces there may be in the person of the wearer, and if the fashion thins out the number of these dangerous reptiles all over the world humanity will owe a debt of gratitude to the inventor of new modes.

We may yet come to see python skin sold by the yard over the dry goods counters, for the python is a big reptile, occasionally reaching, when full grown, thirty feet in length and a foot or more in diameter. Thus, apparently, a single skin might supply enough stuff to make an ordinary gown along modern lines. What the cost will be one cannot yet say. It will obviously be high, for serpents of the largest size are not to be met with every day.

The market price of skins, in view of the coming demand, already has gone up to a very high figure, and in Borneo, Sumatra and all over the Malay archipelago native hunters are scouring the wilderness, tempted by the offers of dealers in Paris and Vienna, and killing and capturing every big snake they meet with.

Properly prepared snake skin is both soft and durable. The anaconda is already “bespoke” for the latest thing in motor coats, and thus used makes an attractive novelty. Made up in the delicate shades of cream color and brown, and lined with satin to match, the material forms most attractive garments, which are especially desirable by reason of their lightness. They weigh almost nothing at all, and, it is reported, “never wear out.”

Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ] 13 August 1912: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil regrets that these beautiful snakes were hunted almost to extinction in the name of fashion. She feels that the world needs more giant pythons and anacondas to keep mankind on its toes.

Light and durable and attractive though snake-skin garments might be, there were certain drawbacks:

Recently snakes and lizards have been furnishing some share of the material for what are considered the most elegant styles of pocket-books, portmonnaies, gentlemen’s match-safes, card-cases, side bags with girdles, and fashionable trifles of all kinds. Yet it is by rather slow degrees that the boa-constrictor elegance has been winding itself into favour with us; in some of the European cities it is reported as having become much more the rage. Here in the manufacturing shop, however, may be seen the snake skin untanned, just as brought from South America, and resembling what one sees in the British Museum. Its markings are very beautiful, with the gold-touched stripe through the centre and the irregularly conjoined diamond and triangle shapes at either side. It is this natural design which is so much prized for objects like the side-bag or the pocket-book. Yet the material may have, perhaps, the fault of not wearing quite satisfactorily. The edges of the scales are apt to get rubbed up the wrong way so as to cause very soon a seedy appearance of the article. For the prevention of this roughening tendency gums are introduced, however, with more or less success in the process of preparing the skin for manufacture. The Citizen-Examiner 19 April 1882: p. 2

Snakes, of course, do not sling handbags carelessly about, nor do they sit on their coats in taxi-cabs or motor-cars. They glide through whatever jungle they inhabit, smoothing their scales the correct way and  ensuring that they do not end up looking like a parrot dragged through a hedge backwards. One expects that it is altogether too much to ask of the heedless young woman in a python dress who fancies herself a serpentine temptress to be mindful of the grain of her scales.

Mrs Daffodil regrets that the only specimen she was able to find of early snake-skin garb is the shoe at the head of the post. There was, however, a rage for the reptilian in the 1930s-40s and again in the New Age of the 1970s and in the opulent ’90s. Mrs Daffodil shares some of those fashions on her facebook page.

Mrs Daffodil has also discussed the fad for lizard fashions and for snake garters.

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.





Mr Ernest Vincent, Fashion Artist: 1901

Drawing a Fashion Plate.

Drawing a Fashion Plate.


The Evolution of a Society Costume

By Henry Leach.

Not many ladies when they don a smart new gown which is right up to the fashion of the moment, and are as intensely pleased with it as only ladies can be, have much of an idea as to whose genius they have to thank for their delight.

They would be surprised if they knew that it was a man’s, more so if they understood quite how he did his work, and most of all when it dawned upon them that this same man not only executed the design, but actually took the initiative, and autocratically ordained what the fashion at a particular time should be. The sex may fancy that they themselves and their costumiers make the fashion in dress; but this is only partly true. The male fashion artist has most to do with it. His is a peculiar and interesting occupation, requiring talent far above the ordinary, and it is an occupation of which not many even suspect the existence.

There are several grades of fashion artists, but only a very few in the first, and it is these few who make the fashions for the West End. They are artists in the fullest sense, and find their profession considerably more lucrative than the average painter of pictures does. In some cases they have been painters of pictures themselves and are so still, and they have large and handsome studios in which they work. And how do they work?

One of the most eminent of them explained to me how it was all done. In the first place their labours are divided naturally into three distinct divisions. One consists in visiting the houses of the great just before fashionable functions take place, and making lightning sketches of ladies’ new gowns, which are afterwards worked up at home and then sent for illustration in the various fashion papers. Another is the making of original designs for dresses of an elaborate character for these same papers, such as the Queen, the Gentlewoman, and the Lady’s Pictorial.

A great amount of thought and care is necessary for this class of work, as the designs are intended largely to anticipate fashion. But the most important class of the fashion artist’s work is not that in which he copies, or even that in which he designs, however elaborately, merely for illustration, but that in which he creates for the costumier, in which he practically makes a smart new frock, which will ere long adorn the figure of a lady of society.

Such work requires no small amount of study, thought and pains, and this is how a new fashion is evolved. In the strict sense of the term, there is no new fashion any more than, according to the old proverb, there is anything at all under the sun that is new. Perhaps there is less in fashion nowadays than in most other things, for the artist will tell you that such is the lady’s love for change that long ago the whole gamut of possible variety in the form and arrangement of draperies had been run, and that nowadays he goes to the past for inspiration for the future. The fashion artist keeps in his studio big volumes of the fashion plates for all years, and these are ever and anon turned up in the search for new ideas. Something out of the ordinary, widely differing from the prevailing taste, is required, and it is found in the fashion of a few decades ago. This fashion, of course, is not copied in detail; it simply supplies the basis for the new design, and the idea is worked upon and cleverly adapted till something more or less novel really seems to be the outcome. At the present time the fashion artists are taking their ideas from the 1860 period.

Having obtained a general notion as to what sort of costume he intends to make, the artist then goes about the making of it in a very practical and interesting manner. He sets a little table in front of him and places upon it a miniature model of a lady’s figure. It is only about twenty inches high.

men dressmakers modelling in tissue paper

He is supplied with a large quantity of tissue paper of different colours, scissors, gum, artist’s ink and paints, and a little silken material for use on the bodice and cuffs where tissue paper will not do. First he cuts out of the paper a simple skirt, and trims it this way and that until it is to his liking. Over it are adjusted more little pieces of tissue paper of various colours, cut into all kinds of experimental shapes till the right shape and blend are secured, and when at last the idea which the artist had in mind is realised it is time to think of detail. The ink and paints and brushes are taken up, and on the tissue paper is painted with all possible care and ingenuity the representation of the most beautiful embroidery work. Skill and fancy are given a free rein; but it has always to be borne in mind that the design shewn as paint and tissue paper must be capable of conversion with proper effect into colour and the material of which the gown is to be made. Then the sleeves are fashioned and added and worked upon, and finally the bodice, until the little dummy is fully attired in a charming little costume, made up of hundreds of small pieces of tissue paper, which is months ahead of fashion, and which later on will be the pride and glory of the smartest women in town. The artist makes elaborate drawings of the finished design, and then away everything goes to the costumier with full detailed instructions as to what material and what colour each little detail of the gown must be. All is left to the fashion artist.

Possibly this may not seem a very long or arduous process, but really it is so, and there is as much work in the designing of an elaborate new frock as there is in the painting of many a picture. Not that, however, the artist cannot, if he will, turn out a pretty design, quite new, and all complete, in an almost incredibly short space of time, if circumstances demand it. It cannot be an elaborate gown like the other, but it may be a charming one all the same. Mr. Ernest Vincent, who has no superior in his profession, and who must have been responsible for some thousands of the smart frocks which have dazzled London social functions, and who very kindly gave me the greatest assistance in the illustration of this article, supplied a practical demonstration of what he could do in the way of speed work. He asked me to time him.

Mr Vincent's Lightning Sketch

Mr Vincent’s Lightning Sketch

At the commencement there was an absolutely blank Bristol drawing board, and he had no model or other design to work from. He announced his intention of creating a new costume, à la 1860. In 22 minutes it was finished in detail, as here reproduced, with a wash of colour over it, too, and with full instructions to the costumier —“Blue taffeta silk; collar of Ecru lace; black velvet belt, and bows and tabs to bolero; white chiffon vest and cuffs.”

In some cases a living model is worked from, but in many others, even where it is quite an elaborate dress that is being designed, no model of any kind whatever is necessary, and the artist simply works away with pen and ink on a white board. The series of sketches by Mr. Vincent shews precisely the process of evolution of a dainty new dress in this way.

men dressmakers rough outline

No. 1 is the rough outline which is first made;

men dressmakers draping in cloth

No. 2 is the suggestion for draping the cloth;

men dressmakers suggestions for edgings

No. 3 is the suggestion for the edging of sable fur and the addition of a satin sash at the left side, with fringed ends;

men dressmakers applique

No. 4 is the suggestion for an appliqué of cloth and velvet on the bodice and skirt; and

men dressmakers completed costume

No. 5 is the completed design, shewing a gown of cloth, trimmed appliqué of self-colour cloth and darker velvet; vest and rosettes of satin, and trimmings of sable fur.

When a design is finished, a fashion-plate is made of it. Sometimes the gown is placed upon the living figure, and drawn again in the artist’s studio. Occasionally a vague idea for a new costume of a particular fancy is submitted to the artist through the costumier from a customer; but it usually is, indeed, a vague one, and for the most part the designing of it is still left with the artist. It is he, assisted largely by his confreres in Paris, who makes the fashions for society. He is also very frequently commissioned for portrait painting, where it is desired that special attention should be given to the dress, as in the case of a bride or a drawing-room débutante, for the ordinary artist, be he ever so clever, has not such a fine appreciation of the points of a delicate costume.

Such are the fashion artist’s work and methods. It is not simple, and it is not light. For two or three months in the winter he is at top pressure designing all the frocks which will be worn in the summer, and from July to September he is busy with the winter costumes. Mr. Vincent starts his work at four o’clock in the morning, and keeps hard at it till early in the afternoon, and then comes the welcome rest. It is hard, but society and the costumiers are mindful of his labours.

It need hardly be said that the work of a fashion artist calls for no small measure of originality of ideas and of genuine artistic ability. It must not be judged by the stiff and formal character of the average fashion-plate. The designer has not to decide what will look well on paper, but he has to take into consideration the artistic values of the various materials used in the costume.

In fact, the modern costume designer needs to be something of a practical dressmaker and milliner in addition to being a skilled designer and colourist. 

The Harmsworth London Magazine, Vol. 6, 1901

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mr Vincent’s studios were at 9 Clifton villas, Maida Vale, 9, not, perhaps, the most fashionable neighbourhood. He was described—Mrs Daffodil wonders if Mr Vincent did his own  describing—as “one of the cleverest designers of fashions in London.”

Mrs Daffodil is fond of clever miniatures. One would give much to find an intact tissue-paper toile….

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.



Fine Art Displayed in Parasol Handles: 1902

A crystal parasol handle from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. See this link for details. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O126507/parasol-fittings-j-c-vickery/

A crystal parasol handle from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. See this link for details. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O126507/parasol-fittings-j-c-vickery/

Artistic New Parasol Handles

Fine art is conspicuously in evidence in the new parasol handles. Indeed, one of the fads this summer will be to have very beautiful handles for sunshades, and introduced as they are in the creation of the more expensive models, with direct reference to the evolution of the color scheme of the parasol in a way that is essentially artistic. For example, a sunshade of exclusive elegance in white taffeta silk, with applications of black Chantilly lace, has a handle of ebony carved to represent a black lotus with inner petals of ivory. A pale green taffeta sunshade has a handle of the lovely green and buff magnolia wood; one of tan taffeta, a handle of burnt ivory; a Dolly Varden sunshade of warp-painted taffeta, white with sprays of small roses in nature’s tintings of pink and green, with a hand-painted porcelain ball-top decorated with tiny roses. Soft pink rock quartz or clear crystal handles give the finishing touch to lace-covered sunshades and the frou-frou creations of chiffon and mousseline.

Natural woods are much used, and the delicately hued magnolia wood, the oddly-marked thistle, furze, ebony, partridge, pimento and bamboo are all in fashionable favour. But where art is especially to the fore is in the carved handles. Various kinds of woods, ivory, crystal, tortoise shell, mother-of-pear and even nuts are all wrought by the talent of the artificer into the graceful similitude of flowers or into animal figures. The magnolia wood, which is especially fashionable this summer and so effective in its deep cream and delicate green markings, is carved with the heads of swans, ducks, rabbits and parrots, in which the individual characteristics are realistically expressed by the skilful touch of the carver. Handles of white enamelled wood are surmounted with the graceful figures of birds carved and painted. A white taffeta sunshade has a white enameled handle upon which perches a stork, the long neck curving gracefully downward until the beak rests against the stick carved from wood and tinted in shadings of delicate green.

Ebony is very fashionable for both parasol and umbrella handles, and appears in the natural effect of the wood or highly polished when extremely artistic results are accomplished. A handle out of the ordinary is an elephant’s head in polished ebony, with the ivory tusks set in. Upon the top of the handle of another sunshade sits the polished ebony figure of a bulldog less than three inches high, which is a skilful study of for and an expressive piece of characterization, especially in the interpretation of the proverbial “bulldog tenacity.” Some of the animal figures carved from ebony look as if they had been purloined from a curio cabinet to do duty as handles of the parasols of fashionable women. Flowers are exquisitely carved in ebony, orchids being especially favoured. Sometimes the handle may be decorated with a single bloom or two, or it may be a mass of small flowers and leaves cunningly wrought in the somber wood.

The newest handles in rock crystal are balls divided into hemispheres the interior being carved and painted in some wonderful way with flowers; the parts are then joined with a narrow gold an d and attached to a partridge stick with a series of four gold rigs. The effect is of a flower—a snowy petaled pansy or a daisy—floating in clear, limpid water. Mother-of-pearl is artistically carved into animal heads and graceful flower forms. A charming idea is “the face in the flower,” an ideal female profile framed in the petals of a flower carved form the shimmering pearl. Insects of pearl, with gold legs and jewelled wings, perch complacently on handles of natural wood. Ivory is prominent among the parasol handles and is both carved and burned. Orchids are of carved ivory and carnations of coral. The head of a setter in shell is one of a number of exquisite handles in the lovely shaded substance yielded from the back of the tortoise. Unique is the head of a Kaffir-boy carved from a nut and polished until it resembles old ivory.

In quite another class are the hand-painted handles. Among the most fashionable are balls hand-decorated in Coalport manner, as exquisitely as the choice pieces of the ware intended for cabinet ornamentation. Famous portraits by the masters of art are introduced in miniature form on the handles of imported parasols. Of these strikingly beautiful is a handle copied after the charming laurel enwreathed women’s head by Lefevre.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 25 May 1902: p. B3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One would not mind the inclement weather half as much were one in possession of these lovingly-described umbrellas and parasols. However, some gentlemen, it was found, were in need of a course on how to properly deploy an umbrella when in company with a lady.

Rules That Have Been Formulated for the Young Men of Gotham.

It is said that a school is about to be formed in the great city of New York for the purpose of teaching young men how to carry an umbrella properly over the head of a fair companion.

Something of the kind has long been needed, says the New York World. This season, with its rains and hail and snow, created an absolute demand for it. And so an umbrella schools has sprung into existence. A committee of women selected from the most popular classes of women—widows and debutantes—have formulated a code of rules which shall stand as the A B C’s of the school. They are as follows;

Be sure that the umbrella is unfurled before you leave the doorstep or car. It is exasperating to a woman to walk under a drizzly drip while her escort is fumbling with the shelter.

When once the umbrella is raised, hold it not to the right nor to the left, nor to the front nor to the back, but directly over the hat of the woman.

Be sure that it is not so far forward that the back prongs of the umbrella will drip upon her shoulders, nor yet so far back that the front will drip upon her bangs.

Don’t yank her by the arm while carrying an umbrella. She wants to hold up her skirts and, besides that, the pose of the umbrella is sure to suffer.

Never mind your own hat, even though it be a silk one, and do not value the safety of your eyes, but devote your whole attention to the covering of that one woman.

Should the elements rage in all directions, and the rains descend from everywhere, and the clouds pour forth torrents from the north, south, east and west, abandon at once all hope of keeping the woman’s garments dry and bring all your energies to bear upon the preservations of her frizzes. Keep them dry at all hazards. E’en though you have to shelter them under your “plaidie.” Remember always that better a wet, sozzled, dripping woman with pretty bangs than a dry one with stingy, discontented, desolated locks.

The News-Herald [Hillsboro, OH] 23 April 1891: p. 2