Tag Archives: fancy dress party

Fancy Dress in a Hurry: 1916

ladies churchill watteau shepherdesses fancy dress


Fancy dress costumes may be made very quickly. A certain woman who prides herself on being able to do all things in a hurry, invited to a fancy dress ball, accepted the invitation over the telephone to save time.

She let the costume go till the last day, when, at 4 o’clock, she stopped in at a shop and bought several yards of cretonne. Once home, with the help of pins and the maid’s services, she was sewn into her costume—that of a Watteau shepherdess.

The costume consisted of a pink satin foundation dress that she already possessed. The cretonne, pleated into the belt and puffed up into panniers, matched the satin. A wide stain belt laced up the front was the bodice. A little lace shawl made the kerchief. A last summer’s sailor was cocked up into a shepherdess hat with ribbon streamers.

Inside of 40 minutes the shepherdess was ready, telephoned for a taxi and arrived at the ball—a week too soon! It is well to look twice at the date of an invitation.

With an old party frock a pretty costume can often be made if not in as short a time as the one described.

A copy of a well-known picture can often be made with such light changes that they are hardly noticeable, says the New York Herald. The black and white balls that are so popular are even simpler, for fantastic costumes are more successful than those that are historical. A costume can be first planned with black and white cotton cloth, copying some poster or advertisement found in the back of the magazines or in the newspapers.

Peasant costumes are easy to make because all the pattern companies carry one or more patterns suited for costume balls.

Anaconda [MT] Standard 9 January 1916: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The very quickest fancy-dress costume Mrs Daffodil has seen at the Hall was worn by an absent-minded gentleman who, just before leaving his flat, realised that the party invitation called for fancy dress.  He arrived wearing faultless evening costume, a peevish expression, and a single soda straw in his breast pocket. His character? “The Last Straw.”

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 Fairy Godmother Treasure Chest: 1920


 Fancy Costumes for Children

In one city of about 50,000, there are a great many social affairs for children during the winter, and again and again mothers have been put to much trouble, or have had to forego the happiness of being able to dress up as all children love to do.

One woman with a knack for making attractive garments at small expense undertook to fill this need. She calls her service the Fairy Godmother Treasure Chest.

Now it so happened that she had a large quantity of fancy and plain materials left over from the days when her husband had bought in a bankrupt stock of goods and did not succeed in selling all of it. This would give excellent foundation of materials. She also watched a number of bargain sales and picked up such things as she could use.

cobalt boy fancy dress

Boy’s 18th-century fancy dress http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21727/lot/355/


Then in her spare time she fashioned fancy costumes for children out of these. There were clown suits, and little Minute Men rigs, and Martha Washington dresses, and the most wonderful fairies and Puritan maidens, and butterfly and flower suits in bewildering array. She became exceedingly interested in all of these.

martha washington fancy dress

Martha Washington fancy dress for a young girl. http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/87849.html?mulR=1013756972|6

The costumes were either sold outright to the owner, or rented. If rented, the charge was on a basis of 20% of the cost of the costume plus the expense of professional cleaning. Thus, if the costume cost $5.00 (work included), the rent of it for twenty-four hours would be $1.00 plus the cleaning charge, which would be from 50 cents to 75 cents.

In this way every mother was assured that the garment her child wore had been cleaned and thoroughly disinfected after its last use, and so there was no danger of contagion or infection.

Masquerade and costume parties became quite the rage after the Fairy Godmother lifted the cover of her Treasure Chest. Some of the costumes were very striking and beautiful, for it was not difficult to pick up ends and odds of materials and lace curtains for brides’ veils, and all that sort of thing.

About once a year the Fairy Godmother sells the most of her stock to a costumer in a different place, and this enables her to have a fresh supply of attractive goods.

Money for the Woman who Wants It, Emmett Leroy Shannon 1920: pp. 328-329

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It sounds a delightful business.  Mrs Daffodil has seen modern advertisements for ladies who will bring a “dress-up box” to children’s birthday parties and for establishments that specialise in dressing party guests like fairies in pretty pastels and spangled nylon wings.

Mrs Daffodil can remember when every country house worthy of the name had a cupboard where the costumes for amateur theatricals were kept. Often these were run up by the local dressmaker, but (and here Mrs Daffodil advises any dress historians among her readership to avert their eyes) they were also repositories for genuine historic garments which were often carelessly worn and altered. It is possible that the waistcoat worn with the boy’s blue fancy-dress suit pictured above is a genuine antique garment. Eighteenth-century gowns and gentleman’s coats were particularly popular in house-party productions, or, in the United States, for “Martha Washington Teas” or patriotic entertainments. Mrs Daffodil can hear the dress historians blanching in horror….   One hopes that the Fairy Godmother actually made all of the beautiful and striking contents of her treasure chest rather than plundering antique trousseaux preserved in the attic.


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 War Masquerade: 1915

A 1915 fancy-dress party in which there are several Red-cross nurses. http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/items/769842/negative-beechworth-district-victoria-circa-1915

A 1915 fancy-dress party at which there are several Red-cross nurses. http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/items/769842/negative-beechworth-district-victoria-circa-1915

A War Masquerade

We all had the greatest fun last night at the fancy dress dance, given by Mrs. Landis at her country home. Amy saw to it that we all started off in the motors in lots of time.

When we arrived there quite a crowd of people had gathered from far and near. Some of the costumes were very elaborate and looked dreadfully expensive, but we heard afterward that the great majority of them were home-made!

Some of the men looked splendid. We had the Kaiser, the Czar of Russia, the President of France and George Washington with us!

One pretty girl looked very attractive garbed as a Belgian nun. She was supposed to be acting as a Red Cross nurse, too, and wore a costume of black nun’s veiling, with a long, floating veil of the same material. Her face and head were draped in white linen, and, as her features were rather classical, she looked stunning.

The tall, fair-haired girl who was dressed as a Russian peasant was a great success. Her skirt was of turkey red, trimmed with blue velvet bands and gold embroidery. The loose white silk blouse she wore was relieved with rows of various-colored beads, and the little white apron was embroidered with red and gold. She wore her long, fair hair in two plaits, one over each shoulder and by the number of men who crowded around her one could see that she was very greatly admired.

Amy went as an Arabian Nights lady, and looked lovely.

I flatter myself that my costume was rather unique, and, thanks to the clever fingers of Amy’s maid, it turned out quite satisfactorily. I called myself “L’ Entente Cordiale,” and wore a red, white and blue skirt, with a white crepe de chine blouse, half-hidden by flags.

The dance really was a very great success and everybody enjoyed the affair immensely.

Evening Public Ledger [Philadelphia, PA] 12 January 1915: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On 19 January 1915 the first Zeppelin raids began on England. One suspects that the idea of a “war masquerade” might have become less diverting in consequence. There was a fixed idea that the war would last only a few months. Until the grim reality set in, one finds oblivious ladies complaining that their privations were becoming unbearable: that they cannot get kid gloves or champagne. “This cruel war must stop!”

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

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



A Christmas Toy Party: 1898

toy costume party 3


Ever Hear of the Like?

Delightfully Novel Entertainment for the Children in the Yuletide Season.

Thirty boys and girls in less than half as many homes were in a flutter of excitement. Little girls asked to go see other little girls—“just for a few minutes”—and boys gathered in knots and with curious gestures, seemingly explanatory, discussed an apparently important subject.

Sometimes the boys and girls would meet, and one would hear, “what are you going to be?” or “I’m going as an elephant.t”

Then some young wiseacre would say, “Really, I do not think we ought to tell each other,” and another wiseacre would respond, “Why not? We are going to wear our own faces, and, as everybody will know everybody else, I think it is much better to tell each other, ‘cause then there will not be so many of one kind.” Now this was a very sage and philosophical conclusion, as it afterward proved, because at the toy party that occasioned all this animation there were scarcely two toys alike to be seen.

Each as a Favorite Toy. The invitations to the party had been sent by a young lady—a pet friend of every boy and girl asked—and she had requested each small guest to appear in the character of his or her favorite toy. She also suggested that as girls might not care for animals or manly toys, each of them come dressed like her own dearest doll, and that the boys appear as bears, dogs, wolves, elephants, monkeys, goats, horses, lambs, donkeys, &cc., or as firemen, policemen, soldiers or sailors, like those seen on toy engines, boats, &c., or else that mechanical figures like dancing Sambos, organ grinders, gymnasts, acrobats, &c., supply ideas for some of the costumes. She said she preferred to have them mostly animals, but would leave the matter to them and their mothers.

One thing, however, she must insist upon—every boy and girl must be in a costume representing a toy or a doll, and any boy or girl coming in any other costume would be sent home. Of course, this seemed rather arbitrary, but the young hostess was simply endeavoring to make the party a perfect success, and to do this there must be no strangers among the toys. Mammas very soon saw the point, and right heartily entered into the sport of attiring their young hopefuls for this particular occasion.

Naturally there was some argument as to which doll a little daughter or two should represent, for with the strange perversity of childhood in such matters several of the best beloved dolls were minus a limb or so, had lost an eye or the tip of a nose, or proved to be rather ragged and soiled specimens of homemade manufacture. This matter was finally satisfactorily adjusted.

In the meantime other mothers were having troubles of their own with the young sons of their families, who wouldn’t stand still to be fitted to costumes made of fuzzy stuffs like canton flannel, astrakhan, &c., and who insisted on having their say as to the cut of an ear or the hang of a tail. Then openings had to be devised for faces so that the heads of the animals would not smother the wearers nor obstruct their vision.

All this was successfully accomplished at last, and on December 26, about seven o’clock, the guests were to come early—lovely dolls and great big toys were seen walking out of houses that were not toy shops and into a large brown stone one uptown that had always been known as a private residence.

The hostess beamed, cordially upon each, and when they were all gathered in the large parlor you never saw a prettier, more novel sight.

toy costume party

Poodle and Donkey.

A French poodle—as a boy, he once had a black astrakhan coat that looked just like his present fur—minced along, waving his paws and wagging a tasseled tail and looking hungry. Later on his little tricks secured him many a bonbon and tidbit. A donkey, who wore in addition to his canton flannel costume a high, white swell collar, had bad luck in securing smiles from the dolls; a big policemen helped them, beautifully, to cross the room in escape, and then returned to the pretty nurse maid doll he had found sitting in a corner. It was all quite natural, you know.

About nine o’clock the tapping of a drum was hear and the hostess said she would now present her guests to Santa Claus, who had dropped in quite unexpectedly and been asked to stay and assist her with the rest of the entertainment—what that meant they did not know. Well, she drew back the doors and there was a fine Christmas tree. The children—no, the toys—were much surprised and wondered if little boys and girls were going to be given them as presents. As for Santa Claus, he threw up his hands in great astonishment and looked half frightened at the sight before him.

When all of the gifts were distributed Santa Claus announced that if any “animal” present was dissatisfied with a doll as a gift, he was privileged to exchanged it with any “doll” who was not pleased with her present. It was surprising how quickly some of those gifts changed hands.

After a few pretty games and a dance or two refreshments were served in the dining room. They consisted of sandwiches and cakes shaped like dolls and animals; ice cream that was moulded to represent fruit, vegetables, frogs, comic figures and flowers, and lemon and orangeade, both pink and yellow.

New York Herald 11 December 1898: p. 3

toy costume party2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A charming conceit, although the illustration of the cat costume explains why Santa Claus appeared half frightened and the idea of toys being given little girls and boys for presents is a surreal one.

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.