Tag Archives: masquerade costume

The Lost Columbine: 1922

the lost columbine illustration2

The Lost Columbine

By Julian Street

“About this fancy-dress ball at the country club tonight,” said Archibald Welkins, as his wife, looking very lovely in a French-blue housedress, poured the morning coffee, “I don’t quite like the idea, do you, Eleanor?”

Her large blue eyes turned up to him inquiringly.

“What don’t you like about it, dear?” she asked.

“Oh, this fool notion of husbands and wives dressing separately–not knowing about each other’s costumes.”

Often in the eight years of their married life he had been disturbed by her trait of remaining silent when she disagreed with him, and now, as she did not reply, he stated more explicitly what was in his mind, saying: “I think we’d better tell each other what we’re going to wear.”

“We’ll find out when we unmask,” she said.

“But I think the idea of secrecy is all nonsense,” he insisted with a little show of heat.

“Pass Mr. Welkins the marmalade,” his wife said to the maid.

He helped himself, then repeated: “I think it’s all nonsense!”

But she did not answer. He had never known a woman with Eleanor’s capacity for silence. It gave her a mysterious power.

“The steward at the club told me they’d had over five hundred acceptances,” he went on. “That means a mixed crowd, and I’d like to know what your costume is going to be so I can look after you.” “That’s sweet of you,” she answered, “but I’m sure I shan’t need looking after.”

“You might,” he declared.

“Oh, I don’t think so not at our own country club.”

“But I tell you it’s going to be a mixed crowd. You’re a darn pretty woman–and a blonde.” And as again she was silent, he added in a tone that held a hint of accusation: “Blondes always attract more attention.”

“Take some hot toast,” she said to him as the maid appeared. He took some, and waited till she left the room. Then he said:

“I wonder why men always think good looking blondes are–” But he did not finish the sentence.

“Are what?” she asked.

“Well, anyway,” he declared, “fancy dress makes people reckless. They feel that the lid’s off. There’ll be a lot of flasks, too. There’s so much more drinking since prohibition. That’s another reason why I want to know.

“Know what?”

“What?” he repeated irritably. “Just what I’ve been asking you what you’re going to wear.”

“I don’t think it would be playing the game to tell,” she said. “How do you like this bacon? It’s a new brand.”

“Look here,” he said sharply, “you can’t put me off that way! You say you don’t need looking after, but your memory doesn’t seem to be so good as mine! Before your flirtation with that dolled-up French officer you fell for, I used to think you didn’t need looking after, too! But I guess I–” He stopped.

Having thrown in her face the one indiscretion of her married life, he instantly regretted it. He always did. He always told himself that to keep referring to it was to take a mean advantage of her, and that he would never speak of it again. Strange that he could not overcome the jealousy left with him by that episode of several years ago, when, ever since, she had been so circumspect. After all it had been only a mild flirtation, and the Frenchman wasn’t very young. He was a fool to keep thinking of it, and a greater fool to harp upon it.

He said no more, but left the table, angry with her and angry with himself.

II

In the interest of secrecy it had been arranged that the wives should dine and dress together in certain houses in the neighborhood, while the husbands dined and dressed in others, and that all should arrive at the club masked. Archibald Welkins consequently left the limousine to be used by his wife and her friends, and taking the bag containing his costume, which was supposed to resemble King Charles II, drove in his roadster to Tom Bayne’s house, where he found a group of men, some of them already in their finery, some dressing, all with cocktail glasses in their hands.

By the time he had donned the regal wig and knee breeches, and drank three cocktails, he began to change his mind about the fancy dress ball. It was an amusing idea, this secrecy. He was going to have a good time. Nevertheless, when he asked Eleanor what she was going to wear she should have told him. He still felt some resentment about that.

Tom Bayne had an excellent cellar. With dinner he served large highballs, and his Scotch was exceptionally good. As Archibald Welkins was leaving with the others, he caught his reflection in a mirror and approved thereof. The jewelled star shone brilliantly upon his breast; the black silk stockings admirably set off his leg, which was a good leg, and the long, dark, curly wig gave him, he thought, a mysterious appearance. What did he care, after all, about Eleanor’s refusal to tell him what her costume was to be? He wasn’t going to worry about Eleanor tonight. Not he! He had offered to–that was enough. She didn’t know what he was wearing, either. Yes, he was going to have a good time!

With an Arab sheik, a Chinaman, and a soldier in the buff and blue of the Continental army as his passengers, he drove to the club, handling his roadster dashingly, and to avoid being recognized by his car, parked beside the drive at some distance from the door, and walked with his companions to the clubhouse.

The doors and the French windows were open; dancing had already started; they could hear the music as they walked across the grass. Inside the ballroom Welkins paused to review the animated spectacle. Masked soldiers, clowns, coolies, court beauties, bullfighters, odalisques, woman jockies, geisha, harlequins, cowboys, Spanish senoritas, mandarins, pirates, nymphs, Turks, vaqueros, peasants, whirled to the music of the jazz band.

Looking them over as they circled past, he presently thought he recognized his wife. She was dressed–if indeed it was Eleanor–as a French court lady, with patches, a high, powdered wig and a panniered gown of flowered silk, and was dancing with a Roman gladiator. He watched her around the room. Her height, her figure, her carriage were Eleanor’s, and the costume had a dignity characteristic of his wife’s taste. When she had passed several times he was quite certain of her.

Presently he became interested in Cleopatra, who fox-trotted into view with Napoleon. Eleanor would have made a handsome Cleopatra, too, but he felt sure she would never appear in public in such scant attire. That Cleopatra woman was certainly attractive, though! He cut in on her and, as they danced, talked in a false voice, endeavoring to guess at her identity. But the fair Egyptian was popular. An Indian Rajah soon snatched her away, leaving King Charles II free to seek out a fascinating Columbine who, several times, had passed near him in a dance, and seemed responsive to his glances. Presently, with a beau of the Colonial period, she came down the floor, a sprightly figure in a short black satin dress with a waist cut to a deep V In back, springy little skirts, thin openwork stockings and ballet slippers. With her huge white ruff and her black cocked hat pulled down at a saucy angle over bobbed red hair, she looked the incarnation of irresponsible gaiety.

He cut in and found that her dancing confirmed his impression. How light, how responsive she was!

“I’ve been aiming to catch you!” he told her, disguising his voice by pitching it low.

‘”Ave you, monsieur?” she chirped. “Well, zen, we are sympathique, for I too ‘ave look at you, you beeg, ‘andsome man!” The minx. She gave his hand a squeeze which he promptly returned.

“Are you French?” he asked in his assumed voice, “or are you putting on that accent?”

“What you sink, monsieur?”

“I think,” he said, “that if you’re putting it on you do it very well.” “An’ you, you bad, weeked king! ‘Ow is your Nell Gwyn?” she asked.

“Never mind Nell Gwyn,” he said. “It’s you I’m interested in. Don’t tell me you’re just a nice little married woman in disguise wife of some man who commutes to business in New York and drives a ball around these links on Sundays.”

“You ‘ope I’m real naughty French girl?” she asked, archly.

“Indeed I do!”

“Well. Zen, follow me! And with that she disengaged herself and flitted swiftly through a French window leading to the terrace.

Pursuing, he lost her momentarily, for in the darkness her black dress gave her an advantage, but as she scampered down the steps toward the lawn and the links, he caught sight of her white ruff, and sped after her. As she disappeared behind a large syringa bush he heard a rippling laugh, and running to the other side, caught her in his arms. Then, as she was panting and laughing, and as it was dark, and they were masked, and the syringas smelled so sweet, he placed his hand beneath her chin, tilted it up, bent over, and was about to seize the fruits of victory, when she eluded him and ran off laughing, in the direction of the drive.

A prisoner who escapes and is recaptured pays an added penalty, and when after another chase over the silver-green of moonlit grass, Charles II grasped the elusive Columbine, and exacted what he deemed just tribute from her lips, he was surprised and flattered by the apparent willingness with which she paid.

Indeed it was that willingness which made him confident that she would not again become a fugitive, and he was holding her lightly when, in a flash, she was off once more, this time running toward the clubhouse.

Just at the doorway he caught up; but his appeal to her to stay outside was unavailing. “No,” she said, firmly, “you are a naughty boy, an’ I ‘ave foun’ you out. My ‘usban’ would not like.”

“Your husband does not need to know,” he urged, “nor my wife, either. That’s what makes a party of this kind such fun–husbands and wives not knowing each other’s costumes.”

“Yes,” said she, “but I ‘ave already ‘ad fun enough, my king.” And with that she moved into the ballroom.

By the door they stood for a moment watching the dancers.

“Look!” he exclaimed suddenly. “There’s another Columbine. She’s like you exactly like you, even to her red hair!”

“Yes, we came togezzer.”

“But suppose I were to lose you,” said he, “how could I find you again? How could I tell the two of you apart?”

“Zat is a question !” she said.

“Let’s dance and talk it over.”

“No, monsieur.” replied the Columbine, “now I mus’ dance wiz some wan else.” As she spoke a cowled monk came up, and in a moment she was dancing off with him.

“Meet me here afterwards,” urged King Charles as she moved away. But she shook her head.

“How shall I find you, then?” he demanded, following.

“I don’t sink you can!” said she, and again he heard her tantalizing laugh.

He retired to the doorway and watched for her, but by the time she came around again she was with a Sicilian brigand. He cut in. But apparently this was the other Columbine, for she did not seem to know him. Her step was not so light as that of the one he sought, nor did she speak with a French accent.

Never mind! He would find his lost Columbine. He was determined to find her. And when they unmasked he would learn who she was. Time and again, when he saw a Columbine wearing a black cocked hat over bobbed hair, he cut in and danced with her, but only to be disappointed. Always it was the wrong one. He questioned her about the other, but could get no satisfaction.

When, at midnight, the dancers unmasked, he hastened about the ballroom and the adjacent apartments looking for the Columbines, but now he could find neither of them. Nor could he find his wife, nor yet the white-wigged lady of the French court whom he had identified with her.

Where could Eleanor be? She ought to be in the ballroom. That was where a well-behaved woman belonged at a party such as this. It wasn’t wise for a pretty woman to go wandering about outside, in the moonlight, with a strange man, masked. Since prohibition there had been a lot of drinking, and fancy dress made people reckless, anyway. Temporarily he forgot the Columbine in his concern about his wife’s behavior, as he looked for her upon the terrace and the lawn.

Failing to find her he returned to the club and telephoned home. “Hello?” He was surprised to hear Eleanor’s voice upon the wire. “I’ve been hunting for you all over the place.” he said. “What took you home so early?”

“Oh, I got enough of it.”

“Didn’t you have a good time?”

“I had an exceptionally good time,” she assured him.

“But I don’t understand why you went home, then.”

“Fancy dress makes people do all sorts of things.” she said, and before he could comment upon the cryptical character of the remark, she asked: “Have you been enjoying yourself?”

“Oh, I’ve had worse times,” said he. And thinking to have one final look for his lost Columbine, he added: “I guess I’ll hang around for a while if you don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t mind at all. Good night, dear,” and she hung up the receiver.

Ill

“Well, dear,” said Archibald Welkins next morning as his wife, locking very lovely in a shell-pink house gown, poured the coffee, “it was a pretty good party, wasn’t it?” And as she nodded, he went on in an expansive tone: “Made it rather amusing, after all— husbands and wives not knowing each other’s costumes don’t you think so?”

“Yes, very amusing,” she said.

“I was quite sure I recognized you,” he told her.

“Oh, were you?”‘ She looked up quickly.

“Yes. In a French court costume with a black-powdered wig.”

When she smiled and shook her head, he was surprised.

“That wasn’t you— honestly?”

“No. Honestly.”

“What was your costume, then.”

“I went as a Columbine.” she said and addressing the maid: “Pass Mr Welkins the strawberry Jam.”

In silence he helped himself, spread jam upon a piece of toast, ate it. And drank his coffee. Then:

“There were two Columbines dressed exactly alike.” he ventured

“Yes.” Said Eleanor “This is the last of that new bacon. Have you made up your mind yet how you like It?”

“Oh, it’s very good.” he answered abstractedly. “But the Columbines I saw had red hair”

“Wigs.” she returned succinctly.

“Wigs?” he repeated, surprised .’They didn’t look like wigs.”

“Men aren’t very quick at detecting such things.” said’ she. Then, to his infinite surprise, she added: “Do you remember that nice French officer I liked so much three years ago?”

“Why, yes.”

“Well, he wore a toupee.”

“He did? How do you know?”

“I noticed it the first time I saw him.”

“Um.” he said, and sat reflective for a time. Then: “Look here, dear,” he went on “Let’s never speak of that French officer again. It was long ago, and anyway It really didn’t amount to anything.”

If he expected recognition of his magnanimity he was disappointed, for she did not speak.

“Who was the other Columbine?” he asked in a casual tone as he was about to rise from table.

“Evidently someone who went to the same costumer I did,” his wife replied.

“But–.” He checked himself, then with some feeling, added:  “I don’t think they ought to send out duplicate costumes for the same party, do you?”

But she failed to reply.

Often in the eight years of their married life he had been disturbed by her trait of remaining silent when she disagreed with him. He had never known a woman with Eleanor’s capacity for silence. It gave her a mysterious power.

The Hartford [CT] Courant 9 July 1922: p. 47

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: What’s good for the goose….  Still, unless Mr Welkins wishes to find himself in divorce court, he would do better to try to check his jealous impulses. His pretty blonde wife, who looks equally fetching at the breakfast table in French blue or shell-pink, is, Mrs Daffodil suggests, the enigmatic sort whose blameless character might equally plausibly conceal an adventuress or a dutiful wife who felt her husband needed a moonlit flirtation of his own that she might throw in his face as needed.

One may be certain that if the charming Mrs Welkins put her mind to be cheerfully and silently indiscreet with anyone besides her husband, she would be clever enough to make sure that that gentleman would never know of it.

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 Monkey at the Masquerade: 1908

Worked Out All Right.

One of the clerks of a well-known City merchant recently received an invitation to a masked ball at his employer’s, and was the envy of his comrades. Resolved to do all he could to make the occasion a success, he spent a good deal of time in devising and making his masquerade costume, which, after long deliberation, he resolved should be that of a monkey. Then he spent a week learning a number of tricks —grinning, clambering on the chimney-piece, springing on to the table, and balancing himself on the back of a chair.

The evening came. He rang the bell, gave his overcoat into the servant’s arms, and, with a grin and chatter, turned a somersault under the chandelier. The gentlemen stood stupefied, the ladies screamed. His mask prevented him from seeing much, but the noise encouraged him to bound over a sofa and throw down a cabinet of old china. At this moment a hand seized him, tore off his mask, and the voice of his employer asked him what he meant by his idiotic conduct. Before he could explain he was hustled out of the house, learning by one glimpse that the rest of the company were in evening dress.

The next day he was sent for, and entered the office with trembling knees.

“I had the pleasure of a visit from you last evening,” said the gentleman.

“Yes. sir; that is—I—”

“No excuses,” said the other; “no excuses. I have doubled your salary. I noticed that you were overlooked for promotion last year. Good morning. Shut the door after you.”

“Well, I’ll be blessed!” said the clerk, going out. His employer had made an early investigation into the matter, and found that the other clerks had “put up a job” on the young man by sending him a bogus invitation. The employer made things even by promoting him over their heads.

Otago Witness 7 October 1908: p. 88

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: In the newspapers and women’s magazines, invitations to masked balls issued to young clerks by their employers almost always end happily, as we have seen previously in the story of The Four Red Devils.

Mrs Daffodil does not think that this is a common occurrence in Real Life. She is puzzled by the extraordinary forbearance of the employer in not summoning the police or a lunacy commission, but perhaps the gentleman knew that the cabinet of old china was insured for far more than he had paid for his aesthetic-minded wife’s tiresome collection.

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 Mutilated Sportsman and the Phrenological Bust: Gentlemen’s Fancy Dress: 1882

male fancy dress

Last week we advised the ladies on how to create inexpensive historical fancy dress. To-day we offer some inspiration to the gentlemen.

In selecting a costume a little forethought is necessary; some suit particular features and build of body better than others. A very short man as Coeur de Lion, or a tall one as Richard III., would be anomalies; but more than this, people at Fancy Balls often render themselves absolutely ridiculous because they assume characters in every way opposed to their own personality. I have seen a man with fine presence, and a face which would have added dignity to the garb of a Venetian senator, arrayed as a clown, and an inveterate practical joker, he who was “wont to set the table on a roar,” “a fellow of infinite jest,” as Rizzio. In our day, when taste and culture are considered worthy of a thought, historical costumes should not be chosen by people of education without some little study. England is rich in old portraits that might be copied with advantage rather than the theatrical ideas of periods which originate, not in history, but in the fertile brains of modern days. Our Royal Family afford an example worthy of imitation. The greatest pains were bestowed on the costumes worn at Her Majesty’s Fancy Ball in 1842, when the reign of Edward III. was specially selected; and the Fancy Ball at Marlborough House was notable for a Venetian and a Vandyke Quadrille, so truthfully carried out it seemed as if the originals of the Old Masters had come to life again. A long experience of Fancy Balls makes me advise those who desire to dance to avoid heavy wigs, hats, cloaks, swords, wands, and the several etceteras which have to be carried in the hand. They are laid down anywhere early in the evening, and seldom found except with difficulty.

For Calico Balls the costume, though made of cotton,, chintz, cretonne, &c, is generally allowed to be trimmed with gold or silver, and neither cotton shoes nor gloves are deemed necessary. Among suitable costumes for Calico Balls are Postboy, Incroyable, Yankee, Perfect Cure, Porter, Cook, Christy Minstrel…

Many are deterred from accepting invitations to Fancy Balls, by the difficulties which surround appearing in appropriate guise. My object has been to meet and facilitate these as much as possible.

Thence follows several hundred suggestions for fancy dress, most of which do not stray beyond the standard Pierrot, Sicilian Brigand, Cavalier, and historical figures like The Earl of Essex or Alfred the Great.  Still, occasionally one finds a flash of whimsey, such as the following:

AQUARIUM (Suitable for a boy) Stockings; short trousers; close-fitting bodice high to the throat, with tight sleeves to wrist, make in light green sateen or cotton, covered with lobsters, crabs, and other fish, in bright red embroidery, or in red paper stuck on; green seaweed fringe goes round the knees, waist, and the close-fitting green cap; red shoes; a belt of shells

ATLANTIC CABLE Sailor’s dress; a thick cable wound four or five times round wist, encircles the limbs below the knees, and falls in thick coils over left arm; an anchor is attached to it. The brim of the hat is turned up in front and bears the words, “Telegraphic Despatches”; the long blue streamers are marked “Transatlantic Cable.”

CLOCK: Classic robe of white cashmere, with cape and hood; VIII on the hood, shoulders, and back; dials, with hands poiting to the hour, on back and on knees, the latter having weights attached. High pointed cap with the hours round. Wand in hand with 24 upon it.

EVENING DRESS OF THE FUTURE: viz., white where it is now black and vice vera; white evening dress coat and trousers; black shirt; tie and collar, &c.

JAPANESE: Loose robe of yellow and gold satin worked with birds; loose orange trousers embroidered with gold. It is better, if possible, to obtain a dress from the country; any attempt to produce the embroidery in England would result in failure.

LUCIFER: Velvet tight-fitting doublet and trunks; black silk stockings; black velvet shoes with pointed toes; large black tarlatan wings made on frames; and a silver star on the forehead.

MUTILATED SPORTSMAN: Wears an old shooting-shirt, and has a wooden leg, and an arm tied up, as though broken.

PHRENOLOGICAL BUST: Draped in white, with skull wig, drawn out as a map according to bumpts, &c.

PICNIC: Grass green stockings and shoes; white tablecloth, worn as Mexican poncho, on it drawings of pigeon-pies, lobster salads, orange jelly, &c., looped up where necessary with knife and fork in tin.

Gentlemen’s Fancy Dress: How to Choose It, Ardern Holt, 1882

The variety in costumes really was quite staggering. Here is a list of the characters seen at a fancy-dress charity ball in 1823 Liverpool.

“Here,” says the Mercury, “mingling in the dance, promenading, or conversing, were seen abbots, Algerines, antiquaries, and angels; barons, bravoes, barristers, and beauties; clowns, courtiers, and caliphs; dukes, danes and dowagers; ensigns, esquires, & egotists; farmers, fairies, & flower-girls; Grecians, gossips, Germans, and gardners; hussars, highlands, and Hindoos; Indians, infants, and Icelanders; Jews, Japanese, and jokers; kings and Kamschatdales; lawyers, lords, lovers, ladies, and Laplanders; mayors, magistrates, and mandarins; nabobs, nobles, and Neapolitans; officers, Oxonians, outlaws, and oddities; princes, peasants, priests, and pirates; queens, quakers, and quidnuncs, robbers, Romans, and racers; Spaniards, sailors, and shepherdesses; Tartars, Turks, tyrants, and Tyrolese; userers and Utopians; Venetians, villagers, and villains; warriors, woodmen, and warders; youths and yeomen; zealots and Zealanders.” New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette [Concord, NH] 8 December 1823: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A “calico ball” was a fancy-dress entertainment in which creations in lowly printed cotton were substituted for velvets, silks, and brocades. They were quite popular as ways to raise money for charities, the logic being that if one had an inexpensive costume, one could spare more money for the charity.

The ladies of the Royal School of Needlework would, no doubt, be incensed at the aspersions cast on English embroidery in the Japanese costume section.

It is most curious that there are no suggestions for a fancy-dress ghost, nor for a vampire, zombie, or werewolf. One supposes it is because tights are practically a requirement for the well-bred Englishman donning fancy dress.

Here are some ingenious costumes worn by gentleman unafraid to eschew tights.side of bacon fancy dress 1894

rooster fancy dressStork costume

 

skeleton costume masque of red death

Masque of the Red Death skeleton

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Mrs Irwin Wears a San Francisco Earthquake Costume: 1907

Famous architects dressed as the buildings they designed. From http://www.neatorama.com/2012/08/25/Famous-Architects-Dressed-as-Their-Buildings/#!lArTi

Famous architects dressed as the buildings they designed. From Neatorama. com. http://www.neatorama.com/2012/08/25/Famous-Architects-Dressed-as-Their-Buildings/#!lArTi

Buildings Shake to Waltz Music

The literary Irwins have done a big share in making San Francisco known in New York. What with Will Irwin’s work on the Sun, later as managing editor of McClure’s, and now as an events specialist for Collier’s, and Wallace Irwin’s pointed verses that put a quiver even in the side of the staid east, good things that come out of our Nazareth are taken more and more as a matter of course. But this is a story of clever doings not of a male Irwin, but of Mrs. Will Irwin, who, apparently, is ingenious enough to find time for things besides the careful uprearing of the heir to the Irwin fortunes. Mrs. Bill has come to California for a brief visit, and there has come with her the story of her recent appearance at an authors’ and artists’ dress ball as an earthquake. Fancy it! And the point to the story is that she looked and was the part and needed no label.

Mrs. Irwin came upon the scene in a costume draped into many broad surfaces. This for the purpose of better showing the flames that leaped up toward her harmonious hair with a vividness that almost sizzled their own paint. A particularly lurid tongue of fire mounted her back. All this spoke eloquently of the second stage of San Francisco’s disaster. But how would you tone down a number nine earthquake to make it presentable in a ballroom? This is how it was done: Pending from the costume on strings and rising tier over tier were flimsy card miniatures of many of San Francisco’s best known buildings—skyscrapers, churches and the Bohemian club. When Mrs. Irwin strolled about or waltzed the card buildings vibrated with the gentle motion in most amazing fashion. The bright flames heightened the effect. But on her head was the crowning triumph of the ingenious costume. Her head piece was a tall reproduction of The Call building, also of light cardboard. When spectators who had been in San Francisco at the time of the disaster saw the wriggling and sinuous convulsing of that familiar skyscraper it was only the reassuring grace of the lady who wore it that kept them from bursting into the shout: “To the hills for your life!”

The San Francisco [CA] Call 6 June 1907: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mr. William “Will” Irwin was a journalist, catapulted to fame by his coverage of two horrific disasters—the sinking of the General Slocum and the San Francisco Earthquake. He had formerly worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, but was in New York, writing for the Sun when the earthquake hit on April 18, 1906. His editors assigned him to flesh out the scanty telegraphic reports arriving from the devastated city from his first-hand knowledge. The earthquake-clad Mrs. Irwin was his first wife, who, the papers say, divorced him in San Francisco in 1907.  One wonders how quickly the divorce followed after this extraordinarily tasteless costume worn in the wake of one of the worst natural disasters in US history. Irwin’s second wife, Inez Haynes Irwin, was a feminist, suffragette,  war correspondent, and prolific author, whom one cannot imagine donning fancy-dress under any circumstances.

San Francisco Call building

The San Francisco Call building.

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.