Tag Archives: pockets in ladies’ clothing

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

SUFFRAGETTE COSTUME THE LATEST

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.

 

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The Woman with Five Pockets: 1891

A Woman with Five Pockets.

A young man came up town to his home and dinner the other afternoon in a Broadway car, and just about Tenth street, where the big shops begin, the overloaded team halted to take in one more passenger. She was  tall, slim, pretty girl, dressed in a brown gown, and the young man noticed her at once—first, because her face was exceedingly charming, and second, because she carried nothing in her hands. Not even the tiniest purse or the flattest card case, he swears.

On careful cross examination he could not tell how her gown was made or what shape of hat she wore. But this much he does know, that after she got on she actually did push her way well up in the car, in exact obedience to the conductor’s humble suggestion, and she also lifted up one of the empty hands, gloved in a heavy, three-buttoned, stitched red dog-skin, and held so firmly to the strap that she did not lose her footing when the car turned a curve.

Yet more remarkable, when the long suffering conductor came collecting, she calmly thrust her free hands into the folds of her frock and into an invisible pocket, set just about where such convenient receptacles are put in a man’s trousers. This was on the front of the right hand hip. Apparently not feeling the right change there, she brought down the other hand, and while the young man gaped with amazement, she ran it into another deep invisible pocket on the left hip. He swears he recognized the rattle of keys and a knife, and when the hand reappeared it was full of small change. The conductor satisfied, she resumed her strap and looked calmly over the young man’s head till another woman got in who recognized the young lady, and much chattering followed till the second woman wanted to know the time.

Then he almost lost his balance watching the first young woman unbutton her loose box coat to reveal a white shirt front and high buttoned waistcoat, in the front of which dangled a watch chain. Into a side pocket went the hand, out came an open faced watch, then from an inside breast pocket was drawn a little flat red memorandum book, and bracing herself the owner jotted down some important address given by the other woman, buttoned herself up snugly, drew a dainty silk handkerchief from somewhere under the tail of her coat, touched her dear little nose, and signaling to the conductor swung off with all the easy nonchalance of a woman hardened to the convenience of five pockets and a coat-tail handkerchief bag. New York Letter.

Los Angeles [CA] Herald 15 May 1891: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil suggests that the young lady, so startling with her atypically empty hands, was cleverly avoiding the pecuniary losses that occurred so frequently in the crush of humanity on the street-cars.

The press debated over how best to carry a pocket-book when ladies ventured out in public:

PRO: In view of the recent unsuccessful exploits of one Jack the Pocket Ripper, it is a matter of congratulation that the women were old fashioned enough to carry their purses in their hands. Philadelphia Press.

And CON: In view of the numerous cases of pocketbook snatching reported lately in all parts of the city, it might be a good thing for “the new woman” to adopt the masculine fashion of carrying one’s purse in one’s pocket. New York Herald.

The Norfolk [VA] Virginian 4 May 1895: p. 8

There was also an anti-purse faction among the Suffragettes, asserting that those burdensome purses were the reason that women lagged behind in professional and political life. The so-called “Suffragette” costume was designed to eliminate hand-bags, with useful pockets in divided skirt and mannish coat.

Mrs Jenness Miller, the “apostle of culture in dress” went even further. She believed “in plenty of pockets and thinks that man’s superiority began with them.”

Mrs Daffodil raises her eye-brows dubiously at Mrs Jenness Miller’s theory.  She feels that Man’s feeling of superiority began with spears, greater upper body strength, and the ability to hunt mastodons in packs. Pockets, if involved at all, were a mere foot-note.

Mrs Daffodil herself insists on pockets in all of her garments. It is a comfort to have to hand at all times a pocket-handkerchief, an aide-memoire for jotting down interesting, and possibly actionable, bits of gossip, a well-sharpened pocket-knife,  useful lengths of twine, and other convenient articles so necessary to her work.

 

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.