Although Monday was, Mrs Daffodil is reliably informed, “Earth Day,” a time to take stock of how we use the resources of the planet, there is never a bad day to reflect on consumption and its consequences. There has been a societal move against “fast fashion” and a resurgence of “Make Do and Mend.” Mrs Daffodil will, therefore, “recycle” several posts on the subject of domestic economy in dress, on the clever makers-over of tired garments, and the second-hand clothing trade.
One would go far before one would discover a more ingenious clan than these Southern Ohio ladies and their cunning tricks of skillful fingers.
Although this lady, who traded in second-hand silks and this gentleman, who prospered in left-over laundry, are an inspiration to all of us.
Some clever gentlemen took a leaf from the ladies’ domestic economy books and learned to update and repair their wardrobes.
A fascinating tour of a 19th-century “recycling” firm and an examination of the “rag trade.”
The second-hand trade was a boon to actresses, and the buying, selling, and hiring of costly gowns worn by the Four Hundred, was a practice well-known to the upper echelons of Society.
The second-hand clothing trade extended even unto royalty, as we see in this peep at Queen Victoria’s stockings.
One of Mrs Daffodil’s heroines is this resourceful lady, who set herself up as a “Dress Doctor,” long before Hollywood costumer Edith Head co-opted that title.
Of course, selling one’s evening dresses involve some unwitting “recycling,” as this lady found to her dismay:
Not long ago (write “X and Z” in the Globe) a lady in dealing with the proprietress of a second-hand clothing business, sold to her several evening dresses, which were perfectly fresh and good, but which she could not wear again, as her friends knew them too well. They had probably been worn three times each. The second-hand wardrobe lady remarked, by the way, that all her purchases were for the colonies. Seems odd, does it not? But to return. A few days after the gowns were sold their original owner missed a very pretty old-fashioned diamond clasp, and, inquiring of her maid, discovered to her tribulation that it was in one of the evening dresses she had sold. “Sewn firm on the left shoulder, my lady,” quoth the maid. She proceeded diplomatically to work, sent the maid to the shop, and, in consequence of her operations there, became again the possessor of her discarded gown at exactly seven times the price she had sold it for. The diamond clasp was still in it, its safety being due to proximity to a mass of crystal trimming which formed an epaulette, the clasp having been added with a view to making the whole mass look “good.”
Otago Witness 9 February 1893: p. 42
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.