Vintage Fashions- Shopping for Fine Women's Fashions - 1908
In this 1908 installment, Mrs. Aria writes about her great finds as she explores the various shops in London for the fashions and accessories of the day. The article appeared in the Cunard Daily Bulletin, Fashion & Pleasure Resort Supplement for 1908.
In the Path of the Purchaser.
By Mrs. Eliza Aira
If necessity be the mother of invention as it is proverbially stated, I would guess that invention was the mother of Mr. Albert Barker. Anyway, he shows distinct symptoms of heredity, taking after his grandmother, Necessity, and knowing no law of limitation—for his ingenuity.
Amongst the many immediate comforts of our craving, we owe to him not only Dressing Bags which combine the multitude of accessories with the minimum of weight, but the " Surprise " tea table ; the " Bridge Cabinet," which includes four fully fitted tables ; a most decorative bracelet which .bears a loose chain holding a key, and obviates the possibility of leaving your latchkey at home, or worse contingency still, planted in the keyhole ; some " Breakfast-in-Bed " tables, models of appetising elegance ; a " Sportsman's Place-finder," in a thin fiat box no bigger than a matchbox, and containing a set of eight little numbered engraved tablets ; and many most useful addenda to complete becomingly the joys of the motor.
I confess I lingered long at 5, New Bond Street, and, in truth, the contents of the new " Incomparable " bag might tempt the least idle and inquisitive. The main advantages of this are the shape, sloping higher at the back than the front, and the side pieces turning outwards upon hinges—many of Mr. Barker's inventions hinge upon hinges, so to speak—with space in the centre of the bag, space at the side of the bag, and everything of the best quality, acting with smooth perfection, only possible in good workmanship.
A novelty is the fan-shaped mirror, cleverly contrived with a strut as the back so that it may either stand or sit at your convenience. New, too, is the powder-box with the double lid, the upper one being just sufficient to hold the puff and a little powder, thus guarding against the misfortune of upsetting the mass, or obtaining more than is entirely attractive in the centre of your nose. Deserving of notice, too, are the bags expressly dedicated to the feminine motorists. These are small, light, and conspicuously serviceable, containing just the things you do want, and none of the things you do not, a virtue not always possessed of such bags.
A prolonged interview with the " Bridge Cabinet " showed me each of the four bridge tables was arranged to bear at each corner every appliance and means to smoke and drink, so cleverly placed as to be at everybody's elbow, and in nobody's way.
The " Surprise " table may include the tray fitted for tea, or the writing cabinet, or the more utilitarian typewriter. For this last purpose I would indeed most heartily commend it, for the typewriter, while not being a thing of elegance, has become amongst our daily necessities, and it is good to know that by the help of this inlaid wooden case we may tuck it out of sight with alacrity and elegance. The " Breakfast-in-Bed " trays are in metal or in wood, and a beef-tea set is so delicately equipped that it would tempt the most reluctant of appetites.
The lover of tortoiseshell will find it rather hard to tear herself away from some remarkable samples of amber hue splashed with the darker spots, and a three-tier casket of this amber shell with gold hinges and gold monogram offers itself alluringly for jewels, or special letters, or miniatures.
The mere trifler, by the way of fashion eschewing the bright and tawdry temptations of commercial popularity, should look at the tortoiseshell hatpins in round or pear-shape, in globular or mushroom form, which bear tracings of gold, and vie successfully with some round balls of rock crystal, or real onyx. But these are of the trifles to be met at 5, New Bond Street, where the traveller by road or sea may well linger to his advantage.
With the advent of what promises to be a more than usually brilliant season, the novelty-strewn path of the purchaser may easily develop into a royal road to success, social, sartorial, and diversely. At every step fresh glories burst upon the enraptured vision, and the question: " To buy, or not to buy ? " becomes a vexed one indeed.
Peter Robinson's on Oxford Street
Of great importance is the dress problem : "Where to Buy ? " This can be satisfactorily solved by paying a visit to Peter Robinson's, Oxford Street, where the seeker after fresh fashions, and garments new, will find realisation even better than anticipation, an enviable experience in a world of used-up emotions.
In order that she may truly relish the rarity of hope more than fulfilled, she should begin her tour of investigation in the costume department, where beautifully dressed mannequins parade the showrooms in a variety of elegant toilettes.
A passing glance suffices to initiate the onlooker into manifold mysteries of the modes of the moment. Every style is displayed, from the simplest morning gown to the dress appropriate to a gala night at the opera. Nor is any detail omitted, from fan to parasol, from daintily shod toe, to the hat which in many cases undoubtedly constitutes woman's crowning glory.
Of inexpensive tailor suits there is a formidable array, in such popular textures as navy serge, tweeds, homespuns and varied heather mixtures. All are equally well cut, and set admirably upon the shoulders, the crucial test of a costume of the kind.
Day and evening wraps of all descriptions are to be found in the mantle department. The most popular are skilful adaptions of the kimono in its most graceful form, fashioned from soft cloth, in any shade, lined with Liberty satin. After this style is one coat in geranium-pink cloth, bordered with narrow black satin, and trimmed with a black satin stole embroidered heavily with cord and supporting long ropes of the same, knotted and tasselled, further ornamentation appearing in the guise of huge black satin buttons worked in pink silk. Throughout the length and breadth of the establishment Fashion is a tale which is told—and well told. Peter Robinson's is amongst the places to spend a happy day.
Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Co., Regent Street
And another may be delightfully employed wandering over the premises of The Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Co., at 112, Regent Street. A distinct advantage is that the visitor is not pressed to buy, probably because pressure would be superfluous, it being quite impossible to gaze at the Golconda-like accumulation of jewels without breaking the tenth commandment many times.
As one passes between row after row of glass cases, blazing with diamonds and every known variety of gem under the sun or beneath the earth, it is necessary to be an Oriental potentate, or a pretty woman, to realise the full strength of the spell wrought by precious stones, although none, not even the least imaginative, wholly escapes its influence.
To the stranger, the fact that the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Co. own the finest collection of pearls in the world will perhaps appeal with the greatest interest. The majority, however, will linger longest in contemplation of the glittering novelties set forth in dazzling array and amidst these, mention must be made of black velvet neck bands of varying depth, wonderfully decorated with diamond ornaments invisibly set in platinum. These are the last word in smart society for evening wear, and indeed there is wisdom in the edict, for they show up a white throat to admirable advantage.
Equally in demand among the exclusive who place quality above quantity, are narrow ribbons of black moire antique, set at close intervals with tiny diamond wreaths, circles, or flowers.
Fitting frames for those dear ones whose miniatures we prize are in delicately tinted enamel, set with precious stones and suspended on invisible platinum chains.
Second only to the fascination of the jewellery is the magnificent display of silver plate, both antique and modern, while to grasp fully what a striking object a clock can be, it is essential to pay a visit to the beautiful gallery devoted to time-pieces illustrative of different periods and styles. The result will be a revelation to those who contemptuously regard the clock from the utilitarian standpoint alone.
Maple's Home Furnsihings
How far a little money may be induced to go in the way of house furnishing, when laid out by experts, may be learnt by paying a visit to Maple's, Tottenham Court Road. Within the past month this enterprising firm has made a special feature of inexpensive houses. One of these shows seven charmingly furnished rooms, complete in every detail, for ninety guineas, or, roughly, 450 dollars.
This figure includes linen, bedding, blankets, china, glass, cutlery, electroplate, and all kitchen and domestic utensils down to such humble objects as brooms, brushes, and saucepans. There is nothing tawdry or cheap about the decorations. Everything is in the best good taste, pleasing to the eye, and comfortable for use.
To the young housekeeper, ignorant of many of the mysteries connected with the duties which she has undertaken, the boon of applying to Messrs. Maple & Co. to raise the responsibility off her shoulders, and provide a model house for her at a moderate outlay, cannot be over-estimated.
All she has to do is to hand over the necessary cheque, and behold her house ready for her to enter. Every drawer and cupboard is methodically arranged with its proper complement of dusters, tools, etc. Sheets are on the beds, curtains adorn the windows, and hers—just the privilege to take possession and enjoy it.
Another new feature at Maple's this season is a series of model rooms, each furnished in a totally different style. These depict the periods most favoured by fashion at the moment. For instance, there is a Chippendale dining-room with two round tables in the place of one, while the decoration of the walls is after Adams.
A Hepplewhite drawing-room possesses a stately old-world charm, and a Louis XV. salon shows the magnificence of much gilding when contrasted with walls in real white plaster relief, bearing hand-painted panels, and lighted by chandeliers of glittering crystal. An Empire bedroom may prove beyond all possibility of doubt how much a pretty woman gains from a becoming setting, and an entrance hall of exceptional merit recalls the importance of first impressions.
Jaeger's of London
The name and merits of Jaeger are immortal ; but I advise a personal investigation of the latest features brought out by the famous firm at 126, Regent Street. For travellers, a novelty of very special interest is a loose, double-breasted coat of the reefer order, in soft blankety texture. Nothing cosier or more appropriate could be devised, and the world of women is still further plunged in a debt of gratitude to Messrs. Jaeger thereby. A wrap of the kind in brown, dark blue, or grey, with leather buttons, flap pockets, and a smart collar, constitutes an ideal costume for board steamer wear, in conjunction with a knitted woollen jersey and tailor-made " shirt-waist " of Jaeger material. A butterfly collar, as it is termed, is the feature of note in a new style of knitted jacket, which boasts a belt but no pleats, wherein it differs from the familiar Norfolk model.
Knitted waistcoats are present in pleasing variety, and are planned to match or contrast with the remainder of the dress, according to individual tastes. Knitted coats in white and cream wool are possibly the most popular, and these are made single and double-breasted, to the hips, and of three-quarter length. With caps to match, they prove exceedingly becoming, another of their virtues being the ease of their adjustment, which presents no complications.
The softest, lightest, and warmest of Jaeger rugs and blankets tempt the wanderer to sigh regretfully that he has ever endured the weight and weariness of any other kind. The same may be said of Jaeger underwear, which appears in a wide range of dainty colours, and is tastefully trimmed with lace, ribbon, and embroidery.
The man or woman who has ever worn Jaeger socks or stockings will never again be content without them, and motorists and other wanderers by road or sea should note the admirable dust-coats contrived from pure woollen material, and should accord some praise to the pretty woollen petticoats.
Inglis and Tinckler's Irish Warehouse
The cult of the linen cupboard being still one of the most deeply rooted of feminine traditions, no well brought up woman can afford to miss the opportunity afforded by a visit to Messrs. Inglis and Tinckler's, at 147, Regent Street. Known as the Irish Warehouse, this old-established firm is quite distinct from the Irish Store, and it is wise to bear the difference in mind in order to avoid complications.
The housekeeper will thrill with pleasure at sight of the wealth of snowy satin damask, the linen sheets of finest quality, and the goodly store of towels illustrative of the fact that, though dedicated to duty, a towel can yet be " a thing of beauty " and, when of Inglis & Tinckler's best quality, " a joy for ever."
Quite delightful are round luncheon cloths of linen, conspicuous for deeply scalloped border, elaborately adorned with embroidery and drawn-thread work in effective combination. The accompanying napkins are square, and equally decorative, and d'oyleys of real lace and exquisitely fine embroidery seem as though the creation of fairy fingers.
A marvellous specimen of the needle's skill is a bedspread, which the Irish Warehouse displayed at the recent Dublin Exhibition. This is literally covered with fine and raised embroidery, and is an unique triumph of Celtic industry in that particular direction.
Of a nature to appeal irresistibly to any woman are blouse lengths in finest handwoven linen lawn, embroidered in excellent patterns on front, collar and cuffs. Coarse hand-embroidered blouses can be obtained for the well-nigh incredibly low figure of $1.85, and proportionately reasonable are embroidered costumes. Another attraction at 147, Regent Street, is the varied assortment of Irish lace. Crochet is well to the fore in collars, berthas, blouses, jackets, and dresses, and Carrickna-Cross is likewise liberally represented, together with Limerick, point and other famous varieties.
Of handkerchiefs, lace-trimmed, embroidered and plain, the number is legion, while some particularly pretty collars solve the problem of what to wear at the neck in satisfactory fashion.
The house beautiful is occupying much attention, so much, indeed, in this year of grace 1908, that an ugly drawing-room no longer ranks amongst the venial sins, but is regarded as a social offence of the gravest kind—one, in fact, which, if persisted in, places the delinquent outside the pale of good society.
There is not a doubt but that society is right in its verdict. Show me your surroundings and I'll appraise your intellectual outlook. Seek the right things, and with such a firm as Mellier's, of Albemarle Street, Bond Street, to guide you house owners into paths of taste and culture, it is unpardonable if you continue in error, refuse to mend your anachronistic ways, and furnish not your mansion according to the canons of truth and beauty.
An hour spent at Mellier's i3 an art education in itself. It is impossible to gaze at oak-panelled walls, wondrously carved in Regence style, dating from the early days of Louis XIV., without realising how infinitely superior is the atmosphere of the library they enclose to the ordinary modern conception of such an apartment.
Then what wardrobe of to-day can compare in interest with a Louis XV. armoire adorned with ormolu, the grain of the two varieties of wood, king and tulip so adjusted as to form a quaint and effective pattern. Special memories are evoked at sight of a mammoth mantelpiece in ebony, elaborately carved in sixteenth century design, and bearing presentments of Diana de Poitiers and her King Francois, while sentiment of another kind is aroused by a marqueterie and ormolu grand Erard, which so stirred Paderewski's enthusiasm that he permitted himself the tourist-luxury of signing his name and the date thereon.
An object of historical interest is a Charles II. screen, from the famous Brackenridge collection, which is framed in elaborately carved oak, and displays quaint needlework figures in the dress of the period, and gorgeously-hued tropical birds.
The firm of Mellier is noted for the fidelity with which they restore old houses and castles. While transforming them into the most comfortable and up-to-date of residences, replete with every convenience known to civilisation, they sacrifice nothing of the old-world character of a building ; in fact, their work is executed with such a nice appreciation of tradition, that the sourest and most cross-grained of family ghosts could take no exception to it.
But Mellier's artistic sympathies are ancient history in themselves. Amongst their modern triumphs is the confidence of the Cunard Company, who entrusted to them the decoration of the famous music room and lounge on the " Mauretania." Nothing so ambitious was ever attempted in a ship before, and the result evokes exclamations of amazement and delight from passengers viewing the masterpiece for the first time.
Tourists visiting London should on no account miss spending a few weeks at beautiful Richmond, Surrey. Only half-an-hour's motor ride from London, the interesting old town may be said to fairly teem with historic interest.
The Mansion residential Hotel, occupying a grand position on Richmond hill side, overlooks the exquisite view,—the charms of which have been sung by poets, and painted by artists, from time immemorial—and is a favourite resort of Americans and others visiting England.
The enterprising management of this hotel make a special feature of running motor car trips to other historic centres, and by motor launch to places of interest on the Thames. The open-air concerts in the grounds of this popular hotel are also much appreciated.
Kosminski's Fur Fashions
It is claimed that of all their sex, French and American women are the only ones to appreciate furs thoroughly, and to know how to wear them to the best possible advantage. If such be indeed the case, no true daughter of Uncle Sam should fail to visit the comprehensive display of beautiful skins on view at Kosminski's, 50, Berners Street, Oxford Street. The collection of motor and travelling coats alone will repay investigation. Every shape and style of fur is represented, those dedicated to hard wear chiefly consisting of musquash, pony skin, seal, squirrel heads and reindeer. The most attractive are full length, and possess collars and cuffs of a shape destined to afford the utmost protection against adverse elements.
The present fashion calling for the revival of capes, Mr. Kosminski has made an important feature of some particularly graceful ones, especially planned to lend height and distinction to the wearer. These appear in ermine, Russian and Canadian sable, broad tail, mink, stone-marten, chinchilla, and caracul.
Jackets and opera wraps are present in immense diversity of design, and the same may be said of stoles, ties, and muffs, all of which point the direction to which Madame La Mode purposes to travel next autumn.
A further advantage is that Kosminski's undertake alterations and repairs of all descriptions, the work being executed with thoroughness and dispatch, owing to the fact that it is done on the premises under his personal supervision, or that of his head furrier, his son.
A last word to reassure those likely to be frightened away by the sight of the large and beautiful show rooms at 50, Berners Street, Kosminski is not expensive. His prices are surprisingly moderate, and everything is good value for the money.
Irish Linen Company
By means of an ingenious invention the Irish Linen Company, of 82, Regent Street, and 422, Strand, etc., etc., has lessened the laundry bill, and improved the appearance of the average man to an appreciable extent. The new patent I allude to is exclusively the property of the Irish Linen Co., and is known as the Irish Shirt. Identical in appearance with other well-cut garments of the kind, it differs from the familiar pattern in so far as that cunningly contrived slits in the sleeves are so arranged as to make it not only possible but easy, to slip off one pair of cuffs and attach another in such a way as to render detection quite impossible.
A great advantage of this is that it can be equally successfully applied to flannel and coloured shirts, a consideration which has vastly enhanced its popularity. Formerly many men were debarred from wearing flannel shirts by the fact that the stiff and starched cuffs of convention had to be sacrificed upon the altar of increased comfort. Were proof of its worth needed, the reception that the Irish Shirt has already been accorded supplies it, and its price, by the way, ranges from three and sixpence upwards.
The Irish Linen Company also makes a feature of all sorts of ties, poplin and otherwise, table linens, and damask, not forgetting handkerchiefs. The last-named are entirely the work of the Irish peasantry. Some are exquisitely embroidered, others are lace-trimmed, and others again are merely of fine linen cambric woven by hand.
Possibly one of the greatest inducements the Irish Linen Company has to offer to purchasers is that they manufacture all their own goods, thus abolishing the middleman's profits of which the purchaser gains the benefit.
W. Turner Lord & Co.
To see is synonymous with " to covet " at the establishment of W. Turner Lord & Co., 20, Mount Street, Grosvenor Square. Interesting as a museum, these delightful premises possess a distinct advantage in that the beholder is not condemned to break vainly the tenth commandment, and continue on his sinful way a prey to sentiments of unrepentant longing. He can satisfy his desire and become lord of all he surveys, should nothing else content him.
If he be a man of taste he will undoubtedly want to possess certain rare tapestries and beautiful brocades, not to speak of an inlaid writing bureau dating from the classic days of Louis XVI., and a wonderful Georgian mantelpiece, in white marble and vert antique, the carving upon this latter suggesting that the art of the decorator reached its apotheosis towards the end of the eighteenth century.
Chairs, tables, screens and cabinets, after Chippendale, Sheraton and other great masters, inspire dreams of harmonious mansions, and the visitor passes on to view well-planned models of stately homes, illustrative of such widely different periods as Tudor, Queen Anne, Early Italian, Mediaeval Spanish, Adams, and late French. How experienced Messrs. W. Turner Lord & Co. are in adapting styles is proved by the work done by them upon various historical buildings.
To them has been entrusted the delicate task of restoring and remodelling many famous mansions ; and they had their share in the decorations of the " Mauretania," where they assisted in transforming this world's greatest ocean liner into a floating palace. The success which attended their efforts is strikingly evident in the dining saloons, these and the smoking room, staircase and lifts being respectively adorned in French and Italian styles of the sixteenth century.
The two Regal suites and 54 special state-rooms are treated after Adams, and the whole effect causes the astonished traveller to throw up his hands in amazement, and he may well rub his eyes, while he murmurs with the Queen of Sheba, " The half was not told me."
" Where to stay " is a problem that confronts every traveller arriving in London, no matter how familiar he may happen to be with the great and bewildering Metropolis. Recently the riddle has been answered in a thoroughly satisfactory manner by driving straight from the station to the Waldorf Hotel. This is a newly-erected " guest house," fitted with every modern improvement, and luxuriously furnished and decorated throughout.
The Palm Court
The Palm Court is a favourite resort for coffee, liqueurs, and tea. Its distinguishing features are a marble floor, light walls, a green trellis work eminently suggestive of the courtyard of a French château, and a glass roof brilliantly lighted by artificial means should the sun fail to do its duty in that respect.
The dining-room, grill room, billiard room, smoking room, and entrance halls are all dealt with in a style at once original and successful, while the bedrooms speak the last word of luxurious comfort. Every two are supplied with a bath-room, whilst whole suites testify to the amount of taste now demanded by patrons of first-class hotels. Situated in the heart of London proper, the Waldorf Hotel does not contain a single dark corner. The sanitary and culinary arrangements are perfect, and the same may truthfully be said of all the arrangements for the comfort of visitors.