1870s Hodgepodge: His and Hers Dressing Rooms, Bathing, a Bride’s Trousseau, Rules of Victorian Mourning, and Many Fashion Illustrations.

Today, I’m going to be a bit global. I will excerpt from an American book and use ladies’ fashions from France and men’s fashions from England.  That’s the beauty of being a lazy researcher with a blog. Enjoy!

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

From The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Etiquette:  A Complete Manual of the Manners and Dress of American Society, by Eliza Bisbee Duffey, 1874

The Dressing-room.

The first necessity in properly performing the duties of the toilette is to have a regularly-appointed dressing-room. This room, of course, in many instances, is a bedroom as well; but that need in no way interfere with its general arrangements.

The walls should be decorated with a light-colored paper, with window-curtains and furniture covers all in harmony. A few choice prints or water-color drawings may be hung on the walls, and one or two ornaments may occupy a place on the mantel; but it should be borne in mind that the room is to be used exclusively for dressing and the toilette, so that everything interfering with these offices in any way should be studiously avoided.


From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

Lady’s Dressing-room.

The furniture of a lady’s dressing-room should consist of a low dressing-bureau, a washstand, an easy-chair, placed in front of the dressing-bureau, one or two other chairs, a sofa or couch if the space admits, and a large wardrobe if there are insufficient closet conveniences.

On the dressing-bureau should be placed the lady’s dressing-case, her jewel-box, ring-stand, pin-cushion and hairpin-cushion. This latter is very convenient, and is made in the following way: It may be round or square, the sides of wood or card-board, loosely stuffed with fine horsehair and covered with plain knitting, worked in single Berlin wool with fine needles. This cover offers no impediment to the hairpins, which are much better preserved in this way than by being left about in an untidy fashion In addition, there should be a tray with various kinds of combs, frizettes and bottles of perfumes. There should be neither bottles of strong perfumery, such as musk or patchouli, nor hair-dye nor cosmetics, neither pots of hair-oil nor powder-puff nor rouge. A bottle of pure sweet oil, marrow or bear’s grease may be tolerated, to be used on very rare occasions hereafter to be described.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

The washstand should be furnished with a large bowl and pitcher, soap-tray, small pitcher and tumbler, china tray containing two tooth-brushes and nail-brushes, sponge-basin, holding two sponges (large and small), and a bottle of ammonia.

On the right of the washstand should be the towel-rack, on which should be found one fine and two coarse towels and two more very coarse huckaback or Turkish towels. Beneath the washstand should be placed the foot-bath.

On the wall should be hooks and pegs at convenient distances, from which maybe suspended sacques, dressing-gowns, dresses about to be worn, or any other article of general or immediate use.

From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

The various articles of a lady’s apparel—dresses, skirts, crinolines, etc.—should be hung neatly away in the closet or wardrobe. The underclothing should be folded and placed in an orderly manner in the drawers of the dressing-bureau. The finer dresses are kept in better order if folded smoothly and laid on shelves instead of being hung up.

Gentleman’s Dressing-room.

From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

The appointments of a gentleman’s dressing-room are similar in most respects to those of the lady’s dressing-room, the differences being in trifling matters.

A gentleman’s wardrobe need not be so large as a lady’s, but it should be well supplied with drawers to contain pantaloons and vests neatly folded. Indeed, no gentleman who wishes to make a tidy appearance will ever hang up these articles.

The pegs and hooks in a gentleman’s dressing-room are for the convenience of articles of a gentleman’s toilet corresponding with those occupying the same place in the lady’s room.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

A gentleman’s dressing-bureau should contain the articles used in a gentleman’s toilet — razors, shaving-brush, shaving-soap and a small tin pot for hot water, together with packages of paper, on which to wipe razors. Cheap razors are a mistake, as they soon lose their edge. A good razor requires no strop. It has been suggested as an excellent plan to have a case of seven razors — one for each day in the week—so that they are all equally used.

A boot-stand, on which all the boots and shoes should be arranged in regular order, with bootjacks and boot-hooks, is a necessary adjunct to the gentleman’s dressing-room.

A couple of hair gloves, with a flesh-brush, may be added to the toilet appurtenances.

From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

The Bath.

In most of our city houses there is a separate bath-room with hot and cold water, but country houses have not always this convenience. A substitute for the bath-room is a large piece of oilcloth, which can be laid upon the floor of the ordinary dressing-room. Upon this may be placed the bath-tub or basin.

There are various kinds of baths, both hot and cold—the shower-bath, the douche, the hip-bath and the sponge-bath.

Only the most vigorous constitutions can endure the shower-bath, therefore it cannot be recommended for indiscriminate use.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

A douche or hip-bath may be taken every morning, winter and summer, with the temperature of the water suited to the endurance of the individual. In summer a second or sponge-bath may be taken on retiring.

We do not bathe to make ourselves clean, but to keep clean, and for the sake of its health-giving and invigorating effects. Once a week a warm bath, at about 100° may be used, with plenty of soap, in order to thoroughly cleanse the pores of the skin.

After these baths the rough towels should be vigorously used, not only to help remove the impurities of the skin, but for the beneficial friction which will send a glow over the whole body. The hair glove or flesh-brush may be used to advantage in the bath before the towel is applied.


From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

Before stepping into the bath the head should be wet with cold water, and in the bath the pit of the stomach should first be sponged.

There is no danger to most people from taking a bath in a state of ordinary perspiration. But one should by all means avoid it if he is overheated or fatigued.

The Air-bath.

Next in importance to the water-bath is the airbath. Nothing is so conducive to health as an exposure of the body to air and sun. A French physician has recommended the sun-bath as a desirable hygienic practice. It is well, therefore, to remain without clothing for some little time after bathing, performing such duties of the toilet as can be done in that condition.


From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

The Trousseau.

The trousseau may be as large and expensive as the circumstances of the bride will justify, but this expense is mainly put upon outside garments. There are certain requisite articles which must be supplied in a requisite number, and these all brides must have, and of a certain similarity in general character and make. They may be set down as follows:

Twelve chemises, six elaborately trimmed and six more plainly made.

Twelve pairs of drawers, made in sets with the chemises, and matching them in trimming.

Six fine and six plain night-dresses.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

Six corset-covers, three finely finished.

Four pairs of corsets, one pair white embroidered, two plain white and one pair colored, the latter to be used in traveling.

One dozen pair of fine thread hose, one dozen of heavy cotton and one dozen of fine merino hose are none too many.

Six trimmed skirts and six plain ones.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

Two balmoral skirts, one handsome and the other plain.

Six flannel skirts, three of them handsomely embroidered.

Four white dressing-sacques, two. of them of flannel.

Two loose wrappers of chintz or cashmere.

Six sets of linen collars and cuffs for morning wear.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

Six sets of lace or embroidered collars and cuffs.

One dozen plain handkerchiefs, one dozen fine handkerchiefs and six embroidered or lace trimmed.

Walking-boots, gaiters and slippers of various styles.

Two pairs of white kid gloves, two of light and two of dark tints, with others of thread and cloth.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

Of dresses there are required—morning-dresses, walking-suits, carriage-dresses, evening-dresses, one traveling-dress, one waterproof suit, one very handsome suit to return bridal calls, and last but not least the bridal-dress, which has already been referred to. These dresses may be multiplied in number according to the means and needs of the bride.


From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870


[Susanna’s note: Sorry, but I don’t have illustrations of mourning dress. Bad Researcher! Bad Researcher!]

MANY sensible people have resolved to abjure mourning garments altogether; nevertheless, as there are a still larger number who adopt it in a greater or less degree when they are bereaved of their friends, it may be well to recount the established rules in regard to it.

Deep Mourning.

Deep mourning requires the heaviest black of serge, bombazine, lustreless alpaca, de laine, merino or similar heavy clinging material, with collar and cuffs of crape. A widow wears a bonnet-cap of white tarletan, known as the “widow’s cap.”

Mourning garments are made in the severest simplicity. They should have little or no trimming; no flounces, ruffles or bows are allowable. If the dress is not made en suite, then a long or square shawl of barege or cashmere with crape border is worn.

The bonnet is of black crape; a hat is inadmissible. The veil is of crape or berege with heavy border. Black gloves and black-bordered handkerchief.

In winter dark furs may be worn with the deepest mourning. Jewelry is strictly forbidden, and all pins, buckles, etc., must be of jet.

From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

Second Mourning.

Lustreless alpaca may be worn in second mourning, with white collar and cuffs. The crape veil is laid aside for net or tulle, but the jet jewelry is still retained.

Lesser Degrees Of Mourning.

A still less degree of mourning is indicated by black and white, purple and gray, or a combination of these colors. Crape is still retained in bonnet trimming, and crape flowers may be added.

Light gray, white and black, and light shades of lilac indicate a slight mourning. Black lace bonnet with white or violet flowers supersedes crape, and jet and gold jewelry is worn.

It is poor economy to buy cheap and flimsy materials for mourning. Only the best black goods wear well without becoming rusty and shabby. Foulards make serviceable half-mourning dresses, either as wrappers or walking-suits.

From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

The following are the rules laid down by authority competent to speak on these matters regarding the proper degree of mourning and length of time it should be worn:

“The deepest mourning is that worn by a widow for her husband. It is worn for two years, sometimes longer. Widow’s mourning for the first year consists of solid black woolen goods, collar and cuffs of folded, untrimmed crape, a simple crape bonnet and a long, thick, black crape veil. The second year, silk trimmed with crape, black lace collar and cuffs, and a shorter veil may be worn, and in the last six months gray, violet and white are permitted. A widow should wear the hair perfectly plain if she does not wear a cap, and should always wear a bonnet, never a hat.

“The mourning for a father or mother is worn for one year. The first six months the proper dress is of solid black woolen goods trimmed with crape, black crape bonnet with black crape facings and black strings, black crape veil, collar and cuffs of black crape. Three months, black silk with crape trimming, white or black lace collar and cuffs, veil of tulle and white bonnet-facings; and the last three months in gray, purple and violet.

From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

“Mourning worn for a child is the same as that worn for a parent.

“Mourning for a grandparent is worn for six months: three months, black woolen goods, white collar and cuffs, short crape veil and bonnet of crape trimmed with black silk or ribbon; six weeks in black silk trimmed with crape, lace collar and cuffs, short tulle veil; and six weeks in gray, purple, white and violet .

“Mourning worn for a friend who leaves you an inheritance is the same as that worn for a grandparent.

Mourning for a brother or sister is worn six months: two months in solid black trimmed with crape, white linen collar and cuffs, bonnet of black with white facing and black strings; two months in black silk, with white lace collar and cuffs; and two months in gray, purple, white and violet.

“Mourning for an uncle or aunt is worn for three months, and is the second mourning named above, tulle, white linen and white bonnet-facings being worn at once. For a nephew or niece, the same is worn for the same length of time.

“The deepest mourning excludes kid gloves; they should be of cloth, silk or thread; and no jewelry is permitted during the first month of close mourning. Embroidery, jet trimmings, puffs, plaits—in fact, trimming of any kind—is forbidden in deep mourning, but worn when it is lightened.

“Mourning handkerchiefs should be of very sheer fine linen, with a border of black, very wide for close mourning, narrower as the black is lightened.

From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870

“Mourning silks should be perfectly lustreless, and the ribbons worn without any gloss.

“Ladies invited to funeral ceremonies should always wear a black dress, even if they are not in mourning; and it is bad taste to appear with a gay bonnet or shawl, as if for a festive occasion.

“The mourning for children under twelve years of age is white in summer and gray in winter, with black trimmings, belt, sleeve-ruffles and bonnet ribbons.”

From “Gazette of Fashion, and Cutting-room Companion,” 1870


From “Les Modes Parisiennes,” 1870

That’s all until next time!

March 29, 2012 – I’m appending a sad painting of a widow created by Edward Killingworth Johnson in 1877



Minding Your Victorian Manners: Leaving Calling Cards, Making Introductions, and Seating Your Dinner Guests

From “Letts’s Illustrated Household Magazine, A Complete Encyclopedia of Domestic Requirements” 1884, London.

N the treatment of a subject, the operation of which pervades the whole system of social ethics, it is difficult, almost impossible, to prescribe a strict code of rules which shall be applicable to every occasion that may present itself, because, in the natural course of all things, circumstances must govern cases. Yet, as a general rule, good judgment may be shown in the avoidance of errors—errors so marked that there can be no difference of opinion about them. With this view then, we shall, in offering suggestions for observance in connection with the accepted rules of etiquette, supplement those observations by pointing out the mistakes that are often made—thus removing the corn from the husks; for, in promulgating a code of laws intended to bind the more refined and educated classes together, and to establish a good general understanding amongst them, it is important not only to know what to do, and how to do it, but also what not to do, and how not to do it.


a practice which principally devolves on the mistress of the house, who should leave cards on behalf of herself and her husband; it is not etiquette, however, to include bachelor friends, for whom the husband alone leaves his card. Bachelors, however, are expected to leave their cards for both husband and wife, on hearing that they have arrived either at their town house or their country seat.

Continue reading “Minding Your Victorian Manners: Leaving Calling Cards, Making Introductions, and Seating Your Dinner Guests”

Valentine’s Day Edition: The Language of Flowers, How to Write a Victorian Love Letter, and Parasol Flirtations

Once again, I am excerpting from what is becoming my favorite book, The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained, 1890. Using my Photoshop skills, I merged a passage about the language of flowers with a floral graphic from Cassell’s Family Magazine, 1885 . I hope you will enjoy this special Valentine’s Day present from me to you. 


Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Edition: The Language of Flowers, How to Write a Victorian Love Letter, and Parasol Flirtations”

The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained — How to Write Victorian Love Letters

So, you sit with a pen in your hand and a blank Valentine’s Day card before you.  But you just can’t think of those special words to express your true feelings for your beloved. Have no fear, The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained, 189o has come to your rescue. This book is filled with great advice and sample letters just for you and your special circumstances.

Let’s get started:

Love Letters: It is almost impossible to lay down rules for writing a love letter. Some young gentlemen make themselves very ridiculous with their pens. They overdo the thing. After you are engaged to be married, it is best not to be too sweet upon your sweetheart, or she may become disgusted. Before engagement, she will perhaps bear a little soft-solder or highfalutin, if not laid on too thick. But not put too many adjectives in your letters, and as a general rule avoid the repetition of endearing terms. One dose of adulation is quite sufficient to give at one time. If your sweetheart is a sensible girl, she will make wry faces even at that. The generality of the sex, however, love to be loved, and how are they to know the fact that they are loved unless they are told? To write a sensible love letter requires more talent than to solve, with your pen, a profound problem in philosophy. Lovers must not then expect much from each other’s epistles. As the object of this little treatise is to aid young men in their courtships, we will give a few specimens of letters that may be written to bring about an understanding between would-be contracting parties. Also forms of answers to the same where young ladies desire to return their autographs:

The following letter may be written by a young man who has shown a partiality for the society of a lady, but who has not had the courage to tell her that “he adores her.” If she accepts him under such circumstances, she will consider herself as good as engaged to be married.

Tuesday Afternoon.

Dear Miss Thorne:

I hope you will forgive me for presuming to write to you without permission, for I assure you it is with reluctance I take up my pen, But I feel that I must reveal to you my feelings and my hopes. Trusting that my attentions have, in a measure, prepared you for a demonstration of some kind as regards the future, I now throw myself at your feet, and ask your love! If I know my own heart, it has an unalterable affection for you. Can you, and will you respond to it? I will be with you this evening, when I hope to be greeted with loving smiles of approval. Adieu till then,

H. Seymour.

Continue reading “The Mystery of Love, Courtship and Marriage Explained — How to Write Victorian Love Letters”