Ben Miller

Archive for the ‘Dress and Fashion’ Category

Forgotten Female Accessories

In Dress and Fashion, Edwardian Era, Everyday Life, Gender Roles, Victorian Era on March 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

During the 1870s to 1890s, there were gadgets called skirt lifters also known as dress holders.  These devices were hooked onto the skirt waistband or chatelaine (a belt hook from which dangled by chains many useful items such as scissors or thimbles).  The end of the chain had a tong like device used to grip the bottom edge of the skirt.  I’ve read conflicting accounts as to whether it was used in the front to lift the skirt out of the way when climbing stairs or mounting a wheel or horse, or if it was used towards the back of the skirt for picking up the long fashionable trains, thus keeping them dirt free on outdoor walks.

Dress Holder

Victorian Era Skirt Lifter

The larger loops on the chain of the skirt lifter were hooked onto the metal loop on the waistband clip.  This would give the wearer a choice as to how much lift was needed.

Skirt Lifter in Use

Skirt Lifter Height Adjustments

Also from this time period up to perhaps the early 1900s there were clever little pieces of jewelry called hankie holders.  Most of them consisted of a gold ring sized to fit the pinkie, a 2.4 inch chain and a small gold pair of tongs (more often than not found in a seashell or fan shape).

Hankie Holder

Mid-Victorian Hankie Holder

I’ve read stories on the internet that they were used as a means to flirt with Victorian gentleman.  Letting the hankie fall to the ground and him being obliged to pick it up.
I’ve also read, which I believe to be far more likely, that they were used in the ballroom, adding an extra flourish to a couples dance.

Hankie holder in action
Finally in use during the 1930-1950s were glove holders.  I’ve seen confused people on Ebay selling these as skirt lifters, which they most certainly were not.  Ladies would hook the chain around their purse handles or through a button hole and keep their gloves safe while dining.

Ladies Glove Holder


A Hair-Cutter’s Challenge, 1702

In Bizarre and Unusual, Dress and Fashion on February 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Mr. Sheridan, in the Critick, forcibly exposes the various kinds of puffs used by Tradesmen and Authors; and he classes them very justly into the puff direct, indirect, &c. The first instance which occurs of a case in point, after 1700, is the following from a Hair-dresser, which fraternity is notorious for extreme modesty and truth in their addresses to the publick:

“Whereas a pretended Hair-cutter, between the Maypole in the Strand and St. Clement’s church, hath, without any provocation, maliciously abused Jenkin Cuthbeartson behind his back, at several persons’ houses, and at his own shop, which hath been very much to his disadvantage, by saying that he was a pitiful fellow and a blockhead, and that he did not understand how to cut hair or shave: I therefore, the said Jenkin Cuthbeartson, think myself obliged to justify myself, and to let the world know that I do understand my trade so far, that I challenge the aforesaid pretended hair-cutter, or any that belongs to him, either to shave or cut hair, or any thing that belongs to the trade, for five or ten pounds, to be judged by two sufficient men of our trade, as witness my hand this 9th day of November, 1702, Jenkin Cuthbeartson, King-street, Westminster.”

* The artist against whom this advertisement was leveled was Bat Pigeon, whose sign of a Bat and a Pigeon once attracted much attention, and of whom honourable mention has been made both by Steele and Addison. Honest Bat had a very handsome house and shop on the North side of the Strand, a few doors from St. Clement’s Church Yard.

– Malcolm, James Peller. Anecdotes of the manners and customs of London during the eighteenth century. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1810