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The Impossibility of Dressing on £1000 a year


Edwardian ladies shopping in Bond Street

“How the poor live” has been the subject of countless articles, but the struggle for existence of the smart society woman–one of our “splendid paupers”–seems fated to take a back seat in the literature of the day. Consider the hard case of one, young and pretty, condemned to dress on a thousand a year. The requirements of her set demand the purse of a Croesus and the powers of a quick-change artiste. On the sum named she needs the juggling abilities of a Chancellor of the Exchequer to make both ends meet. The annual campaign of smart society is arranged as follows. May, June, and July comprise the London season proper–in itself a costly campaign. In an ordinary year several Court functions have to be reckoned with, and there are always private parties of all sorts and conditions, big dinners and smart small ones, balls, concerns, the opera, plays, and so forth. The daylight hours are occupied with race-meetings, garden parties, restaurant luncheons, morning walks, afternoon drivers, teas and bazaars, not to mention frolics at Ranelagh and outings to riverside Clubs.

With August comes yachting and Cowes, succeeded by a trip on the Continent to Aix, Homburg, Marienbad, or St. Moritz. September brings Scotland, with an interlude of Doncaster races, while October is claimed by the Newmarket weeks. Then comes a run over to Paris for winter frocks and hats, and November has its regular round of country house visits, big “shoots,” and smart race meetings. The London again, with its merry winter season bridge parties, theatre parties, and restaurant dinners. After Christmas comes the travel in search of sunshine to Egypt, Sicily, or the South of France. Nowadays we are nothing if not athletic, and most women do Swedish exercises, swim, golf, bicycle, or drive their motors. And for each and all of these pursuits and amusements the smart woman must have her suitable attire.


Ball or dinner gown: £40

“Little gown” (black, intended for restaurant or bridge dinners): £30-35

Velvet gown for November: £50-60

Six evening gowns with a couple of “little” frocks to act as accessories.

Drawing-room gown and train: £100+

Fancy dress: £300+

Tea-gown: £30

Tea-coat: £25+

Crepe de chine gown for summer: £35-40

Two morning frocks for the winter and two for summer

Country and Scotland: plain serges for rough weather, homepsuns for the heather, bicycle suits, driving coats, a “get up” for golf and another for the automobile, costumes for fishing and shooting, yachting gowns (£20+). Two of each frock.

Hats from London or Paris: £8-10

Russian sables (cloaks and wraps): £500+

Evening cloaks: £35-40

Silk petticoats: £4-15

Pocket handkerchiefs: £5 a dozen

Shoes: £2 a pair + 30 shillings for ornamental buckles

Walking boots, rough boots for walking with the guns or mountaineering, and special shoes for golf and cycling are required, and each evening gown demands its shoes to match, with paste diamond buttons (£2-3).

Gloves are given as presents during Christmas and for birthdays, but if not, a year’s supply cost £20-30

Parasols and umbrellas: £7-10 for those with plain handles

Mysteries of the toilet, such as manicure, face, massage and hair-colouring, not to say a general “make-up,” mean the expenditure of quite £100 a year. And to this must be added the purchase of scents, soap, cosmetics, perfumes, and powders for home use. Hair-dressing, with all its attendant expenses of hair-waving, new combs, pins, washes, and the many new arrangements in hair to follow the fleeting fashions, along represents much money.

This sketch of a smart woman’s dress expenses computed on a moderate basis will go far to prove that £1000 a year spells poverty instead of riches.

Excerpted from The Harmsworth Magazine, October 1901

Halloween Paradoxes from 1912


Halloween chaosHalloween Paradoxes. – THE EVENING before All Saints’ Day, formerly called All Hallows Eve, was originally given to religious observance. Modern usage now spells it Halloween, and it is now devoted mainly to mischief.

In the larger cities that enjoy adequate police protection the impulses of male youth on Halloween are held in check, although mischievous purpose is not wholly defeated.
In smaller towns the evening brings terror to staid citizens. If they are not routed out of doors by fires in their domiciles or by other fearsome haps, they awake in the morning of All Saints’ Day to wonder why the saints had not during the night prevailed over deviltry.

Boys and young men who see fun in such things tip over small barns, dress up cows in unseemly costumes, put barrels over the heads of mild-mannered horses and turn them loose, remove buildings from foundations to unlikely spots of the landscape, change “signs” on buildings so that the public is confused, scare hens and other fowl from their roosts and make them wanderers, release pigs from cozy quarters, remove fences and obliterate property lines, and sometimes even decorate small village churches with articles that bear no relation to religion or even to common sense.

These are but a few of the pranks played on this evening. In fact, the worst has not been told of boys’ “goings on.” It sometimes happens that youth in this employment is punished by outraged owners of property carelessly handled, or apprehended by constables who on this one night are not permitted to rest. But precedent and the effervescent spirit of boyhood cannot be wholly overcome, and Halloween will continue to be a period of chaos in places where local self-government does not include the young in its beneficent scheme.

While Halloween affords boys an opportunity for fun that fits their inspiration to turn things topsy-turvy, it is an occasion to which girls look forward with superstitious awe and hope.
Love and matrimony are never absent, it would seem, from the minds of maids of a certain age, and this night affords them opportunity to test the various sorts of wizardry related to sentiment and Halloween.

Thus, if a girl peels an apple without breaking the peeling, throws it over her shoulder, and it takes as it falls the initial of some young man, she is reasonably assured by this means that he will marry her. Or if she holds a lighted candle while standing before a mirror in an otherwise dark room, and looking over her shoulder sees the image of the youth of her choice, she is made happy in expectation. Or if she and her girl companions place a thimble and a ring in a wad of dough, bake a cake of it, and cut it carefully when done, it is to them as true as gospel that the maiden who gets the ring will be married shortly, while she who gets the thimble will die an old maid. Or if one writes the names of her young men acquaintances on slips of paper, puts them under her pillow, and dreams of one of them, that one she is fated to wed. These are but a few of the love tests of Halloween. What a happy period is youth, after all!

The Judge, October 26, 1912

If London Were Like New York (1902)


“If London Were Like New York: A Peek At The Metropolis After The American Invasion” from Harmsworth’s Magazine (The London Magazine), February 1902.

For the purpose of this article the gentle reader of the “London Magazine” will kindly consider himself or herself living in the year of grace 1907. The American invaders, having captured the tobacco trade, the railways, the boot and shoe market, the match factories and most other industries worth winning, found themselves feeling homesick occasionally, but rather than return to the United States they adapted London to their liking. – EDITOR

A Peep at the Metropolis After the American Invasion
A Peep at the Metropolis After the American Invasion
Washington Square (late Trafalgar Square) with the Washington Monument (late Nelson's Column) decorated in honour of Washington's Birthday.
Washington Square (late Trafalgar Square) with the Washington Monument (late Nelson's Column) decorated in honour of Washington's Birthday.
Madison Square (late Picadilly Circus) shewing the elevated railway running across it.
Madison Square (late Picadilly Circus) shewing the elevated railway running across it.
Brooklyn Bride Junior (Late Tower Bridge)
Brooklyn Bride Junior (Late Tower Bridge)
A Riverside view of the Thames in 1907.
A Riverside view of the Thames in 1907.
View outside Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan's office (late the Bank) and Wall Street House (late Royal Exchange)
View outside Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan's office (late the Bank) and Wall Street House (late Royal Exchange)
Quick Lunch restaurant
Quick Lunch restaurant

(hat tip to Chris Wild of How to Be a Retronaut via Amanda Uren and Forgotten Futures)

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