Monday, 7 March 2011

Our Paris Letter, December 20th 1881

This week's article presents a different and more practical perspective on fancy work than the misty-eyed view of the wonderful work table extolled in last week's entry. The following is an excerpt from an article presented as a letter from a French correspondent, who presumably should know a thing or two about fashion and the proper way to pay homage to it in everyday work.

As the letter reveals, she also knows a thing or two about brutal honesty.

A young lady thinks herself well qualifed as a worker when she can do crochet, tatting, lacework, cloth embroidery, macrame, applique, netting, Berlin wool, crewel work, and trace out figures of boys and girls in outline. These works, to speak truthfully, when made at home, are generally very poor copies, about third-rate work, although they are much praised by papa and mamma, and all our best friends, who think us most clever and industrious; but candidly, in your inmost heart, you feel that it may be better done, that those at the shops look fresher, more even and artistic, than your own, and you are down-hearted. Well, cease to do nothing but fancy work, and to lose so much precious time.

It is well to have a little fancy work, or as country people call it, parlour work, always on hand; but then do not undertake work beyond your ability and taste, and whatever you do, do well, with great care.

But beyond all fancy work, let me advise you young ladies to learn darning and mending, and well as cutting and dressmaking.

Dressmaking is certainly more fitted to occupy the leisure hours of a girl, than fancy work. Fancy work is amusing for a time, a short time, while dressmaking is a constant novelty...

An old lady friend of mine, the neatest worker I ever saw, used to say, 'A young lady ought not to think of getting married unless she can unravel an untidy skein of black silk.' I may add, and darn a fine sheet or a pair of silk stockings.

The London and Paris Ladies Magazine of Fashion, January 1882

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