Programs 

Gibson/Flapper First Ladies Outrageous Hats ’40s – ’50s Fashions
Loula Long Combs The Harvey Girls Underpinnings   Text
New Programs 2011 Pioneer Fashion First Ladies of ’20s Victorian “Extras”

Whimsical Victorian Accessories
From the bizarre to the beautiful

Get a close-up look at vintage oddities like chatelaines, tussie-mussies, hat pins, jewelry made from human hair, fans, and other whimsical accessories of the Victorian era.  Learn the language of the fan and the hidden meaning of flowers.  In this fascinating program, costumed fashion historian Bonnie Hansen will share with you some of the treasures from her collection of period accessories.

(CLICK on pictures for enlargements)

Victorian ladies wearing chatelaine style purses
Victorian ladies wearing
chatelaine style purses

Victorian era nurse wearing a utilitarian chatelaine
Victorian era nurse wearing a utilitarian chatelaine

What is a chatelaine?

Chatelaines date back to the Middle Ages.  The name comes from a French term for the “mistress of the castle, chateau or large establishment.”  A chatelaine is an ornamental clasp or hook from which chains are hung that hold a watch, purse, keys, perfume bottle, thimble case, or other utilitarian items.  The chatelaine was the forerunner of the modern day purse, but lost favor when the lives of women grew more complex.

In the 19th century plants and flowers were given meaning and were codified and published in popular books that enabled the giver of a bouquet to express himself in the Language of Flowers.  Since each flower had a meaning, assembled together, they spelled out a complex thought.  In prim Victorian society, the tussie-mussie was a discreet messenger for the proper suitor.  The Language of Flowers, with its often ingenious grammar, was a source of much anxious interest and excitement to the lovers who communicated with it.  Indeed, it has been called the language of the love affair because most of the meanings ascribed to particular flowers represent the waxing and waning emotions of romantic love.

Queen Victoria carrying a tussie-mussie

Right:  Queen Victoria at the Opera in 1837 carrying a tussie-mussie

Tussie-mussie

When young Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, tussie-mussies were established as the key accessory and continued in popularity until the close of the century.  These neat little nosegays were worn at the breast with stems thrust into a water-filled bosom bottle or carried in a posy holder.  The popular rose, beloved symbol of Love, Youth and Congratulations, emblem of England, was the favorite flower used to anchor the center of the tussie-mussie.  The large, velvety petals were the perfect foil for smaller frilly herbs and flowers placed around this all important flower.

Tussie-mussies
Tussie-mussies

What is a tussie mussie?

A tussie mussie is a cone shaped receptacle in which Victorian ladies placed moss (the “mussie” part) and a little bouquet of flowers.  This little nosegay served the purpose of an ornament, an air freshener and helped communicate the hidden language of flowers.

Gibson/Flapper First Ladies Outrageous Hats ’40s – ’50s Fashions
Loula Long Combs The Harvey Girls Underpinnings   Text
New Programs 2011 Pioneer Fashion First Ladies of ’20s Victorian “Extras”