This subject might prove to be an extensive one, as most affairs of today, from religion to dress are governed more or less by what our neighbors think of us. I think it will be sufficient to give some ideas of what customs prevail in our social and domestic relations.
In regard to dress, I wonder if our great-granddaughters will have the same interest in pretty fabrics and dainty colors as the maid of today. Having passed through a nightmare of ugly fashions in short full skirts, enormous sleeves, "leg-o'-muttons" so called, and even bustles in the preceding years, we have now attained a place where one can wear almost anything that happens to be suitable and becoming. The main characteristics are handsome materials, and long graceful lines with a decided tendency toward the Empire style. Owing to the fact that many women are devoted to horseback riding, golf, and other out-of-door sports, the tight, uncomfortable corset of a few years ago has given place to a more sensible and artistic form. The "up to date" corset is scarcely more than a girdle, and is comfortable and sightly, besides leaving the muscles and organs of the body in the natural places. This year it is considered desirable to have a perfectly straight line in the front, giving a very long waisted effect-somewhat as our grandmothers affected.
I will not dwell at length on the possibilities of dainty lingerie which the wealthy madam may possess-marvelous French creations with the minutest hand sewed tucks and embroidery and real Valenciennes lace. Of course there are gorgeous garments of these descriptions, but the most refined women depend for beauty in their underwear on the fineness of the material and of the workmanship, rather than on the elaborateness of the design. Most of the French hand-made underclothing is made of fine nanisook [?] or lawn or dimity-silk not being so much used as formerly. Silk petticoats are now almost a necessity. They are elaborately trimmed with lace and plaitings and are made to harmonize with various gems.
The well-dressed woman who goes in fashionable society needs a multitude of gowns. There are the morning gowns, made of pretty dimities and cashmeres and challis. They are plainly made and suitable only for house wear. There are linen and pique skirts and suits in white and colors. These suits are usually tailor-made and consist of a jacket and skirt, and are made to wear with odd shirt waists. The wash shirt waists this year are as varied as possible though white linen, trimmed with small tucks are most numerous. Short skirts of heavy woolen cloth, borrowed from the golf links, are much more worn for walking. They are usually of dark material for the street, with jacket to match while a brilliant red jacket with bright green velvet collar and cuffs is worn for golf. Everyone, whether golf player or not, possesses a golf cape-a long cloak of very heavy material dark and somber outwardly, but inside colored as was Joseph's coat.
A riding skirt must be especially constructed to fit over the raised right knee of the rider. Some few more advanced women use divided skirts and ride astride. We know this is better for the rider and better for the horse but it is not generally done. Bicycle riding, for amusement, is almost a thing of the past, though their convenience and economy commend them to the business woman. It is quite a fad now for a woman to operate an automobile but comparatively few care to trust themselves alone with the complicated machinery.
Afternoon gowns for summer wear are of thin material of all kinds and colors, though white and black-and-white are most popular this year. White gowns are made of organdy, mull, Swiss or India linen. They are usually worn with white picture hats, white gloves, and white or light colored parasols. White silk gloves and mitts are worn this summer in Colorado Springs at least, and they are very comfortable and sensible. Thin silks make dainty summer gowns.
These afternoon gowns are suitable for formal calls and for afternoon teas and receptions. For dinner and evening functions more elaborate gowns of the same class are worn in summer, and in winter almost nothing in the way of lace and trimmings and jewels is too elaborate for a formal party.
In the winter time tailor made gowns are much worn for all day time affairs. These gowns are of handsome cloth made severely plain and trimmed only with machine stitching and buttons. They always have a coat and skirt and usually are made to wear with a fancy silk waist to match the lining of skirt and coat. Jackets and collars and muffs of fur are used in coldest weather. The most fashionable furs at present are baby lamb, sable fox and mink. Hats are usually elaborately trimmed with all manner of things in winter. Walking hats for both summer and winter are very plain, a scarf and a quill-feather being a favorite decoration.
In the summer-time all entertainments are more or less informal. We are beginning to have various affairs in the morning-when it is cool-buffet breakfasts, and porch parties being popular. The midday entertainments are usually luncheons. From six to sixteen ladies are invited to a "sit down" luncheon at 1:30 P.M. where they are served with a meal more elaborate than the dinner in many homes. An ordinarily simple menu would be:
Bouillon in cups
Tomato and Lettuce salad
Ice cream in fancy moulds
Black coffee is served in the library or parlor or porch.
The table is decorated with flowers to match in color the embroidered center piece and doilies and dishes. Often a handsome mahogany dining table is left bare, except for doilies at luncheon. Silver and cut glass and pretty china make a charming effect. Sometimes the dining room is darkened and candles with colored shades are used as at dinner.
At a buffet luncheon as many ladies are asked as the house of the hostess will comfortably accommodate-usually a hundred or more. Two or three substantial dishes as croquettes, patties, salad or aspic jelly with rolls and olives and salted almonds are served in the dining room by friends of the hostess. Two being at the tables and half a dozen to pass the plates. Iced coffee with whipped cream is served in punch cups in another room and ice cream with cakes and candies in another place. This entertainment is popular in the Springs.
Afternoon affairs are card parties and teas. High-five, whist, euchre and "bridge" are the card games usually played. The lady winning the greatest number of games is given a prize, usually a piece of hand painted china or a bit of silver: the one winning the least number receives a "booby prize"-some grotesque souvenir. After the games a light lunch is served-some salad and afterward an ice with cakes and candies and coffee.
A tea is usually from four to six o'clock, if only ladies are asked, and from four to seven if gentlemen are expected. The refreshments may be almost as elaborate as at a buffet luncheon, or consist of very simple tea, buttered bread, little cakes, salted almonds. Sometimes ices or punch is served. These teas usually are given in honor of some visiting guest who receives with the hostess. Other ladies are asked to assist in entertaining the company and in serving and passing the refreshments. Often a musical program is rendered if the affair is small. If a lady's visiting list is long, she gives a series of luncheons or teas in order that her house may not be overcrowded at one time. These teas may be very pleasant, but they have possibilities of great stupidity under some circumstances.
The dinner hour in Colorado Springs is anywhere from seven to eight o'clock in the evening. An ordinary dinner would be:
Oysters (in season) on half shell
Bouillon, milk-custard cubes
Roast Lamb, mint sauce
Ice cream, strawberries
Wines may or may not be served. Either is considered good form and many ladies will not serve liquors on their tables.
Some people are still misguided enough to have evening entertainments on a large scale in the summer time, but most of these receptions, together with whist parties which gentlemen attend, are postponed for the winter evenings. Any of these entertainments require a "party call" to be made within two weeks after the entertainment. The formal call may last fifteen minutes, any time between four and six in the afternoon. A lady leaves one of her cards for each lady on whom she is calling, and one of her husband's for every gentleman and lady in the family. These are the proper customs, but in a small town like Colorado Springs they are not rigidly observed.
Many dinner entertainments are given at Broadmoor Casino, near Cheyenne Mountain and at the Antlers. The service at both places is very satisfactory. Many ladies give very informal chafing dish suppers on Sunday evenings.
In house furnishing we seem to have returned to the ideas of our grandmothers, and anyone having old family furniture prizes it exceedingly. The solid oak and mahogany pieces which have lasted a century or more, and may well last another hundred years, are really beautiful in design and workmanship. Their interest and beauty increases with the years. A great deal of it is for sale in shops-some pieces real, and others more or less perfect imitations of the antique. The best pieces bring large prices-a desk selling here for $120.00 a few days ago. Many houses are furnished tastefully and inexpensively, for furniture in good shapes and draperies and carpet and rugs in harmonious colors can be obtained with little cost, provided the purchaser is careful in her selection. The chief idea in the mind of the householder is to have comfortable things, with nothing too good to be used. Thus it is usual to have one large living room, which comprises library, sitting room, parlor and perhaps hall. Sometimes there is a small reception room besides.
These "fashions" refer especially to Colorado Springs in the year 1901. Every place has its peculiar customs, and I have endeavored to give some slight idea of the social life of our people at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
Phebe Ketcham McAllister
1231 North Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs
August 4, 1901
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