Friday, January 13, 2012

Time Traveler ~ Reticules & Victorian Accessories with Gail Carriger

Hello Fashionable Reader! I've been doing a lot of research recently for my latest book, Deportment & Deceit. One of those things was delving into reticules.

We covered purses this week, so I thought a bit of purses from the past might be fun.

No, I'm not going to cover the history of the reticule, you can read about it yourself if you have a mind. Here it is covered in the manual for dressing a Victorian woman, and 1800 Accessories. I will only remark that the interesting thing is how very small they are. This is because a lady rarely carried anything with her. If she went shopping, she went with family (or a dear friend) and brought a maid. The maid would pay for everything small, or discus payment, if credit was to used. Credit was usually used for larger purchases, like dresses which were commissioned, not bought outright from the shop floor. A lady might visit the shop to look over fabric and trim selections and to discuss styles from the latest catalogs, the shop would make it up and then send it to her, at which point the butler or housekeeper woudl pay for the delivery and enter it into the household accounts. Ladies did not talk about money and they certainly did not handle it.

A reticule was merely for fripperies. It was often bought from a shop, however. Accessories, gloves, slippers, boots, fans, parasols, wraps, shawls, and jewelry were all items that could be displayed and selected, although the very wealthy might have the made or died to match. Hats bridged the gap, you might select the style and the straw and then have it decorated to go with a dress. Made up hats were also popular, but a little daring, hence the racy nature of Madame Lefoux's hat shop.

 Victorian ones weren't quite so elegant, and could get rather like one of Ivy's hats, covered in tassels, ribbons, bows and so forth. In fact, Sophronia, the main character in the Finishing School series, uses a reticule to disguise, on various occasions, a prototype, a cheese pie and a mechanical animal. Useful things, reticules.

Reticules can be crocheted if you have the skill, of you can made a passable retro one by using and old doily.

I kind of love the first one, it looks a little like a hot air balloon.

Embroidered is another fun option. For me the more ridiculous the better. But then when it comes to Victorian wear, the more ridiculous the better.

And here's a sample of my own personal collection.

Pineapple shaped reticule, gift from a  dear friend, hand made! Velvet burgundy with shear black overlay and lace edge plus tassel. And iridescent square with uber tassel.

The steampunk outfits I carry them with. Good luck my dears, reticules are So Much Fun!!!


  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing Gail. I may need to make a reticule or two!

  2. I was oggling a sterling silver reticule the other day. I resisted buying it though. Also is it American spelling to spell the action of changing the colour of something as died? I have always spelt the action of changing the colour of something as dyed.

  3. Nope, we use dyed too. Just a typo. :)

  4. oh, wow! I make my mother doilies, but I may have to try my hand at a reticule for myself next.


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