Tuesday, November 17, 2015

All Finished Young Ladies Have Chatelaines from Gail Carriger (Finishing School Extra)

One of the tools Sophronia and her friends often wear in my Finishing School series is the chatelaine. This is particularly prevalent in Manners & Mutiny. I used it as a kind of Swiss Army knife for my delightfully deadly young ladies.

Chatelain artemis2apollo-tumblr

edwardian-time-machine-tumblr Silver Chatelaine, 1892

From Wikipedia: A Victorian Lady’s finishing touch—the chatelaine.

A chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with a useful household appendage such as scissors, thimble, watch, key, vinaigrette, household seal, etc.

Chatelaines were worn by many housekeepers in the 19th century and in the 16th century Dutch Republic, where they were typically used as watch chains for the wealthy. Similar jewellery was also worn by Anglo Saxon women, as seen from the burial record, but its function is uncertain. The name chatelaine derives from the French term ch√Ętelaine. 

same source as above
Victorian Chatelaine Silver
Teaspoons etc
Sterling silver Victorian chatelaine

I love looking at these and thinking about what a female spy would carry instead. Poisons or defensive fluids instead of perfume (or as well as) for example...

Perfume bottle

Chatelaine c 1895
Kaatherine Kohrs wore the above ornamental chatelaine at her waist. It provided this young Victorian woman with a penknife, button hook, perfume, and note cards. It was handed down to her granddaughter Patricia Nell Warren, and bears the initials PNW. 

shewhoworshipscarlin-tumblr  Chatelaine with calendar, late 1700s, France.

French fashion doll 1865 carte de bal

CAretDuBal1 - finished Ebay sale

Specifically mentioned in the final Finishing School book, Manners & Mutiny, is the Carte de Bal. Essentially, the Carte de Bal is a Chatelaine specifically designed to go to a dance.

CarteDeBalArtNeauvuChateline ebay sale
same as above
Carte de Bal  1890s  Sotheby’s

 Let's play Spot That Chatelaine...

Lace (via Dennis A. Waters Fine Daguerreotypes)

   (via Standing Women Dressed Alike | Photograph | Wisconsin Historical Society)
c. early 1900s

More on the history of the chatelaine: Show & Tell: A 19th Century Chatelaine

Chatelaine (USA), ca. 1860; silver, gold wash, ivory, enamel, glass. Cooper Hewitt/Smithsonian Institution

In addition to the chatelaine Sophronia utilizes a number of hair ribbons in the final Finishing School book. I found these two quotes to go with...

"High-coloured ribbons, flowered or figured, are decidedly vulgar."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

"Low-priced ribbons, for instance, are generally flimsy, tawdry, of ugly figures, and vulgar colours,—soon fading, and soon "getting into a string."
~ The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

November 1856 fashions

Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.


  1. did they really use vinaigrette so much that they had to carry some around with them?

    1. I need to go look this up, because I could be wrong, but I think vinaigrette was used to revive people who had swooned or had a shock, so keeping some at hand in case of emergencies would be sensible.

  2. These date back at least as far as the Viking era. Norse/Viking women wore chatelaines suspended from their "turtle brooches" (the big brooches attaching their apron-dress to its shoulder-straps). Usual items for Viking chatelaines might include a needle-case, embroidery-snips (the scissors that look like miniature sheep-shears rather than scissors with finger-loops and a pivot-point riveting the two blades together), a thimble-ring, keys, an awl, an "ear-spoon" (little spoons for scraping out ear-wax), and a lump of beeswax (for waxing thread).


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