Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

Find me on…

Get the feed


Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Posts Tagged ‘clothing’

Glove Personalities (1961)

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

One of my more popular posts on this site has been one I did many years ago on glove etiquette. I recently (re)found in my piles of smaller thinner books the pamphlet that this came from, and thought it would be fun to share another excerpt. Gloves: Fashion & Etiquette was published in 1961 by the Hansen Glove Corporation.

I can just imagine the personalities of some of the gloves that they manufactured!

"…sometimes it’s the way a glove falls into folds that says ‘elegance’

…sometimes the very opposite creates the effect ~ a short snappy jauntiness like the flip of the wrist

…sometimes it’s what a glove is made of that suggests its role: narrow-wale corduroy to point up fashionable tweeds or country-life leathers; doeskin in pale colours with the look of thick Devonshire cream for pure luxury; jersey for a sophisticated teaming with coats or suits with bracelet sleeves; string gloves in colours or combined with leather for a made-to-order air; a polka-dot cotton for a smart young thing; a hand-embroadered floral, frankly feminine

…it may be the season of the year or the time of day that is immediately associated with the picture of the glove you were wearing on that very important occasion

…and because gloves do have personalities of their own, many women make a certain kind of glove a fashion signature … a fashion editor who keeps several pairs of pale chamois gloves in her desk drawer so that she always seems to be wearing a fresh pair … the best-dressed woman who wears nothing but white kid … the collector of handsome accessories whose glove plan spotlights fabric gloves because they offer such a variety of textures, colors, patterns "

Summer Icicles (1955)

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

teen-age glamorWhat else is there do to do on a sweltering summer day but to stay inside and blog about it? Here are some summertime tips from a book called Teen-Age Glamor, written by Adah Broadbent in 1955. These could come in handy on a day like today:

"When the sun is at its zenith, and the days are at their warmest, sunlight fashions and perfect grooming transform you into a summer charmer. This immaculately crisp and cool appearance is worth capturing, so make it yours.

Never, never gasp and sigh about the heat. When the others do ~ and they will ~ you talk about something else. Any yen for arguments is controlled. Why cause your circulation to hurry?

Don’t slump, don’t collapse like a broken accordion in the nearest swing. No one is interested in seeing you go to pieces except Dennis the Menace. Swing, and sip your iced drinks, but there’s sugar in those; the more calories, the more heat your body generates. Icy drinks also interfere with the body’s normal temperature-regulating action. Cold drinks poured incessantly into your stomach are dangerous.

Eat and chatter, but don’t lie around in that swing all day while the others groan, “It’s too hot to lift an eyelash.” Get up and move around and you are cooler.

Summertime fun

Doing things in hot weather make staying dainty a problem. Bathe and shower more often;  a lukewarm shower leaves you cooler than a cold one, which increases the circulation. Pat, don’t rub dry, sprinkle talcum here and there, or spray refreshing cologne over yourself with a lavish hand. These luxuries give that fresh-as-a-daisy feeling which you intend to keep ~ at least for awhile.

Anti-persperants and deodorants are your aids. The liquid kind seems to be the surest safeguard. Make it a habit to use an anti-persperant or deodorant every night, because if it is used in the daytime any moving about may start you perspiring, and the effectiveness is washed away.

Summer clothes are made from many different fabrics, all of them was like a breeze and some need no ironing. The coolest and airiest fabrics are voile, sheer handkerchief linen, breezy batiste, and eyelet cottons; let them be crisp, not clingy.

Some colors give a feeling of coolness, as an icy blue and a pale green. Poppy and nasturtium colors are flattering to many girls, but when the weather is muggy, as well as hot, use those colors seldom.

Here’s fun to you on hot sunny days!"


Stay cool, everyone! I’m headed to the pool to sip cool (but not too cold, drinks) this afternoon. I promise not to complain about the heat.







Be Second Sexiest at Parties

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Many of you are no doubt heading out to New Year’s Eve parties this evening, celebrating with a loved one or perhaps going solo, in the hopes of meeting someone special to welcome 2011 with. Ellen Peck, author of the fabulous How to Get a Teen-age Boy and What to do With Him When You Get Him (1969), has a whole chapter devoted to party going, which is so much better than party giving, where you have to devote all your energy to making sure others are having fun.  “When you go to a party,” she writes, “you have no responsibilities to anybody but you. Just see that you have a good time.”

Her chapter outlines how to find out about parties, how to get invited to them, what time to arrive, who to arrive with (if you don’t have a date already), and more. Since this book is all about “getting” a teen-age boy there’s quite a bit about flirting (if you’ve seen the play or ready my book or this site, you’ve heard some of this already). Conversation starters are covered, of course, because “party talk is planned,” but she also says that “you should also be planning your appearance.” Read on:


Wear pretty much what the other girls are wearing. If they’re wearing tunics, you wear a tunic. But look slightly sexier than most of the girls. Now hear this. This does not mean low, low necklines, long, long, lashes, body jewels, and beauty marks. This “sudden starlet” bit won’t work; you’ll just end up looking like you belong somewhere else. Don’t be the sexiest girl there.

But ~ can you manage to be the second sexiest?

Again, here’s where it helps to know what the other girls are wearing. If you know Irene is going to show up showing décolletage to the naval, you may cut your neckline down a bit. After all, if Kathy’s parties end in neck-nibbling and related indoor sports, you might want to show off a nibbleable neck before lights out.

Looking second sexiest gives you a couple of advantages. Especially over the girl who looks sexiest. That girl (Irene) is going to look slightly out of place. She’s going to make the boys feel slightly self-conscious about approaching her. Oh, they’re turned on by the way she looks, all right. But a guy looks at Irene and knows if he picks tonight to make-out with her, he’s going to go through a lot of ribbing all next week!

Also, do you know how all the other girls are going to feel toward Irene? Maybe hostile.

Do you think Kathy is going to think twice about asking so much competition over again? Maybe definitely.

So, better be second (or even third) than sexiest, as far as your appearance is concerned!


A Wise Purchase: Quellebelle Artisan Silk Scarves

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

My friend Nina, who happens to also be my book cover designer for the latest edition, just launched her new venture –  Quellebelle: Artisan Silk Scarves – and just in time for the holidays! The Vibrant Scarf is a favorite of mine (I think the color matches my site quite nicely), and it is even better in person. But they are all lovely. From Nina: “maybe someone on your holiday list would enjoy a gorgeous, delightfully silky scarf that will both bring her pleasure and evoke complements whenever she wears it! (I’m offeringfree shipping at the moment, too.).”

I think this would be considered a wise purchase (as this advice from 1929 describes), don’t you?

Congrats, Nina!

Dressing Appropriately

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Geraldine Farrar

Geraldine Farrar, "whose individuality seems always to demand clothes extraordinaire - clothes that express the elegance of the opera"

I thought I’d do a bit more research on what might be appropriate to wear this weekend at the opening of the play inspired by my book, Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, or at any theatrical production, for that matter (as I’m now a season ticket-holder at Arena Stage in D.C.). I consulted with Mary Brooks Picken’s 1918 book titled The Secrets of Distinctive Dress. The author had this to say on dressing appropriately for the theater: “What you should wear to the theater depends largely on the seat you are to occupy. It is perfectly correct to wear the same garments and accessories as are provided for Informal Theater if a theater box is to be occupied; and it is very much better taste to do so if the trip to the theater is not made in a private conveyance.”

Ms. Picken goes on to talk more about formal wear:


Rather than slavishly follow the prevailing mode, you will find that the most beautiful, and decidedly the most practical, evening clothes are those which are designed to suit you, because they can be used for more than one season.

Formal dress should depend on the beauty of fabric and color, rather than on intricate style. Informal evening dress is best when made of inexpensive fabrics, with more regard to design, for such garments are subject to harder usage than the more formal evening gowns, and as they are worn oftener they have shorter life.

If your circumstances are moderate, one evening wrap of conservative design, color, and fabric should serve you at least two years, and for all seasons except summer.

Garments of unlined silk or of knitted or crocheted silk or wool are acceptable for summer.

If you are not accustomed to attending many formal affairs and attend more afternoon than evening functions, you should select an afternoon coat of neutral tone or very dark shade, and a style and fabric equally suitable for afternoon and evening wear.


The Cost of Clothing

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

What is it about January that makes me hate my clothes so much? I blame the extra sweets around the holidays. Whatever the reason, my closet just got a bit fuller thanks to a little shopping spree today. I probably should have read the following excerpt, from Mary Lockwood Matthews’ textbook Elementary Home Economics, before I left for the store. I think I may have caved into a fad or two! Oh no!

1925: The Cost of Clothing

Many persons spend more money for clothing than is necessary because they do not buy wisely; they select materials and garments that do not wear well, that fade, that are not suitable for the purpose, or that do not launder well. Persons who are careless about the care of their clothing spend more money than those who keep their clothing repaired, pressed and clean. Every girl should remember that her clothing is expensive, and should consider it her duty to take as good care of it as possible.

In order to realize the cost of clothing, it would be well for each girl to keep an account of the money she spent for her clothing each year, even though she does not buy it herself. Such an account will be begun in the ‘Clothing Book.’ Perhaps each member of the class will continue keeping it, so that when she begins buying her own clothing she will know the usual price of each article.

The buying of ‘fads,’ exaggerated styles, or novelty materials is not wise when clothing must be worn for very long periods. Fads in clothing go out of fashion quickly and must be discarded. The better plan is to select standard materials of good quality and then have the garments made in such a way that they may be worn two or even three years without being out of fashion.

Source: Matthews, Mary Lockwood. Elementary Home Economics. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company,1925.
~ p. 102 ~

Dance ~ Contrived by Evil Minds

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

this giddy whirl goes onNow I bring you a selection from A Virtuous Woman by Oscar Lowry, who recommends in his introduction that “mothers place this volume in the hands of their daughters early in life.” I’m sure daughters (and sons) everywhere would be thrilled to read this passage regarding dancing. Something concerns me, though; the author sounds a bit too knowledgeable on the subject. Don’t you suspect that dear, virtuous Mr. Lowry has done just a smidgen of dancing in his time? I do.

1938: Dance ~ Contrived by Evil Minds

Perfect dancing, as all dancers will readily admit, demands perfect movement, that is, the two bodies must move as one. To this end the bodies are locked together by one arm placed about a woman’s waist as they stand facing each other, with one of the woman’s hands resting upon the man’s shoulder, her heaving breasts are against his while her right hand is held in his left, he places his foot between hers. To begin with, this position may be effected by the bodies being kept somewhat apart, but almost irresistibly the bodies come more and more in contact, mingling the sexes in such closeness of personal approach and contact as, outside the dance, is no where tolerated in respectable society. To this must be added, the young woman is improperly attired with a sleeveless, low-necked dress exposing more or less of her secondary sexual charms, her breasts. From this description any reasonable person can easily see that the modern dance has been contrived by evil minds for but one purpose, and that to awaken and arouse the sex nature, and to give human passions leave to disport themselves unreproved by conscience or reason, almost at will.

Now let us consider for a moment what this means. It is evening, the hour is late, the room is crowded, there is the intoxication of sensual jazz music which is intended to arouse the baser passions of both men and women. The women are dressed so as to set off their sexual charms, they are exposed to hot and poisoned air, perspiring bodies in close embrace, the personal electricity passing between the clasped hands, the hot breath of the man blown upon the exposed chest and arms of the woman, and still hour after hour this giddy whirl goes on until the dancers have covered a distance of from twelve to fifteen miles in an average evening’s dance. Oh, the horrors of it all!

Source: Lowry, Oscar. A Virtuous Woman: Sex Life in Relation to the Christian Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1938.
~ pp. 62-63 ~

Miss Abigail’s (timeless) Holiday Gift Ideas, Vol. I

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Something a little different for the holidays ~ with the help of my books, I’ve come up with some fabulous gift ideas for the whole family. I don’t want you all to panic in these last hours of perfect-present hunting.

You’ll notice that the pictures are from the books (a variety of decades are represented here) but of course the captions are my own brilliant creation. Begin the tour with a quick click on the header below. Enjoy!

This lovely hat would be a welcome gift for mothers everywhere.

hat for mummy

If father is tired of carrying the family around, you might consider chipping in for a new car, a motorcycle, or perhaps a simple go cart ~ anything to ease his back pain.

put me down please

Any son who aspires to be like the talented Pat Boone would just love a musical instrument.

Pat serenades the ladies

If sis has bought into this recent “long pants” craze, she probably could use some new undies.

Forget Beanie Babies! Kids of all ages will love these alternative collectibles.

yum yum gimmee some

Here’s another idea for the young ones ~ boots!
With a little imagination, children can enjoy hours of fun.

ooooh! boots!

And lastly, a gift that can be enjoyed by all ~ the bed hammock.

this looks fun
Hat Source: Various. Every Woman’s Encyclopedia. London, England: n.p., ca. 1912.
~ p. 5261 ~
Man Carrying Child Source: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed: Health Hints for the Home. New York: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 1898.
~ p. 23 ~
Guitar Source: Boone, Pat. ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat talks to Teenagers. Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1958.
~ p. 104 ~
Underwear Source: Tolman, Ruth. Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. Bronx, NY: Milady Publishing Corporation, 1969.
~ p. 148 ~
Vegetable Doll Source: Matthews, Mary Lockwood. Elementary Home Economics. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company,1925.
~ p. 209 ~
Boots Source: Jefferis, Prof. B. G. The Household Guide, or Domestic Cyclopedia. Atlanta, Ga.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1902.
~ p. 394 ~

Bed Hammock Source: Jefferis, Prof. B. G. The Household Guide, or Domestic Cyclopedia. Atlanta, Ga.: J. L. Nichols & Co., 1902.
~ p. 203 ~

May I Still Wear Velvet?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

this is the time for bright colorsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

When is the last possible date that wearing velvet is acceptable?

Desperate for an answer

A Dear Desperate:

This question just came in, and since it was marked “desperate,” as well as being a timely subject matter (thank goodness Spring is here!) I decided to answer it right away.

Though I don’t have a specific velvet cut-off date for you, here are some basic guidelines about seasonal clothing from one of my newly acquired books.

1969: Seasonal Items

You may be wondering how it is possible to wear some of the basic wardrobe items in the middle of the summer when the weather is so hot it would seem foolish to put on a velvet hat, for instance. The answer to this dilemma is to have a few strictly summer clothes. Just keep in mind that the less money you spend on these, the more you will have to spend on the other three seasons of the year.

Following is a list of seasonal items. Read them through. It may be that the ideas given do not apply in your area but, the advice is offered with a broad intent to make you appropriately dressed almost anywhere in the world.

Fabrics for Summertime Only

Linen and cotton are considered summertime fabrics. They might be designed to be worn for either daytime or evening in bright, festive, vacation colors. They will look dress-down with basic dress-down or summer dress-down accessories. They will look dress-up with fabric accessories dyed to match. Exception: Some cottons are dyed dark to be worn during the early fall season. Others are so colorful that they may be used to advantage around the Christmas Holiday season to add a gay note.

Summertime Accessories

Into this category will fall patent leather shoes and all other patent leather accessories. There are to be worn any time between Easter and Labor Day. This is one leather that cannot be mixed with any other. If one accessory is patent leather all other leather accessories should be patent.

Patent leather is dress-down and because it is shiny, it is to be worn with dull cottons. Straw hats and other straw accessories are to be worn only during the summer months. They are for daytime wear.

In some vacation resort areas it is proper to go without hosiery ~ a suntan taking their place. Bare foot sandals in metallic leathers are used for evening wear.

Shell or seed jewelry is used for both daytime and evening in colors to match or contrast.

A beautiful chiffon scarf may be all the wrap necessary to cover bare shoulders.

This is the time for bright colors, light-weight flowing fabrics ~ and romance.

Chiffon hats that are light as a breeze are more dress-up. However, they may be worn in the daytime as well as in the evening for party time occasions.

Fabrics for Wintertime Only

Some fabrics are so heavy that they would be worn only during the coldest months. Such a fabric is wool felt. Again, unless you have an unlimited clothing budget, it is wiser to collect clothes that can be worn throughout the various seasons.

Exception:A fine fur stole may be worn all year round. Never in man’s history has fashion been sacrificed for comfort. If you want to wear a lovely fur even thought the weather is too warm, go ahead.

Wintertime accessories

Woolly-knit headgear
Woolly mittens
Woolly scarves

Usually those accessories that are dress-up may be worn all year round.

Source: Tolman, Ruth. Charm and Poise for Getting Ahead. Bronx, NY: Milady Publishing Corporation, 1969.
~ pp. 157-58 ~

Must I Wait to Wear My White Shoes?

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

the best bargain is fresh merchandiseQ Dear Miss Abigail:

Please help, I’m in a quandary! I just bought a $200 pair of white shoes at a Labor Day sale. Do I have to wait until Memorial Day to wear them??

Blanche A. LaMode

A Dear Blanche:

$200! I’m not sure you got such a bargain. Nevertheless, I have found some advice on shopping for your wardrobe that you might want take note of. The key is to think ahead! And since it appears that you should put those shoes in the closet for the winter, I have includes a bonus tidbit on shoe storage.

1967: The Smart Shopper

The well-dressed woman is relaxed about the planning of her wardrobe because she does it well in advance and allows time for necessary shopping. She never waits until she wants to wear an outfit to go shopping for it. At all times she has in her wardrobe something acceptable for all social occasions she is likely to encounter.

I know several clever women who are well dressed on sale merchandise, but they are a distinct exception. They way they do it is to locate the things they want, possibly try them on before they go on sale, and then note, via their charge accounts, prior notice of a public sale. They then buy only those things they know they want. Never, in desperation, do they buy something just because it is cheap. They know that sale merchandise usually has something wrong with it when it has been so marked down. The best bargain is nearly always fresh merchandise.

End of the season clothes buying is rarely satisfactory. If you resort to it, you will seldom find the size and color you really want. You won’t get satisfying wear out of what you do select, for by next year this bargain will be last year’s style. A New York stylist says this is like buying children’s clothes too big so they will grow into them, only to find by the time they have grown into them the clothes are worn out.

The well-dressed woman does not buy her wardrobe in a piecemeal fashion but at the beginning of each season gets out all of her clothes, discards those things that take up closet space without being worn for one reason or another, decides what needs remodeling, shortening, or other alterations, then, with a picture of what she needs firmly in mind, goes to her favorite stores or couturiers. She does not discard basic standbys of her wardrobe that have given good service and that are becoming. Instead, she integrates them into a wardrobe for the coming season, adding a new belt here, a scarf there, a fresh jacket or costume jewelry to make something old and beloved look new and fresh. 

Source: Vanderbilt, Amy. New Complete Book of Etiquette: Guide to Gracious Living. Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967.
~ pp. 175-6 ~