Murder on the Orient Express Tidbit #11: The Handkerchief

Devotion by ‎Patti Smith

Moderators: Liz, fireflydances

User avatar
SnoopyDances
Posts: 48914
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:12 pm
Location: Tashmore Lake

Status: Offline

Murder on the Orient Express Tidbit #11: The Handkerchief

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:50 pm

Part 1, Chapter 7
"Poirot also finds an embroidered handkerchief with the initial H on it and a pipe cleaner on the floor." :sherlockholmes:

My mother loves her handkerchiefs! Pretty, embroidered, lacey, linen handkerchiefs. And being the good daughter that I am, I took great pleasure in ironing all of her hankies and folding them in perfect squares. My mother wasn't one to fuss with fancy attire or expensive jewelry, but she always insisted on having her hair styled professionally and carrying a fancy handkerchief. She was never without one, usually tucked into her sleeve or brassiere. At 91, she still gets her hair done by a stylist and carries her hankies. ( :ohyes: Now I know what to get her for Christmas! :shhh: )

The history of the hanky dates back thousands of years. Humans have always used something to wipe their noses :sick: and brows, :dancingpirate: but it wasn't until the Renaissance that hankies became a fashion accessory. Most of my Google searching led me to blog posts and shops, so I'm counting on them to have delved deeper into the subject. I also used a book from my college days on the history of fashion. (Can't believe I still have that!)

Image
The Handkerchief by Paolo Peri, Zanfi Editori, 1992, pg 10

Handkerchiefs can be traced to China where they were used to shield a person's head from the hot sun. Statues from the Zhou dynasty (1000 BC) show figures holding decorative pieces of cloth. One can also find hankies in Roman (dropping a hanky to start a chariot race) and Christian (Veronica offered her sudarium to Christ) literature, while knights would wear their lady's hanky on their helmets for luck.

Image
St. Veronica with the Holy Kerchief by Mattia Preti

The late 16th Century saw the rise of fashion accessories (adornment only, not for practical use) such as aprons, handkerchiefs, gloves, and fans. In addition to accessories, ordinary parts of the wardrobe were highly embellished with lace, embroidery, and jewels, such as cuffs, collars, hats, and even shoes. This ideal would be popular for centuries.

Image
Portrait of Isabella Clara Eugenia of Austria with her Dwarf by Frans Pourbus, c. 1598-1600

Image
Queen Victoria with apron, fan, and handkerchief c. 1887

World travel and trade was in full swing and the well to do had access to a variety of materials (silks, linens, lace) and often had their tailors and seamstresses fashion accessories that matched each outfit. Like the dressing gown, men had fancy hankies as well during this period. Handkerchiefs were large and often edged with lace or weighted with beads or buttons at the corners.

Image

Like Christie, Shakespeare would use handkerchiefs as clues or to identify a character. Remember in Othello when Desdemona's hanky was found in the wrong place at the wrong time…it didn't end well for her. :facepalm:

Image

Since hankies were often carried, a sort of sign language developed by waving it a certain way, either flirtatiously or as a signal to a servant. In some cases, hankies were used as calling cards, or sending secret/encoded messages in the designs, and to conceal smelling salts.

Image

Handkerchief flirting of the 1800s involved the following signals:
► Show Spoiler


By the 1930s, the handkerchief evolved into something both pretty and practical, often used by all women and men, not just the wealthy. The fabrics became more durable (cotton and linen, not silk) and the pretty patterns were stamped, not embroidered, with fade-resistant dyes. During the depression, a hanky was the easiest and most affordable item a woman could use to adorn herself. Hankies for men became plain in scope, remaining folded and kept in a breast pocket for decoration until needed.

Image
Image

Hankies continued to be popular through WWII as silk stockings gave way to parachutes and women began donning military or medical uniforms and other work attire. The handkerchief was the only way women could remain in fashion. Manufacturers were quick to advertise a handkerchief of the month in Vogue and other fashion magazines. Balmain, Dior, Rochas and other designers continued to perfect the affordable, yet fashionable hanky for decades after the war, using it in a variety of ways for their fashion ensembles. With the popularity of vacations and holidays, hankies became tourist souvenirs with famous locations detailed on the designs.

Image

When Poiroit discovers the embroidered handkerchief with the letter H at the murder scene, he is puzzled. No one on the train has an "H" name. It isn't until Princess Dragonmiroff claims the piece that he remembers the Russian alphabet symbol for N (Natalia) looks like an English H. :mortdecai1:

Image
Image

References:

Handkerchief Heroes


Vintage Handkerchiefs and Bandanas


The History of a Lady's Handkerchief


Handkerchiefs and Flirting Language


Encyclopedia.com


History of Costume by Blanche Payne, Harper & Row ©1965

User avatar
Gilbert's Girl
Posts: 162977
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 3:14 am
Location: UK

Status: Offline

Murder on the Orient Express Tidbit #11: The Handkerchief

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:55 pm

Think mostly gone out of fashion except for men, or older men. Mostly tissues are used instead if anything

User avatar
SnoopyDances
Posts: 48914
Joined: Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:12 pm
Location: Tashmore Lake

Status: Offline

Murder on the Orient Express Tidbit #11: The Handkerchief

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Sun Oct 22, 2017 1:32 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:Think mostly gone out of fashion except for men, or older men. Mostly tissues are used instead if anything

Once germs and diseases were linked, the hanky started falling out of favor as a practical item.
The invention of Kleenex and other paper facial tissues helped mold that thinking.

But my mother still uses her hankies today and there are dozens of places that sell them.
Still very popular as gift items for Mother's Day, weddings, etc.

Kleenex was actually developed to remove cold cream and makeup, but it didn't take long for marketers to change their tune.

Image
Last edited by SnoopyDances on Sun Oct 22, 2017 3:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
Gilbert's Girl
Posts: 162977
Joined: Sun Oct 03, 2004 3:14 am
Location: UK

Status: Offline

Murder on the Orient Express Tidbit #11: The Handkerchief

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:23 pm

When I was a child we only had tissues when we had a cold. I certainly used handkies but I don't remember other people using them.

User avatar
nebraska
Posts: 28491
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:15 pm
Location: near Omaha

Status: Offline

Murder on the Orient Express Tidbit #11: The Handkerchief

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:57 pm

When, as a teen, I was going away to a convent boarding school, my list of things to bring included a certain number of white handkerchiefs. So the ladies in the neighborhood held a "handkerchief shower" in my honor. I think all the pretty lacy and decorative hankies were not what the nuns had in mind :biggrin: but it was a lovely community gesture and the memory still brings back warm feelings 50+years later.

User avatar
stroch
Posts: 1307
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:41 pm
Location: New Orleans

Status: Offline

Murder on the Orient Express Tidbit #11: The Handkerchief

Unread postby stroch » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:54 pm

My mother had a whole drawer full of patterned or embroidered handkerchiefs, and my poor father got tons for Christmas from his many aunts and uncles. They carried them every day in purse or pocket. I still have quite a few, and just used one with embroidered poppies a few days ago. No one in my family ever used them for anything other than a discreet tap at the nose in case of a sniffle, or to dry a tear, or to blot a brow. Kleenex were ubiquitous, and carried every day also for the major issues.

Those vintage handkerchiefs in the link are lovely. There was a woman who sold skirts and vests made from vintage handkerchiefs at craft fairs, but I have not seen her lately. She sewed them on the bias so they would drape, and they looked so summery and cool.

Does anyone else remember Little Lulu? I have a Little Lulu doll somewhere in the attic.
I'll buy you the hat....a really big one.
St. Roch -- patron saint of pilgrims


Return to “ONBC”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest