Dandy Handkerchief Scents

velvet-goldmineA couple months ago Kevin at Now Smell This did a post on a Guerlain fragrance, Mouchoir de Monsieur (gentleman’s handkerchief) and the comments got sidetracked into handkerchiefs themselves, and their various delights and uses.

Well. As a mother of young children, my life (and my pocketbook, and my jacket pocket, and the glove compartment) is a purgatory of Kleenex, Wet-Wipes, paper towels, paper napkins and, occasionally, toilet paper – in other words, sufficient quantities of whatever disposable absorbent paper product is needed to stanch the flow of any substance leaking from or smeared upon one or several of my kids, leaving all further detail to your imagination in case you are reading this with your morning tea.

velvetgoldmineAs I enjoyed Kevin’s post and the comments, the concept of a handkerchief – an Irish linen pocket square, for instance, pressed and perhaps tastefully initialed — had an immediate, profound, almost laughably pornographic appeal.   There I was, distracted by the tantalizing glimpse of an unsullied piece of fabric reserved for my own exclusive use, possibly for dabbing my feverish brow on a sultry day or, even better, using it to wave a fond goodbye to my family from the luxury deck of an ocean liner as I departed on a round-the-world cruise.

velvet-goldmine-3I’ve never owned a handkerchief in my life, but I got busy online with the fervor of the newly converted and bought some, and then Anita, bless her, sent me a supply from her local post-office/bakery/vintage/perfume shop, or another equally excellent small-town combination.  (In Santa Fe I used to patronize the gas station/sushi bar/video store.)   I decided I wasn’t a tasteful-white-Irish-linen gal after all – you know me – so instead I’m rocking the cheerful, retro patterns of the 40s, 50s and 60s – think bright ribbons, flowers, swirls of color, embroidery, and some amazing, matching hand-crocheted edging.  They are, I suppose, the Carmen Miranda or Wilma Flintsone of handkerchiefs rather than the Greta Garbo, but they’re very much me, and they’re lovely.  I now rotate them regularly into whatever bag I’m carrying, and I’ve had the opportunity to put them to a variety of good uses more than once.  It’s funny how such a little thing, a glimpse of one of them in my bag, can give me such pleasure.

Of course the next thing I did was experiment with dabbing them with scent.  I’ve got warm summer months coming up in which to do the obvious, which is to splash them with cologne – everything from cheapo 4711 up to and including delicious Guerlains like Eau du Coq and Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat.  Or, of course, I could try Mouchoir de Monsieur itself.  I’m also planning to try some tea scents.

But my cold weather experimentation has been kind of a mixed bag of success.  Fragrances that smell “pocketbook-y” – like makeup or the purses themselves – work great.  Cuir de Lancome, Malle Lipstick Rose, even (surprise!) a dab of Fracas smell glorious emanating from a hankie.

Less successful were my headstrong classics, and I’m not sure why.  For whatever reason, Mitsouko, Cinnabar, Jicky and Bal a Versailles were less appealing than I thought they’d be; maybe I really want to smell them on skin?   Vintage Femme was wonderfully leathery and worked great, but Tabu was disgusting.  I thought The Different Company’s Rose Poivree might work, but even a single drop of it began to get on my nerves, although YSL Paris was successful.

the-tudorsMy traditional soft background comfort scents – KenzoAmour, Narciso, Worth Courtesan – smelled … well, kind of stupid.   Again, maybe those are scents that need the canvas of skin backing them up and helping them bloom.

Apres l’Ondee was perfect, even if it makes me feel a little guilty, spraying it on a hankie.

I tried to think if I have any other personal-item anachronisms, and the only ones I could come up with are aprons, all patterned (some vintage), half or full, because what’s the point of baking if you can’t swan around in an apron?  Right now I have my eye on the long one from the Neue Galerie that I’m just too cheap to buy.   Also, I use the disposable Varsity fountain pens, they work fine left-handed and they don’t seem to leak, although I think a fountain-pen traditionalist would sneer.  They used to be all black and more chic looking.  Oh, and my Red Cross orthopedic shoes, of which I own several pairs which I actually wear, as some of you have seen.

Do you have any such vices – shaving brushes, hats, walking sticks or canes, or other objects of affection (or affectation) you care to admit to?  Do you carry or scent your handkerchiefs?  Red lipstick is sort of in this category, isn’t it?  And as we “evolve” more as a society with perfume itself viewed in the context of annoying those around us like cigarette smoke, will scent be an anachronism in 20 years?

images: Jonathan Rhys Meyers lets his freak flag fly in Todd Haynes’ trippy Velvet Goldmine, which has a fun soundtrack (Bowie wouldn’t let them use his music, so they wrote their own, as well as some fine covers and originals from Roxy Music, Lou Reed, etc.).    Ten years later and JRM’s … still wearing breeches, now in The Tudors.

  • cathy says:

    I switched to cotton napkins last winter, and I’ve just started carrying a hankie instead of Kleenex. SO much softer and nicer, and they don’t get bits of shredded wet paper all over …

    I hadn’t thought of scenting them, but now I NEED to. Also, I believe I need a fan.

    I decided a while ago that I desperately wanted hand-embroidered pillowcases like my Grandma used to make, so I bought some plain white cotton percale cases and a transfer pack, and now we have pillowcases with peacocks on them.

    • Margot says:

      Peacocks! They must be charming! I think your own hand embroidered pillowcases are the height of luxury. I’m wondering what scent you use on them?
      I found very pretty, inexpensive paper fans and parasols at asianimportstoreinc.com in California. Haven’t received my order yet, but the web site is detailed and well illustrated.
      Love using cotton napkins, but have not made the leap to actually USING handkerchiefs.

  • Margot says:

    OK, it’s late enough, but not too late, to add a comment without much forethought. I am so suggestible, I ordered two parasols today after reading here that they are, in fact, available and functional. I have used pretty cotton umbrellas in the past, but paper is somehow more delicate and romantic. Scarves – dozens, carefully collected for color, drama and to stir memories of far off travels. Bed linens, table linens, dishes, pitchers, small leathers, hats, stationery, boots (which I wear all the time in our frequent soggy weather), gorgeous bits of this and that – I have an extensive evening wardrobe, seldom worn, but much too pretty to let go. Red silk, black velvet, gold embroidered – a night at the opera, or a posh party, and I’m there. It’s no wonder I have become a perfume addict. The signs were there, all along…..

  • cathleen56 says:

    Psssst!! I have two words for you: Bruce Variety. They’ve got both unobtrusive but elegant pure Irish linen hankies, plus other colorful cotton types. Plus there’s that antique store in Bethesda that has all those antique linens….but I digress…..

    I don’t have any collections, though I would start a small leather goods collection in a heartbeat if I knew where people were getting their goodies. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

  • Claudia says:

    My vice is linens, especially vintage tablecloths. I also love the crocheted pads you put under hot dishes on the table. I bought a bag of them at an antique store years ago – I would like to put them together into some kind of quilt someday. I have the same kind of idea for the printed hankerchiefs I have, also “someday”. And I have a drawer full of leather gloves, I love those too.

    • Claudia says:

      Forgot to mention antique and vintage evening bags. I started with one from my grandmother and went from there.

  • rosarita says:

    I am enjoying this post and all these comments so much that I don’t want them to end; I feel as though I’ve truly found my tribe 🙂 I have a wonderful collection of vintage scarves and handkerchiefs (my grandma called them hankies) and I am hopelessly addicted to vintage costume jewelry. My 82 year old mother collects jewelry too, and we give each other things all the time, which I love. Her thing is cameos and she has some gorgeous ones. A few years ago I stopped hunting them just for her and acquired a few of my own, and I wear them a lot. I love all kinds of accessories, for myself and my handbag, like lipstick cases and compacts, and I have several makeup bags that I use as organizational tools (a small one just for gum & mints.)I’s never occurred to me to scent my hanky or fan, though, and now I can’t wait to start! Reading this has been a lovely afternoon break, thanks everyone. 😉

  • rappleyea says:

    Reading this post is my “dessert” after lunch – I love it! I’m in the handkerchief crowd as well. Mine have crocheted edges left over from when my grandmother and great aunt made them for me when I was a young girl. Besides being pretty, they are very practical as the cotton doesn’t make my nose red and irritated when I have a cold.

    Also for me – fountain pens, salt cellars (used every meal), and sterling flatware (also used every meal, not just special occasions). Sterling actually makes food taste better! Oh and like many others here, loose tea, properly brewed in tea pots, of which I have a collection.

    For the pen lovers as well as the note takers/journalers/writers, etc., levenger.com is a great source of all sorts of items in that vein. My favorite is their Circa collection of pads and notebooks.

  • Aparatchick says:

    So I’m reading away and chuckling at everyone’s retro vices when I suddenly realize that I have and use the contents of my mother’s cedar chest: linens (linen tableclothes, mostly), two sets of silverware (the set she got when she married and the set she inherited from her mother), and opera glasses. Yes, Mom had five pairs of opera glasses. Which is odd since she didn’t go to the opera – not much opportunity in small-town Oregon circa 1960.

    But hey, that’s all OK, because these were all Mom’s retro vices. Oh, wait. There are those 1950s sweaters in my closet (some beaded, some cashmere, still gorgeous 50 years later). And there are those Royal Winton breakfast sets. Has anyone had one of those? A plate with little indentations where you set the tiny teapot, cup, toast rack, a tiny pots for butter or jam. A British friend tells me it’s a tacky thing to have, but I don’t care – it makes me feel special. And then there’s the magazine collection: 1930’s Harpers Bazaar, Life, Saturday Evening Post. Next best thing to climbing into a time machine.

    • Shelley says:

      Oh! oh! The breakfast ones sound FAB! I have a couple of sets of luncheon plates (see my aforementioned dishware thang), which have indentations for matching cups. Some have built in ashtrays. Most of mine are pressed glass, though I do have some china versions.

  • Disteza says:

    Well, maybe I have a few too many retro vices: table linens, hats, leather gloves, fans, tea and all its accompanying devices and ceremonies, parasols, violet breath pastilles, big honking hair combs (honest-to-God hand-carved tortoiseshell peinetas from 1870s-1920s), scarves, costume jewelry that costs more than real jewelry, candlesticks in every material possible, chatelaines, real wooden hangers…I could go on. I spend a good deal of time doing re-enactments and attending various costumed events with my fencing job, and I dance flamenco, so I guess I have an excuse. I certainly have received lots of compliments and started plenty of conversations with my little darlings; people are genuinely surprised to see someone eating dinner in a cocktail hat, even though their parents would have wondered why a woman WASN’T wearing her hat.

    • Aparatchick says:

      Disteza, I want to have your life. 🙂

      • Disteza says:

        Am getting over the flu (regular flu, not the piggy version) at the moment, and would gladly swap lives for a few hours of non-congested sleep.

  • Joe says:

    Great post! I’m a big fan of handkerchiefs — just of the plain, white cotton variety, though. Essential, essential item! Gadz, I’m getting old! Only recently started experimenting with a drop of scent now & then — a traditional rose is lovely.

    I used to LOVE fountain pens — not the disposable kind (will look for those), but the cheap $10 cartridge kind, but they ALWAYS crapped out in a short time and I just got frustrated. And I’m not willing to spend a huge chunk on a very expensive Mont Blanc or something.

    My major old-fashioned affectation is my loose-tea habit. Only use teabags (fancy kind, none of that American Lipton crap) at work for the convenience. I’m too lazy to use the ceramic teapot, though; I usually just brew it in a saucepan. Oh, and I use a wooden German hand coffee grinder when I make coffee once a week or so.

  • Gretchen says:

    Yes, do tell us where to buy parasols. My Irish-American skin truly needs them.

    • Gretchen says:

      This comment belongs with the parasol discussion. but the blog refuses to put it there!

    • March says:

      Okay, these aren’t the gorgeous paper ones, but they’re high SPF


    • Divina says:

      I am REALLY into Lisbeth Dahl, and own one of her amazing parasol/brollies. Unfortunately even though she makes ALOT of umbrellas and parasols, I can only find a few sold online. But I did only a quick search so maybe google will prove more fruitful for you if you are interested! In any case, here are 2 links to show a couple of super-cute examples in the edwardian style. My own parasol/brollie is edwardian too, black. The handle is very luxurious and the tassle does not look cheap at all, the materials are great. They are all waterproof, so if you get a dark color you can use it in the rain as well. These are so beautiful, it makes me cheerful to use mine in the rain. And goodness knows, I NEED SOMETHING to make me cheerful in the rain.

    • Gretchen says:

      March, thanks! That small silver SPF50 parasol has a definite place in my life. . .

  • Paloma says:

    I love fans, my mom brought back some fans when she went to Spain to visit my brother and his family in Cadiz. I learned how to snap a fan which is quite fun, it makes a beautiful snapping noise and then you fan, fan yourself. People do look at me funny but I find it so exotic and fun! It has to be the right kind of fan though and those are hard to find, it has to be a fan that has an almost slipperty quality to it so that when you “throw” it it snaps! By throw I mean snap it.

    • carter says:

      Absolutely! I spent part of my childhood living in Alicante, and knowing how to snap fan was just a part of every girl’s upbringing, like learning how to braid hair. The sound of a hundred fans snapping open and closed during Mass (also the mantillias on the heads of all of the women, some of them ancient and handed down through the generations and falling practically to the knees) is one of my most profound childhood memories. The smell of the church itself — cold damp stone, incense and candle wax with the aroma of baking bread in the air just outside — never forget it.

  • Divina says:

    Do rollers and pins count? I’m into “setting” my hair lately…
    All jokes aside however, no, no anachronistic items here, BUT I get shameless pleasure out of watching the Poirot series (with David Suchet as Poirot, noone else will do!!!) and escaping into flights of fancy with all the period clothes and items. His mustache brush, his horse-tail fly swatter, the white spats over his shoes, the cane, his boutonnière, his use of perfume.. just everything!

    • JAntoinette says:

      I am absolutely in love with David Suchet’s Poirot! Everything you’ve mentioned, he is perfection!

  • dea says:

    is anyone else finding that the posts to this
    thread are scrolling way off the screen? i can
    only see words that start in the place where
    this post is indented
    ?or is it just my browser

    • March says:

      It’s the terminal flaw in our comments. We need, probably, to upgrade to a new comment plugin that’s part of WordPress, but it might blow up all our comments and I can’t face it. Also we have to hire someone to do it.

      Have you tried Firefox? Or Google Chrome? People seem to be having the most issues in Internet Explorer.

  • Sharon says:

    Vintage costume jewelry. Other than a few specific makers (Boucher, Avon, Monet), there is no rhyme or reason to my collection other than “it spoke to me!” Whenever I wear a vintage brooch or bracelet, I wonder about the previous owners.

    But my very favorite keepsakes are small items my parents brought back from their travels in the 40’s and 50’s, when they were both Army officers. A set of carved marble (?) items (sphinx, pyramid, donkey and obelisk) Dad purchased in Egypt in 1944 is especially treasured.

    • March says:

      Those old things from family trips are wonderful, aren’t they? My dad has some sort of carved marble cat that makes me think of home…

    • carter says:

      That’s one of mine. I sell vintage clothing for a living (well, sort of) and the jewelry is a by-product of that, as well as vintage bags and luggage. I once decorated a Christmas tree with nothing but vintage costume jewelry and it was swell!

  • Frenchie says:

    What a great post!

    I have a thing for stationery. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve collected pens, notebooks, pencil cases. Nowdays I’m never without a planner and a nice pen in my bag. I keep a diary and for years now my family members give me leather bound notebooks bought in Venice 🙂 What can I say, I’m a lucky woman.

    I don’t carry a scented hankie in my bag (they would get all dirty and wrinkled and I can’t have that, hehe) but I like to scent paper instead.

  • Renate says:

    I put my handkerchiefs – preferably white with white embroidery – in a small leather clip purse and dab the inside of the purse with perfume. For me the best choice till now was Habanita. And I totally agree that Jicky doesn’t work.

    • March says:

      Habanita would be perfect! And I’ve now decided I need either a cigarette case or your excellent suggestion of a small purse for my hankie.

  • Tammy says:

    Mals86, I’ve a wall full of hats…I get plenty of odd looks, but even more compliments.

    Koki and Natalie I also have a drawer filled with gloves.

    Amazing how much we all have in common….

  • Tammy says:

    Kristy, I think you sound fabulous!

  • Tammy says:

    Aprons are all the rage right now…Stampington has a lovely magazine out now, devoted solely to them


  • Natalie says:

    Yes, gloves! I’m a sucker for opera-length white kid gloves; I used to buy heaps of them from thrift stores on the Upper East Side of NYC (I assume the debutantes wore them once and then gave them away).

    And pencils. And fans, the handheld kind — I have several, but my favorite is made of sandalwood, for a sweet-scented breeze in the sweltering summer. And don’t get me started on oyster forks, rotary-dial telephones, black-and-white photographs, driving stick shift…

    • March says:

      Wow. A good pencil. I remember seeing one once, I wonder what it was called? Gorgeous, looked fun to write with. And I admire your glove fetish!

  • Koki says:

    Leather gloves! I can’t believe I’m the first to mention leather gloves. At 55 degrees and below out come the gloves. And the best part is that they pick up the perfume I’m wearing from my wrist, and make my purse smell good when I take them off at my destination.

    I once borrowed a pair from my sister and wouldn’t give them back because they smelled like her perfume and made me smile every time I sniffed them.

    • March says:

      oh jealous jealous jealous. I inherited a great stash from my mother in law but, sadly, her hands were smaller than mine. Next fall I think I’ll treat myself to one really nice pair. I tend to wear knit gloves, and leather would be the perfect touch. And the fact that they pick up perfume makes them sound even more appealing.

  • Mals86 says:

    Nava, my husband always carries a clean, folded cotton handkerchief in his back pocket. I love that.

    My old-fashioned luxuries: scarves. And dressy hats. We attend a contemporary-service church, and jeans are commonly worn. (I haven’t managed that mode of church dress and probably never will, although if I’m working with children I’ll wear trousers.) I don’t mind the half-puzzled, half-admiring looks I get from the college students when I wear a hat.

    Cotton hankies are a recent addition to my purse, although I hadn’t thought of scenting them – until now! Thanks so much for the idea.

    • March says:

      Scarves. Sigh. I have a great collection and wore them regularly until the twins, at which point I was covered in … whatever so often I gave it up. Time to dig them out. I also love tying them to my purse, that’s jaunty looking.

      I love women in hats. In fact one favorite thing about old movies is *everyone* in hats! The fedoras! The fascinators!

  • Musette says:

    Besides the handkerchiefs, which I carry every single day (usually sprinkled with Agraria Bitter Orange or L’Artisan’s Verte Violette) I am noted for carrying a fan, always. Unlike hankies, fans seem to be able to carry crankier fragrances like Mitsouko with aplomb. In the summer I drench them with Guerlain Vetyver or Eau de Guerlain…and yes, I have ‘summer’ fans and ‘winter’ fans. I never said I was normal

    And I’m never without a compact – with powder. And I use it. I have two gorgeous compacts. One was my mother’s and the other I found in an antique shop – it has vaguely Arabic pretentions and is just exquisite.

    btw – in the winter you can spritz a hankie with Fracas or Carnal Flower – I dunno why handkerchiefs don’t take to chypres much but they do seem to be incompatible.

    I am a walking anachronism so I won’t bore you with all the rest (silver tea service that I use, with bone-china cups and little mother of pearl plates, gorgeous antique salt cellars)

    Oh, hey! if you want to make use of that cigarette holder in other ways, put a hankie in there and carry it in your handbag – it’s a wonderful way to keep an extra hankie ‘fresh’.


    • Francesca says:

      OMG, I never thought of spritzing my fans with fragrance! Will have to try that.

    • March says:

      Honey, you can WIELD that fan. I remember! It’s entrancing. If I were hot all the time, instead of cold, I’d do so too. And of *course* you have summer and winter fans, how not? 😉

      I’m looking at my delicious pink floral hankie with the edging you sent me right now. And mouth watering at the idea of Guerlain Vetiver, this will be the summer I go ahead and buy it, it’d be perfect.

      I am laughing. Only we, perfume freaks, could be in head-nodding agreement that for whatever reason you can put your chypre on your fan but not your hankie. Anyone else reading this would think we’re insane.

      Fine. I am now DEEPLY lusting a decent looking compact (with or without powder.) I have a boring old Sephora one and y’all have made me see the error of my ways. Plus think how sexy it’d look, whipping it out to powder and put lipstick on.

  • Olfacta says:

    Silver flatware, which was my mother’s, for any remotely special meal (like with anybody but us and sometimes just us.) Fans — the kind you carry in your purse — for our summers and, yes, I do get some “looks” but so what, let ’em sit there and sweat, fans have style. A leather cover for a memo pad I keep in my purse. Flowers. My garden. And, yeah, hankies — a few years ago I ordered a dozen from that catalog based in Main and still have a few. Real tea, brewed in a pot.

    (Am I beginning to sound like a pretentious jerk?)

    I just think that our culture has become so crass that you have to fight it in as many little ways as you can.

    Oh, yeah, I forgot — good perfume, worn every single day.

    • March says:

      No, you don’t sound like a pretentious jerk. You sound like someone who appreciates that tea in a pot is nicer than tea in a styrofoam cup, and I wonder how much of these lovely things will all eventually fall to the wayside?

      Here, let me snob back at you — we eat off china at dinner (not my best china, but good china) and use our silver every day, and we use cloth napkins at meals, although I have paper for messes. Every now and again we lose a spoon down the disposal, and I don’t care. It’s all fixable, and I can’t see owning it if you’re not going to use it.

      Fans! You and Anita. She can really work a fan.

      • carter says:

        I have my mother’s old monogrammed silver — we share the same monogram — and we use it every day as well. It has been lost, gone through the garbage disposal and entire cycles stuck in the bottom of the dishwasher, but I don’t care. I actually like the fact that we don’t treat it like some kind of “special” silver, used only for holidays and guests. I do suffer pangs of guilt thinking about what my mother would say if she could see it now, but I enjoy the everydayness of it so much I carry on anyway.

        • carter says:

          I also have a tiny purse set, also monogrammed, in the same pattern. It has a miniature silver perfume bottle with a tiny funnel, and a small round snap-lidded ashtray, which she carried in her purse and used. The perfume bottle still carries her scent of Chanel No. 5.

          • Olfacta says:

            Ummmm…silver in general. In the South there is an old tradition of having as much silver as possible. I think this is because family silver was generally looted, stolen by the victors (the Federal troops as they marched through the region during and after the War.) So when you get married you still get silver; lots of high-maintenance tableware that lives mostly in closets because who has the time to polish it all! But that’s the idea: when I polish all the silver (usually just before the holidays) I think of all the people who had it before me and have myself a little nostalgia session; for me, that’s the reason to have it at all.

            But a little silver perfume bottle and funnel? I think I have to have that. Antique stores I guess.

            And does anyone know if there is such at thing a real tortise-shell hair combs (the kind you use to hold your hair back) anymore? One gets so tired of plastic ; )

  • Melissa says:

    I am delighted to hear that you bought hankies and dabbed them with scent. I had the same urge when I read the NST post, but I got sidetracked by who-knows-what and promptly forgot about it. The idea of a beautiful piece of cloth combined with a favorite scent is just soooo enticing.

    Another unfulfilled vintage-y wish. At Sniffa one year, Mona di Orio wore fabric (silk?) flowers as brooches with her outfits. She scented them with her fragrances. I went on a hunt for pieces like these but came up empty.

    A final empty spot in my outdated list of must-haves. Old leather key holders, the type that look like little wallets or folios and have six or so dangling key holders. I do see these on ebay, but today’s keys are so huge and oddly shaped that they would not fit.

    So, my only fulfilled anachronism is the red lipstick thing. And maybe my perennial garden. Irises, peonies, roses, foxgloves. Not exactly outdated, but definitely timeless.

    • March says:

      So sadly true about those keyholders. I have one, from Coach, that worked for me when life was simpler and I had two keys (one office, one apartment.) But you’re right, the new keys don’t fit in them at all.

      I have an actual Chanel Gardenia fabric pin, d’you think it’d be sacrilege to spray it with something gardenia?

  • Nava says:

    My husband has been carrying a handkerchief in his pocket since I met him, which as of next September will be 25 years ago. How many men can say they carry a hankie in the back pocket of their jeans? It’s something I’ve always found very charming,except during this time of year when his allergies act up. You get the picture. I always find it so chivalrous when a man can break out a hankie for a woman. It’s a testament to their character to surrender one knowing it would be horrifically bad form to ask for it back.

    My mother’s purses were repositories for mountains of Kleenex. She never carried handkerchiefs; she was a scarf woman out of necessity in order to keep her once-weekly washed, set, teased and lacquered hair unscathed in bad weather.

    I became a bit of a sunglasses nut a while back. I don’t own an unreasonable number of pairs: only 5 right now. One pair are from the Gucci store on the Via di Condotti in Rome, which I’ve worn to pieces and can’t bear to part with. The other day, there was a case on “The People’s Court” in which a woman was suing her optician for selling her too many pairs of expensive designer sunglasses. It made me all squirmy because she was blowing upwards of $500 per pair while on Medicaid and welfare. Ya gotta love people – love ’em, I tell ya…

    By the way – JRM still looks damn good in those breeches. 😀

    • March says:

      You can come worship at my JRM shrine (a friend tells me given my tastes I am obviously a closeted gay man.) Unsurprisingly, searching for these pics lead me to a lot of gay sites, he’s clearly got the fan base 🙂

      It’s so sweet your husband carries a hankie! And yes… I hadn’t thought, but you can hardly ask for it back, can you?

  • Hmm. The irony of this post is that my anachronisms are wardrobe items not unlike Johnathan Rhys Myers is pictured wearing.

    Seriously: Knee high pink holographic metal heeled boots. A couture floor length neon pink satin duster (originally custom dyed and made for paris hilton)….I have tank tops with sequined lightning bolt straps, and at least one type of every garment in a chrome version. I want to be David Bowie (or at least, Ziggy Stardust). 🙂

    • March says:

      Oooh, I want to come see your closet! You can model some things for me, I’d love to see the duster.

      I don’t know if you Netflix or whatever, but Velvet Goldmine is worth seeing just for the costumes (and the music.) They really went over the top visually. Later on he wears some great Ziggy Stardust stuff with blue hair and all.

  • Devon says:

    Great postings! I am very into small hand mirrors and switch them into and out of my purse. My favorite is a Towle sterling one that I got on EBay that came in the original box with a softer case inside so it won’t get scratched.

    I have many old hankies from Mom and Grandma. Beautiful colors on them and they have been washed and ironed within an inch of their lives. They still smell like they used to; actually that could be one of those memories so sharp that they become sort of real. I loved ironing them as a child – the smell of the hot steam iron combined with hanky, and no complications like collars or buttons.

    My dad had to have linen handkerchieves (sp.?)not cotton. It was a rule to follow. I used to iron his as a child too.

    A friend collects single bone china teacups. They look beautiful all lined up on a shelf. She gets them from garage sales, junk stores etc. at a very low cost. It’s also fun to look on the bottom for the maker and country.

    I am obsessed with outdoor smells from particular locations. I remember how certain parts of my home neighborhood smelled after it rained. A combo of the trees, sidewalks and several unknowns. The 4 churches across the street smelled really good and interesting after it rained — being built of different types of stone.

    Instead of throwing change in a bottle or leaving it floating in the bottom of several purses, Mom and Grandma had those little cloth change purses with the twisty clasp at the top. I was obsessed with those for a while.

    Mom’s obsessions…Mom always tried to make me wear those accordian plastic rain things that she got at the hairdresser and came in soft plastic case. I detested them, but did like to hold the end ribbons and snap the water out of them. However, I searched high and low for one when I began blowing my curly hair straight and actually wore some form of this in the car on the way to places, surely causing some kids to have hysterics.

    I remember being deadly embarassed that Mom washed out plastic bags and hung up paper towels to dry for reuse. And crazy mean Aunt Dorothy who had cupboards full of cool whip containers and various glass jars she washed out. Now I understand all that.

    • March says:

      Aw, I gave my bridesmaids those Towle mirrors (engraved) when I got married. I wonder if any of them are still around? The mirrors, not the maids. 🙂

      Everything is improved in a bone tea cup, and you’re right, you can pick them up individually for a song. Old plates, too.

      Yes, the smell of particular locations! And particular buildings. The National Gallery of Art smells like nothing else. And churches are often that way.

    • Shelley says:

      Did you know that collecting single tea cups was a “thing” in the past? Both my grandmothers did-I remember how each displayed them–and I inherited portions of both collections. I haven’t brought myself to use those particular cups for actual consumption…which is interesting, because I *have* used ones I acquired. Hmmm….

    • Joe says:

      Oh, Lord! Washing out, removing labels from, and reusing all sizes of glass jars!

      I have become my grandmother. Seriously.

      • March says:

        Ah, that’s great! I do the same with jelly and jam jars, the kids drink out of them. Seriously, things *taste* better from a Ball jar.

  • Elle says:

    Handkerchiefs – how incredibly fun! Birth of a new scent related lemming! I really do absolutely love the idea of carrying scented handkherchiefs in my bag. What a great idea for days when I want to wear multiple scents and can’t actually wear *all* of them on my skin at once – can always have the one which won’t layer and play nice w/ the others on a handkerchief.
    The only anachronistic thing I can think of that I’ve been obsessed w/ are fountain pens, but I’m afraid I don’t really have time to use them any more. Used to love to play w/ them and use a variety of gorgeous ink colors.

    • March says:

      Did you see the comment above about the *scented* violet ink!? Does that not sound extremely tempting? And opening my handbag and getting a waft of something completely different than what I’m wearing has been loads of fun.

  • Francesca says:

    This is such an interesting post. I’m loving reading about everyone’s obsessions. My own anachronistic love is vintage cocktail napkins. I have a whole small drawer filled with them, ranging from practical (soft old linen with embroidery) to the often sighed-over, never-used delicate lawn with red roosters (a common design on cocktail napkins, cock, tail, get it?) embroidered on or even better the fragile ones with big decorative cutwork roosters taking up nearly one quarter of the piece. I have an oatmeal colored linen set with various shades of green tatting on the edges that I always use around St Patrick’s day. I love using these for our Saturday and Sunday martini and hors-d’oeuvres ritual.

    • March says:

      You made me tear up a little. I inherited a huge collection of cocktail napkins, dinner napkins, hand towels and other linens from my mother in law. I love setting those hand towels out, and each time I use her things they make me smile. And thanks for explaining the cock tail! I have some of those too. The funniest ones are embroidered with little cacti, they’re very odd.

      • Shelley says:

        I have a few odds and ends of cocktail napkins…and a set of embroidered stemware napkins…this stuff rarely sees the light of day, but I love having it. (The cocktail shakers, however, are very visible…;) )

        • March says:

          Cocktail shakers. And ice buckets. With tongs. And we have this wooden armoire we use as the bar, with a slide out wooden ledge. I always thought drinks carts were fun, although then you have to dust them. 🙂

      • Gretchen says:

        You’ll have to serve margaritas with the cactus-embroidered napkins.

  • Fiordiligi says:

    Love this post! I can remember as a child getting the dreaded “box of hankies” as a Christmas present; I suppose that a combination of being in the UK and – ahem – older means that we just didn’t have tissues when I was little.

    Interesting that you have a fountain pen you can use as a “leftie” – I write exactly like President Obama and as a result I split fountain pen nibs. I do, however, like to send handwritten notes and like to keep a supply of lovely stationery – Smythson’s do gorgeous cards and tissue-lined envelopes.

    I never go anywhere without a handbag, nor do I face the day without at least a modicum of makeup and hair freshly washed, and of course perfume. I do not possess ripped jeans, rock concert t-shirts or – shudder – trainers.

    I say “please” and “thank you” all the time and apologise to inanimate objects when I bump into them.

    Just an old-fashioned English person I suppose…

    • March says:

      Back when I had an actual pen my recollection was the nibs came right and left handed; in any case I write straight up and down and try not to drag my hand through it 🙂 And another stationery lover! My sister in law is a stationery lover, every note or card is different.

      I have trainers but they only go to the gym unless I forget to change my shoes when leaving the house (I have orthopedic issues.)

      • carter says:

        Mrs. John L. Strong flat note cards…LOVE. And the holiday cards. And the bookmarks…oh, the bookmarks!

        • Natalie says:

          Oooh, another Mrs. John L. Strong fan! Years ago I got stationery from them as a gift (thank goodness it has just my name, no address, because I’ve moved about 50 times since), and it is utterly swank.

  • dea says:

    this is a great post!
    i have become obsessed with aprons as well. anthropologie has amazing aprons as well as other little items that make the mundane feel special. (Ceramic measuring cups in the form of nesting giraffes!) They also have, beautiful teacups and matching saucers, beautiful napkins etc…

    I have become a stickler for the appearance of things in my purse. I may be a mess in all other areas, but my lipstick and/or gloss has to be chic looking, as well as my makeup compact, notepad and card case. So, I own very few cosmetics but it is all chanel or guerlain. These strange little things give me great pleasure when I see them in my bag… and that makes it so worth it.

    Lastly, I carry perfume sample vials with me at all times- either in a beautiful velvet pouch or one of those small, gold-foiled jewelry boxes TPC sends with an order. It makes trying on perfume during the day feel like christmas.
    Sorry for the long post!

    • March says:

      Well, I’ve struck a nerve today, everyone’s leaving a long comment!

      Perfume samples in a drawstring bag are, I’d guess, to be found in many of the bags of this blog’s readers! 🙂 And I am a huge fan of Anthropologie’s homeware section — I also have an apron, and a lot of our daily plates/bowls/linens come from there. They’re really inexpensive so as the kids break them I don’t care, and they all jumble together nicely. I’m eating grapes from a robins-egg blue bowl from Anthropologie right now.

    • Francesca says:

      I didn’t know that about Anthropologie! I thought all they had were clothes that are too young for me. Must. Check. Out.

      • March says:

        They’ve got an online catalog! Happy to enable!

        • Joe says:

          Ruh Roh. ONLINE? That does it. I’m “shopping shy” (especially in places like Anthropologie) the way some men are “pee shy”… but online… look out!

          • March says:

            Hahaha! I love it. Thanks for adding “pee shy” to our list of smutty blog phrases (I don’t get that anyway, why *are* men pee shy?) I’m pretty sure it’s anthropologie.com,

  • Shelley says:

    Anachronisms, real & wished for, are abundant in my life.

    For real…paper. Lots of it. As journals, personal, organizational, business; as note paper, formal, informal, whimsical, handcrafted, etc; as wrapping. And this from a person who writes you on her heavily used, black taxed MacBook. The paper thing means writing utensils, too–at least as many pen types per purpose as paper. Dishware & stemware, partially because of saving family treasures, partially because I got into them for a while–but rarely have guests in the way that I once did, setting tables as part of the fun. I do still enjoy using the cake stand, the crazy pie carrier, the picnic basket…

    If Morgan’s lead is correct, heck, in foodstuffs, I’d only start with tea. I’ve got umpteen kinds of chocolate, and enjoy a shaving ritual as part of creating a cup of hot chocolate from scratch. (I shave the *chocolate*, ahem, though the other kind of shaving might lend itself to its own anachronisms, like a brush and soap.) I’m sorry to say, flour, sugar, and yeast have become anachronisms based on my own past. Once upon a time, I would have frequently had around a homemade something to go with Louise’s coffee. These days, I insist on having the supplies…including vanilla beans and such…but rarely bake. (Ignore the guffawing you may hear behind me at the choice of the word “rarely.”)

    Flat out vices? Scarves. Plants. Blogs. 😉

    • March says:

      Paper is a joyous thing. I am one of the last hundred people on the planet who writes thank you notes (I know others on here do too) and the proper stationery’s important. I love that you make your own hot chocolate, you have to have some patience for that but I’m sure it pays off.

    • Tammy says:

      Before the perfume thing went full throttle, paper was my major obsession…in all its wondrous iterations, as Shelley mentioned. Not sure how I have overlooked violet-scented ink (and I will repair that omission before the day is out), but I do have rose-scented inkpads for my stamps.

      I am always somewhat saddened by how surprised most people are when I send them a thank you note…

      • Shelley says:

        Isn’t that something…or, even worse, when you get a quizzical look for delivering a written thank you? I am all about learning more about scented inks today.

      • March says:

        Sensing a NEW FETISH (scented ink!) taking hold today! And … yeah. Wth happened to the thank you? At this point frankly I’m grateful if people bother to call with thanks for dinner. Notes are few and far between, but they are remembered.

        And I will add, I am pretty sure I scammed my way on the A-list at a local, large, fancy annual event through several years of diligent thank you notes to our lovely hostess (I was a perennial guest of someone else.) I imagine Mrs. X getting her third thank you on nice paper from me, this woman she doesn’t know from Adam, and deciding maybe I should be on the list myself!

    • carter says:

      I have 50 lbs. of White Lily flour in this tiny NYC apartment, but that’s another story.

      • Tammy says:

        Carter, do you have the Tennessee kind?

        • carter says:

          I have the kind that has been discontinued, but it came after I placed an urgent telephone call to my sister in Florida and told her to buy every bag on the shelf and send it to me. I am so pissed off about what they’ve done to White Lily I could spit!

          • tammy says:

            We have been hoarding it like nobody’s business, as well. I hate to sound like a sterotypical Southerner, lamenting the good ol’ days, but my God in Heaven what next will they ruin? There are times I am glad my grandmother has passed on. Have you tried Swan’s Down?

          • carter says:

            I have, but only the self-rising stuff. Isn’t that basically just cake flour?

    • Musette says:

      You and me and some simoleans….at PaperSource. Oh, my!


  • JAntoinette says:

    I must admit I use a parasol in the summer. Not the big, white frilly ones, but a nice Japanese style. I have several colors and I love popping it open when I step out of the house. My friends tease me, but every time I go out with one, someone compliments me and asks where I buy them. And my skin is reaping the benefits!

    • Francesca says:

      oooh, I like that. Where *do* you buy them?

      • JAntoinette says:

        sweetlife below has found a great website. I think I got mine at Cost Plus/World Market. They are very cheap; I prefer the darker shades (which block the sun a bit better). Just don’t take them out in the rain!

    • March says:

      A parasol is definitely style! I have one of those ghastly sunbrella ones, I want a prettier one.

    • sweetlife says:

      Yes, yes! Please tell us where you find them. I have been considering this seriously for the past couple of years. By mid-summer in Texas (about three months in, mind you) the sun can be damn near poisonous down here, and sometimes I feel like I’m scurrying through a nuclear landscape. Out of the air conditioned car and then–quick! quick!–into the air conditioned building. Sometimes I see older Texican ladies walking along with parasols and it just seems so sensible, and glamorous at the same time.

  • Louise says:

    I have a few lovely handkerchiefs of my mom and aunts’, never used for mopping anything up, but rather as pretty wrappings/cushions for gifts. I cherish these, as all the women of that generation are now gone.

    My only anachronism I can think of is the red lipstick thing. My mom, and all the aunties wore only a touch of powder, and a truly strong red lip. It’s a look I still work regularly, though with a bit of black eyeliner.

    Oh, and the need for a sweet with my afternoon coffee. This habit is growing as I get older, and is definitely a throw-back to times with my mother, who always took a moment in the mid-afternoon to have her coffee and schnecken, pastry, cookie, left-over cake. Sometimes I joined her, sometimes not. But now, I stop after work most days to carry out the ritual, and find it very comforting.

    • Nava says:

      “When the schnecken beckons…” That’s a line from the movie “The Birdcage” Nathan Lane utters which has always made me laugh.


    • March says:

      I think the afternoon break is a wonderful thing, though. I loved having tea in England, the idea that it was perfectly normal to sit down at four or whatever and take a break. And I didn’t realize your lipstick had some history behind it!

  • Midwinter says:

    Years ago I used to sprinkle my handkerchiefs with Devon Violets perfume. These days I get my violet fix from, of all things, fountain pen ink. I too like to use a fountain pen and my favourite ink is a violet-scented violet colour. The pen case smells good too: violet-leather. (De-lurking to join in. Couldn’t resist!)

    • March says:

      :::smacks head against keyboard::: violets!!! What an idiot I am, why did I not think of violets?!?! I have several violet scents that would be perfect on a handkerchief, must root around for them. I think I OD’d on violets last year and put them away. Annick Goutal La Violette would be just the thing.

      Violet-scented violet ink. My mouth’s watering. Those Varsity fountain pens come in purple, the other color I buy (purple’s my favorite color.) You’re making me reconsider my traditional fountain pen aversion.

      • pavlova says:

        March — I have had an obsession with fountain pens since my Catholic school days when they were de riguer !! I am always hesitant to carry my beloved pens in my bag because I fear they will go the way of so many pair of reading glasses (hahah. So I thank you for introducing me to the Varsity disposables — HOW did I not know of these????? I am off to purchase some today — and purple ink — heavenly. I always learn something interesting from you.

        • March says:

          Hey, you’re welcome! I have my dad hooked on them too, he got to the point where changing the cartridges is difficult to see. He’s a traditionalist of course and will only use the black 🙂 The purple is a nice, deep rich pure purple. The “navy” I find a little too light, kind of an inelegant mid-blue. I wish they made green, I think they used to.

          I’m always a little afraid they’ll leak (my regular pens do) and I have the same problem you do — like sunglasses, I tend to leave them places.

          • Tommasina says:

            Butting in here: I used to use a fountain pen with brown ink from a bottle, not cartridges. Technically it was called sthg tasteful like “Sepia”; but my family + I used to refer to it as “goat dug” after watching a children’s programme (I use the English spelling since it was on BBC: Blue Peter) where some tribe or other was making a kind of batik cloth using said substance. The ink was the same color.

      • carter says:

        Jolie Madame.

  • dinazad says:

    “Bone plates” – I finally cracked and bought a stack of those half-moon shaped plates which you use to dispose of the inedible whatnots in your dinner (you can use the plates for salads or side dishes as well, so what’s not to love?) at a fleamarket. I’ve craved bone plates for ages, they’re incredibly practical, and I have no idea why they aren’t made anymore.
    And I’ve got a thing about sugar tongs, especially the ones shaped like claws or paws…. I own about three or four pairs, and I’m afraid those won’t be the last!

    • March says:

      Is that what they’re for? I had no idea. I suppose I thought they were a salad alternative …. heh. You’ve just brought me out of the closet. I’d totally forgotten about silver doodads. I have sugar tongs, asparagus tongs, a jam spoon, and crystal salt cellars with spoons.

      • dinazad says:

        My new vintage plates actually say “I beg for bones” (in German).

        And asparagus tongs? I’m officially jealous!

        • March says:

          What I especially love about asparagus is the whole thing is so *transgressive* in a Miss Manners way. Here you have a tool for picking them up, but THEN you get to eat them properly with your FINGERS. I always feel naughty doing that. Clearly I need to get out more.

      • Francesca says:

        I love silver doodads! I have asparagus tongs as well, with the ends shaped like bird claws. Also a couple of sugar tongs and a set of Spratling copitas, which are little silver shot glasses for tequila. And a cocktail stirrer and candle snuffer, more of my beloved antique Mexican stuff.

  • morgan says:

    Tea. Most definitely tea. I blame my mother, who has raised me to be the tea snob that I am – to such an extent that even when I had literally no money to spare one period, I still had to have my Darjeeling first flush. I know.
    Tea bags are heresy, herbal tea *isn’t* tea, milk and sugar I frown upon and I have a dedicated tea cup so that other flavours won’t accidentily get absorbed in it (coffee! The horror.) I also have an internal alarm that starts sounding if 14:30 passes and I haven’t had my cuppa. So yah, I’m a bit OCD there.

    • March says:

      I think a dedicated tea cup makes sense (we, by habit, use different cups for coffee and tea). And oh! I remember — in my formal china I have coffee cups and tea cups, I think the coffee cups are slightly larger.

      There are several tea fetishists on here, so feel no shame, you are among friends.

    • morgan says:

      Oh, and I forgot about vintage key designs. I have them in necklaces, t-shirt prints, coffee table books and I’ve considered a tattoo. Needless to say the urban heirloom etsy shop has me drooling (no clue how to make “live” urls on here, so there ya go: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=18060&section_id=5027489)

    • Robin says:

      Signing in as another tea fetishist!

      • March says:

        Yes, I was waiting for you to show up!! My husband laughed and scratched his head at your quite specific steeping instructions, he thought “boil water, and take tea out when I remember” is the extent of it.

  • carter says:

    I don’t know if this qualifies, but I have a thing for high-quality small leather goods. Wallets, agendas, key cases, mobile phone covers, passport cases, portfolios, like that. I have cases for my cases. In fact, I have been known to buy things that I don’t want just because there’s a cool leather case for it. I draw the line at taking up smoking just so I can carry a cigarette case, but I have been tempted.

    • carter says:

      Oh, and I have discovered, quite by accident, that if you saturate a leather iPhone case in perfume, it is nearly impossible to get the smell out.

      • Francesca says:

        My husband has a thing about little leather boxes, too–I think they’re italian, lined in satin, with decorative gold stamping. And not smoking doesn’t keep us from having smoking accoutrements–there’s a deco crystal cigarette box filled with Luckies on the little table next to his habitual chair, along with a streamlined silver cigarette case. And we have several antique ashtrays, just because we like the way they look.
        Maybe you can keep your scented hankie in the leather cigarette case?

        • March says:

          Aha! And here’s the cigarette box I just mentioned. They’re beautiful, aren’t they? And we have a few old ashtrays sitting around, inherited from my mother in law.

    • March says:

      Cigarette cases! I almost added that to my list. And remember in those old movies, how you’d open a box on the table? And there’d be some huge lighter?

      Leather goods make total sense. Having something like a wallet or keychain that’s both useful and beautiful. Ack. I have a cloth wallet and an Uglydoll keychain (hangs head in shame.)

    • Shelley says:

      Yes, yes! I forgot about little leathers…which, as I know you know, you can meld quite nicely with the paper/journal category. As for those cigarette cases, well…doesn’t it just call out for discovering *another* thing to collect, and fit inside? My lipstick holders ended up displaying decants as a result of a series of, um, highly targeted interest collectings.