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Tussie Mussie and Posy holders
Tussie Mussie and Posy holders For the last five hundred years flowers and herbs have played an important part in women’s lives. Amongst the many qualities that we imbued them with were the ability to ward off the plague, evil spirits and other medieval illnesses. They were used in the concoction of remedies and medicines, as symbols of love, and displeasure, as gifts of love and personal adornment, and to decorate and enliven our homes. Illustrations, depicting women’s attire in the 16th century, show exquisite girdles worn at the hips of noblewomen’s embroidered gowns. A variety of trinkets were attached to the end of these girdles including prayer books, fans, mirrors and pomanders. A pomander was a pierced silver or gold container, often encrusted with jewels and enamelling in the shape of a ball or an apple. The French name for them was pomme d’ambre. They contained a mixture of dried spices and herbs, which might have included cloves, cinnamon, musk and ambergris. These were thought to ward of disease. Pockets were not sewn into women’ gowns until the twentieth century. To get around the problem of carrying several small beautiful items it became the custom to hang these trinkets of personal adornment on a chatelaine. In January 1829 The World of Fashion stated that “ … Chatelaine, belongs to the female toilet; it consists of a bijou composed of various articles. The objects which terminate it are a very pretty gold key …, a Gothic smelling bottle, in wrought gold, and some other fancy ornaments.” These other items included ornate vinaigrettes and pomanders. Vinaigrette was a small chased container, which when opened revealed a small sponge contained behind a pierced gilded lid. This sponge was soaked in floral water or perfume, and was used to shield the user from the pungent smells caused by the unsanitary habit of not bathing. By the mid-Victorian era women were carrying posy holders, in which a small bouquet of flowers was pinned. The popular designs from the 1850’s were often ornate richly gilded examples, made of Pinchbeck, and set with two small mirrors surrounded by glass gemstones. As they were so pretty, when not in use, they made an attractive accessary to be hung from the belt. As the century progressed sterling silver and silver plate posy holders became popular. This was partly due to the advent of electric lighting. In Queen Victoria’s reign fabrics were sturdy to hold the heavy brooches in dark colours, they needed to be large to be seen by candle-light Once electricity was discovered clothing was designed in softer, finer fabrics in muted shades of pastel colours, and swathes of delicate lace. The delicate silver examples of posy holders displayed intricate cutwork designs or were finely engraved. The holder had a delicate stem or carved mother of pearl, or silver, on top of which a funnel shape piece of silver was fastened. The posy slotted into the funnel and was fastened through the stems with a long silver pin. There was a small chain, which ended in a loop that could either be attached to the waist, or could act as a finger ring when the flowers were being held. Flowers had an important role in Victorian social life, and each flower and tree had a different meaning. This was called the language of flowers. It was important to have some knowledge of this otherwise you could signal quite the wrong message to a friend or loved one. Ambrosia stood for love returned, and the Arum or Wake Robin signified ardour, the apple stood (predictably enough) for temptation whereas apple thorn – deceitful charm. Red chrysanthemum stood for I love whereas yellow was for slighted love. Worse still Cistus gum could be interpreted, as “I shall die tomorrow.” Obviously it was important to choose ones flowers with care. In folklore plants were credited with significant powers. If you needed to regain your lover’s affections “ Pick three rose buds on Midsummer’s Eve, and bury one in a newly made grave, another under a yew tree, and the third under your pillow. Your lover’s sleep will be wracked with dreams about you, and he will get no rest until he returns.” Or as a cure for barrenness “To conceive a child within the year you must walk naked in your garden at dawn, and pick St John’s Wort.