M984.31.3.1-20 | Toilet set

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Toilet set
About 1914, 20th century
23 x 15.2 x 33 cm
Gift of Mrs. Ian Matheson
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Toilet set (1)
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Keys to History

Starting in the 1830s, a very strict code of etiquette governed conduct at fancy balls. Many books explained how to send invitations, entertain visitors, introduce guests, set the table and even hold a knife and fork.

Women were enjoined to dress very carefully, not just in keeping with the style of the event, but appropriately to their age, the time of day and the season.

Women going to a ball were adorned with jewellery and flowers - often carrying bouquets presented by their escorts. As one guide to good manners dating from 1887 said, "from her ear-rings to her fan, all must suggest and convey the idea of luxury."

  • What

    This case contains a brush, a shoehorn, an iron, a button-hook, a pen, a matchbox, a corkscrew, a wallet, a sewing kit, bottles, a jar, a pillbox, a snuffbox and a "heater" (?).

  • Where

    The Montreal élite held receptions in sumptuous private homes or in luxury hotels.

  • When

    Especially popular from the 1850s until the turn of the century, the fashion for historical fancy dress balls required complex research and preparation on the part of guests.

  • Who

    A débutante always attended her first ball on the arm of her father or an old friend of the family.