Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NOTHING TO WEAR', by WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

NOTHING TO WEAR', by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Miss flora mcflimsey, of madison square
Last Line: Wear!
Subject(s): Clothing & Dress; New York City; Women; Manhattan; New York, New York; The Big Apple

MISS FLORA McFLIMSEY, of Madison Square,
Has made three separate journeys to Paris,
And her father assures me, each time she was
That she and her friend Mrs. Harris
(Not the lady whose name is so famous in history,
But plain Mrs. H., without romance or mys-
Spent six consecutive weeks without stopping
In one continuous round of shopping, --
Shopping alone, and shopping together,
At all hours of the day, and in all sorts of
For all manner of things that a woman can put
On the crown of her head or the sole of her foot,
Or wrap round her shoulders, or fit round her
Or that can be sewed on, or pinned on, or laced,
Or tied on with a string, or stitched on with a
In front or behind, above or below;
For bonnets, mantillas, capes, collars, and shawls;
Dresses for breakfasts and dinners and balls;
Dresses to sit in and stand in and walk in;
Dresses to dance in and flirt in and talk in;
Dresses in which to do nothing at all;
Dresses for Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall;
All of them different in color and shape,
Silk, muslin, and lace, velvet, satin, and crape
Brocade, and broadcloth, and other material,
Quite as expensive and much more ethereal;
In short, for all things that could ever be thought
Or milliner, modiste, or tradesman be bought of,
From ten-thousand-francs robe to twenty-sous
In all quarters of Paris, and to every store,
While McFlimsey in vain stormed, scolded, and
They footed the streets, and he looted the bills!

The last trip, their goods shipped by the steamer
Formed, McFlimsey declares, the bulk of her
Not to mention a quantity kept from the rest,
Sufficient to fill the largest-sized chest,
Which did not appear on the ship's manifest,
But for which the ladies themselves manifested
Such particular interest, that they invested
Their own proper persons in layers and rows
Of muslins, embroideries, worked under-clothes,
Gloves, handkerchiefs, scarfs, and such trifles as
Then, wrapped in great shawls, like Circassian
Gave good-bye to the ship, and go-by to the duties.
Her relations at home all marvelled, no doubt,
Miss Flora had grown so enormously stout
For an actual belle and a possible bride;
But the miracle ceased when she turned inside
And the truth came to light, and the dry-goods
Which, in spite of Collector and Custom-House

Had entered the port without any entry,

And yet, though scarce three months have passed
since the day
This merchandise went, on twelve carts, up Broad-
This same Miss McFlimsey, of Madison Square,
The last time we met was in utter despair,
Because she had nothing whatever to wear!

Nothing to wear! Now, as this is a true ditty,
I do not assert -- this, you know, is between us --
That she's in a state of absolute nudity,
Like Powers' Greek Slave, or the Medici Venus;
But I do mean to say, I have heard her declare,
When, at the same moment, she had on a dress
Which cost five hundred dollars, and not a cent
And jewelry worth ten times more, I should
That she had not a tiring in the wide world to

I should mention just here, that out of Miss
Two hundred and fifty or sixty adorers,
I had just been selected as he who should throw
The rest in the shade, by the gracious bestowal
On myself after twenty or thirty rejections,
Of those fossil remains which she called her "af-
And that rather decayed, but well-known work of
Which Miss Flora persisted in styling her
So we were engaged. Our troth had been plighted,
Not by moonbeam or starbeam, by fountain or
But in a front parlor, most brilliantly lighted,
Beneath the gas-fixtures we whispered our love,
Without any romance or raptures or sighs,
Without any tears in Miss Flora's blue eyes,
Or blushes, or transports, or such silly actions,
It was one of the quietest business transactions,
With a very small sprinkling of sentiment, if any,
And a very large diamond imported by Tiffany.
On her virginal lips while I printed a kiss,
She exclaimed, as a sort of parenthesis,
And by way of putting me quite at my ease,
"You know, I'm to polka as much as I please,
And flirt when I like, -- now, stop, don't you
speak, --
And you must not come here more than twice in
the week,
Or talk to me either at party or ball,
But always be ready to come when I call;
So don't prose to me about duty and stuff,
If we don't break this off, there will be time
For that sort of thing; but the bargain must be
That, as long as I choose, I am perfectly free,
For this is a king of engagement, you see,
Which is binding on you but not binding on me."

Well, having thus wooed Miss McFlimsey and
gained her,
With the silks, crinolines, and hoops that con-
tained her,
I had, as I thought, a contingent remainder
At least in the property, and the best right
To appear as its escort by day and by night;
And it being the week of the STUCKUPS' grand
ball, --
Their cards had been out a fortnight or so,
And set all the Avenue on the tiptoe, --
I considered it only my duty to call,
And see if Miss Flora intended to go.
I found her, -- as ladies are apt to be found,
When the time intervening between the first sound
Of the bell and the visitor's entry is shorter
Than usual, -- I found; I won't say -- I caught
Intent on the pier-glass, undoubtedly meaning
To see if perhaps it didn't need cleaning.
She turned as I entered, -- "Why, Harry, you sin-
I thought that you went to the Flashers' to din-
"So I did," I replied; "but the dinner is swal
And digested, I trust, for 't is now nine and
So being relieved from that duty, I followed
Inclination, which led me, you see, to your
And now will your ladyship so condescend
As just to inform me if you intend
Your beauty and graces and presence to lend
(All of which, when I own, I hope no one will
To the STUCKUPS, whose party, you know, is to-
The fair Flora looked up with a pitiful air,
And answered quite promptly, "Why, Harry, mon
I should like above all things to go with you
But really and truly -- I've nothing to wear."
"Nothing to wear! go just as you are;
Wear the dress you have on, and you'll be by
I engage, the most bright and particular star
On the Stuckup horizon --" I stopped -- for her
Notwithstanding this delicate onset of flattery,
Opened on me at once a most terrible battery
Of scorn and amazement. She made no reply,
But gave a slight turn to the end of her nose --
That pure Grecian feature -- as much as to say,
"How absurd that any sane man should sup-
That a lady would go to a ball in the clothes,
No matter how fine, that she wears every day!"

So I ventured again: "Wear your crimson bro-
(Second turn-up of nose) -- "That's too dark by
a shade."
"Your blue silk" -- "That's too heavy." "Your
pink" -- "That's too light."
"Wear tulle over satin" -- "I can't endure white."
"Your rose-colored, then, the best of the batch" --
"I haven't a thread of point-lace to match."
"Your brown moire antique" -- "Yes, and look
like a Quaker."
"The pearl-colored" -- I would, but that plaguey
Has had it a week." "Then that exquisite lilac
In which you would melt the heart of a Shylock"
(Here the nose took again the same elevation) --
"I wouldn't wear that for the whole of creation."
"Why not? It's my fancy, there 's nothing
could strike it
As more comme il faut" -- "Yes, but, dear me!
that lean
Sophronia Stuckup has got one just like it,
And I won't appear dressed like a chit of sixteen."
"Then that splendid purple, that sweet Mazarine.
That superb point d'aiguille, that imperial green,
That zephyr-like tarlatan, that rich grenadine" --
"Not one of all which is fit to be seen,"
Said the lady-, becoming excited and flushed.
"Then wear," I exclaimed, in a tone which quite
Opposition, "that gorgeous toilette which you
In Paris last spring, at the grand presentation.
When yon quite turned the head of the head of the
And by all the grand court were so very much
The end of the nose was portentously tipped up,
And both the bright eyes shot forth indignation,
As she burst upon me with the fierce exclamation,
"I have worn it three times at the least calcula-
And that and most of my dresses are ripped
Here I ripped out something, perhaps rather rash,
Quite innocent, though; but, to use an expres-
More striking than classic, it "settled my hash,"
And proved very soon the last act of our ses-
Fiddlesticks, is it, sir? I wonder the ceiling
Doesn't fall down and crush you -- you men have
no feeling;
You selfish, unnatural, illiberal creatures,
Who set yourselves up as patterns and preachers,
Your silly pretence -- why, what a mere guess it
Pray, what do you know of a woman's necessities?
I have told you and showed you I've nothing to
And it's perfectly plain you not only don't care,
But you do not believe me" -- (here the nose went
still higher) --
"I suppose, if you dared, you would call me a
Our engagement is ended, sir -- yes, on the spot;
You're a brute, and a monster, and -- I don't know
I mildly suggested the words -- Hottentot,
Pickpocket, and cannibal, Tartar, and thief,
As gentle expletives which might give relief;
But this only proved as a spark to the powder,
And the storm I had raised came faster and
It blew and it rained, thundered, lightened, and
Interjections, verbs, pronouns, till language quite
To express the abusive, and then its arrears
Were brought up all at once by a torrent of tears,
And my last faint, despairing attempt at an obs-
Ervation was lost in a tempest of sobs.

Well, I felt for the lady, and felt for my hat, too,
Improvised on the crown of the latter a tattoo,
In lieu of expressing the feelings which lay
Quite too deep for words, as Wordsworth would
Then, without going through the form of a bow,
Found myself in the entry -- I hardly knew how, --
On doorstep and sidewalk, past lamp-post and
At home and up-stairs, in my own easy-chair;
Poked my feet into slippers, my fire into blaze,
And said to myself, as I lit my cigar,
"Supposing a man had the wealth of the Czar
Of the Russias to boot, for the rest of his days.
On the whole. do you think he would have much
to spare,
If he married a woman with nothing to wear?"

Since that night, taking pains that it should not
be bruited
Abroad in society, I've instituted
A course of inquiry, extensive and thorough,
On this vital subject, and find, to my horror,
That the fair Flora's case is by no means sur-
But that there exists the greatest distress
In our female community, solely arising
From this unsupplied destitution of dress.
Whose unfortunate victims are filling the air
With the pitiful wail of "Nothing to wear."
Researches in some of the "Upper Ten" districts
Reveal the most painful and startling statistics,
Of which let me mention only a few:
In one single house, on the Fifth Avenue.
Three young ladies were found, all below twenty --
Who have been three whole weeks without any-
thing new
In the way of flounced silks, and thus left in the
Are unable to go to ball, concert, or church.
In another large mansion, near the same place,
Was found a deplorable, heart-rending case
Of entire destitution of Brussels point-lace.
In a neighboring block there was found, in three
Total want, long continued, of camel's-hair
And a suffering family, whose case exhibits
The most pressing need of real ermine tippets;
One deserving young lady almost unable
To survive for the want of a new Russian sable;
Still another, whose tortures have been most ter-
Ever since the sad loss of the steamer Pacific,
In which were engulfed, not friend or relation
(For whose fate she perhaps might have found
Or borne it, at least, with serene resignation),
But the choicest assortment of French sleeves and
Ever sent out from Paris, worth thousands of
And all as to style most recherche and rare,
The want of which leaves her with nothing to
And renders her life so drear and dyspeptic
That she's quite a recluse, and almost a sceptic;
For she touchingly says that this sort of grief
Cannot find in Religion the slightest relief,
And Philosophy has not a maxim to spare
For the victim of such overwhelming despair.
But the saddest by far of all these sad features
Is the cruelty practised upon the poor creatures
By husbands and fathers, real Bluebeards and
Who resist the most touching appeals made for
By their wives and their daughters, and leave them
for days
Unsupplied with new jewelry, fans, or bouquets,
Even laugh at their miseries whenever they have
a chance,
And deride their demands as useless extravagance.
One case of a bride was brought to my view,
Too sad for belief, but, alas! t was too true,
Whose husband refused, as savage as Charon,
To permit her to take more than ten trunks to
The consequence was, that when she got there,
At the end of three weeks she had nothing to
And when she proposed to finish the season
At Newport, the monster refused out and out,
For his infamous conduct alleging no reason,
Except that the waters were good for his gout;
Such treatment as this was too shocking, of
And proceedings are now going on for divorce.

But why harrow the feelings by lifting the cur-
From these scenes of woe? Enough, it is certain
Has here been disclosed to stir up the pity
Of every benevolent heart in the city,
And spur up Humanity into a canter
To rush and relieve these sad cases instanter.
Won't somebody, moved by this touching descrip-
Come forward to-morrow and head a subscription?
Won't some kind philanthropist, seeing that aid is
So needed at once by these indigent ladies,
Take charge of the matter? Or won't Peter
The corner-stone lay of some new splendid super-
Structure, like that which to-day links his name
In the Union unending of Honor and Fame;
And found a new charity just for the care
Of these unhappy women with nothing to wear,
Which, in view of the cash which would daily be
The Laying-out Hospital well might be named?
Won't Stewart, or some of our dry-goods im-
Take a contract for clothing our wives and our
Or, to furnish the cash to supply these distresses,
And life's pathway strew with shawls, collars, and
For poor womankind, won't some venturesome
A new California somewhere discover?

O ladies, dear ladies, the next sunny day
Please trundle your hoops just out of Broadway,
From its whirl and its bustle, its fashion and
And temples of Trade which tower on each side,
To the alleys and lanes, where Misfortune and
Their children have gathered, their city have built;
Where Hunger and Vice, like twin beasts of prey,
Have hunted their victims to gloom and de-
Raise the rich, dainty dress, and the fine broi-
dered skirt,
Pick your delicate way through the dampness and
Grope through the dark dens, climb the rickety
To the garret, where wretches, the young and the
Half starved and half naked, he crouched from the
See those skeleton limbs, those frost-bitten feet,
All bleeding and bruised by the stones of the
Hear the sharp cry of childhood, the deep groans
that swell
From the poor dying creature who writhes on
the floor;
Hear the curses that sound like the echoes of Hell,
As you sicken and shudder and fly from the
Then home to your wardrobes, and say, if you
dare --
Spoiled children of Fashion -- you 're nothing to

And O, if perchance there should be a sphere
Where all is made right which so puzzles us here,
Where the glare and the glitter and tinsel of Time
Fade and die in the light of that region sublime,
Where the soul, disenchanted of flesh and of sense,
Unscreened by its trappings and shows and pre-
Must be clothed for the life and the service above,
With purity, truth, faith, meekness, and love;
O daughters of Earth! foolish virgins, beware!
Lest in that upper realm you have nothing to

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