Dolly Varden Hats, The
DESCRIPTION: Girls: "Lovers you'll have plenty ... If you wear the Dolly Vardon hat, and do the Grecian bend." The comical adventures of women and their hats are related. Soldiers could wear them when drilling: "they'll do for umbrellas to save them from the rain"
EARLIEST DATE: before 1867 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 13(73))
KEYWORDS: clothes humorous nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
GreigDuncan3 652, "Come, Dear, Don't Fear" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Bodleian, Harding B 13(73), "The Dolly Varden Hats" ("Come, dear, don't fear, try and cut a shine"), J. Harkness (Preston), 1840-1866; also Firth c.21(132), 2806 b.10(41), Firth c.26(213), "The Dolly Varden Hats"
NOTES: GreigDuncan3 is a fragment; broadside Bodleian Harding B 13(73 is the basis for the description.
"dolly varden ... n. cap D&V [after Dolly Varden, gaily dressed coquette in Barnaby Rudge (1841), novel by Charles Dickens 1870 Eng. novelist] 1 : a 19th century clothing style for women consisting of a print dress with a white fichu, tight bodice, and skirt with panniers, and a beflowered hat with a wide drooping brim 2 : a large and beflowered hat with a wide drooping brim 3 ...." (source: Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, 1976)
The heroine of "The Garden Where the Praties Grow" "was just the sort of creature sir that nature did intend To walk throughout the world, my boys, without a Grecian bend." In this context, as in "The Dolly Varden Hats," the Grecian bend seems a posture encouraged or forced by the fashionable corsettes and bustles of the 1870's (see "From the Crinoline, to the Crinolette, to the Bustle: 1860-1880" in The Secret History of the Corset and Crinoline at Fathom Archive of Columbia University site). - BS
Dolly Varden proved surprisingly popular as a subject of song. W. C. Handy wrote a "Sail Away, Ladies" piece with chorus, "Sail away, ladies, sail away; Sail away, ladies, sail away. Never mind what de sisters say, Just shake your Dolly Varden and sail away." There was a 1901 song "Dolly Varden" as well, attributed to Le Mar. And apparently there is a modern performer calling herself "Dolly Varden."
Kellett, p. 50, says that the phrase "all dressed up like Dolly Varden" became a commonplace in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Benet, pp. 1165-1166, notes that there were three Vardens in Barnaby Rudge Gabriel, the father of Dolly, a locksmith; Martha, his wife; and Dolly, "The locksmith's daughter; a pretty, laughing girl, with a roguish face, lit up by a lovelly pair of sparkling eyes, the very impersonation of good humor and blooming beauty. She marries Joe Willet, and conducts with him the Maypole Inn, as never a country inn was conducted before. They prosper and have a large and happy family. Dolly dresses in the Watteau style, and Watteau gowns and hats were for a time, about 1875, called 'Dolly Vardens." The name was frequently in use in fashions of a later period also."
EncycLiterature, p. 1157, says that "Dolly's memorable costumes led to the naming for her of a style of 19th-century women's ensemble consisting of a wide-skirted, tight-bodiced print dress worn with a white fichu (light triangular scarf) and a flowered hat with a wide, drooping brim. she was also commemorated in the brightly colored Dolly Varden trout."
In addition, the supplement to Partridge notes that "Dolly Varden" was sometimes used as rhyming slang for a garden. This is of no relevance to the song, of course, but it shows just how common references to "Dolly Varden" were. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- Benet: William Rose Benet, editor, The Reader's Encyclopdedia, first edition, 1948 (I use the four-volume Crowell edition but usually check it against the single volume fourth edition edited by Bruce Murphy and published 1996 by Harper-Collins)
- EncycLiterature: [no author listed], Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, Merriam-Webster, 1995
- Partridge: Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (combined fifth edition with dictionary and supplement), Macmillan, 1961
- Kellett: Arnold Kellett, The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition, and Folklore, revised edition, Smith Settle, 2002
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