Here it’s turned unseasonably warm (nearly 60 degrees F!), and our rivers runneth over. I’ve been able to don my sweater coat instead of my usual ski parka (I don’t ski, I just parka). But about this time in nineteenth century England, young ladies of fashion would be sporting that essential fashion accessory, the muff.
They certainly look warm enough! Muffs might be made of fur such as fox, mink, or ermine; feathers like swan’s down; or shirred silk, lined with satin or flannel and liberally padded. The idea was that you slipped your hands inside to keep them toasty. And not just when you were outside. Muffs could be carried anywhere—from the family sitting room to the opera.
Mind you, we’re not talking the little bunny fur purse-size muffs some of us remember from childhood. From 1800 to about 1812, they were huge! You can get an idea of size from the pictures. The only specific dimensions I’ve seen so far indicate that the minimum size would have been about 3 feet wide and 4 feet long. Try lugging that around with you!
Now, immediately my devious mind starts dishing up delightful ways in which one might use a muff. Marissa’s first-ever post on this blog talked about how young ladies could whap annoying gentlemen with their fans. I think you’d get better umph from a muff. And where else could you stash those love letters from the handsome young lordling where no one else would find them? Need to scream in vexation that your brother gambled away your dowry but don’t want anyone to hear you? Shout in a muff! Need to hide a pistol? Need to hide a body?
How would you use a muff?