Monday, April 20, 2015

Etiquette When East Met West in D.C.

Two Oriental Women in Washington Society: The wives of the Japanese Minister and the Corean Chargé d'Affaires readily adapt themselves to new surroundings...

Typical Japanese women's attire for the 19th C. ~ "Madame Tateno Gives a Fancy LuncheonMarch 29th, 1894: The Wife of the Japanese Minister Artistically Entertains Society People.Washington D.C., March 29th - {Special} - Madame Tateno, wife of the Japanese Minister, gave a green and white luncheon today. In the drawing rooms on the tables were Japanese jars filled with Easter lilies. In the dining-room, the table decorations were of white carnations and ferns, arranged in three cut-glass bowls down the length of the tables. Bouquets of the same were at the places for each guest. In addition to these, were small square boxes of white and green crinkled paper filled with bonbons. On the top were white and silver butterflies fastened to the lids with bows and ends of narrow green ribbons, on one end of which in silver was painted the name of the guest. Those present were Mrs. Joseph Blackburn, mrs. Charles Gibson, mrs. William Oates, Mrs. Pugh, Mrs John Moore, Mrs. Arthur MacArthur, Mrs Cockrell, Mrs. Guzman, Mrs. Geary, Mrs. Shields, Mrs Thomas Wilson, Mrs Davis, Mrs Billing, Mrs Van Wyck, Madame Mendonca, Miss Gorman, and Miss Gote"

Washington, February 6- 
Two members of the Diplomatic Corps, who within the last two seasons have developed into indefatigable society women, with apparently as keen a relish for the pleasures of fashionable life as their American sisters, are Madame Tateno, wife of the Japanese Minister and Mrs. Ye, wife of the Corean Chargés d'Affaires. Upon their arrival in Washington neither of these interesting foreigners could speak a word of English, but so diligently have they applied themselves to the study of the language that they are now able to converse fluently, with a good command of the idioms.

Mme. Tateno has given much time since her arrival to the subject of official etiquette in Washington, the intricacies of which, by the way, do not hold for her the terrors one might at first suppose. This is owing to the fact that from childhood she has been accustomed to the complicated etiquette of Japan, the complete mastery of which is the study of a lifetime. So punctilious are the Japanese upon the observance of the multitudinous details incident to entertaining in that country that, though essentially different in some important particulars from the customs of this country, Mme. Tateno has found the learning of the new code a comparatively easy matter. Since the beginning of the season the Minister and his wife have given a number of informal little dinner parties, at which the menu and serving of the various courses has been indisputable proof of Mme. Tateno's proficiency in such matters.

Mrs. Ye, though at first reserved, upon more intimate acquaintance shows of vivacity of thought and speech which is most attractive, especially when she relates some amusing experience in society. There is no pause for the suitable words in which to express her ideas, for speech flows readily at such times and the usually quiet manner gives place to an animation which a stranger would little expect. Mrs. Ye is quick to perceive the differences and distinctions of rank in society and readily adapts herself to her surroundings. That imperturbable outward bearing which carried her so successfully through trying ordeals in being stared at and commented on upon her first entrance into the gay world of Washington, has since then stood her in good stead many times. She is naturally of a progressive nature and desirous of adopting American manners and customs as well as the dress of this country.

Mr. Ye has a cordial manner of greeting friends and, when amused, a laugh which is infectious and it's hardiness. His devotion to his wife is most pleasant to see, and it is undoubtedly due to his thoughtfulness that she escaped without injury to her eyes from the upset while driving in the Smithsonian grounds last week. When it became apparent to the occupants of the carriage that the accident was not to be averted, Mr. Ye leaned quickly forward and, snatching the glasses from his wife's eyes, threw them out of the window. Strangely enough, they were not broken, but after subsequently picking them up they were again thrown away in the excitement of the moment and so lost.

Originally published in the New York Times, February 7, 1892

Above~Traditional 19th C. Corean / Korean Dress : "The Corean ladies at Washington: They have the Eastern love for jewelry, and since they have been here have brought quite a little collection of diamonds, and rings, studs, pins, etc... The ladies of the Corean Embassy are little childish-looking creatures, not more than five feet high, if that. They have delicate, slender, fragile bodies and smooth, shiny, lemon-colored faces that are very pretty after you get accustomed to the Asiatic style of beauty. Their hair is of midnight blackness, parted in the middle, smoothly combed, and fastened in a loope at the nape of the neck with massive gold pins, not like our hairpins with two legs, but just straight simple pins with large ornamented heads. 

Their eyes have the moon-tilt, are black of course, and very bright and expressive. Their lips are full and red, and they are exquisitely clean and dainty about their persons, and fond of the most delicate fabrics. Their gowns are silk and all made alike, with full gathered skirt of some bright hue sewed to a little waist like that little girls wear to their petticoats, and which reaches only a little below the armpits. Over this is worn a little silk jacket of bright contrasting color, and not any longer than the skirt waist. The sleeves are large and long, but not uncomfortably so. The neck is faced with ribbon, generally two pieces, the one next to the skin being white, and is fastened in surplice fashion with gold pins. No buttons are visible anywhere. Where the skirt is joined to the waist a ribbon about two inches wide is the passed around the body and tied in front, the ends hanging straight about halfway to the floor. Their headgear is simple, and has been in fashion for hundreds of years. It takes about two yards of watered silk ribbon to make it. This is passed around the head to look something like a Turkish fez without a top to it, and the surplus ribbon is fastened together in such a way as to hang flat down the back. A tassel is fastened to the top in front and allowed to dangle over the brow, and a handsome jade ornament is put on the streamer to keep it from waving. 

Mrs. Ye Cha Yun is the delighted possessor of a watch, which she wears in the bosom of her little jacket. When she showed it I asked her to tell me the time. She turned her slanting black eyes on me with a gleam of fun and said it was nearly 5. It was about twenty minutes of 5, but she had only learned the hours, and saw the hand was between 4 and 5. Corean ladies never wear a single ring, always two. Before marriage they only wear such rings as their parents give them, after marriage the rings their husbands give them. The rings are massive and of beautiful workmanship, and are at least half an inch wide and over a quarter of an inch thick. They have very pretty hands, small, carefully kept, and with slender, tapering fingers. Their ears are not pierced, and they don't wear earrings. 

They have not yet tasted the delights of shopping, their husbands buying for them everything they need. Not long ago the native shoes of the men wore out, and they had to buy American shoes. They take to them very kindly, and declare they like them, only they find the much stiffer than their own. They intend to continue wearing their native costume here, although the ladies admire American dress very much, especially ladies' bonnets and love to inspect and comment on their visitors' attire. One of the ladies has a pair of French slippers already for her tiny feet, and they are both fond of wearing kid gloves. One of them presents and odd little figure in her picture-they've already been photographed-with her Corean dress, and on her hands a pair of heavily embroidered kid gloves."  

From North Carolina's "The Headlight," August 7, 1889
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