Muffs are tubes of fur or other material used to keep the hands warm. They were introduced to women's fashion in the 16th century and remained popular until the late 19th century and had a brief comeback in the 1940s and 50s.
In France, during the reign of Charles IX (1560-74), it was decreed that the bourgeoisie must wear black muffs, and only aristocratic ladies could carry multi-coloured muffs.
Fur muffs were very popular during the lifetime of Marie Antoinette (1755-1793). They were often enormous and elaborately decorated. The ultimate accessory was a ‘muff-dog’, which a woman would carry around in her muff.
Muffs were sometimes known as ‘snuffkins’ in England and were worn by both men and women until the 19th century. In his diary, Samuel Pepys reported that ‘this day I did first wear a muff, being my wife’s last year’s muff’. He, not wanting to spend money wore his wife’s old muffs, but bought her a new one.
In the 1890s, the ‘dog-satchel’ became fashionable in Paris. It was preferable to the muff because it left the dog’s legs suspended in mid-air so they were ‘free to kick about without being cramped up’, while being carried.
The Falkirk Herald reported: ‘As the pet is unable to argue the question of comfort, it is to be hoped that the ladies who patronise these satchels are right in thinking that the dogs like being swung about in the new manner'.
Chester Greenwood (1858 –1937) invented the ear-muff in 1873, at the age of 15 to keep his ears warm while ice skating. He asked his grandmother to sew tufts of fur between loops of wire. He was awarded a patent for them in 1877 and manufactured them for 60 years.
There’s an annual parade held in his honour in his home town of Farmington, Maine. Everyone participating in the parade must wear earmuffs. They also hold a ‘Who's got the coldest ears’ contest.
King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) wore muffs made of tigers, panthers, otters, and beavers.
When the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was imprisoned in the Bastille, his wife smuggled his letters in and out in her muff.
The 19th century celebrity singer Celestine Galli-Marie - the first woman to sing Carmen - always kept a marmoset in her muff.
In 1913, a Mrs Emma Humbert was arrested at Dover for attempting to smuggle a Pomeranian dog into the country in her muff.
A pair of mini-muffs worn at each wrist were called 'muffettes' were worn in the 1740s.