Not what you’re thinking it sounds like, this is something for the women. The fact that it comes with names like Flirt, Flatterer, Two-timer, Valentine, Harlequin or Beau-Catcher doesn’t help. Nor does the fact that Wikipedia says that the dickey was originally known as a “detachable bosom.” It all sounds kind of salacious.
Eventually Wikipedia gets down to a practical description: dickies were detachable shirt-fronts, originally invented for men’s formalwear. The basic ideas was that if you spilled some food on your shirt at a banquet, you only had to wash the dickey, not the whole shirt. Do you remember the old cartoon with Bugs Bunny and the opera singer whose tuxedo front rolled up when he sang a loud, long note? That was a dickey. You don’t see dickies much anymore, but then you don’t see much men’s formalwear either.
In the early 1940s, mens’ dickies made the transition to womenswear as a chic new look. And so we find these 1945 Sears catalog pages with their clever dickies, bibs, jabots, and other “neckwear.” Armed with saucy names (“Lace for a Lady”) and feminine ruffles, they seemed designed explicitly to attract the male of the species. Do you want to wear the “Demure Darling” or the “Eyelet Eyecatcher?” Good luck with your Valentine’s plans, my dear, and hope he doesn’t spill anything on his shirt.
Dickies for women only were popular for a few years, although Wikipedia claims they’ve made a comeback recently. (Caveat emptor: I am not sure Wikipedia qualifies an accurate fashionista monitor.)