Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bastille Day: a French girl in a blue dress

the book:

Claudine in Paris by Colette

published 1901





A dressmaker… was discovered who came to ‘take my orders’. ..She has scruples, she’s easily alarmed, she doesn’t like tight skirts, and she ostentatiously parades an old-fashioned honesty. When she had finished a perfectly simple blue cloth dress with fine little tucks on the bodice and a collar, edged with stitching, that came right up to my ears… she brought me back all the bits and pieces of stuff, event little snippets three centimetres wide. She’s a dreadful woman with her Jansenist way of disapproving of the ‘immodest dresses’ that are all the rage at the moment!

 There’s nothing like a new dress for making me want to go out… on my next visit to Aunt Coeur, I wore my simple little blue cloth dress; I hadn’t any other suitable ones yet…

I’m working out still another blue dress. I cultivate blue, not for it’s own sake, but for the way it sets off the Spanish-tobacco colour of my eyes.


observations: It’s the French National Day, Bastille Day, so here’s a French writer, the inimitable Colette, with her innocent young girl who is not innocent at all. How very shocking she must have seemed when she first appeared, to instant bestsellerdom, in 1900 in Claudine at School. The books are full of rather dubious sensuality, unashamed appetites, and an openness to experience, but in a way that can make the reader feel uncomfortable. In this book she has come to live in Paris with her father, and starts to go out into the world, accompanied by her relation - she claims to be his aunt, though she would not be so in the UK - Marcel (who sounds strangely like the young Marcel Proust, though he doesn’t seem to be identified as such, and another character is keyed as him in a later book).

Looking at an Edna O’Brien book in an
earlier entry, we compared the two writers, and pointed out that both had similar subject matter, and both had husbands who tried to claim authorship of their work. Colette heroines can be quite keen on masterful men, but the downside is they’ll try to steal your credit.

Links up with:
Proust and Edna O’Brien. Princess Margaret wears a blue dress; Hemingway lived in Paris, with his wife.

The picture is by Stanislaw Wispyanski, and came from
Wikimedia Commons.

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