Statues in a Garden by Isabel Colegate
1964 ch 16 set in summer 1914
Of course it was a perfect wedding. The sun shone, Violet [the bride] looked sweet, we were all there and in our best…
[Mother of the bride] Cynthia had her own way of dressing. She wore very few trimmings in that year of the beaded fringe, relying rather on line and her own superb carriage. But her hats were enormous.
Here she is in the softest of grey chiffon, the skirt falling in fluted columns from the high waist, a high neck and long full sleeves, her hat a marvellous sweeping brim beneath a curling feather. She had quite a feeling for the dramatic: it was a good hat in which to look desolated by the loss of a daughter. But … she is not looking desolated (she did cry a little in the church); she is looking untroubled, talking to Lord Tamworth, who is exquisitely dressed himself from top hat to grey spats…
observations: First World War again – Monday’s entry was about the aftermath while this is, rather portentously, about the last days of summer before it starts. Colegate is never afraid to be symbolic, everything is foreshadowed, there is the eternal contrast between now, and what is about to come. Colegate’s big success was The Shooting Party, which was made into one of those British nostalgia films in 1985, and covered similar ground.
Most of the young men at the wedding are going to die in the War – but before that, there will be a family tragedy, caused by thoughtlessnesss, or lack of control. Or something. It gets a bit tiresome in the end, nothing left to the imagaination. My favourite sentence in the book concerns the maid Beatrice (the lower classes do not come off well): “Hugging her seeds of destruction to herself with her hot-water can, she walked irregularly on and into Cynthia’s bedroom, where she put down the can and covered it up.”
Links up with: weddings all over the blog, click on the label below. A summer before the war in this entry. There’s another big hat with a feather here.
The picture appeared in the French fashion magazine La Gazette du Bon Ton in May 1913.