Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dress Down Sunday: wearing your petticoat as a dress




Dress down Sunday –
what goes on under the clothes
the book:

Five Children and It  by E Nesbit

published 1902     chapter 3
 
 
 
 
It turned out that Jane must either mend the dress she had torn the day before or appear all day in her best petticoat. It was white and soft and frilly, and trimmed with lace, and very, very pretty, quite as pretty as a frock, if not more so. Only it was not a frock, and Martha's word was law. She wouldn't let Jane wear her best frock, and she refused to listen for a moment to Robert's suggestion that Jane should wear her best petticoat and call it a dress. "It's not respectable," she said. And when people say that, it's no use anyone's saying anything. You'll find this out for yourselves some day. So there was nothing for it but for Jane to mend her frock. The hole had been torn the day before when she happened to tumble down in the High Street of Rochester, just where a water-cart had passed on its silvery way. …Of course the others were not such sneaks as to abandon a comrade in misfortune, so they all sat on the grass-plot round the sun-dial, and Jane darned away for dear life.




observations: Jacqueline Wilson has written a modern day follow-up to Five children and It, and very good it is too, and we’ll be looking at that tomorrow. But the original is still seriously worth a read – it is hilarious, very clever and full of interest. Of course E Nesbit lived in a different era, and (despite her socialist leanings) some of the references to servants and gypsies grate on modern ears, although the children are very straightforward, and what they say merely reflects their acceptance of the world. (And there is a moment of real feeling from the gypsy who has no child.) The dialogue certainly gives the impression that this IS how children of the era would have talked to each other. The children have their wishes granted by the endearingly grumpy Psammead, the It of the title, and usually they end up badly, but – for example – the description of the children flying is very beautiful, and worth the horror of their then being grounded on a church tower…

And the jokes are splendid:



"He said we could have a wish every day, and we wished first to be beautiful."

"Thy wish was scarce granted," muttered one of the men-at-arms, looking at Robert, who went on as if he had not heard, though he thought the remark very rude indeed.

Links up with: The
Fossil sisters like frilly white dresses and petticoats. Flora Poste is sewing her petticoat and lying about it, this Virginia Woolf heroine is standing at the window in hers, and Gertie McDowell irons and starches hers.

The photograph is by the ever-wonderful Adolf de Meyer, who has featured
before, more than once.


 

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