Friday, 6 December 2013

Undressed for Success




Today's blog is about underwear and lingerie in literature - the perfect subject for Clothes in Books, creator of the Dress Down Sunday feature. So today is Dress Down Friday for once, featuring authors and books ranging from Nick Hornby and Stella Gibbons to Louisa M Alcott and Graham Greene, from dirty bras to Bridget Jones to union suits and stockings and suspenders.

The entry appears on the Guardian books blog, and these are the opening paragraphs:








In a news story that sounds like an April fool, it’s being reported that researchers at Microsoft are working on a mood-sensing bra. But booklovers know you don’t need technology to read character from underwear - remember Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, where Cardinal Wolsey tells Thomas Cromwell ‘Try always…to learn what people wear under their clothes’. Stylist magazine recently created a list of 20 works of literature featuring lingerie: but there are many more authors who use underwear to express emotions - disappointment, titillation and a protest against repression.

Nick Hornby’s Rob lays it out very clearly in High Fidelity: ‘Women’s knickers were a terrible disappointment to me when I embarked on my co-habiting career. I never really recovered from the shock of discovering that women do what we do: they save their best pairs for the nights when they know they are going to sleep with somebody. When you live with a woman, these faded, shrunken tatty M&S scraps suddenly appear on radiators all over the house.’ (This must surely be the only paragraph from a novel to have inspired a US TV advert for Diet Coke.)




Read on by clicking here...

8 comments:

  1. Moira - What a great post! And you're right; there's not nearly as much discussion of male underthings as there is of female underclothes. And it's interesting that people make judgements about others based on their knickers. I know for instance that in Deborah Crombie's In a Dark House, a woman disappears and the cops find out about another side of her based on the kind of knickers she has.

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    1. What a brilliant example Margot - I haven't read that book, but shall have to now, AND do an entry on it. Sounds fascinating... thanks for the tipoff.

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    2. I'd love to see you do a post on the way people make those judgements. In this case, this particular missing woman is only one of several plot threads in the novel, but the scene where they find those knickers stuck with me. Here's a bit when one of the cops (Gemma James) has just told someone about her find:

      'Winnie shook her head in bewilderment. 'Why go to so much trouble to secrete things away, when she knew Fanny couldn't climb the stairs? And why hide the things at all? Don’t most single women have a few pairs of sexy knickers?'
      'If they don’t, they should,' Gemma replied, grinning.''


      And in an interesting contrast, here's a bit about the more 'public' side of the woman's life:

      'At least the woman wore underwear, she thought with a grin, although they were nondescript Marks and Spencer’s cotton knickers and bras'

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    3. I am going right away to get hold of this one!

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  2. Bridget Jones' drawers......enough said, what a scary picture,
    I shall be skipping breakfast now!

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    1. TBH - I spend all my time choosing lovely tasteful pics for my own blog, and I go off to the Guardian, and what happens....?

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  3. All sorts of interesting tidbits about underwear in that article at the Guardian. Reminds me that A Fashion in Shrouds is the next Allingham I want to read. And that I was planning to find some books by John and Emery Bonett. I do have High Fidelity and have not read it yet. I love that link about the advertisement for Coke.

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    1. Thanks Tracy. I can really recommend all three books/authors you mention. The Bonetts I love mostly because of the great picture of life they paint, it has a really authentic feel, you think this WAS what it was like to be a reasonably well-off couple in London in the 1950s.

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