Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dress Down Sunday: Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

published 1949


LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES








[Lady Montdore is giving Fanny advice on her trousseau]

‘The important thing, dear,’ she said, ‘is to have a really good fur coat, I mean a proper, dark one.’ To Lady Montdore, fur meant mink; she could imagine no other kind except sable, but that would be specified. ‘Not only will it make all the rest of your clothes look better than they are but you really needn’t bother much about anything else as you need never take it off. Above all, don’t go wasting money on underclothes, there is nothing stupider - I always borrow Montdore’s myself. Now for evening a diamond brooch is a great help, so long as it has good big stones. Oh, dear, when I think of the diamonds your father gave that woman, it really is too bad. All the same, he can’t have got through everything, he was enormously rich when he succeeded, I must write to him…’ She rang for her secretary and said my father’s address must be found out.

‘You could ring up the Under Secretary for the Colonies with my compliments…’



observations: Clothes in Books is campaigning for Rupert Everett to play the part of Lady Montdore in a dramatized version of the Mitford books, so we looked quite hard for a picture of him in his underwear, but were sadly disappointed. These splendid fellows will have to do instead.

Of course, one assumes that when Lady Montdore has her makeover later in the book, masterminded by Cedric, she will change her mind about underwear and go in for some rather fancy lingerie.

Lady Montdore is so funny, so complete, such a monster, that we could quote from her endlessly. Nancy Mitford is supposed to have based her on her own mother-in-law, Baroness Rennell, whom she disliked very much, and Violet Trefusis, one of those ‘characters’ who is well worth looking up on the blog and on Wikipedia - c
lick on the Trefusis label below for more about and by her. Violet Trefusis was great-aunt to Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, and Rupert Everett plainly based his definitive reading of the St Trinian's headmistress on Camilla, so there you go.

Fanny’s father, incidentally, is tracked down to the West Indies, and though proclaiming himself broke, is able to give Fanny a diamond clip which she sells to put central heating into her house.

Love in a Cold Climate has featured a lot on the blog (click on label below) and I also wrote about it in the Guardian newspaper
Lady Montdore gave opinions on diamonds earlier. Perhaps Lord Montdore actually wore a union suit, like Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon. 

The picture is of utility underwear from a slightly later era (the book is set mostly in the 1930s), part of a fascinating collection of photos of utility clothes on Wikimedia Commons.

18 comments:

  1. Glen and I were just discussing the Mitford sisters this weekend. He had been reading about Unity Mitford. He was wondering whether there is a good biography of the sisters. I sent his links for two biographies and a blog that had some related information, but of course have no idea whether they are good or not. Do you have an opinion about the best biography of the sisters? I did look around your blog but could not find that specific info.

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    1. The Mitford Girls by Mary Lovell is a good straightforward biog covering all the sisters. Nancy Mitford probably gets the most separate attention, and there are a couple of biogs of her - one by Laura Thompson (who also did Agatha Christie) is opinionated and good. There is a biog of Unity, by David Pryce-Jones, which the family hated. I have read and possess just about every book ever written about them!

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    2. That book by Mary Lovell was one I found and suggested, so I was lucky. Glen would probably be more interested in something that focused more on Diana and Unity, so I will let him look around some more. I would probably like the one by Lovell. Thanks for the feedback.

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    3. There are biogs of Diana by Anne De Courcy and Jan Dalley, both of which I think are good, and are the best way of finding out about Unity too (better than the David P-J book I mention above). They go into the politics of the time....

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    4. Thanks, Moira. I will point him toward those two books. I still have never remembered the name of the mystery that featured Diana Mosley (I think) in a small part. Very irritating, losing my memory like this.

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    5. I did feature two of the biogs briefly on the blog here http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/diana-mosley.html

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    6. You are correct, and I even looked at that entry specifically. I remember it because I love all the photos in that one. Missed the Mary Lovell book entirely and at the time was looking for something about all the sisters. Just wasn't a very good sleuth.

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  2. Moira - Oh, this is a great look at these sisters! I love that comment about the diamonds. It's so telling, don't you think? And I do like the waspish portrait painted here, if I can put it that way, of Lady Montdore. Oh, one more thing: sure you can't get Rupert Everett to model some underthings? ;-)

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    1. Thanks Margot, and I am glad I have your backing on the Rupert E campaign. I shall keep trying to get that picture....

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  3. I think I'm more familiar with the Mitfords than Everett. Never seen anything with him in it and I wouldn't recognise him in a line-up. I have found you a piccy though his pants are invisible. (Not sure if it is copyrighted or not!) http://dylania.tumblr.com/post/36941193346/rupert-everett-by-karl-lagerfeld-1997-04

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    1. My goodness. That is quite a picture, and I can only thank you for finding it and sharing it with us. I think I will leave it to readers to decide for themselves whether to go and look, rather than reblogging it. I wonder what he is advertising...

      If you don't know Rupert, then that means you have missed that seminal comedy, the 2007 St Trinians. It is the Citizen Kane of school films. Highly recommended, very very funny.

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    2. I know Tracy likes her skulls, not sure if she is an Everett fan though.
      http://www.liquida.it/rupert-everett/bestof/foto/?id=86111129e736e7b7697da3173abccf04

      Never seen St Trinian's - I'm more of a Mean Girls fan.

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    3. 'My goodness' is inadequate as a response to this one. That is the most unusual use of a skull I have seen in a long time.

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    4. Both photos are very interesting. I do like Rupert Everett... a lot. I first saw him in My Best Friend's Wedding, which I love and Glen hates, and then in An Ideal Husband.

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    5. Both excellent films. I also like him in Another Country.

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    6. Thanks for reminding me of that. I had that on the Netflix queue but it had gotten buried. I moved it up.

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    7. Glen insists that I point out that we saw Rupert Everett in a supporting role in Wild Target. Glen has a thing for Emily Blunt, so Wild Target is the perfect movie. And with Bill Nighy and Martin Freeman too.

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    8. In Another Country, Rupert E and Colin Firth look so young. Tell Glen that Wild Target is unknown territory to me. I will look it up.

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