Sunday, 20 July 2014

Dress Down Sunday: Murder a la Mode by Patricia Moyes

published 1963




LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES







[Inspector Henry Tibbett is investigating a murder at a fashion magazine, and visits a fashion designer’s salon]

Here, a yard away from his startled nose were – as far as he could make out – about 120 exquisitely lovely girls, dressed only in the briefest of panties and bras. It was only when he caught sight of an infinite series of Nicholas Knights diminishing down apparently endless corridors into the distance that Henry realised that the effect had been caused by the placing of two huge mirrors in such a way as to reflect each other. There were, in fact, only three scantily-clad girls, but that was quite enough.

Nicholas Knight was engaged in draping a swathe of green satin round the slim hips of a fourth model – a brunette with a head like Nefertiti, who stood like a resigned statue, regarding her purple fingernails with more interest than pleasure. She too was was naked from the waist up, except for a scrap of white bra….

[Henry] was fascinated by the fact that the girls showed absolutely no self-consciousness at the arrival of a strange man.




observations: Another visit to this old-style crime story: murder at a magazine called Style (for which read Vogue), and a highly-convincing picture of life at such a publication, along with photo shoots, designer studios, and the more low-rent side of the fashion business. See the earlier entry for more about the plot, where the question is: who put the cyanide in the thermos flask of tea?

Moyes’ regular policeman, Inspector Henry Tibbett investigates with a heavy hand, and apparently an expression of permanent surprise on his face at the excesses and excitements of the fashion business. In fact our sleuth Henry a) doesn’t listen to somebody trying to give him vital info early on, and b) is shown as rather dim in his deductions, I think most experienced readers will be way ahead of him. But the book is still great fun. A young woman is described as wearing shoes with ‘those dagger heels and pointed toes.’ A secretary is dismissively described as ‘the siren of Surbiton’.

Fashion magazines, and indeed Vogue, also featured in blog favourite In the Mink by Anne Scott-James – click on the labels below to see several entries. The two books share a rather curious attitude to homosexuality in the fashion business – those expecting early tolerance in this industry will be sadly disappointed.

And the book covers similar ground (in a completely different era) to Margery Allingham’s Fashion in Shrouds – down to the disaster of two women in the same dress. One of the fashion shoots in the book has the model posed with a live cheetah – quite the trope at the time, and one we saw in this entry for Margery Sharp’s Something Light:




Girls in lingerie feature in the dress shop in the play Nine till Sixthis entry, with some astonishing pictures:





9 comments:

  1. Corsets went, then came back as "panty girdles", and we had to cast them off all over again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Girdles were a strange thing weren't they. I can't decide - are they the same thing as Spanx and the Bridget Jones Big Pants?

      Delete
  2. Moira - Ugh! I can't imagine wearing a girdle. There. I said it. At any rate...I really like Tibbetts and his wife Emmy, and their relationship, so I forgive the fact that he doesn't exactly shine in this one. As you say, it's still an engaging story, and I have a soft spot for the kind of detective he is. He's got his faults, but such a refreshing change from the demon-haunted, damaged detectives that are all too common these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes I agree with you - and Moyes was a clever, witty woman, and her books reflect the times she lived in. A really interesting series.

      Delete
  3. Spanx. I had no idea people actually wore things that work like girdles now. I have no familiarity with Spanx, but they look like the girdles I wore, except some girdles I think had more rigid pieces across the abdomen.

    I have got to reread some of the Tibbett books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We need someone who has worn both! But they look and seem very similar, and had a similar effect. I think (sweeping generalization) young women will always find a way of showing off their good points, and will always think there's room for improvement, and do what they can to make themselves look better. If only they realized how great they look anyway....

      Delete
    2. I agree. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my shape at the time, and I only stopped wearing one when my boyfriend (later to be first husband) said that wearing a girdle was ridiculous.

      Delete
  4. Apologies, it didn't appeal to me last time and even less so after this entry. I'm not liking any of those images to be honest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's probably not your kind of book, Col.

      Delete