Great Dresses in Mediocre Literature (a continuing series)


gone with the wind barbecue party dress

The troublesome question was–what dress should she wear to the barbecue? What dress would best set off her charms and make her most irresistible to Ashley?

The rose organdie with long pink sash was becoming, but she had worn it last summer when Melanie visited Twelve Oaks and she'd be sure to remember it. And might be catty enough to mention it. The black bombazine, with its puffed sleeves and princess lace collar, set off her white skin superbly, but it did make her look a trifle elderly… It would never do to appear sedate and elderly before Melanie's sweet youthfulness. The lavender barred muslin was beautiful with those wide inserts of lace and net about the hem, but it had never suited her type. It would suit Carreen's delicate profile and wishy-washy expression perfectly, but Scarlett felt that it made her look like a schoolgirl. It would never do to appear schoolgirlish beside Melanie's poised self. The green plaid taffeta, frothing with flounces and each flounce edged in green velvet ribbon, was most becoming, in fact her favorite dress, for it darkened her eyes to emerald. But there was unmistakably a grease spot on the front of the basque. Of course, her brooch could be pinned over the spot, but perhaps Melanie had sharp eyes. There remained varicolored cotton dresses which Scarlett felt were not festive enough for the occasion, ball dresses and the green sprigged muslin she had worn yesterday. But it was an afternoon dress. It was not suitable for a barbecue, for it had only tiny puffed sleeves and the neck was low enough for a dancing dress. But there was nothing else to do but wear it. After all she was not ashamed of her neck and arms and bosom, even if it was not correct to show them in the morning.

from Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.

with thanks to Julian, who sent in the excerpt …

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0 thoughts on “Great Dresses in Mediocre Literature (a continuing series)

  1. Well fiddle-dee-dee! Imagine my favorite dress blog and favorite civl war novel together! It does my heart good, wallowing in the intricate descriptions of Scarlett’s wardrobe. But an afternoon dress for a barbeque? Stars above!

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  2. Oh, come ON. This is one of the great dresses in ALL literature. And GWTW has two of the great dresses in literature, now I think of it. The other being of course Miss Ellen’s green velvet portires.I haven’t said so yet over the holidays, but thanks again for really tons of fun, and have a very happy 2007!

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  3. I own my mother’s copy of GWTW, which is one of the first published (her mother gave it to her, she gave it to me) and I’ve read it more than a few times.It always amazes me what a cranky manipulative witch Scarlett is in the book – much more than in the movie. But after all, I didn’t experience what she does, maybe I’d be a cranky manipulative witch too…Anyway, the character in literature whose dress appeals to me without much pondering is Jane Eyre, funnily enough. Sober dark and simple clothing of very good quality cloth. That’s basically my life’s goal in matters of dress…Cheers and happy seams to you.

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  4. I have always loved that paragraph from GWTW…. the Great Dress Analysis. But like the Sewing Girl From The Other Side Of The World, I must protest the book being called mediocre!

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  5. Oh pu-leeze! There is nothing mediocre about GWTW just because people actually LIKE it.I mean really, MUST “good” equal obscurist and dreary?Obviously this book was SO mediocre that people SEVENTY YEARS LATER are reading and enjoying, and identifying with the characters.How many tedious “good” books can claim the same thing? And if they CAN, isn’t that simply because they were the potboilers of an earlier age?

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  6. Whoa! I guess I hit a nerve, but don’t read too much into this … I loved GWTW — once. I wasn’t able to read it a second time; I got bored and had to put it aside.For me, a mediocre book is one you can love and read once; a great book is one you find yourself wanting to read over and over. Your “Great Books” may vary (in fact, I assume they will), but don’t assume that I’m one of those tiresome people for whom “popular” = “bad”!

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  7. I agree with your definition of “mediocre,” except that I’ve read GWTW more times simply because I’m too stubborn to give up and read really, really fast anyway. :DI haven’t read it in years, though – not since getting really serious about accuracy in Civil War reenacting. šŸ˜‰ I could try my hand at analyzing those dresses, with great pleasure! There’s some fun stuff in there.

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  8. I’ve always thought of GWTW as just this side of a bodice ripper. Jane Eyre, however, could never be considered “mediocre literature.”

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  9. As a child my DREAM was to wear the dress Scarlet wore to the bbq! I promised myself my wedding dress would have an enormous hoop skirt. But then I was married in the 90s and my new-found fashion sense wouldn’t allow it. I still regret it a little bit.

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  10. I recall Henry James being great at describing dresses. I remember a Puce dress in one of his books. I asked a dozen different people what color Puce was, and got answers like, brownish, yellowish, sick-green, fuscia, vomitty orange, rust, and wine colored. I have since forgotten what Puce is again.

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  11. Love the blog, got to disagree though and side with several other people. Gone With the Wind is one of the best books I’ve ever read in any language. It was the first book I’d ever read (I was twelve) that did not have a happy ending. That shocked me. More than half of the books I had and in fact have since read end(ed) happily. Even Jane Eyre gets her man in the end, sans a few body parts, but still.My fav in GWTW fashion line in GWTW is when Scarlett is looking toward the future where all of her clothes will be silk. To which Rhett replies, “All?”She pointedly ignores him and confirms her earlier statement “All.”

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  12. Hmmm my last comment ran together, oh well Frankly my dears I don’t give a damn…have a great weekend.My favorite in fashion line in GWTW is when Scarlett is looking toward the future, a future where all of her clothes will be silk. To which Rhett replies, “All?”She pointedly ignores him and confirms her earlier statement “All.”

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