Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The dangers of having clothes altered - The Box 3

the book:

A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark

published 1988  chapter 7




To my great joy my black lace evening dress needed to be taken in a good inch both sides when, in January of 1955 I tried it on with a view to wearing it at a smart dinner party…

There I was in Wanda’s room, having my dress pinned and tucked, and the nceckline cut low, with a view to its being reduced to my latest size and remodelled, as Wanda put it, to bring it up to date.

Wanda’s room was still the workshop of old. Piles of clothes to be altered, and among them another dress of mine. She often altered dresses for me, but this was the first time she had to take one in.

‘I have such terrible rheumatism,’ said Wanda, who was on her knees, with her pins, sticking them abundantly into my dress. ‘I’m behind with my work.’ I told her the lace dress was urgent.

It was difficult for her to move. She was having treatment, she said.

observations: This book was written a lot later than the other two Box books (here and here) but is set a little earlier. It has an extraordinarily complex and well-worked-out plot, many aspects of which are glanced on in this short excerpt. Wanda the dressmaker operates The Box – the ‘treatment’ –for herself and others, and is later going to be persuaded by malign forces that it is her fault that Mrs Hawkins, the narrator, has lost weight. Wanda perhaps uses the dressmaking sessions to get hold of hair from her victims, to put in The Box. Mrs Hawkins herself is a fabulous character, with her changing shape, her good advice, and her surprising romance.

At one point Mrs Hawkins and her landlady Milly are sitting on the stairs watching through the window as the couple next door have a row. “Milly, always with her sense of the appropriate, dashed down to her bedroom and reappeared with a near-full box of chocolates. We sat side-by-side, eating chocolates, and watching the show.”

Links up with: As well as the other Box books,
here and here, Kensington should really be read in conjunction with Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent (here and, in a date-related manner of speaking, here). The twice previously-featured Lucky Jim is mentioned as being recently published.

The picture is another
John Singer Sargent - see also this entry here and a mention here.

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