Thursday, 28 June 2012

Books of 1952: Smart girls work in fashion



Because it was Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee in the UK, we did a weeksworth of books with a first publication date of 1952. As these entries were so popular, we've found a few more to feature.

the book:

In the Mink by Anne Scott James

published 1952 chapter 3





[the narrator is working at a London fashion magazine, Venus in the 1930s, and is about to attend her first fashion show]

[Mrs Van Elder] told me to wear one of my less Bohemian outfits (I was still addicted to large plaids and striking colours) – a black dress if I had one. I had not been a year on Venus without acquiring a little black dress, so I wore this to the office with a pearl necklace, a fur jacket and… a black hat with a veil….

I realized it was a Venus uniform. Every one of us had a black dress and pearls and a small black hat with a veil, and we looked a little like the daughters of the clergy dressed for a social.

If we looked a bit genteel, the Couture [rival fashion magazine] staff had gone definitely ‘county’. No black or pearls on their side. Every one had a tweed suit, a cashmere sweater and crocodile or brogued leather shoes, and they looked as though they had left their country houses for a day’s jaunt to town.




observations: Anyone interested in fashion - or social history - should read this book, which is a lightly-fictionalized memoir of the author’s experiences working in the magazine world in the 30s and 40s, with a brief interval in straight news during WW2. It is a light-hearted romp, with endless good anecdotes and strange stories - and a very odd digression into the love lives of gay men. There are some nice bits of social observation along the way: actresses and movie stars always claim to be ‘a small 12’ (those were the days, hmm?) and are actually much bigger than that. The author satirizes ‘anti-fashion’ letters to the paper that claim “I have managed with two dresses and one apron for the past four years, and my husband says I am the best-dressed woman he knows… My husband likes dowdy old me the way I am.” There is a feature in the magazine known to the staff (but NOT the sitters) as Bitches in Tiaras. The Devil Wears Prada transported back in time to the 1930s – and much better-written.

Links up with: Black dresses, it turns out, have given us some of the most beautiful pictures on the blog. There’s a 
very gorgeous bad girl in a black dress on her way to Tiffanys, and a dress that cost $40. This Muriel Spark heroine needs her dress altering, and the pearls and dress combination can produce a very different look. The Excellent Woman Mildred is the daughter of a clergyman.

The photo can be found on
Wikimedia Commons.

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