A dress to show your attitude to the world

the poem:

The Satin Dress by Dorothy Parker

Poem from the collection Enough Rope, published 1926

Needle, needle, dip and dart,
Thrusting up and down,
Where’s the man could ease a heart
Like a satin gown?

See the stitches curve and crawl
Round the cunning seams—
Patterns thin and sweet and small
As a lady’s dreams.

Wantons go in bright brocade;
Brides in organdie;
Gingham’s for the plighted maid;
Satin’s for the free!

Wool’s to line a miser’s chest;
Crepe’s to calm the old;
Velvet hides an empty breast;
Satin’s for the bold!

Lawn is for a bishop’s yoke;
Linen’s for a nun;
Satin is for wiser folk—
Would the dress were done!

Satin glows in candlelight—
Satin’s for the proud!
They will say who watch at night,
“What a fine shroud!”

Observations: A bit of a shock ending there, but we have chosen to go with the beauty of our imaginings of the poem, rather than finding a picture of a dead body. Dorothy Parker wrote an awful lot, and if you read too much at one time you can get a bit tired of her style, and spot the tricks very easily, but in small doses she is great: funny and observant and realistic. She does not seem to have had a very happy life, and drinking was a big problem. She rather overdoes her protests that she is having a wonderful time with feckless and unfaithful men and that it is all SUCH fun, and she is glad she is not one of those clinging women: "Better to see the dawn come up/ along of a trifling one/ than set a steady man’s cloth and cup/ And pray the day be done." As if they were the only two options.

Links up with: Parker is quoted in
this entry. Mr Rochester wanted Jane Eyre to wear brightly-coloured satin, but Miss Priss insisted on grey and black. This lady remembers her satin dress.

The picture is, again, from
George Eastman House.