Midsummer - dream dresses for an audition

We have some Midsummer-themed entries to mark the days around the summer solstice

the book:

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
published 1936     Chapter 13

[Stage school sisters Petrova and Pauline have an audition, but don’t have the right clothes ]

Nana sounded cross, as she always did when she was worried. ‘Well, what will you wear, then? I can’t make clothes out of the air.’

Petrova put her arms around her neck. ‘Nana darling, could my birthday money make us organdie frocks like we used to have?’

‘What, those white dresses with the frills?... How much money have you got?’

Nana got a pencil and paper and made calculations. ‘We could get a nice organdie for two and eleven. Four and a half yards those dresses take – that’s nine yards.’ She passed the paper to Petrova. ‘You’re good at figures; how much is nine yards at two and eleven?’

Petrova worked it out in her head; it came to one pound six and threepence… Pauline and Petrova heaved sighs of relief; but Nana shook her head.

‘You’re going too fast. What about linings? See straight through you in organdie. You can wear the knickers of your practice dresses, but you must have slips even if it’s only jap… Get something good enough for one and six-three,’ Nana thought, but she’d need two yards for each of them.

observations: The girls are auditioning to be fairies in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night’s Dream, and their audition clothes sound more traditionally fairy-like than what they will wear when they (spoiler!) get the parts – we’ll look at their costumes in a future entry. Organdie is a very fine and translucent kind of muslin, jap seems to mean jap-silk, a thin silk obviously used for linings. The calculations are in old money (including farthings) and using non-metric units, but are correct – the sums are small, but the joy of this book is always the details, the thinking, the adding up and sorting out of clothes, the penny-pinching background to the glamour of the theatre.

Links up with: More Noel Streatfeild and more clothes panics all over the blog – click on the labels below to see them. Dodie Smith’s heroine wore an outrageous outfit for her
audition. Guess what colour the Woman in White wears.

The image is part of a collection from the Builth Wells Historical Pageant of 1909 – archived by the
National Library of Wales, and well worth a look.