Being consciously eccentric in Turkish clothes

the book:

In the Mink by Anne Scott-James

published 1952  chapter 4

“Come and have lunch tomorrow and help me eat them [gulls’ eggs]” said Amy Sweet. “My friend Stepanovitch was coming, but his hare-lipped paranoiac wife has come all the way from Vladivostock to fetch him home, and I shall hang myself from the chandelier if I have to eat them alone”…

I climbed three rickety flights to her flat to share her gulls’ eggs, and as soon as I reached the door, I knew that Amy’s home was not as other homes. Instead of bell-push or door-knocker, a Persian scimitar was attached precariously to the door, and you had to announce yourself with that, hoping it had chopped off enough heads to have blunted the blade. Amy herself let me in, wearing an exotic deshabille consisting of flimsy Turkish trousers, a short embroidered velvet jacket and masses of jangling gold bracelets. Her hair was hidden under an enormous Russian fur hat, with blonde curls escaping here and there.

I suppose that, born and bred as I was to 8.30 breakfast, 9.30 work, I must, boorishly, have shown my surprise. For Amy said: ‘Forgive me for not being dressed, but I never get up till the afternoon…’

observations: Amy sounds a complete pain doesn’t she? Affected beyond belief. The narrator loves her to bits, and, we gather, thinks she brings a touch of exoticism to her story of London life.

We admit to being obsessed with this book – this is its third appearance on the blog - but then, it is full of clothes, because Elizabeth works on a fashion magazine in the 1930s. There’s lots of veils, and pearls, and black dresses and chic black suits, and also evening dresses and tiaras and tweeds. Irresistible.

In a
previous entry we were puzzled by a ‘Clara Bow figure’. There is also a mention of a ‘willpower dress’ and we can’t find out what that is either. A character says “I had one all beautifully fitted and boned, and everything was fine until I ate…” Presumably it is either a dress you needed willpower to diet enough to get into, or else one that gave you willpower by discouraging eating. There are a few fleeting references round the internet, but nothing clear.

Links up with: Arietty in The Borrowers wore Turkish bloomers, and we had a
fabulous picture to illustrate that. Pascali’s Island is set in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire, and there has been more Orientalism in our various entries about Chinese robes – this one has the best picture.

The picture is by Jean-Etienne Liotard of Marie-Adelaide, a princess of France, in Turkish dress. It can be found on
Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Moira - I always think that fascination with different cultures' ways of dressing adds to a story and it's interesting in real life too. There was a rage too wasn't there for things Egyptian? Not at the same time in history perhaps, but I've read of it. Amy may be affected and annoying, but she personifies that obsession...

  2. Oh yes of course you're right - I actually did a post about the Egyptian craze back in August, but didn't make the connection, thanks for pointing it out!

  3. This blog is very nice and keep posting much more attractive and interesting blogs...The girl really looks very gorgeous in that dress......

  4. Late to this, VERY late, but chanced upon it via links from links.... Anyway, I think a willpower dress is almost definitely a strapless dress, especially with the references to corsetry and fitting - plus, strapless dresses kind of stay up with an element of willpower, don't they?

    1. Yes that all makes sense - thanks Daniel! I love those weird phrases that have passed out of normal use...


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