Best of Clothes in Books 2012

From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Stig of the Dump, we spent 2012 looking at what people in books wear, and finding the best pictures we could to illustrate them. Here are some highlights:

Clothes investigations and original research We found out what was meant when people mentioned Doris Keane in Romance (and thus what Cedric wore for the Ball).

We offered gentle criticism of a couple of male authors – Amor Towles doesn’t seem to understand stockings, and Peter Dickinson had a problem with a pencil skirt. But then we showed how Evelyn Waugh got the decoration of ladies’ hats right (eventually) in Brideshead Revisited - he got the lowdown from Nancy Mitford. We also wondered about the mysterious other ending to Waugh’s Handful of Dust. We found out as much as we could about The Box. We wouldn’t dare challenge Dorothy L Sayers, but we expressed our surprise at one of her clothes claims – sunbathing wearing what? - and asked a modern student to comment.

We checked out the original Russian of Anna Karenina (well we got an expert/friend to do it) to finetune the translation of a dress description.

And we helpfully explained what fascinators really are, tried to find out what a Tom and Jerry hat is, and looked for the sartorial meaning of crumbcatcher.

The most featured author was Agatha Christie, with 9 entries (including a couple from her alter ego Mary Westmacott) – all from different books, and surely there’ll be at least that many Christie entries in 2013 too. This one gives a few of our important opinions on her.

Runners up: Dorothy L Sayers, with 7, Evelyn Waugh, Hilary Mantel, WS Maugham, Nancy Mitford & Noel Streatfeild – 6 each.

Most entries for one book: Diary of a Provincial Lady (by EM Delafield) has given us 5 entries, while James Joyce’s Ulysses gave us 4 (plus one for The Dead.) Eight years between the publication dates, one covers one day and the other a whole year, and a similar interest in what people are wearing. Hard to slide a cigarette paper between them.

Best connection established: the unlikely link between Miss Read (chronicler of English village life) and WG Sebald (important modern writer).

 And just LOOK at that dress. See the entries for details.

Most Popular Entries The April Fool entry Warrender Chase - faked extract from the book written by one of the characters in Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent - had the largest number of pageviews,

with the 300th entry – from Sayers’ Have His Carcase – and entries on Anne of Green Gables and the Little Princess also very popular. A picture of a corset shop to illustrate a book by Louisa M Alcott gets page views regularly still,

thus showing how right we were to introduce Dress Down Sunday, whose entries also get consistently high hit-rates. Obviously readers like the sociological and philosophical reflections on what we wear under our clothes (as Cardinal Wolsey said), rather than simply enjoying the pictures of scantily-dressed (mostly) ladies.

Thanks to everyone for great suggestions and feedback, corrections and translations, and thanks to two very welcome guest bloggers, and to those who kindly supplied photos. 

A huge thank you to all the institutions, groups and individuals who have made available an incredible range of photos on the web, allowing others to see and use the beautiful images, the memorable faces, the details of lives therein. I am surprised every single day by the extraordinary photos out there, and the generosity with which they are shared. Without them we would be totally stuck here at Clothes in Books Central. As it is, we look forward to charming you with even better images in 2013.


  1. Moira - We look forward to it too!! And I'm not surprised about the many references to Agatha Christie. In my opinion, she was far ahead of her time on a lot of things, and even though I'll admit that not all of her books are stellar, in my opinion, Christie at her weakest was better than lots of other people at their best.

  2. Best of luck for 2013 Moira! We must do another post-swap soon...

  3. Moira, just to let you know that your link for the December edition of Books You Loved has been featured in the January Books You Loved. Happy New Year!

  4. GREAT post...thanks.

    CONGRATS on your being featured in the January Edition of Books You Loved.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  5. Thanks, and Happy New Year. Yes Rich, let's swap again.


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