Dress Down Sunday: Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson

published 1998


[Dressmaker Susanna has to make a bridesmaid’s dress for a rather plain young woman]

‘… I’d like to do better for the poor Bluestocking. Always a sheep in the nativity play and that dreadful briefcase full of Beowulf . . .’ For a moment I shut my eyes and tried to shake my mind free of all preconceived notions about Edith Sultzer. I can do that sometimes and get a kind of instant cameo of a person’s essence. It doesn’t last long, but it gives me a clue and I design to that. I had forgotten about the schnapps. What flashed before my closed eyes was a bedroom with a french window leading out on to a verandah which overlooked a wide grey river. Inside the room was a large and tumbled bed and on it a plump Edith Sultzer in black lace underwear bounced up and down.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked Alice.

I stopped giggling and shook my head. ‘Nothing,’ I said, and explained. ‘It’ll just have to be the moss-green crêpe.’

observations: Should be read with this entry, which explains more about the book.

Of course there’s a long way to go with this wedding, nothing will turn out quite as it might. And Edith will – Spoiler – end up with a
grey alpaca dress which might have been worn by that low-spirited English governess, Jane Eyre -
[--the dress we refused to portray Jane Eyre in (this entry), determinedly finding her a much nicer grey outfit.] 

BUT also she 'scribbled down for her the address of the woman who makes lingerie for the girls of the Opera Ballet.’ – so Susanna’s vision may have come true.

Of course as a good dressmaker Susanna is very interested in underwear. Setting off with a friend to buy saucepans, she is distracted by the lingerie department and a French slip in pale blue lace. She makes Edith get a corset – and then she hears from Paris:
that Poiret is freeing women from the corset. All I can say is that if he was designing for the women of Vienna, he would think again.
Clothes in Books had some incredible Poiret coats – no corset needed – in this entry.

The 21st century woman on the bed in the top picture is advertising American Apparel.


  1. Moira - I love the sense of humour in this one post. And this entry is making me think that I need to definitely move this one up on my TBR list. An interesting look a 'slice of life...'

    1. Yes -it's the perfect light reading for when you want a proper book, but not something too demanding or dark.


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