Dress Down Sunday: Laughing Torso by Nina Hamnett

published 1932


observations: I went daily to the Luxembourg Gardens where I did some really good work, I think. There is a statue there that I always admired. It is of a lady standing up, with her feet crossed, in a very short skirt indeed, and a strange little hat like an inverted soup plate. I did a drawing of her.

Some years later I went to the Bal Julien dressed as her. I wore a pink silk accordion pleated garment, that really was a pair of knickers. They had no legs, but only a ribbon to divide them. I borrowed them from a rich American woman and cut the ribbon so that it looked exactly like the skirt of the statue. They had garlands of blue silk forget-me-nots embroidered on them. I wore a short blue, tight-fitting jacket that I had bought at the “Flea market” at Caulincourt and a very small blue hat that looked like a comedian’s bowler. It was almost flat and looked very like the one worn by the statue. I had a great success at the ball, especially when I explained whom I represented.

observations: The sad thing is not to have a photo of Nina Hamnett in her costume. It is quite hard to imagine, as is the garment that she fashioned it from.

She also likes to dress as a man, and specifically as an apache dancer, as featured in this entry and this one, wearing

a pair of French workmen’s peg-top trousers. I borrowed a blue jersey and corduroy coat from Modigliani and a check cap.
From Modigliani: of course. She knew everyone. Apparently she was bisexual – she is not explicit about it in the book, but you can read between the lines. For a previous entry (on a louche nightclub in a book by a different Nina), we used this photo from George Brassai, which could easily be a club or Bal that Hamnett hung round in:

-- they were very much in the same milieu at the same time in Paris.

She is endearingly aware of her own foibles and vanities, but she IS hilariously self-centred. Who would think that this:

I thought that something terrible was about to happen and imagined that it would take the form of a punishment for me for having had such a good time
- meant the beginning of the First World War – it seems rather a narcissistic way of thinking of it:
Little did I think that that punishment would wreck not only my life but the lives of millions of others during the four bitter years ahead.
There have been umpteen entries from this book – click on Nina Hamnett below to see more.

I am guessing that the top photo shows the statue she means – it comes from a lovely site called woophy.


  1. Moira - What a great memoir. And I love the wit (but I'm sure you guessed that :-) ) that's woven through what you've shared of her work. I'm glad you've reminded me of this...

    1. I think you can guess that I really loved this book, which is why I keep returning to it! And yes - very funny.

  2. I love that photo and that statue. Such an interesting and odd woman.

    1. Yes, I like her straightforwardness - she lived a strange life, but the way she writes about it is very honest.

  3. Nothing to raise the pulse here......keep up the good work!

    1. By the time you've seen all my entries on this one you'll have practically read it anyway - there were so many clothes descriptions, it may take the record for most entries for one book.


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