My lovely regular readers have noticed that the blog has been on something of a sabbatical – I was busy with an unrelated project – but I always knew Clothes in Books would return. The long tradition of my doing Xmas scenes from books at this time of the year was the final push, and they will start up this week.
There will also be some catching up to do – books I really want to write about in between the Xmas entries.
And first up is a reminder of my original inspiration for the Clothes in Books blog.
That was the wedding of Louisa in one of my all-time favourite books, Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love (endless posts on the blog, but this is the wedding one).
Louisa was married in the spring. Her wedding dress, of tulle frills and sprays of orange blossom, was short to the knee and had a train, as was the hideous fashion then. [Her sister] Jassy got very worked up about it.
‘To be buried in, I mean. Women are always buried in their wedding dresses aren’t they? Think of your poor old dead legs sticking out.’
I always had a very clear picture of that wedding dress, and ‘Your poor old dead legs’ is a phrase that will never not make me laugh. And I thought how nice it would be to find a picture of Louisa’s dress. And I thought of Harriet Vane’s wedding troubles, and Jane Eyre’s. And other people, who loved the same books as me, surely would like to see what those various outfits might look like. And now - there has been nearly eight years of blogging, getting on for 2,100 entries (and nearly that many books), and close to 2-million pageviews.
Thanks to everyone who turned out to share my love of Clothes in Books – you are a splendid gang of people, and I hope you will continue to enjoy the entries. I don’t think I will ever run out of clothes scenes to write about – and I love that so many of my readers have suggested their favourites to me. Bring them on!
I also want to express my delight that my other great love - crime fiction - turned out to be a wonderful parallel strand on the blog, and that the official nicest people in the world are, jointly: book fans, clothes fans, crime fiction fans and writers. (There is obviously a lot of overlap.)
And now we have:
The Marriage of Mary Russell
by Laurie R Kingshort story from Mary Russell’s War – published as a collection in 2016, stories from several years before this
Even if I’d had until July, I’d have regarded the traditional white satin wedding dress with floor-length veil as an absurdity, suitable for those wed in a cathedral with scores of family and a phalanx of uniformed groomsmen to hand. I did not even wish eggshell silk, since wearing it would instantly bring me into contact with engine grease, fresh blood, or a pool of quicksand. Surely something on this vast bed would serve my purpose? The eau-de-Nil sheath and the black-and-white frock with the dropped waist were both more suited to an afternoon tea than a midnight wedding. The brown-and-scarlet was beautiful, but those colours were a very long way from the traditional. And if I were to take Holmes’s caveat seriously (should I?), the magnificent ice-blue evening gown, the burnt-orange frock with the snug skirt, and the green lacy piece with the uneven hemline and train would each render brisk flight impossible. There was one piece with a lot of beads that I liked, but if silence was required in addition to speed, I’d have to strip it off and flee in my camiknickers. Which left the grey-blue wool skirt-and-jacket with the Kashmiri embroidery along the front. With a white silk blouse underneath and its matching hat, I would be both presentable and capable of an all-out sprint. I even had a dark overcoat, in the event of rain or skulking in the shadows. I wondered what the fashion pages might say regarding a throwing knife strapped somewhere about the bride’s person. Better than a revolver in the handbag, I decided, and told Mrs Quimby that I would have three eggs for my breakfast, and a lot of toast.
comments: A reader drew my attention to this on social media a while back, interested in Mary’s choice of wedding gear. It is a tremendous passage, and very typical of Laurie R King and her heroine – sumptuous descriptions of lovely clothes, before a puritanical decision to wear something simpler. Several Mary Russell books have featured on the blog before now.
In this story, we see the actual wedding of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. This is how King introduces the story:
The second Russell Memoir, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, ends with a momentous decision: Russell and Holmes will marry. When the third Memoir starts up (A Letter of Mary), years have passed and the rough edges have worn off – but this story is set at the very beginning. Here, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes embark upon the riskiest adventure of their partnership: their wedding.So off we go on midnight escapades, breathtaking challenges and bravery etc. Nice to finally find out how she did it.
I was very pleased with the picture above from the NYPL – an outfit from 1920. It is not wool, but I think the general look is very much what is being described here.
So what should Mary have been wearing? This is a picture of wedding in Australia in 1922, which probably gives a fair picture of the times. It’s from the State Library of New South Wales.