Anne Shirley's best dress: how it really is

the book:

Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery

published 1908  chapter 25

[following on from yesterday's entry]

"...Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.

Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was--a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves--they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.

"That's a Christmas present for you, Anne," said Matthew shyly. "Why--why--Anne, don't you like it? Well now--well now."

For Anne's eyes had suddenly filled with tears.

"Like it! Oh, Matthew!" Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. "Matthew, it's perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream."

"Well, well, let us have breakfast," interrupted Marilla. "I must say, Anne, I don't think you needed the dress; but since Matthew has got it for you, see that you take good care of it. There's a hair ribbon Mrs. Lynde left for you. It's brown, to match the dress. Come now, sit in…"


Well!! The dress was brown??? Not in my memory it wasn’t, and not in most people’s I’d guess, though it must have gone nicely with Anne’s red hair. ‘Gloria’ turns out to be a tiny bit of a disappointment for a fabric with such a splendid name: it is defined in Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary as ‘a mixture of wool and silk or similar material, used as a substitute for silk in covering umbrellas and dressmaking.’ Hmmm.

Anne is a brilliant creation, because it is perfectly clear to readers of any age how annoying she must have been, with her self-dramatization, her over-reactions, and her non-stop talking. And yet, she is our kindred spirit, our bosom friend. The books, the author, and Anne herself are seen by Canadians as national treasures, and who can blame them? Well done Canada!

See also yesterday's entry.
The photo with its gigantic puffed sleeves is from the UK’s National Media Museum in Bradford, and is on Flickr.
Thanks again to Riona…


  1. I have strong memories of watching an AoGG dramatization on TV, back in England in the seventies. Was it BBC? Do you recall?
    I soaked up Heidi, What Katy Did, Pollyanna, Little Women, the lot. I remember being fascinated by Anne's accent on TV, and practising in private.
    I'm afraid I don't remember the dress.

    1. You are one of the fortunate few! That version of Anne of Green Gables was destroyed in a fire and I WISH I could have watched it!

    2. I didn't know that - what a shame. Lives in our hearts....

  2. I remember them as being BBC, and all on a Sunday around tea-time, but that may be just the light of nostalgia! Ballet Shoes too, as well as various Dickens. Secret Garden too? WE did look forward to them...

  3. To be clear, I read all those series of books, except perhaps Anne of Green Gables, which I think I only watched. I can't picture the Anne books but I have my original copies of the others somewhere.
    Yes, I think you're right about Sunday tea time. It definitely wasn't mon/Thurs, Blue Peter time!

  4. The series was in the 80s, and she was played brilliantly by Megan Follows. I used to take Anne as a model, Rousseauan Romanticism and all. Just rereading the one where she goes to college in Kingsport. It has a lot of the salty humour of the first book, as well as some glutinous sentimentality which probably played well at the time, and a ghastly little boy who is supposed to be appealing. Oh, and a pink hat and a home-made blouse. LMM could be very witty when she tried, and had a sharp satirical eye. She also slips in evocations of the beauty of the island. (I also rediscovered a character called Miss Cornelia Bryant, who is always exclaiming "Isn't that just like a man!". Sadly her main function is to provide a Greek chorus and deus ex machina to drippy sets of parted lovers and what have you. (Now to find the story about the quilting party...)

  5. I didn't read the subsequent books (though my son more recently ploughed through all of them - there are lots aren't there?) - I often wonder what it is that makes some books eternal classics, as Anne undoubtedly is. I liked her, but not as much as some other children's books, but she certainly is memorable. And that was one great adaptation...

  6. Haha! What a coincidence- I just post about this on my blog:

    1. thanks for visiting Naomi - I loved your blogpost on this important issue, and I strongly recommend any other visitors here should go and look at your take on it....

  7. HA!! My first thought when i read your blog post was ,"but I thought the dress was green!" Clearly I'm mixing Anne's makeover with Scarlett O'hara's. I read the Anne of Green Gable series to shreds!!

    1. Honestly, I think we each have our own vision of Anne's dress. But Scarlett gave great makeover too!


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