Dress Down Sunday: "...in her petticoat"

the book:

Dress Down Sunday -

taking a look at what goes on under the clothes

The Years by Virginia Woolf

published 1937    1880 section

Kitty went on upstairs to her own room…She opened the windows and drew the curtains. It was raining as usual. Arrows of silver rain crossed the dark trees in the garden. Then she kicked off her shoes. That was the worst of being so large-- shoes were always too tight; white satin shoes in particular. Then she began to unhook her dress. It was difficult; there were so many hooks and all at the back; but at last the white satin dress was off and laid neatly across the chair; and then she began to brush her hair…The candles flickered and then the muslin blind, blowing out in a white balloon, almost touched the flame. She opened her eyes with a start. She was standing at the open window with a light beside her in her petticoat. "Anybody might see in," her mother had said, scolding her only the other day. Now, she said, moving the candle to a table at the right, nobody can see in. She began to brush her hair again. But with the light at the side instead of in front she saw her face from a different angle. Am I pretty? she asked herself, putting down her comb and looking in the glass.

observations: Apparently this was Woolf’s best-selling book when she was alive, but is little-regarded now. It’s the kind of book you have to be in the mood for - it is something like a longitudinal study of a group of people, a slice of society, for more than 40 years, and does not have much in the way of a conventional plot or narrative. But if you like the way Woolf writes then it is full of entrancing passages. Her original plan was to have the book consist of sociological essays interspersed with the stories of the Pargiter family, but she eventually separated the essays into another book, Three Guineas. Probably a good decision.

You feel that Kitty, the young girl on the cusp of womanhood, looking for something but not sure what, wondering if she is pretty, stifled by her academic family, is almost too easy for Woolf to write.

Links up with: Woolf’s Orlando was an
International Women’s Day entry. You can find more Dress Down Sunday entries by clicking on the label below.

The picture is a Russian stamp issued to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of the painter, Zinaida Serebriakova. The painting is called At the Dressing-table (The Self-portrait). Why can’t we have cool stamps like this in the UK?


  1. This is a very cool stamp!
    Sudden nostalgic yearning for when I collected stamps at primary school.

  2. No-one does any more, do they? B did a little bit (because R and all his family were quite serious collectors), but in the US she got fed up with people assuming she meant rubber-stamping when she named her hobby! Everyone did when I was young, it's how you learned geography.


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