Dress Down Sunday: High Rising by Angela Thirkell

published 1933   chapter 14


‘And how soon are you going to be married?’ asked Anne Todd.

‘Oh, whenever Adrian likes. I expect Granny will want to interfere about my clothes though.’

‘You couldn’t have better advice,’ put in Miss Grey. ‘Mrs Knox is just the person to help. Don’t you think, Anne, that Sibyl ought to go up to town and stay with her grandmother while she gets her things?’

‘Quite a good plan,’ said Anne Todd, rather wondering where this was leading to. ‘Then she could see something of Mr Coates, and you and Mr Knox could be getting on with the new book.’ Miss Grey looked gratified.

The conversation then raged round the subject of clothes, on the whole to the benefit of the dogs, whose brushing and combing was less searching than usual, though Miss Grey nearly drowned one of the puppies in her excitement over a daring suggestion of Anne Todd’s in the underwear line. Tea was partaken of by all three ladies in a most amicable spirit.

observations: We may be taking a liberty here with the choice of photo – who is to say what the virginal Anne Todd had in mind? But Angela Thirkell was very interested in her characters’ clothes, and not at all prissy. And a few pages later the father of the bride (a historian) says:
The preparations for marriage are very terrifying. Frills, tuckers, petticoats, gussets, what do I know? If it were the wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth – with which I propose to make myself familiar as soon as these nuptials are consummated – I might be of assistance, but in this modern world I am helpless, helpless.

The mind boggles somewhat at his taking quite such an interest.

The book is very interested in marriage in all its dimensions and although - as befits a very middlebrow novel of 1933 - there is nothing explicit, sex is always lurking in the background, and there is a very clear view of the presence, and importance, of sexual desire.

Links on the blog: for more Dress Down Sunday, click on the label below. Specifically, this garment is pretty much a Merry Widow, as featured in a previous popular entry. High Rising has been seen on the blog before, with this dire New Year’s Eve party. Choosing a trousseau occurs, surprisingly, in Dorothy L Sayers, and underwear for a bride in this book.

The picture was provided by a blog follower.


  1. Moira - We can only imagine whether Anne Todd had in mind a getup like the one in the 'photo...

    Thanks for mentioning Busman's Honeymoon. I've always liked the way in which Wimsey's mother accepts Harriet Vane into the family. Of course, I like the Dowager Duchess' personality anyway...


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