Dress Down Sunday: Anne of Windy Poplars by LM Montgomery



published 1936



LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES



Anne of Windy Poplars 2

[Cousin Ernestine is giving her opinions on everything]

“I'm afraid that'll be a case of marrying in haste and repenting at leisure. They've only known each other three years. I'm afraid Peter'll find out that fine feathers don't always make fine birds. I'm afraid Fanny's very shiftless. She irons her table napkins on the right side first and only. Not much like her sainted mother. Ah, she was a thorough woman if ever there was one. When she was in mourning she always wore black nightgowns. Said she felt as bad in the night as in the day…

‘Mrs. Sandy's gone out of mourning and poor Sandy only dead four years. Ah well, the dead are soon forgot nowadays. My sister wore crape for her husband twenty-five years."

"Did you know your placket was open?" said Rebecca, setting a coconut pie before Aunt Kate.

"I haven't time to be always staring at my face in the glass," said Cousin Ernestine acidly. "What if my placket is open? I've got three petticoats on, haven't I? They tell me the girls nowadays only wear one. I'm afraid the world is gitting dreadful gay and giddy. I wonder if they ever think of the judgment day."

"Do you s'pose they'll ask us at the judgment day how many petticoats we've got on?" asked Rebecca Dew, escaping to the kitchen before any one could register horror. Even Aunt Chatty thought Rebecca Dew really had gone a little too far.


observations: Black nightgowns for mourning! Three petticoats and judgement day! Superb.

Cousin Ernestine is an excellent character, finding horror and morbidity in everything – I like her line
But there's one consolation . . . you'll be spared an awful lot of trouble if you die young.
She is ‘a cousin three times removed but still much too close’ of Anne’s landladies and has come on a visit. This is Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables: now grown-up, she is lodging in the small town of Summerside. Windy Poplars is the name of the house, owned by two women she calls Aunt Chatty and Aunt Kate. Anne has been appointed principal of the local school, and will live there for three years while waiting to marry her childhood sweetheart Gilbert Bligh, and some of the story is told via her letters to Gilbert.

The book is a strange mixture of cloying sentimentality and more robust sections like this one, which was very funny. Anne’s busybodying and goody-goodiness get on the reader’s nerves, but occasionally things cheer up. And at least Anne knows that “clothes are very important” – blogfriend Lucy Fisher pointed me in the direction of the book (ages ago) saying it was full of interesting clothes, and indeed it is.  Anne gives the young woman Katherine a makeover, saying that we should all try to look our best so that it is more pleasant for other people to look at us – quite the point of view.

Meanwhile Aunt Chatty wants a beaded cape, but has been told by her sister that ‘she was too old for it.’ Anne reassures her and says she must have one. I was envisaging something very evening-y, but perhaps more like this one from the NYPL of about the right vintage?
 
Anne of Windy Poplars 3

Black nightgowns obviously were a step too far for most widows, and it is very hard to find any pictures of any such thing, until black nightgowns became more common – the one above is from the 1940s and, you know, doesn’t seem so much like a mourning garment.

The implications of white mourning clothes are investigated here. Anne of Green Gables and the puffed sleeves have featured on the blog before.












Comments

  1. Oh, my goodness those pronouncements on 'the good old days' vs modern life are great, Moira! Three Petticoats! Black nightgowns! Mourning crape for 25 years! That's just too much! I honestly haven't thought of this set of stories in forever, so I'm glad you highlighted this one. The stories do get a cloying at times, but then there are funny bits, too, and I think it's a great look at life in that particualr place. *Giggle,, giggle* *Discreet cough* Sorry, still chuckling about the petticoats ;-)

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    1. Yes, when it's funny, it's very funny - Montgomery was sly and clever in her observations. Those were the days eh? I fear I will not live up to the petticoat rules on Judgement Day....

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  2. Skip the maudlin bits about the little girl next door! The rest is very funny. Written in the 30s, set about 1910, so Aunt E's heyday was circa the 1850s. I like the little old lady whose grand relatives are all safely in the cemetery. (She gives Anne the tour.)

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    1. I think you're right Lucy, it's a book for judicious skimming. She's an odd author in that she can be so sentimental and pompous, and then so witty at other times.

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  3. Oh, how I loved Anne Shirley from her obsession with puffed sleeves all the way to her marriage and children!! I still remember that makeover for Katherine and Anne talking about looking at women in church and reimagining them in her mind! You've inspired me to go back and re read the series. Perfect summer reading!
    PS That black negligee is plenty sheer!! Whatever would Cousin Ernestine say??

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    1. Yes indeed Elizabeth, that's a great scene when she talks about the church population. I think we've all been guilty of that. And no, I don't think it's the kind of nightgown Cousin Ernestine has in mind...

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  4. Moira: That black nightgown was never worn to bed with the intention of sleeping. I am equally confident it never made its way to Prince Edward Island. It is New York City sinful. That has to be the worst effort at a yawn for a photo.

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    1. Thanks for making me laugh! You're right, I don't think she's even trying very hard to make it look as if she has put on the gown for sleepy purposes.

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  5. I don'r know these books, but the lines are hilarious. Love that black nightgown, although I've never seen one -- but that hairdo outdoes the nightgown.

    And that hat in the bottom photo outdoes eveything else. I bet hats like that led to tripping and falling down in the street. How could one hold it up? Have balance? See a curb?

    My reading life differs from so many of yours. I went from reading Nancy Drew and Louisa May Alcott right to Upton Sinclair, then Theodore Dreiser, Somerset Maugham and Arthur Conan Doyle and I skipped a lot of writers. I did read some Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey and Dorothy Sayers in those high school years though.

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    1. I think the hats all had gigantic hatpins piercing them, but I'm never too sure how that worked, and if it really kept them on.
      I actually came to Anne of Green Gables quite late, and only read most of them when my children liked them... I don't know why I missed out originally...

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    2. The hat pin went through the hat and through the hair, which was put up over "rats". You can get them from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=hair+rat

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    3. Thanks Lucy, I was completely astonished by the amazon products, no idea that kind of thing was still going....

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  6. Oh my....I love this.

    Sounds great!!

    Terrific post and what a great blog too. Love your background. Pretty neat.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved August Edition. I am in the list as #34 through #36.

    Please search for the book titles in the FIND A REVIEWED BOOK slot if you stop by or click on the links in Carole's post.

    Happy Reading!!

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth - it's an enjoyable book.

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  7. It's strange how much I don't remember this book. Was there, perchance, no galloping consumption in it?

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    1. Do you know, I don't think there was. Anne solved every other kind of problem though....

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  8. Much like the lady above, I had to stifle a yawn myself......

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    1. No, really not your kind of book I think....

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  9. I really thought I had commented on this, because I spent enough time investigating the other books in the series. There is so much I did not know about this author or this series. Definitely will have to try one. Thanks for the re-introduction.

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    1. The whole thing of Montgomery and Anne is a phenomenon - I can never really understand why I, and everyone else, like the books...

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