Lily Bart’s White Edwardian Tea Gown with Pink Rose Sash from The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Click for larger version; click for the list of dolls.

Now that I’m done with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I do think it’s time for another depressing period piece. This time I’m listening to The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, read for Librivox by Elizabeth Klett. I’ve read it before, but I’m actually preferring audiobooks lately because I don’t skim so much and get more of the details, and I’ve been thinking of this book since I read this New York Times article about Lily’s fate

So far there hasn’t been much description of individual dresses, but there’s so much about the culture that those dresses form such a part of. Here’s Lily Bart talking about marriage with Lawrence Selden: “Your coat’s a little shabby–but who cares? It doesn’t keep people from asking you to dine. If I were shabby no one would have me: a woman is asked out as much for her clothes as for herself. The clothes are the background, the frame, if you like: they don’t make success, but they are a part of it. Who wants a dingy woman? We are expected to be pretty and well-dressed till we drop–and if we can’t keep it up alone, we have to go into partnership.”

Well, even if the book does promise to be melancholy, there is a silver lining: the dresses from the Belle Époque are beautiful, even if Sylvia isn’t quite the desired S-shape. I remember later on she wears some form of white dress, but there’s not a lot of physical description in the book so it’s based more on vintage gowns from 1904 and 1905 I’ve been looking at, particularly this one.