Nov. 15, 2018

Episode 8: The Book was Better: The Realities of Fancy Dress in Fiction

Episode 8: The Book was Better: The Realities of Fancy Dress in Fiction

Between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, novelists seemed fascinated by fancy dress. From Defoe to de Maurier, Blyton to Poe, authors used costumed entertainments to drive narratives and to determine the fate of their lead characters. Always exhila


Between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, novelists seemed fascinated by fancy dress. From Defoe to de Maurier, Blyton to Poe, authors used costumed entertainments to drive narratives and to determine the fate of their lead characters. Always exhilarating, very often devastating, the place of fancy dress in literature reveals much about how this sartorial form was perceived by contemporaries.

But why was dressing frequently considered malevolent? Were female characters in control, or controlled, by their costumes? And why did fancy dress have such relevance during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Advance warning: After this week’s episode, you’ll want to visit your library or local book shop…

 

Reading list

 Fiction:

  • Eliza Haywood, The Masqueraders: Or, Fatal Curiousity(1720s)
  • Henry Fielding, Tom Jones(1749)
  • Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers(1836)
  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death(1842)
  • Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies(1930)
  • Daphne de Maurier, Rebecca(1938)
  • Enid Blyton, The Famous Five in Fancy Dress(1971)
  • Don DeLillo, Underworld(1997)

 Non-fiction:

  • Colleen McQuillen, The Modernist Masquerade: Styling Life, Literature, and Costumes in Russia(2013)
  • Suzette Field, A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Fiction(2012)
  • Justine Picardie, My Mother’s Wedding Dress(2005)