Stephanie McCarthy

How to Dress Like a Barbara Pym Heroine

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm

With the upcoming Pym Centenary (1913-2013) I’d like to pay homage to my favorite writer, Barbara Pym.  (If you’re feeling consciously brave, you can also do so by entering this writing contest, http://www.barbara-pym.org/contest.pdf).

Clothes make the woman, or in the case of Barbara Pym Heroine’s, show her delicacy of manner; her absolute rightness of occasion.  When in doubt, always choose something that could be worn to church (C of E, of course, high or low, but preferably low) or to tea with clergy.

1)  The fabric: crepe de Chin, marocain, wool, silk, and flannel are all acceptable provided they are slightly worn and spotlessly clean.  Men should avoid anything too shiny and make sure their overcoats are sufficient for the weather conditions.

2) The color: camel, powder blue, dark green, mud-colored tones are always de rigeur; avoid any bright colors such that would stand out in a congregation of dowdy spinsters.   Men should avoid anything too light and should avoid patterns altogether.

3) The style: jerseys, dresses, housecoats, baggy skirts, twin-sets.  Avoid pantsuits (oh, horrors) whenever possible.

4) The shoes: narrow, sensibly low-heeled and of quality leather.  For men, nothing pointed.

5) The accessories: a single strand of pearls (real, obviously) or a small brooch with a religious connotation (preferably Mizpah).  Anything handed down from previous generations so long as it’s small, tasteful and of heirloom quality (almost tiresome goodness).  Be sure to carry a small handbag containing your invitation to the Austerity Luncheon and loose change for the homeless man with tremors (who you might see later, smoking a cigarette, with no tremor at all).  Complete the look with gloves and freshly laundered white cotton handkerchief (make sure it’s yours, carrying a handkerchief with someone else’s initials can lead to… complications).

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