November 11, 2020
I’ve never tried this before! But when I read this description, I knew I had to share it, and to fantasize about what she might have packed…. So let’s meet Fulvia Morgana from the book Small World by David Lodge.
Isn’t she fascinating? There’s no hint of how old she is, or how she’s built, or what her coloring might be!
But I’ll warn you, she’s not the nicest person in the book…
For our purposes, though, I’m thinking about what she changes into when she arrives at the ghastly literary conference…
note – this character is super-wealthy, so I’ve completely ignored prices on things in this post; it was interesting…
For the first night, she wants to sit quietly on the sidelines to see who’s there, and who’s posturing for attention… To her, this feels like a low-key and inconspicuous outfit:
But the next day she presents HER paper. She’s controversial, a bit argumentative, and ultimately uninterested in anyone else’s opinions! She could buy and sell everyone in the room with her pocket money…
But she’s eye-catching:
That night over dinner, the debates will continue. She just sits and smiles and lets everybody else get all worked up…
The next day, she will attend at least 1 or 2 or the remaining seminars. She’s just going to relax and watch the little people at work…
The last night of the conference, they always have some sort of “Ye Olde English” dinner… Often, it’s drinking warm beer and eating meat with one’s fingers. She does NOT find these meals satisfying, nor amusing.
After THAT, she’s more than ready to leave the next day, as soon as the valedictory brunch has ended. She never worries about getting dirty. Dirt wouldn’t dare…
So what was in her bags? All of this, plus probably some posh nightclothes, some expensive personal care products, and some absurdly costly undergarments…
This all looks very tidy because our heroine (in my imagination) holds herself to a very small and harmonious color palette. In fact, it’s not easy to get a lot of new outfits from this assortment – not that SHE would ever “mix and match” her clothes!
But if she gets trapped somehow and can’t get a FedEx Delivery from Armani, she has some other outfit possibilities:
Do we learn anything from assembling a real “dream” wardrobe? Maybe we see something we can replicate without having to mortgage the farm to buy a pair of socks…
Yes, there are $895 socks… and they’re both unattractive and difficult to wear!
Life is funny….
p.s. Six years ago we explored the possibilities of ONE Hermes scarf design, in six different colors…
Beth T says
Stunning wardrobe choices and the jewellery is beautiful. We all need a bit of luxury in our lives this year.
I could replicate any of these outfits with a colour combination of teal, navy with shades of purple and ivory. I love the second outfit, my teal paisley jacket cost about £5 in a charity shop – good make too! I’m wearing satin or soft draping blouses this season so they would fit right in here. I always wear wide leg trousers, long skirts or very wide culottes. My court shoes could do with an airing and I would never wear socks with court shoes.
Last night, I sorted out a seasonal jewellery collection to go with my ‘new’ seasonal wardrobe. This is not an exercise in limitation rather one of expanding possibilities.
My seasonal collection is full of all things sparkly – lots of diamante! My main colours for stones are purple, red and greeny/blue (teal) with a pop of aquamarine (ice blue which reminds me of the sky reflected on snow) and dark blue/cobalt. This is exactly the colours of my clothes! I have also included pearls as they look lovely against dark colours. My metals are silver and gold.
What an eye-opener? I have a lot of pendants or necklaces on fine chains for example. Lovely rings, sparkly and metal brooches.
I’m already finding new uses for items that seemed difficult to pair up.
Yesterday, I wore a long chain necklace with irregular shaped beads in cobalt, light blue and grey. It looked great with a grey and pale blue leopard print polo neck top. I also have a purple glass pendant which i wear occasionally with one particular t-shirt in summer. It looks very much ‘at home’ with other purple pendants.
Some items, I have not worn for years such as a red and clear diamante necklace bought back in the day when I wore a lot of red… Another has stones that look green or blue in different light. I’m looking forward to experimenting over the next few months.
I have put all these goodies into three separate boxes. My aim is to wear most things once. Even if that does mean wearing diamante during the day!
Now, I just need to sort out and house the remainder. I think, I need another box for just for my bead necklaces, which seem to be the greater proportion of the spring/summer collection. I still have a lot of jewellery!
Sally in St Paul says
Beth T, thanks for this update. Wearing fancy sparklies during the day is so much fun. I have a very dramatic bib-style statement necklace I bought specifically to wear with a cocktail dress several years ago, and it has turned out to be a favorite in a lot of different settings. Though I think my favorite is wearing it with a specific rabbit graphic T…it hangs just right to cover the rabbit’s beret and makes her look like she’s wearing a crown!
I have been looking at my necklace collection with a focus on ones I do not wear as often.
I do not own a lot of delicate necklaces, but my mom recently mailed me some of her unworn jewelry and I’m now up to about 8 such pieces. I also have some necklaces with small-ish, very high quality semi-precious stone beads (made by an ex-boyfriend who was/is an excellent amateur jewelry-maker), and the last couple weeks I’ve started making small, inexpensive bead strands as a form of relaxation. This weekend, I brought all of these out on my desk and started creating my own layered necklaces by combining 4-10 of these smaller pieces together. It’s a fun, creative exercise. I wore my first effort yesterday and it looked so interesting and unique! Since I am a larger person, wearing a single delicate strand of beads or a small pendant on a thin chain looks off to me; but put a bunch of these together and it’s just right.
Beth T says
I love layering bead necklaces and pendants. It’s an idea that Tudor women did all the time. Have a look at Tudor portraits online.
Today I’m wearing a graduated fake pearl necklace with an ‘amethyst’ and pearl Art Nouveau style pendant underneath. The pearls hide the chain and the pendant sits neatly underneath looking as if it was designed that way.
I’m wearing it with a deep ruffled v-neck purple tee. This was one of my orphan tees that I have put into my winter seasonal capsule. On a mild day like today, it’s ideal. I’m wearing the tee with grey jeans and earlier with a silver grey faux suede biker jacket and my new purple DM-style boots. I’m 57 for goodness sake but my daughter said I looked great ?
Your new hobby sounds great. It must be so satisfying wearing things you have made and its unique. You might find a niche in making jewellery for larger women.
Well, Sally and Beth T, now I am feeling quite slovenly just wearing navy cords and a LLBean striped shirt that was featured awhile back in Six Scarves, 12 months. Just hoops and not even any bracelets today! I do, however, have on my happy yellow sneakers. Cheers!
Beautiful clothes! And accessories. An interesting take on a different sort of Heroine.
Also, this is the opposite of how I dress, but it is so beautiful to look at. And imagine. Silk, cashmere. Sigh…
The opposite of almost all of us, I suspect. But fantasy has its place in a healthy life, right?
This is delightful. We need to dream and muse these days, and wandering in an imaginary luxury closet is a real treat.
What a gorgeous and inspiring fantasy! Thank you so much, Janice.
P.S. I would love to see more posts like this one.
Erin Roy says
My husband would say, (in his adorable southern drawl) “those socks are for someone with more money than sense!” ?
I do enjoy an occasional dream wardrobe and like the idea of the literary character being the inspiration. I don’t think I would enjoy being around this person, though.
You wouldn’t – she’s a predator, and doesn’t much care about other people! But she dresses beautifully… That tells us a lot about the importance of dressing well in the grand scheme of things!
I’d say this was a successful experiment. How lovely. I watch a lot of BBC TV and it reminds me of the “upper class” characters. I’ve been looking at the Extreme Collection of jackets at Wolf and Badger – nothing I could wear in my lifetime or afford, but my they are wonderful. Beth T – I went through my jewelry last summer – but that was more of a “clean out” Colors/styles I don’t wear any more. I have come to find necklaces just too cumbersome for me and always getting in the way. I still have a lot of jewelry, mostly earrings and bracelets, and of course my Juliana brooches. I keep aiming for minimalism, but i suspect I’ll never quite get there. Thank you Janice, it must have been fun to pick out things and not be concerned with price point….
Beth T says
I didn’t know about Juliana brooches but when I looked at pictures, they are like the ones I frequently see in antique fairs and flea markets for very little money.
I have to be strict with brooches as I have more than I can actually wear. They are often so temptingly displayed fastened to dark velvet cushions.
In fact, I would buy everything sparkly – brooches, necklaces, earrings. I particularly like items with a mix of painted enamel, diamante, pearls or marcasite.
Beth T says
British costume dramas can’t be beaten. I watched Downton Abbey mainly to see how many wonderful complete outfits ladies wore in just one day. Oh to look so glamourous for just one day.
Book Goddess says
I haven’t read this particular book, but David Lodge is a wonderful author! A great sartorial fantasy – I have been lusting for a while now after Temple St. Clair jewelry.
Book Goddess, I’ve read only Changing Places, but I agree he’s a wonderful writer. I’ll be looking for this one!
Me too! Their moonstone jewelry is gloriously beautiful… sigh…
What an utterly fabulous (costume) fantasy. The clothes chosen were rich and sumptuous befitting the protagonist described in the paragraph. I thoroughly enjoyed your daily vignettes. The best I can come up with from my own wardrobe are a pair of suede pumps and a gold “glow mesh” bag. Thankyou for creating this picture.
What sumptuous luxurious fabrics and rich subtle colors — the height of elegance ! Silk, velvet, cashmere —— yummy !
Maybe I’m going daft, but I could not find the $895 socks in your ensembles or in links ? Or were you just speaking generally of what you found in your research ? Who would be so indifferent to money as to waste it on socks ? Obviously not me, even with barrels of money !
With this capsule I still keep seeing the wardrobe of the main character, Pfranny Fisher ( not sure of spelling of her first name) in “ Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” , a fictitious wealthy Australian sleuth in the 1920’s or 1930’s , which has been televised . I watched that show just to see her fabulous outfits !
What you have presented here would be my dream wardrobe and life, but as a nice and generous person ! I would dress happily in luxurious fabrics to please myself, but then also be a person who cares about others ! I think I’ll head into my closet now and find the silk scarf that I bought at a thrift store, and be very happy !
Beth T says
Why else does anyone watch the Miss Fisher Mysteries? She is a star and her clothes are amazing. Most TV private detectives often look care worn and/or disreputable.
With a bit of sleuthing in charity/thrift shops and vintage outlets you can often find amazing things that have luxury detail without a huge price. If you can sew, items that need repair are often marked down in vintage shops.
Got the correct spelling — Phryne — Miss Fisher’s first name !
you can find those socks if you click on the words “there are $895 socks…” in the sentence. – nancyo
Thanks Nancy you would not believe how many times I looked again at this gorgeous collection thinking “what socks?” Yeuk what a shock after such an elegant wardrobe but only 590 in euros.
Beth T says
You could also spend $2210 on a matching jumper ?
In for a penny, in for a… serious mental illness and absurd level of self-indulgence?
Thank you, Nancyo !
Well, THAT was fun!
The orange socks are linked to $15 tights. Is something amiss?
This fantasy was fun. Even the comments led me to look at some some interesting jewelry. The ivory blouse with a bow reminded me of one I loved many years ago. Despite your saying that mixing the garments into different outfits was difficult, each is beautiful.
They actually ARE tights – I couldn’t possibly show them all on the screen because something was odd on my screen, above the knees of the tights…
I have to make adjustments… sometimes at the very last minute!
Beth T says
?? Tights digitally cut down as socks…. Having said earlier thay I wouldn’t wear socks with court shoes, coloured tights would do. However, do you match the tights with the garment or the shoes, or make a statement? I ended up with loads of coloured ‘orphan’ tights in the 1980’s because I couldn’t reconcile that dilemma. I threw most of them out – Natural colour tights go with everything…
Thanks for assembling this glorious post. Your sense of humour shines through subtly. The best part “She never worries about getting dirty. Dirt wouldn’t dare”. Wonderful!
Sarah B. says
I love the idea of starting with a fictional character! When I was much younger, I.e. junior high school, I had a pair of gray suede fleece-lined ankle boots that I adored and wore as often as possible, even though they were half a size too small for me, because they made me think of something Lessa from the Dragonriders of Pern series would wear. Eventually I completely wore them out, and I’ve been on a quest for a replacement pair of “dragon rider boots” ever since.
Beth T says
You’ll find your boots when you least expect to. It may take a while, or several decades in my case, but it will be worth the wait.
With my long awaited purple suede boots on with a silver grey suede jacket or my long purple coat, I feel like a teenager again, though many decades older. All these dream items were found when I was ‘t looking for them – serendipity?
Small pleasures = much happiness.
Ana Kemp says
I love this! So glad you did a fancy wardrobe. I love picking a special item from them.
How fun! Glorious clothes and one of my all-time favorite novels. Especially in these dreadful Covid days, we need fiction in our lives!
Sally in St Paul says
How is this for perfect timing? I had $15 in digital rewards from Amazon to use this week, and I wasn’t what I wanted to get. This post reminded me that I’ve been wanting to read the Campus trilogy for a while, and what do you know, it’s $14.99.
Such a lovely fantasy wardrobe! Though I wonder, am I the only one who just really doesn’t like the look of the square toe shoe/boot? I think they look blocky and clumsy to me. Flavia’s wardrobe is so full of sumptuous luxury that it can probably withstand the inelegance of this shape, but I am definitely ready for that trend to cycle away again.
I’m not a fan of square toes either, and my husband absolutely despises them! – nancyo
After an insanely busy day, so much that I didn’t get to this post with my morning coffee, how lovely to curl up with some tea and this luxurious post for 15 minutes before starting dinner! I don’t think she deserves her wardrobe but it is fabulous!
OH she DOESN’T, trust me…
But we can still admire it!
I love the idea of literature-inspired wardrobes! I hope we’ll get see more over time.
The $895 socks (with SEQUINS. on socks.), on the other hand, are infuriating to think about.
Beth T says
For those who fancy Lux for Less, then look at Joe Browns https://www.joebrowns.co.uk/. They have fabulous brocades and velvets for a reasonable price. They do ship abroad but Next US also stock the range.
Beth T says
No wonder this ‘heroine’ is not a nice person as her namesake is Morgana Pendragon from “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”. She was evil too. Her mother was Vivienne, the younger half-sister of King Arthur….!
Beth T says
When I read your extract describing this woman, into my mind came the painting of the Countess de Martel which you have featured several times….
Dame Eleanor Hull says
Robyn Penrose, in David Lodge’s Nice Work (and a cameo appearance in Thinks, gets a lot of clothes description. For work on a snowy day, she wears a tweedy sweater, long skirt, and boots; on a business trip, she has a greenish suit with a little cape. In the later book, I seem to recall that she went neo-Victorian in black velvet. There’s maybe too much description to leave you much room to develop a fuller wardrobe; maybe she’s more appropriate for Clothes In Books (http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.com/).
Plus, Robyn is such a nice woman… I was observing her wardrobe through that book…
Wow! This is a brilliant post. Would love to see more book excerpts. You’re on to something I think because everyone is imagining a slightly different person.
These are colors I wear and some styles I’d even wear to work (someday!). (Not the frilly shawl.) The budget isn’t for me but I sew my own clothes and try to find natural fabrics. The Etro paisley is my fave, especially with the camel pants.
I’m not familiar with this author but I’ll be hunting down a copy soon, just for the rich descriptions.
Yes, that Etro paisley is amazing! Those are not my colors, but if that jacket appeared in my closet one day, I’d make them my colors in a hurry!! – nancyo
Linda P says
Hi Janice and Everyone! The wardrobe had me at Hello. All my favorite colors live here. Hope the ‘heroine’ gets a comeuppance from someone who makes a quarter of her salary and actually has to work for a living.
Sara K says
lol, those Miu Miu socks are really…something…
Something definitely NOT worth the price. And here I was thinking that the $37 skein of ice cream pink semisolid merino yarn I bought for knitting a pair of lace socks was expensive… Now I understand that the “decadent” yarn for my new super fancy socks was actually a steal. Heck, if I was sure that I never wanted to wear said socks with winter boots, I could add some crystals from my stash at no extra cost except a bit more work! X)
I would not pay $672 for a polyester shirtdress either…
So besides being fun, these posts that show what money can buy help in learning what is good quality/value, and that some things are poor value, even when they come with a hefty price tag.
On the other hand, money obviously can buy some truly exquisite things worth saving for instead of just running to the nearest fast fashion store. Even if I can’t shop a look straight out of a post like this, I enjoy looking and building my eye so that when my budget allows a bigger investment, I know how to get the best bang for my buck.
Personally speaking, I’m pretty certain that my next big wardrobe investments are going to involve a seamstress and best fabrics I’m able to get. From that adventure, I expect to gain some excellent wardrobe basics that are destined to be as hard working and beautiful as the finest pair of socks I can make…
Ardyth Eisenberg says
Glad I don’t have to sit next to her in Ambassador Class! We’d be in separate modules, and separated by a low wall, but that would still be too close. (Her nails could still be dangerous, too.)
This was an interesting exercise, Janice, but I’ll stick with your Eileen Fisher, LL Bean, JCrew, Lands End and Nordstrom. And it reminds me how flashy I’m not. Then again, I could never get these spiffy things to my even less-flashy scientist husband!
Such gorgeous cashmere and silk!
Very fun and entertaining! And VERRRRY out of range!
Beautiful combination of colors! I am eyeing those tall Sofft boots in Cashmere suede. I really do need a new pair of tall boots and those are quite lovely!
Oh my…love how you did this, Janice!
My dear friend – I just threw all caution to the wind and browsed things that I could NEVER AFFORD… And would never pay that much for anyway!
I’m so glad that you liked it; you are one of my standards of what should be beautiful and tasteful…
Be still my beating heart – that paisley blazer! Everything is absolutely lovely but way, way beyond my means and no use whatever for my lifestyle. However, we can dream can’t we, and the older I get the more I can look at beautiful things and enjoy them without wanting to actually have them as I would have done when I was younger!
Connie Pettit says
Oh this is a beautiful dream sequence, Janice, especially in these austere times. Thank you for this lovely getaway.
Kathy Smith says
Thank you for the beautiful post. The clothing is magnificent. I thought you might base your choices on the character’s ruby, sapphire and emerald rings. I suppose they could be worn with all of the selections.
Oh Kathy, I really wondered about the ring thing – I was guessing that they might be family heirlooms? They weren’t what I would have chosen for her based upon the colors of her outfit, but I can safely assume that she wouldn’t care what I think!
Kathy Smith says
Yes, I suppose she wouldn’t care if the rings clashed with the beautiful autumnal colors of her wardrobe.
Your posts are always so wonderfully entertaining and educational. When I first discovered you, I began sharing your work with my daughter who graduated from the Art Institute. She loves color theory and enjoys your posts as much as I do. She now works for the curator of the Africa and Americas department. She will be happy when the museum is back to normal operations. Thanks for a bright spot in our new world!
We LOVE the Art institute; working there is like a dream job for me. Just standing in one of the exhibit rooms for 8 hours would be calming and joyous for me…
What a lucky woman she is – she must take after you!
I love cream satin so much, in spite of being the spill food/splash mud/get jumped on by a friendly animal sort of person who just can’t wear it. Those wide-leg pants are my ideal.
“If she can’t get a FedEx delivery from Armani”!!!! Laughed so hard at that! Your posts are such a bright spot in my day.
This wardrobe is me but I do this for less money!