GGAuntBarnaby (1)

Well, Agatha, I must say last week’s drinking took a while to recover from!

What do you mean, Mary?  You seemed fine when you left.  The Dundee cake soaked up most of it, surely?

You were passed out on the chaise longue when I left dear – so you can’t possibly remember the state I was in.  It took me fifteen minutes just to put my hat on in the hallway and even then Ethel had to take it off and turn it around!  Honestly darling I thought I was statement dressing, but your servant clearly had another agenda!

Oh, well.  Perhaps we should stick to tea today!  But you do remind me of a time when everyone wore hats, ladies and gents alike and anyone passing the cenotaph would take them off as a mark of respect as they walked passed.  Those were the days when people knew how to dress – we had none of those dreadful American monstrosities – baseball caps!

Quite dear, and don’t know about you but we were fortunate enough to live in a time when anyone who was vaguely ‘eccentric’ I think they used to say, could dress in anything they wanted.  It reminds me of great Aunt Barnie.  She was quite the snappy dapper dresser.

Oh yes, I do remember her.  Wasn’t she the actressy one, who wore velvet jackets and bow ties and no makeup in the 1920’s?  It was quite shocking back then, but there again she had the personality to carry it off.

It was, Agatha, the family didn’t quite understand her I seem to remember.  I loved her, of course.  She didn’t care what anyone else thought.  And she wasn’t the only lady dressing in a masculine fashion.  Do you remember Dorothy Lawrence, she fought as a chap at the Somme.  It was quite scandalous at the time.  She dearly wanted to be a reporter and smuggled herself out to the front line dressed as a Tommy.



I do indeed remember her.  It was a scandal that the whole thing was hushed up.  Apparently she wrote a book about her experiences and the military at the time refused to allow publication, she died in an asylum, poor thing.

Indeed, dear.  She suffered for her gender, we should be celebrating this type of courage, not hushing it up.

Of course there was also James Barry, that successful British Army surgeon who served in India and Cape Town and rose to the rank of Inspector General in charge of military hospitals.  Apparently the only way she (Margaret Ann Bulkley) could get into medical school was to dress as a man.  Tragic really, you know, that you’d have to go to such extremes.  Still, it was only when she died that everyone found out the truth.


Goodness my dear, but what is so shocking is that women still have to disguise themselves as men, Mary.

I know Agatha it is truly dreadful.  Don’t you remember when we tried to out-do Miss Snetter, our dorm mistress, when we borrowed Jack and Algie’s country plus fours and used charcoal to pain moustaches on our faces?

Of good grief Mary – that’s too painful to remember.  The tweed chafed so much I couldn’t sit down for days!  I had to ask Suzie Braithwaite if I could use her cold cream – it’s was all just a bit of a nightmare, but I seem to remember you got off rather lightly as your Pa’pa made a donation to the Cecil Locke Library?

Ah, yes (embarrassed and blushing)…. More tea dear?  And perhaps a slice of Victoria?

It’s no use trying to change the subject Agatha, but since you mentioned it, yes please.  (Pause.)  But truly, don’t you think that it is simply appalling that even in this day and age women feel that they have to take on the identity of a man to earn respect and standing?

I do indeed Mary.  Look at our beloved JK Rowling, writing as a man – Robert Galbraith – to ensure her work was taken seriously.

Yes, and of course the famous and talented Mary Ann Evans who wrote as George Eliot.  Of course back then it was frowned upon for women to write professionally, and just think of the loss to our culture if she had bowed to the pressure and just taken up needlepoint and playing the harpsichord!

Absolutely Mary dear.  Take Marlene Dietrich for example, you couldn’t imagine her sitting at home with needle and thread counting the stitches till she had to go to bed now could you?

No Agatha, indeed not.  Didn’t she cause an outrage when she dressed in a gentlemen’s tuxedo when she played Mademoiselle Amy Jolly in that film ‘Morocco’?


Yes dear.  I don’t know who were more outraged; the men who went to see it or the men who simply heard about it or the men that pretended to be outraged for the sake of being outraged!  As far as I recall I don’t believe any of our female friends were at all phased; we just wanted to know where we could get a tux, but I guess it took Angelina Jolie to really bring it into the modern world.


Quite, Mary dear.  Wasn’t she in Mad Men or am I getting her confused with that lovely girl Christina Hendricks?

Yes Agatha, you are.  But don’t you think that all that dress in the 1950’s was the cause of the female liberation movement of the 60’s?

Oh, without a doubt dear.  That, and the fact that the 50’s saw the birth of the housewife.  All those men back from the war without jobs and therefore nothing to do, just sitting at home going crazy with all sorts of things going on in their heads.  What was the government to do apart from create the role of the housewife which meant that the men could carry on being men and the women, who’d kept the nation functioning during the war could go home and put their feet up and wear impossibly uncomfortable lingerie to boot.

Well Mary, I must say I’ve not seen you so agitated for days.  Have another cup of tea to calm your nerves.  You’ll be getting all unnecessary and the Count just won’t know what to do with you!

Sorry Agatha, but what is it the young people say?  (Pause) Is ‘Pants’ the right expression dear?

Speak for yourself Mary, you know I have trouble in that department due to the size of my thighs!

Sorry Agatha dear.  More cake?


3 Little Buttons
3 Little Buttons

5 thoughts on “Sartorial

  1. It’s crazy isn’t it how many women have had to impersonate men? Have you read the Feminine Mystique? Really interesting book about the housewife role. I think it’s a travesty that after the war women were forced back into the domestic sphere even when they wanted to continue working. Ah we’ve got a long way to go before we are truly equal, I reckon, but we are getting there! #DreamTeam


  2. I absolutely love this, what a fantastic way to get the topic out there. It’s really interesting reading about how women in the past got round all this malarkey by dressing up as men. And indeed, whilst we have come a long way, it’s still bubbling under the surface in a different way now. Thank you for sharing this with the #DreamTeam.


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