Reviews: resources, books, museums

An erudition of books*

And I’m back!  Apologies for mostly disappearing from the blog for the last couple of weeks: I’ve been knee deep in The Project and simply haven’t had time to write posts.  I’m over the biggest hurdle of The Project (and it’s amazing) but it will still be a couple of weeks before I can show you.  In the meantime, I’ll be back to entertaining you with sewing and cats and travel and pogey bait on a regular-ish basis.

Today: literary pogey bait!

I have had the most fabulous luck with books in the last few months.  Between op-shops, online auctions and generous friends I have accumulated a stack of delicious examples of the written word: from reference books to novels.

An erudition of books

Starting at the top, Etiquette for Ladies (found at a local op-shop for $5) from the between-the-wars period gives advice on how to behave when being presented at court to Queen Mary, what to give as gifts for people going away to live in the Dominions (light coloured parasols and riding crops being good choices), and how to write wedding and dinner invitations.  It also provides notes on how to cope with the newly relaxed post-war manners.  What a fabulous glimpse into the changing world of the 1920s!

1920s Etiquette for Ladies

Slipped inside it is a 1930s guide to table manners, with delicious illustrations.  Here is a preview, and I’ll show you the whole thing presently:

!930s table manners thedreamstress.comLook at those outfits!  I want to make every single one of them, and then get a group of friends together to recreate the picture!

Next down are three bits of lighter reading.

An erudition of books
First, June Opie’s  Over My Dead Body.  I thought it was a murder mystery, but for 50 cents I was willing to risk it if it was rubbish.  It turns out it’s the  memoir of a New Zealand woman in the 1950s, and is most certainly NOT rubbish.  I’m divided between writing a whole review on it, or just telling you to order a copy without reading ANYTHING about it, because it’s amazing, and even more so if you can read it without knowing any of the background (as I did).

Next, Flora Klickmann’s The Trail of the Ragged Robin, meaning that my trio of her nature books is now complete.  Happiness!

And then a lovely old edition of The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Did you know there are a dozen Scarlet Pimpernel books, each more hilarious and preposterous than the last?  Plus related books about his ancestors and relations!

Quickly becoming my favourite book every is Fabrics and Dress, a 1931 home economics textbook for high-school age girls.  It has everything wonderful and delicious.  There are discussions on the follies of past fashions:

Fabrics & Dress 1930s textbook
Guides to how to wear your hair to suit your face shape:

Fabrics & Dress 1930s textbook

And guides to well designed clothes (they agree with you that asymmetry is an undesirable feature in clothes!)

Fabrics & Dress 1930s textbook

And, of course, advice for health and grooming!

If you prefer a more recent attitude towards dress Genevieve Antoine Dariaux’s 1960s Elegance promises to be ‘A Complete Guide for Every Woman Who Wants to be Well and Properly Dressed on All Occasions’


It has advice on dress arranged alphabetically (shown are Hemlines and Husbands – the former should vary with fashion, and the latter should have no say in it!)


Elegance is occasionally a bit didactic: if every lady followed it the world would be so elegant as to be boring!


Both Fabrics and Dress and Elegance were presents from Elise, who is spoiling me far too much!

The ‘heaviest’ book in my stack is English Landed Society in the Eighteenth Century,  a steal at 50 cents (it is available as an e-book, but I much prefer paper editions).

English Landed Society in the Eighteenth Century

Despite being published in 1964, the research is so comprehensive that it stands up well to modern scrutiny (unlike many older social and costume history books), and, of course, all the original quotes never go out of date.  Shown is proof that the myth of the great unwashed aristocracy of the 18th century is just that.

English Landed Society in the Eighteenth Century

Finally, the most expensive purchase: Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900.  I managed to get it in an online auction for NZ$45, including shipping!  So more than 50 cents, but still an amazing deal for a Waugh!

The Cut of Men's Clothes

Now I just need more bookshelves to put all my delicious readings on…

* The title is the newest addition to our list of collective nouns for costuming, literature isn’t quite costuming, but a collection of books is obviously an erudition of books!


  1. Wow, a Waugh! Yes, that still looks like a deal…

    I think that “design showing a lack of balance” is being let down by the collar – everything else is pretty neat.

  2. Lyndle says

    Wow! I am jealous.. And also might start haunting Miramar op shops again. I read Over My Dead Body when I was a child – it was one of a number of true NZ books / biographies on my grandma’s shelf, a classic of its time, and certainly an eye opener. I must read it again. We don’t know we’re alive, as my dad would say.

  3. Grace Darling says

    …and the third type of husband, according to Genevieve, is the “Dictator” who knows far better than you what is becoming and usually ends up having you look like his mother.

    Oh dear…..let’s read what Freud had to say about Fashion.

  4. Lynne says

    Bliss! Yes, June Opie is a treasure. We all read it, back in the day, and we all knew someone who had caught the disease.

    • Shhhhh! It was really amazing reading it without knowing any background. At the very first of her symptoms I thought “that sounds just like X”, but then they kept telling her it wasn’t. It’s such a phenomenal firsthand view of what going through that would be like. And her attitude!

  5. I love the whole idea of “Pogey Bait” – fabulous! Also love old books and can get lost for hours in them. Have you come across the concept of ‘tea and books’ (inspired by C.S. Lewis’ quote: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”)? Seems quite popular in the UK and a pile of books like yours would be topped with a cup of tea. Check out Pinterest for some examples, if you’re interested 🙂

  6. Gosh, what a fabulous stack of books. Hours of fun to be had going through them. I love reading old etiquette books, so interesting.

  7. Elise says

    Ohhhh…the table manners pamphlet sounds like fun as do the other books. So glad that you liked the two that were sent by me.

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